By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LONDON, United Kingdom-The high court in London is going to hear testimony from subsistence farmers from Peru who claim that they were detained and severely tortured after a protest at a British-owned mine. The multi-million pound suit was filed against Monterrico Metals for damages arising from the alleged torture.
The allegations of torture stem from a protest in 2005. By law mine construction is allowed only with consent of two-thirds of the local population. Local farmers were protesting because construction began without local consent. Protesters were confronted by police at the mine.
Under the direction of mine managers, the police fired teargas at protesters. Twenty-eight of the protesters say that they were detained, hooded with hands tied behind their backs, beaten with sticks, and whipped. Detainees claim that noxious substances were sprayed in their faces before they were hooded, beaten with sticks and whipped. Two of the protesters were women who say they were sexually assaulted and threatened with rape.
Three protesters were shot and wounded by police, and the protesters claim one of those shot was left to bleed to death at the mine site. A postmortem examination found that he took about thirty-six hours to die.
A journalist who was apprehended with the protesters was given photographs of the arrest that were taken by a Monterrico supervisor. The photographs show bloodied protesters with their hands bound other show groups of blindfolded or hooded protesters being removed from police property. Some of the photographs show grinning police officers waving the female protesters’ underwear. Melanio Garcia, a protester is photographed in one picture alive, though severely injured and then in another photograph he is shown dead thirty hours later.
Richard Meeran, a lawyer with Leigh Day, the London law firm bringing the case, has obtained an injunction freezing five million pounds of Monterrico’s assets in the UK.
Monterrico claims that the arrests occurred because a protester shot a police officer. All claims of abuse are said to be “without merit.” Monterrico further says that it had no control over the police operation. However, lawyers for the protesters have taken statements from eyewitnesses alleging that the mine’s manager was directing the police, and say that two of the corporation’s executives had been in the area shortly before and after the police operation.
Monterrico is building Peru’s second largest copper mine at Rio Blanco in the Northwestern region of Peru. Monterrico has been in conflict with local farmers since its arrival in the region in 2001. The mining concession covers 18,858 acres, much of it covered by forest that collects rainwater and feeds it into rivers flowing into the agricultural basins below. Farmers and environmentalists fear that mining would lead to pollution and depletion of rivers, damage eco-systems, and endanger farmlands.
For more information, please see:
Telegraph-Claims Police Tortured Peruvian Protesters Outside British-Owned Mine-19 October 2009
The Guardian-Abuse Claims Against Peru Police Guarding British Firm Monterrico-18 October 2009
The Guardian-British Mining Company Faces Damages Claim After Allegations of Torture in Peru-18 October 2009