Peru's National Human Rights Coordinator, the country's leading human rights organization, released a report containing photos that it says show that 28 community members were detained and tortured by Rio Blanco Copper mine security and police during an incident in 2005.
Oxfam America is joining other groups in Peru in calling for a complete investigation of these events, and for the individuals responsible for these crimes to be brought to justice.
"We are requesting that the Public Ministry [public prosecutor] and the police carry out an investigation," said Javier Aroca, coordinator of Oxfam International's extractive industries program. "It is essential that these accusations be investigated and that those responsible are punished to ensure that the laws of our country are enforced and that the fundamental rights of our citizens are protected. In the future, we must be able to attain peaceful solutions to social conflicts."
In January 2009 the National Human Rights Coordinator released a report alleging that 28 community members, who were concerned that mining exploration was being carried out on community farm land without their permission, were kidnapped and detained for three days. They had been marching to the mine site, where the Majaz Mining company (now known as Rio Blanco Copper) was exploring for copper deposits. The community members came from Segunda y Cajas and Yanta in Piura, and Jaén, and San Ignacio in the neighboring department of Cajamarca. According to the report, the march was peaceful—no participants carried any weapons apart from the machetes and whips customarily used when traveling by foot in the rough Huancabamba mountains. According to local leaders, they intended to go and speak with the representatives of the mining company, since other attempts to discuss their concerns had failed.
According to the report published by the National Human Rights Coordinator and FEDAPAZ, the community delegation of approximately 400 people was camped out the night before their planned arrival at the mine site when they were attacked by helicopters shooting tear gas. Soon after, police entered their camp and burned their equipment, food, and medicine. The next day the group was attacked again when it arrived at the Majaz mining camp, one person was killed, 40 were injured, and 28 were kidnapped and detained inside the mining camp. The National Human Rights Coordinator report says the detained individuals were subjected to "diverse forms of physical and psychological torture. As well as being savagely beaten…they were kept hooded, sprayed with tear gas and blindfolded, with no warm clothes in spite of the low temperatures." They were released after three days.
The kidnapped community members made formal legal complaints, but the public prosecutor in the region did not conduct an investigation. Instead, the government accused these individuals of terrorism, and they have been under police investigation. In June of 2008 the Human Rights Coordinator and FEDAPAZ filed a legal case in Piura against the police officers and employees of the security firm Forza who were working for the mine company. The suit also included the public prosecutor and medical examiner, who are alleged to have been aware of the kidnapping and torture, and failed to take proper legal action against the perpetrators.
In January of 2009 the national Human Rights Coordinator received photos taken during the three days in 2005 when the community members were detained at the mine site. The organization says the photographs, submitted anonymously, clearly verify the accounts of the detained individuals and have shocked many in the country.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Justice have issued statements urging a thorough investigation of the incidents in 2005. However the police still have not identified any of the officers involved.
"People living in a democracy should not be kidnapped, tortured, and persecuted just for expressing their opinion and raising their concerns," says Oxfam's Javier Aroca. "We need our institutions to create avenues for dialogue so we can avoid conflict and ensure our laws are respected."