Across the Americas, governments, industry, and related actors are increasingly using concepts of law and order to try to quash legitimate dissent related to efforts to defend land, the environment, and the wellbeing of communities against extractive industry activities or related harms. Such criminalization frequently entails a process of stigmatization, as well as the use of civil, criminal, or administrative law to undermine criticism, difference, or protest, that challenge projects and policies regarding the natural commons and ultimately question an economic development model premised on industrial natural resource extraction.
What is Criminalization of Dissent?
Criminalization of dissent can be understood as a continuum of repression:
▷ Criminalization of dissent involves the systematic manipulation of concepts of law and order – whether administrative, civil, or criminal.
▷ It further entails the use of the punitive powers of the state and its organs of justice – whether initiated by state or non-state actors or some combination of the two.
▷ The aim of criminalization is to forbid, dissuade and/or prosecute dissent that runs contrary to state and corporate interests. Such dissent is frequently portrayed by such interests as contrary to fundamental societal values.
▷ Such manipulation can give rise to the use of violent and sometimes deadly force.
▷ Public armed forces with heightened immunity for using violence during repressive events may be responsible.
▷ Stigmatization and criminalization of dissent can also lead to attacks from interested parties, hired assassins, or illegal armed groups.
Cases of Criminalization Against Land Defenders