November 21, 2013
The Goldman Prize is calling for a fair and transparent trial for 2007 Goldman Prize winner Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, who was arrested in September 2013 at a demonstration in front of a Mongolian parliament building, during which a rifle was accidentally discharged.
Munkhbayar and members from his organization United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL), together with 11 other NGOS, were protesting government attempts to weaken the “Law to prohibit mineral exploration and mining at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forested areas,” informally known as “the law with the long name” or LLN.
Munkhbayar and his team at UMMRL worked with members of Parliament to help draft the LLN in 2009. The law aims to protect Mongolia’s most vulnerable water and forest resources from environmentally destructive mining projects.
The LLN was adopted by Parliament in 2009 but was never fully implemented, due to pressure from western mining companies and foreign governments. Munkhbayar spent the next four years trying to persuade the government to enforce the law by staging demonstrations and protests and requesting meetings with officials.
In 2010, UMMRL filed a law suit against the government for failure to implement their own law and in October 2011, the Supreme Court of Mongolia found the government guilty and forced them to begin implementing the rules and regulations spelled out in the LLN.
In early 2012, however, a new political party- one far less sympathetic to the environmental movement- took power. Significant government reshuffling took place, resulting in the abolishment of the Water Service, the main enforcement mechanism for the LLN, leaving the law severely weakened.
In August 2013, pressure from foreign mining companies to relax regulations reached an all-time high and rumors emerged that Parliament was seeking to abolish the LLN once and for all. On September 16, Parliament called a meeting to discuss amendments that would significantly weaken several laws, including the LLN.
That same day, Munkhbayar and UMMRL joined several other activist groups in a demonstration outside of the main Parliament building. During the protest, a rifle was accidentally discharged.
It is widely understood that the shot was not fired on purpose and nobody was injured. Still, Munkhbayar and several other protestors were arrested immediately following the incident. Munkhbayar and three of his colleagues have been in prison since September 16 and are currently facing trial.
While the Goldman Prize does not in any way condone the use of weapons or violence, the Prize is calling on the Mongolian authorities to ensure a fair and transparent trial for Munkhbayar and we will be monitoring the situation as it develops.
If you want to show your support for Munkhbayar, he and his colleagues at UMMRL are asking people to sign this petition:
For more information about Munkhbayar and the work of UMMRL, please visit Rivers without Boundaries Coalition by clicking HERE.