Activists’ imprisonment lacks due process and legal rights

Demonstrators holding up signs defending the Santa Marta 5
Credit: ADES Santa Marta Facebook
Published On: April 11, 2024

On Wednesday, April 10, in San Salvador, in a preliminary court hearing to determine whether five prominent water defenders from the community of Santa Marta should stand trial for an alleged murder that took place over 34 years ago during the Salvadoran civil war, the presiding judge upheld charges of murder and illicit association against the five water defenders and dismissed a third charge of kidnapping.

The United Church of Canada joins the Central American Alliance on Mining (ACAFREMIN), The Institute for Policy Studies, MiningWatch Canada, SHARE Foundation, and the Washington Ethical Society, in condemning the April 10 ruling, calling once again for dismissal of all the politically motivated charges against the Santa Marta 5.

The activists, arrested on January 11, 2023, represent staff and community members of United Church of Canada Mission and Service global partner, the Association for Economic and Social Development (ADES); the United Church has been a partner of ADES throughout its 30-year history. On trial are:

  • Teodoro Antonio Pacheco, executive director, ADES; and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega, ADES legal advisor
  • Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, and Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, community leaders

Since the arrest of the five in January 2023, supporters of the water defenders have led a national and international campaign to demand that their charges be dropped and to denounce their detention as politically motivated given the lack of evidence presented by the Salvadoran Attorney General’s office.

These campaigns have also condemned the lack of legal rights and due process under the current “state of exception” imposed by President Nayib Bukele to combat gangs, and have warned about the intention of the Salvadoran government to reverse the prohibition on metal mining for which the Water Defenders gained international notoriety in 2017.

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