International rulings favour Peru and Peruvians

23 July 2016

It is an unusual week that sees not one, but two rulings in international courts, in favour of Peruvian citizens.

In the High Court in London, an important step forward occurred in the case being brought by 22 indigenous Peruvians against Xstrata, which in 2012 was the owner of the Tintaya mine in Espinar. The ruling on 21 July found the company to be in error in not having disclosed a provocative email from an Xstrata director to its senior South American manager which proposed a "direct, proactive and strong approach" towards community representatives. A phrase used in the email is "sons of whores".

The case, which will continue, seeks compensation from Xstrata for human rights violations allegedly committed by the national police (PNP) when they sought to control a protest near the mine in May 2012. Two protesters were killed, others injured and arrests were made.

The second ruling came when the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an organ of the World Bank, produced on 18 July its first ruling under Peru's Free Trade Agreement with the United States on the controversial case of the smelter at La Oroya (Junín). The ruling favours Peru and against Renco, the new owners of Doe Run. Renco filed a claim back in 2011 against the Peruvian government for its failure to comply with clean-up obligations undertaken when the smelter was sold to Doe Run in 1997.The Peruvian government made the counter-claim that Doe Run had failed to fulfil the agreed investment plan for environmental remediation.

Renco has made light of its defeat, claiming that the lawsuit was rejected 'on technical grounds' concerning jurisdiction and saying it will immediately re-file having remedied these technical issues.

The environmental harm cause by the smelter at La Oroya is notable. Various studies testify to the serious impact on 90% of the local population from heavy metal poisoning (lead, cadmium and arsenic). A 2007 report by the Blacksmith Institute ranked La Oroya as one of the ten most polluted places in the world.
The ruling – seen in Peru as a victory by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) – comes hard on the heels of the controversial visit of president-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to Oroya two weeks ago. He told the workers he would honour his campaign pledge to find a buyer for the smelter. The liquidation agreement runs out on 27 August. Kuczynski was criticised for making no reference to the all-important environmental dimensions of the case. Re-opening the smelter without remedying the defects would place the workforce once more at severe risk. See PSG article:


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  • PSG Aims

    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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    Over the past century Peru has suffered a series of autocratic governments and a civil war in which nearly 70,000 people died. Many of the country's ongoing political and social problems are a legacy of its somewhat turbulent past. 

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    Human rights violations were widespread during the twenty years after the initiation of armed conflict in 1980. Efforts to convict perpetrators since the war's end have made only limited progress. Today, concerns remain over the treatment of those engaged in social protest, particularly against strategically important investment projects.

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