The first Ecocide case to be prosecuted in Guatemala’s new Environmental Crimes Court has just had its interim ruling upheld by their Court of Appeal.

The major African palm oil corporation Empresa Reforestadora de Palma de Petén SA (REPSA), has been charged with criminal ecocide that has resulted in significant die-offs of fish and other wildlife in and around the La Pasión River. As a consequence, the lives of tens of thousands of Guatemalans living in the region have beed severely diminished. Guatemalan U.N. coordinator Valerie Julliand, who gave evidence at the first hearing, cited U.N. statistics regarding how every ton of palm oil produces around 2.5 to 3.74 tons of industrial waste.

Guatemala’s first environmental judge, Karla Hernández of the Petén Environmental Crimes Court (pictured above), ordered the company to suspend operations for 6 months at the Sayaxché palm plantation in Petén pending the charges being investigated.

Guatemala’s National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) allege 23 fish species have been adversely impacted along with 21 species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Estimates of dead fish run to millions, with polluted the water and land adversely impacting the way of life of many thousands of people.

According to Rosalito Barrios of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, the die-off was likely caused by a 70 centimetre thick layer of chemical run-off washed into the river after heavy rains. The run-off is believed to have consisted mainly of the pesticide Malathion.

“We can call the case a crime against humanity, because not only were various species of the river dying, but the river is also part of our historical culture, or our territory,” said Saul Paau, a Maya Q’eqchi leader speaking to the Guatemala Indymedia Center about the cultural as well as ecological ecocide. “We get our food from it, and the contamination and the fish deaths today have violated the food security of all of us.”

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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