A judge in Peru has ordered the arrests of two men suspected of taking part in the lynching of a Canadian traveler who was accused of killing a tribal medicine woman.
"We have made the necessary inquiries and identified the two people that appear in the video dragging the Canadian," Peruvian prosecutor Ricardo Pablo Jimenez Flores, who oversees the Ucayali region, said Monday, according to the Andina News Agency.
Officials identified Jose Ramirez Rodriguez and Nicolas Mori Guimaraes as responsible for the brutal death of Sebastian Woodroffe of Vancouver.
Criminal investigators have not determined whether Woodroffe was responsible for the death of Olivia Arevalo, a shaman for the Shipibo-Conibo tribe. Villagers in the Ucayali region lynched Woodroffe after accusing him of fatally shooting Arevalo.
"We continue to investigate to confirm or discard this version" of events, Peruvian prosecutor Ricardo Pablo Jimenez Flores said, according to Andina news.
A Peruvian indigenous rights group, the Feconau and the Shipibo Konibo Xetebo Council, issued a statement condemning Arevalo’s killing and asking the Peruvian government and international community to guarantee the safety of other indigenous leaders who, they say, face death threats and harassment.
Woodroffe's body was found by Peruvian authorities buried in a shallow grave Saturday, and a video surfaced showing a man lassoing Woodroffe around the neck with a noose and dragging him through an Amazonian village as others looked on.
Woodroffe first traveled to the region in 2014 to study the potential of indigenous plant medicine to treat addiction, according to a post from him on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. He experimented with plants including the powerful hallucinogen Ayahuasca, his friend Yarrow Willard told the CBC.
Arevalo was part of a group that offered Ayahuasca rituals to the many Westerners who visit the region in search of practical and spiritual indigenous knowledge.
She was also an outspoken advocate for human rights and environmental protection, according to Peru Reports, a national English-language news website. She was shot multiple times, according to the report, and a Peruvian justice department official has called her killing an “assassination.”
Arevalo’s death is one of scores more killings of indigenous environmental and land activists in the Amazonian basin. According to Global Witness, 2015 was the deadliest year on record for environmental and land defenders, which documented 185 killings around the world, including 50 killings in Brazil, 26 in Columbia and 15 in Peru.
When Peruvian police and journalists visited the Shipibo village where Woodroffe’s killing took place, cameras captured villagers shouting “Justice! Justice!”
One villager, identified as Alder Rengifo Torres, said: “There’s justice for those with money. We get injustice. If we don’t have money, even though we are innocent, the law does not apply."
[Photo: YouTube screenshot]