101,223 of 125,000 signatures

To Poland’s Minister of Environment, Mr. Henryk Kowalczyk, and the Director General of Poland’s State Forests, Mr. Andrzej Konieczny

Petition

Forest defenders are heroes, not criminals! The ECJ ruled the logging of the ancient Białowieża Forest was illegal. We demand justice for those who opposed the logging and still face legal charges. We call on you to stop prosecuting their bravery and immediately drop all charges against the Forest activists.

Why is this important?

Europe’s last primeval forest, the Białowieża Forest in Poland, was being destroyed by state-sanctioned logging. [1] But Europe’s highest court, the ECJ, just ruled this logging illegal. Poland will have to stop the destruction – or face huge fines. [2]

While the forest can breathe a sigh of relief, the ones that gave most to defend it are still in danger. The Forest defenders worked tirelessly to stop the heavy harvesting machines with their bodies through peaceful protests. For their acts of peaceful civil disobedience, they faced harassment, fines, and physical violence. [3]

And they still face prosecution. [4] Some could even be jailed for up to a year. Court dates are approaching fast, and legal costs are piling up. But this new ECJ ruling is a ray of hope. If the logging was illegal, then the people who tried to stop it are not criminals: they are heroes.

Poland’s Minister of Environment has the power to make sure the charges against the Forest defenders are dropped. He's already agreed to abide by the EU opinion on logging, so now is our moment to appeal to him to make sure the charges are dropped! [5]

Why all this effort to save a forest? Białowieza is thousands of years old and Europe’s last remaining piece of unspoilt nature. It’s home to the largest population of Europe’s last wild bison, as well as lynx and wolves. Protected under national and European laws, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is priceless.

During the six months of protest, the local forest authorities and the Polish police brought close to 300 legal cases against the activists. The Forest defenders are still facing civil, misdemeanor, and even criminal charges. Most of them face hefty fines, while others could potentially see jail time.

But all these court cases could go away – with the political will of the Ministry of Environment, the local State Forest authorities could be easily instructed to withdraw their absurd charges.



Image credit: Malgorzata Klemens



[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/23/worst-nightmare-europes-last-primeval-forest-brink-collapse-logging

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/ecj-rules-that-poland-breached-eu-nature-laws-in-ancient-forest/

[3] http://save-bialowieza.net/activists-found-innocent-by-the-court-in-hajnowka

[4] http://www.dw.com/en/polish-police-break-up-protest-against-bialowieza-forest-logging/a-41322966

[5] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/20/poland-broke-eu-law-logging-ancient-forest/

   

In partnership with Obóz dla Puszczy - the Camp of the protectors of the Forest

Please can you chip in?

Our WeMove community has contributed to this struggle, and other struggles for conservation, justice, and transparency across Europe. Will you contribute a few euros a month so that our community remains on the forefront of campaigns like this?

We’ve already run a massive fundraising drive to support the Bialowieza Forest defenders in their struggle. Our community pooled our resources and were able to contribute over €35,000 to the Forest defenders last year. This vital funding was used to run the camp through the winter, and with legal costs so far.

Can you chip in just a few euros each month so that WeMove can keep supporting grassroots changemakers working for a better Europe?

Next step - spread the word

Thank you for your continuing support of the Białowieża Forest and those that defend it. If we make noise from all over Europe, we can put the Polish Minister of Environment in the spotlight, and get him to have the charges dropped!

Our WeMove community joined the struggle to protect the Bialowieza Forest last year, and almost 250,000 of us signed an open letter to the Forest defenders. Although the Forest is safe for now, the ones who gave the most to protect it are still in danger.

Together we had a big impact to put a European spotlight on the Białowieża Forest – now we can put a spotlight on the absurd charges put on those that defended it! Let’s grab the attention of the Polish Minister of Environment! Will you share this petition so we can show our solidarity with the Forest defenders?

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