Peru: Stop Criminalizing Land Rights Defenders for Protesting against the Las Bambas Mining Project

21/05/2019
Press release
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Preliminary note on the judicial process

Paris, Geneva, May 21, 2019 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a joint initiative of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - published a briefing note yesterday expressing grave concern about the many irregularities and illegalities in the Las Bambas mine case. The Observatory calls upon Peruvian authorities to respect the 19 land rights defenders’ right to a fair and impartial trial, which begins tomorrow.

After almost five years of penal procedure and two suspensions, oral hearings for 19 land rights defenders will begin on May 22. The defenders protested against negative impacts caused by the Las Bambas project, a large copper mine owned by the Chinese consortium MMG Limited, which is a civil party in the case.

The complaints from communities in Grau y Cotabambas province (Apurímac region) began after the company unilaterally changed the Las Bambas mine Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the main change being that 450,000 tons of minerals would be transported via local roads and not through a mineral pipeline as initially planned. This and other changes have negatively impacted the environment of the communities and the health of their residents.

On September 25, 2015, these communities went on strike indefinitely for having been neither informed nor consulted about the changes made to the EIS. Three days later, law enforcement came out in force against protesters who were demonstrating in front of the mining camp, leading to the deaths of three protesters, 23 injuries (15 civilians and 8 police officers), and arbitrary arrests of 21 protesters, 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 are being criminalised for involvement in demonstrations against the Las Bambas project. In a traditionally rural and indigenous region such as this, protesters must not be reduced to mere criminals. The Observatory reiterates that defending rights is not a crime; it is a right that the Peruvian government should not criminalise, but rather uphold by adopting a comprehensive public policy protecting defenders, using the recently approved protocol as a first step.

The militarisation and repeated declarations of state of emergency in the region - which are contrary to international human rights standards - have only served to abuse and criminalise protesters, ignore the complaints of those affected by projects in the mining area, and violate their rights. The Peruvian government’s repressive response to the complaints is ineffective, as was proven recently with the resurgence of demonstrations in the Fuerabamba (Apurímac region) communities in August 2018. The proper solution will entail dealing with the issues at the heart of the conflict in ways that meet the demands of the concerned population.

The Observatory is following this case closely and trusts that the judges will guarantee impartiality and respect nationally and internationally recognised standards of due process when trying the 19 land rights defenders. Their criminalisation must come to an end.

Read the note here:

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) is a partnership created in 1997 by the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and aims to intervene to prevent or remedy concrete situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders implemented by international civil society.

Press Contacts
FIDH: José Carlos Thissen (+51) 95 41 31 650
OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui (+41) 22 809 49 39

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