At 1:30 in the morning on March 15th, 2008 Javier Jahncke, an environmental and community rights advocate in Piura, Peru, received an anonymous death threat by telephone. This is the latest in a troubling series of threats and attacks on human rights advocates in Peru who are engaged in defending the rights of communities affected by mining operations.
Oxfam America and Peru's National Human Rights Coordinating Body are both publicly denouncing these threats and expressing concerns about the safety of the individuals being intimidated. Oxfam America calls on the legal authorities to protect these individuals, and investigate the death threats and attacks.
Javier Jahncke is the coordinator of a technical support team that advises communities affected by the Rio Blanco mining project in the Huancabamba and Ayabaca provinces of the department of Piura. Jahncke is also a member of FEDEPAZ, one of Oxfam America's partners, as well as the Muqui Network, which is an association of national and local organizations working on the environmental and social effects of mining.
The Rio Blanco Project is run by the Majaz Mining company, an affiliate of the British Monterrico Metals company. Critics of the Rio Blanco project contend that mining could transform an environmentally fragile area of cloud forests and high plains into a mining district that will degrade natural resources and pollute the Piura and Chinchipe rivers. (The Chinchipe is part of the Amazon Basin.) Peru's Public Defender office (a government ombudsman agency that protects the rights of citizens) has said that the mining company started the mining exploration project without the approval of the communities, as required by law.
Civil society groups including the Front for the Sustainable Development of the Peruvian Northern Border have proposed community consultations so that people can express agreement or disagreement with mining activities on their lands. The Front is formed by representatives of farming communities, social organizations, the mayors of the Provinces of Ayabaca and Huancabamba, in Piura, and of Jaén and San Ignacio, in Cajamarca. Javier Jahncke is member of the technical team that advises the Front.
FEDEPAZ has for several years assisted the communities of Ayacaba and Huancabamba in filing claims of illegal land seizure by the Majaz Mining Company.
The death threat against Jahncke is the latest in a series of threats and attacks against community rights advocates in Peru:
In December 2006, Father Marco Arana of the GRUFIDES organization in Cajamarca was being followed, threatened, and intimidated in retaliation for his work advocating for the rights of communities affected by mining.
In February 2007, a man driving a car shot at, but did not hit, Nicanor Alvarado, coordinator of the Environmental Apostolic Vicarage of Jaen, a member of the Muqui Network.
Oxfam America has joined with Peru's National Human Rights Coordinating Body (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos del Perú) in expressing concern for the safety of environmental and community advocates, and calls on all sides of conflicts related to mining projects to resolve them through dialogue and other non-violent means.