Peru: Stop Criminalizing Land Rights Defenders for Protesting againstthe LasBambas Mining Project
Preliminary note onthe judicial process
Paris, Geneva, May 21, 2019 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a jointinitiative of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) -published a briefing note yesterday expressing grave concern about the manyirregularities and illegalities in the Las Bambas mine case. The Observatory calls upon Peruvian authorities to respectthe 19 land rights defenders’ right to a fair and impartial trial, which beginstomorrow.
After almost five years of penal procedure and two suspensions, oralhearings for 19 land rights defenders will begin on May 22. The defendersprotested against negative impacts caused by the Las Bambas project, a large copper mine owned by theChinese consortium MMG Limited, which is a civil party inthe case.
The complaints from communities in Grau y Cotabambasprovince(Apurímac region)began after the company unilaterally changed the Las Bambasmine Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the main change being that 450,000 tonsof minerals would be transported via local roads and not through a mineralpipeline as initially planned. This and other changes have negatively impactedthe environment of the communities and the health of their residents.
On September 25, 2015, these communities went onstrike indefinitely for having been neither informed nor consulted about thechanges made to the EIS. Threedays later, law enforcement came out in force against protesters who weredemonstrating in front of the mining camp, leading to the deaths of threeprotesters, 23injuries (15 civiliansand 8 police officers), and arbitrary arrests of 21protesters, 19 of whom have been caught up in legal proceedings since then.
This is not an isolated case. It is estimated that over 500 people arebeing criminalised for involvement in demonstrations against the Las Bambasproject.In a traditionally rural and indigenous region such asthis, protesters must not be reduced to mere criminals. The Observatoryreiterates that defending rights is not a crime; it is a right that thePeruvian government should not criminalise, but rather uphold by adopting acomprehensive public policy protecting defenders, using the recently approvedprotocol as a first step.
The militarisation and repeated declarations of state of emergency inthe region - which are contrary to international human rights standards - haveonly served to abuse and criminalise protesters, ignore the complaints of thoseaffected by projects in the mining area, and violate their rights. The Peruviangovernment’s repressive response to the complaints is ineffective, as wasproven recently with the resurgence of demonstrations in the Fuerabamba(Apurímacregion)communities in August 2018. The proper solution will entail dealing with the issues atthe heart of the conflict in ways that meet the demands of the concernedpopulation.
TheObservatory is following this case closely and trusts that the judges willguarantee impartiality and respect nationally and internationally recognisedstandards of due process when trying the 19 land rights defenders. Theircriminalisation must come to an end.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) is a partnership created in 1997 by the FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and aims to intervene to prevent or remedyconcrete situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCTare both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for humanrights defenders implemented by international civil society.
For more information, please contact:
FIDH: José CarlosThissen (+51) 95 41 31 650
OMCT: Miguel MartínZumalacárregui(+41) 22 809 49 39