Ecological disaster: report reveals devastating human rights impact of REPSOL oil spill in Peru


The January 2022 oil spill by Spanish multinational REPSOL off the coast of Lima caused severe damage to the marine and terrestrial ecosystem. A new report explains how the fundamental rights of thousands of people and families who depended on small-scale fishing for their livelihoods were violated.

13 September, 2023. The magnitude of the catastrophe and its impact on biodiversity, the environment and the rights of the people affected severely contravene international treaties on sustainable development and the protection of sensitive natural areas, as well as human rights. Covering an area rich in biodiversity and fragile habitats, the REPSOL oil spill resulted in the loss of more than 1,850 species of wildlife, including several considered endangered.

The research, published by CooperAcción, the Centre for Public Policy and Human Rights (Peru EQUIDAD), EarthRights International (ERI), and supported by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), is based on an analysis of the impact of the spill on the lives and economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of the affected populations in the area.

Transgenerational environmental, economic and social damage

The report highlights the importance and need for a comprehensive and adequate response by REPSOL and the state authorities in charge of managing this socio-environmental crisis. The magnitude of the impacts demands forceful and effective measures that not only repair the damage caused, but also prevent similar catastrophes in the future.

Another of the report’s recommendations is that the Spanish State should comply with its extraterritorial responsibilities in the area of human rights, collaborating with the relevant entities through the application of corporate due diligence guidelines.

The report highlights the need to move towards greater and better regulation of business activity with regard to human rights through the adoption of a regulatory framework that safeguards human rights and the environment at all times.

An insufficient response

Since the beginning of the event, REPSOL has faced criticism for its insufficient response to the crisis. More than 11,000 barrels of oil were spilled on the coast of the district of Ventanilla, in the Constitutional Province of Callao. 18,000 square metres of area were affected. According to the report, the hiring of inexperienced and unprotected personnel to carry out the clean-up work caused health problems for the workers. In addition, the ineffectiveness of the actions taken caused the oil to flow back into the sea due to the tides.

But the impact of this spill is not only limited to the environment. It also has direct implications for the rights to work and to food. Fishing and tourism activities, key sources of employment for the coastal communities, were severely affected. Despite initial efforts, both REPSOL and state authorities have failed to provide adequate and sustainable solutions to address the social and economic consequences of the spill.

Read the full report in Spanish
Read the executive summary in English and Spanish

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