The British High Court has upheld an injunction to freeze a portion of Monterrico Metals’ assets. This decision obligates the company to keep at least £5 million of its assets in the United Kingdom to guarantee community members whose human rights were violated receive compensation if Monterrico Metals is found to be liable for acts of torture and illegal detention against farmers from July 28-August 1, 2005 in the highlands of Piura, Peru.
In 2007, the Chinese consortium Xiamen Zijin Tongguan Investment Development Co Ltd took over the British mining company and transferred its headquarters from London to Hong Kong. The injunction, applied in June 2009, prohibited the company from disposing of its assets. If courts in the United Kingdom find Monterrico Metals to be responsible for the human rights violations inflicted on the farmers, it will be required to pay adequate compensation to the injured individuals and the communities to which they belong.
Oxfam International in Peru welcomes the British High Court’s decision. In Lima, Javier Aroca, coordinator of Oxfam International’s Extractive Industries Program in South America, expressed his satisfaction with the verdict issued on October 16, 2009. “This is an important step forward in the defense of human rights in Peru. It establishes a precedent and acknowledges the abuse to which the citizens who expressed their opposition to the expansion of mining in their communities were subjected”, he explained.
In August 2005, 27 men and two women were detained and held for three days at the Rio Blanco mine site in a remote area of northern Peru. They had been protesting against the development of the mine, which is the major asset of Monterrico Metals. According to their witness statements, the unarmed protestors were held against their will and subjected to physical and psychological torture allegedly by the Peruvian police, mine employees, and mine security guards. One farmer died.
Attempts to seek justice through the Peruvian courts have been slow and difficult. In March of this year, Peruvian prosecutors accused the police of torture, but cleared the mining company and private security firm Forza of wrongdoing. Thirty-one claimants, including all of the alleged victims held at the mine site, are now pursuing their case in the English courts, arguing that the company must have known of the conditions in which they were being detained, but failed to take steps to prevent or end their ordeal. Oxfam’s partner organization, FEDEPAZ (the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace), together with the CNDDHH (Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinating Committee) filed the complaint on behalf of the victims and has been providing them with legal assistance in this case. FEDEPAZ said in a statement that this injunction confirming the freezing of Monterrico Metals’ assets constitutes an unprecedented achievement in the fight against impunity and marks an extremely important step toward the goal of achieving justice for the victims.
Oxfam soon will be releasing two video reports about this case.