abusesaffiliationarrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upattack-typeburgerchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upClock iconclosedeletedevelopment-povertydiscriminationdollardownloademailenvironmentexternal-linkfacebookfiltergenderglobegroupshealthC4067174-3DD9-4B9E-AD64-284FDAAE6338@1xinformation-outlineinformationinstagraminvestment-trade-globalisationissueslabourlanguagesShapeCombined Shapeline, chart, up, arrow, graphLinkedInlocationmap-pinminusnewsorganisationotheroverviewpluspreviewArtboard 185profilerefreshIconnewssearchsecurityPathStock downStock steadyStock uptagticktooltiptwitteruniversalityweb

16 Jan 2024

El Salvador: Five water defenders who led historical campaign resulting in ban on metals mining are still arbitrarily charged for alleged murder 33 years ago

Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica en El Salvador

The water defenders Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Antonio Pacheco and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega were detained accused of killing an alleged army informant more than 33 years ago during El Salvador's civil war.

They are all members of the Association of Economic and Social Development (ADES) and played a key role in the events that led the Salvadoran government to pass first-ever national prohibition on metal mining in 2017, with the goal of protecting the country's scarce water supply.

In May 2023, Manuel Gámez Morales, son of community leader, environmental defender and president of the Association for Economic and Social Development Santa Marta (ADES), Vidalina Morales, was arrested by the civil police. Vidalina had made statements on a radio station against the "terrorism" of the Salvadoran State and shared her concern for the five defenders. She also denounced that the Bukele administration seeks to exploit mining in Santa Marta despite the fact that a regulation explicitly prohibits this activity in the area.

The defenders were released to house arrest in September 2023, but the charges remain, and they are scheduled to go on trial later in 2024.

International non-government, academic and civil organizations published a report called "State of Deception - Fact Finding Report on the Detained El Salvador Water Defenders, Mining, and the State of Human Rights under the Bukele Administration ", in which they allege that the arrests lack evidence and due process of law, and that they may be linked to government's mining interests.

The report follows the publication of an open letter sent to the Attorney General and signed by 185 academics and lawyers and 13 legal and related organizations from 21 countries requesting President Nayib Bukele’s administration to drop the case.