Peru: US court action over Cajamarca repression

EarthRights International (ERI) on Jan. 24 filed an action in federal court in Denver on behalf of a protestor left paralyzed by police violence at the site of Colorado-based Newmont Mining's Conga mine project in Peru. ERI is seeking documents and information from Newmont to assist in pending legal proceedings in Peru related to the police repression of protestors against the Conga project. Elmer Eduardo Campos Álvarez, a 32-year-old resident of the Cajamarca department, where the Conga project is planned, lost a kidney and his spleen and was paralyzed from the waist down on Nov. 29, 2011, when National Police officers shot him in the back while he was peacefully protesting. Campos was among at least 24 protestors injured by police that day. The Yanacocha mining company, Newmont's local subsidiary, contracted with the National Police of Peru to provide security services at the planned mine site. Officers involved in the repression of November 2011 have told local prosecutors that they were providing security to the company. The proposed Conga mine has generated strong community opposition; the project would mean the destruction of lakes held sacred by local people, who also depend on them as a water source.

"Police repression of social protest against mining operations is endemic in Peru and around the world," said ERI staff attorney Benjamin Hoffman. "The problem is exacerbated in cases like this one, where public police officers are deployed in the service of private security. We hope this action will shed more light on the situation and assist in obtaining justice in Peru."

Campos is seeking information held by Newmont—including photographic and video evidence, reports of Yanacocha security or employees, records of communications with the police, and internal company communications—that could shed light on the events of that day. The requested information would assist Peruvian legal authorities currently investigating the incident in both a pending criminal investigation against the two commanding police officers and a civil lawsuit brought by Campos against the police and other government actors.

Said Campos: "Justice means first that there is a real investigation to determine who was responsible, and that they pay for their crimes, and second, that the government fulfills its responsibility to protect its citizens and the environment, rather than forcing a destructive mining project on its citizens through abusive police conduct."

Added Mar Pérez of the National Human Rights Coordinator, which is representing Campos: "We hope the action in the United States supports the legal efforts underway in Peru to seek justice, accountability and greater protection for human rights, and helps to end a culture of impunity for police repression of legitimate protest activity."

The federal court motion was filed under 28 USC § 1782 ("Assistance to Foreign and International Tribunals and to Litigants before such Tribunals"), a law which allows parties to foreign legal proceedings to obtain documents and information from individuals or companies in the United States in service of foreign proceedings. (ERI, Jan. 24)

  1. Peru: international organizations submit brief in Conga case

    On July 23, a group of prominent non-governmental human and environmental rights organizations filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Peruvian Constitutional Court in support of the challenge brought by the NGO Grufides against Newmont Mining’s Conga mining project. The case presents the argument that the Conga project would violate the fundamental constitutional right to an adequate and healthy environment. "The project does not only involve violations of Peruvian constitutional law, but also of two fundamental principles of international environmental law," said Benjamin Hoffman, an attorney at EarthRights International (ERI).

    ERI was joined by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Earthworks in in the brief. The brief emphasizes that international conventions, guidelines and jurisprudence requires the review and approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be performed independently from the promotion of the project—independence which was absent from the review of the Conga project EIA. (ERI, July 23)