Inter-American Commission considers Tintaya complaints

24 April 2016

On 8 April, in Washington, representatives of indigenous and human rights organizations attended a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the ‘Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Campesino Communities in Espinar, Cusco, Peru’.

The hearing had been petitioned by Peruvian human rights organizations Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), Cooperacción, and the Cusco-based human rights organization Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras. Their aim was to bring to the attention of the Commission the lack of any adequate response by the Peruvian government in remedying the situation faced by people living in the vicinity of Tintaya with an unacceptably high heavy metals presence in their bodies. Tintaya, a copper and gold mine, was previously owned by Xstrata but now belongs to Glencore.

Indigenous leader Melchora Surco Rimachi, from the Asociacion para la Defensa de Paccpaco Afectada por la Mineria Alto Huancane (ADEPAMI), gave a very moving and personal testimony of the severe negative effects caused by the presence of heavy metals in her body and that of her family, and the impact that such contamination had had not only on people’s health more generally but on that of the livestock they depend upon for subsistence.

Also present were Juan Carlos Ruiz, a lawyer from IDL, and Fernando Osores Plenge, a medical environmentalist who gave testimony as to the presence of heavy metals. Luis Huerta Guerrero, public prosecutor (procurador público), represented the Peruvian government.

Research on the presence of heavy metals was carried out by various government agencies in early 2013. These identified water contamination and specific examples of adverse health effects. Their findings have been subsequently confirmed by other expert evaluations. The government had committed itself to develop and implement an Action Plan to deal with the effects of heavy metal pollution, but community members and human rights organizations have repeatedly claimed that it has yet to fulfil its promises.

The petitioners therefore requested the Inter-American Commission to intercede with the Peruvian government in complying with its responsibility, among other things, to:

  • provide adequate health services to all those affected by heavy metals contamination;

  • assign an adequate budget to cover a comprehensive care plan for those affected;

  • identify the sources of contamination and its points of origin, so that steps can be taken to preserve people’s health and prevent further contamination;

  • refrain from misusing the justice system to criminalise human rights defenders and community leaders who have voiced concerns about the effect of heavy metals on people’s health and livelihoods.

According to the IDL, the IACHR representatives present showed concern about the continuing health crisis in the region as well as the Peruvian state’s response in seeking to criminalise those who have protested about this situation. One of the Commissioners asked the Peruvian State to review and evaluate the juridical situation of three people currently facing criminal charges and in preventive detention because of their efforts to obtain redress.

Look at links PSG
http://www.perusupportgroup.org.uk/article-802.html

And link to the hearing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgp90lOGDHk

For the IDL press release, see:
http://www.idl.org.pe/noticias/contaminación-en-espinar-llega-la-comisión-interamericana-de-derechos-humanos

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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