Servindi, July 28, 2011 – Monterrico Metals Plc., a British company that owns Río Blanco Copper S.A., previously known as Minera Majaz S.A., agreed to compensate 32 farmers tortured at the mining camp and the relatives of a farmer who died, both of which occurred between August 1 and 3, 2005.
The company agreed to compensate the farmers so that the plaintiffs would put an end to the lawsuit filed in June 2009 with the British High Court against Monterrico Metals Plc., in its capacity as parent company of Río Blanco Copper S.A.
The Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (FEDEPAZ) believes that Monterrico Metals Plc., although it does not expressly admit responsibility in the events, agreed to pay the compensation because it believes that the victims have a strong case.
FEDEPAZ, which backs the villagers, stated that there is ample evidence of the crimes against humanity that were committed. Among these, there are more than 80 testimonies that attribute responsibility to the company, more than 50 photos that depict victims with serious injuries at the mining camp, etc.
On that occasion, hundreds of farmers from the Provinces of Huancabamba and Ayabaca in Piura, as well as San Ignacio in Cajamarca, located in the northern region of Peru, were harshly repressed after participating in a peaceful march of sacrifice to the camp located in the uppermost reaches of Piura.
Executives and workers of Empresa Minera Majas S.A. (today known as Río Blanco Copper .S.A.) and the security company, Forza, participated in the acts of violence sparked by the company.
The march was held in order to raise awareness among public authorities and the executives of the mining company about the neglected requests for dialogue.
The villagers did not approve the development of the mining project on their communal land since it would affect their way of life and development, both of which are based on sustainable activities, such as farming, cattle raising, ecological tourism and agro-export.
The police and members of the Forza security team did not only repress the peaceful villagers with violence, but also kidnapped a group of farmers, who they tortured and abused for almost 4 days inside the mining camp.
The villagers filed a lawsuit under the auspices of FEDEPAZ and the National Coordinator for Human Rights. FEDEPAZ, through the Environmental Defender Law Center (EDLC), was able to attract the interest of the British law firm, Leigh Day & Co., to represent the victims. The firm was appalled by the seriousness of the facts.
In June 2009, the British courts froze the assets of Monterrico Metals Plc. in order to ensure the effective payment of the compensation. On October 16, 2009, a British judge upheld the decision to freeze the assets since there was “probable cause”.
After evidence was collected, the trial was scheduled to begin in October 2011, but it will not proceed due to the decision made by Monterrico Metals Plc. to pay the compensation demanded by the victims.
Imposing Criminal Penalties on the Responsible Parties
FEDEPAZ welcomed the recognition achieved thanks to the effective and impartial action of British justice that has yet to be seen in Peru.
They hope that just criminal penalties will be imposed against all policemen, executives and workers of the mining and security companies, who were responsible for the serious crimes committed against the humble villagers, who were only trying to protect their way of life.
Despite the time that has passed, a criminal investigation is still being conducted in preparation for an oral proceeding against two colonels and twelve noncommissioned officers of the Peruvian Police. Other police generals and officers, as well as executives and workers of the companies, Majaz and Forza, are also being investigated.
Through a press release, FEDEPAZ also thought it was necessary to improve the regulatory frameworks of the mining sector so that companies would be forced to respect the rights of people and, above all, indigenous peoples.
Traduccion para Servindi de Sylvia Fisher