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Costa Rica must defend its citizens and protected lands, says U.N. expert

U.N. expert John Knox said that "criminal threats strike at the heart" of Costa Rica's long history of civilian environmentalism.

The Costa Rican government must protect those who work to defend the environment, said a United Nations human rights expert on Thursday afternoon.

U.N. independent expert on human rights and the environment John Knox presented his initial findings on the state of Costa Rica’s environmental human rights at a press conference, where he lauded the country for its strong history of environmental protection but urged it to aggressively address growing threats against civil society groups who work to protect the environment.

“It’s not the task of social organizations, civil society or citizens to put their own lives at risk to protect the environment. These are police functions that have to be adequately carried out by the government,” Knox said.

“It’s one thing to protect turtle eggs from tourists, it’s another to protect them from poachers” or drug traffickers, the U.N. human rights expert added.  

The expert’s comments, which wove in and out around the case of the slaying of Jairo Mora, came just one day after the Judicial Investigative Police arrested eight suspects for the 26-year-old environmentalist’s killing two months ago.

Knox declined to comment on specific cases but acknowledged that Mora came up frequently in his conversations with academics, civil society groups, government agencies and the U.N.’s local office.

“Criminal threats to that process strike at the heart of one of Costa Rica’s traditional strengths,” Knox said, referring to civil-society participation in environmental protection.

For the complete article, please see ticotimes.