Tia Maria accusations could set precedent; new pressure from Southern for go-ahead
03 February 2018
The regional prosecutor’s office in Arequipa has pressed charges against a number of community leaders from in and around the Tia María mining project, accusing them of illicit association with criminal intent (asociación ilicta para delinquir). The events to which this refers go back to 2015.
Red Muqui, a civil society organisation, has interviewed some of the leaders concerned. It says that the prosecutor’s accusations are not based on solid evidence. The director of Fedepaz, another CSO organisation, claims that the only hard evidence is of leaders addressing people by a megaphone.
The leaders say they are victims of criminalisation of the right to protest, claiming that the mining project will seriously impact on the local environment and their livelihoods.
Javier Jahncke, from Red Muqui, says that he is “worried about the ramifications of this legal complaint because it is the first case in which the charge of illicit association with criminal intent is used in the context of a legitimate social protest in defence of community land rights and the agricultural activities [that they view] as a fundamental model of local development. This could set a precedent in the criminalisation of future social protest”.
The Peru Support Group has pointed out many times that, though prosecutions of human rights defenders on spurious grounds are usually dropped for lack of evidence, such proceedings can drag on for years and can result in significant emotional and financial costs for those involved.
Miguel Meza, a leader from the province of Islay (where Tia María is located) has announced the renewal of mobilisations against the project, pointing to strong pressures now being exerted by Southern Copper on the government to obtain authorisation to initiate operations there.