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Romina Picolotti, Argentine Environmental Activist, Acquitted in Lawfare Case
March 11, 2020 – Buenos Aires
Today, a federal judge dismissed a criminal case against Romina Picolotti, internationally acclaimed environmental activist and former Secretary of the Environment of Argentina. Judge Maria Servini de Cubría dismissed all charges against Picolotti, noting that that the case would be “impossible to proceed” because no criminality could be proven.
These unfounded, and now dismissed, charges against Picolotti included vague, contrived and false allegations of corruption and were made by an Argentine industrialist named Miguel Aznar, whom Picolotti has never met.
The case is but one in a string of bogus charges dating back to 2007, when then Secretary Picolotti’s administration was initiating unprecedented environmental enforcement against Argentina’s worst contaminators, carrying out thousands of inspections, leveling fines and ordering industry closures on more than one-hundred polluters.
The sham criminal prosecutions were and continue to be an attempt to further hinder her environmental defense and compliance advocacy, as Picolotti and the environmental non-profit she founded (the Center for Human Rights and Environment), has continued to work in Argentina to halt polluting industry projects in oil and gas (particularly the promotion of fracking operations), mining projects affecting glaciers, and other contaminating industries. Accusations continue to languish in Argentine courts, going on nearly thirteen years without a single hearing ever held. Picolotti has been afforded no opportunity to defend herself against these baseless allegations, while proceedings have been riddled with irregularities and grave due process violations. Picolotti and her defense team argue that this judicial and political persecution represents a concerted effort to thwart her environmental work in Argentina and across the globe.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“the Commission”) has expressed deep concern about exactly this practice: the weaponization of state criminal processes for targeted use against environmental defenders. Last year, the Commission granted a thematic hearing in Washington, D.C. on the criminalization of environmental defenders in the Americas. During the landmark event, the Commission heard from some of the Earth’s most influential, and yet most vulnerable, environmental defenders, including Secretary Picolotti—activists who put their lives on the line to protect our planet and to stop the environmental pollution that is causing climate change, devastating some of our most pristine ecosystems, and affecting the health of local communities across the globe.
The hearing reviewed the increasingly sophisticated and alarming State practice of criminalizing environmental defenders’ work with smear campaigns, false accusations in social media and newspapers, baseless criminal investigations, continuous harassment, and bogus criminal lawsuits marred by evidentiary problems and due process violations. The hearing also examined the ways that powerful polluters with political power, media backing, and corrupt control over judges and courts wage a sustained and effective fight against environmental defenders and their supporters.
In a press release following the completing of the 173rd sessions of special hearings the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted:
“The IACHR warns of the large numbers of murders of human rights defenders and social leaders in the region, and of the attacks, threats, harassment, intimidation, stigmatization and smear campaigns, and the intense criminalization processes that these individuals continue to face in the region. The Americas remains the world’s most dangerous region for efforts to defend human rights. The Commission is particularly concerned about reports of an arbitrary use of criminal law against human rights defenders—especially environmental rights defenders—as a tool to hinder or prevent cases concerning the defense of human rights in the region. In the context of recent hearings, the IACHR stressed its position and noted it would increase its efforts to address this problem.”
for more information:
Jorge Daniel Taillant
+1 415 713 2309
Link to information on the general hearing: