Costa Rican lawmakers are proposing a reform that proposes three to a five-year prison sentence for those who intimidate or retaliate against human rights and environmental defenders.
The country has witnessed horrific crimes committed against environmentalists and indigenous leaders. Therefore, the project seeks to address this problem.
“The project comes to legally establish that any crime against the life and integrity of human rights and environmental defenders has a different component since it is carried out because of their work in defense of these causes,” said Montserrat Ruiz, deputy of the National Liberation Party (PLN).
According to the legislators, the Costa Rican government is obliged to abide by other binding international conventions on this issue.
“It is essential for the country to adopt legislation to protect human rights and environmental defenders, as established in the Escazú Agreement. Although the treaty was shelved, we cannot, as a country, let these years go by without protection mechanisms for activists,” said Congresswoman Ruiz.
In addition, the proposal seeks the creation of a special Ombudsman’s Office to protect activists.
According to Henry Picado, who works for the Biodiversity Coordination Network, the proposal is solid. However, it is contradictory that the Escazú Agreement has been shelved, and this new project is now being presented.
“I must say that it is suddenly very contradictory that the Escazú Agreement has not been approved, that PLN has been part of the opposition to the international treaty and is now promoting a project along the same lines of that regional agreement,” said Picado.
The expert also highlighted that the Costa Rican State is indebted to environmental organizations and human rights defenders. The United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have pointed out this situation. If the proposal is approved, the government would have one year to issue regulations, while the special ombudsman’s office created should open within 18 months