Guatemala: Canadian mine sued in activist’s death

On Dec. 1 indigenous Guatemalan Angelica Choc and her lawyers, Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors, announced a lawsuit in Ontario, Canada, against the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. for the murder of Choc’s husband, Adolfo Ich Chamán, in the community of El Estor in the eastern department of Izabal on Sept. 27, 2009. Choc charges that security guards working for HudBay, HMI Nickel Inc., and their Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, murdered Ich, a leader in the local Q’eqchi’ community, because of his opposition to violations by the mining companies.

The lawsuit seeks $2 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Choc is taking the case to Canadian civil courts because of the high level of impunity in criminal cases in Guatemala. The Canadian organization Rights Action has expressed hope that the suit will set a precedent for such actions. According to HudBay official John Vincic, the company’s own investigation found that none of its employees were involved in the killing. He called the suit “misconceived” and “without merit.” (Rights Action, Dec. 2; CBC News, Canada, Dec. 2; Prensa Libre, Guatemala, Dec. 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 5.

See our last posts on Guatemala, Central America and the mining cartel.

  1. Guatemala’s high court rules for indigenous rights
    The highest court in Guatemala made a precedent-setting decision in favor of the residents of Agua Caliente, a small Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous community of 385 people in El Estor municipality, Izabal department. The community has been fighting for formal recognition of its land rights and for justice against plans to mine nickel on its lands. On Feb. 8, 2011, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala issued a ruling that recognizes the community’s collective property rights to its lands, and ordered the government to take the necessary measures for issuing a title to the community. The decision is the first of its kind in the country. (Indian Law Resource Center, March 25)

  2. Guatemala Maya petition OAS body for justice
    On Aug. 19, the Maya Q’eqchi community of Agua Caliente, El Estor, Izabal, filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Guatemala for violating their rights to property, self-government, due process of law, and judicial protection. The small community of 385 people has been fighting to protect their nickel-rich lands and resources from exploitation for more than 40 years. A former subsidiary of HudBay Minerals from Canada, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, was awarded a license to extract nickel from lands belonging to 16 Maya Q’eqchi’ communities, including Agua Caliente, without consulting the communities. In February 2011, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Agua Caliente, recognizing their rights to collective property, and ordered corrective actions. Guatemala, however, has not fully complied with court orders. Having exhausted all of the state processes, the community is seeking justice through the regional human rights system. (Indian Law Resource Center, Aug. 22)

  3. Legal breakthrough in Guatemalans’ case against HudBay
    Maya villagers who are suing HudBay Minerals–over the alleged gang-rapes of 11 women, the killing of community leader Adolfo Ich, and the shooting and paralyzing of another resident at HudBay’s former mining project in Guatemala–learned in February that HudBay had abruptly abandoned its legal argument that the lawsuit should not be heard in Canada. The surprise move is an important precedent-setting development for the accountability of Canadian mining companies for overseas human rights abuses. (Intercontinental Cry, March 2; Marketwire, Feb. 25)