Peru: acquitted Bagua defendants may face retrial

Defense lawyers for the 53 indigenous activists who were cleared of charges in the 2009 Bagua massacre were ordered to testify before a Peruvian Supreme Court magistrate June 26, as the high court’s penal chamber considers a request from the government for a retrial in the case. The defendants were acquitted by a lower court in 2016 in the slaying of National Police troops in the clash at Bagua, which began when police attacked an indigenous roadblock during a protest campaign against oil and resource exploitation in the rainforest. By official figures, 33 were slain in the incident, including 10 indigenous activists. In 2017, Peru’s Prosecutor General and Public Ministry called upon the Supreme Court to review the acquittals. The high court agreed to consider a retrail for the crimes of riot, illegal possession of firearms and obstruction of public services, although not homicide.

Following the defense attorneys’ testimony, the high court has 15 days to make a decision on whether to order a retrial. Attorney Juan José Quispe, of the non-governmental Legal Defense Institute (IDL), said that if a retrial is ordered, the defendants will boycott the proceedings. He asserted that a retrial would violate Article 10 of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, on the rights of indigenous peoples. (La República, El ComercioWayka, June 26; IDL, June 25; RPP, June 5)

Photo: Wayka