HUMAN RIGHTS: Front Line Defenders issue stinging report; Families recall La Cantuta killings;Law 30151: License to Kill
31 December 1969
Front Line Defenders issue stinging report on human rights and mining
The extent to which the pressure to develop extractives is leading to human rights abuses is demonstrated in a new report from Front Line Defenders. This is an NGO incorporated under Irish charity law. In 2013 it worked on cases of abuse of human rights in 64 countries worldwide. On 19 June it released the report of its team which visited Peru in February of this year. The team travelled extensively in the Cajamarca and Cusco regions investigating ongoing conflict between mining companies and indigenous and campesino rights defenders.
In eight pages the report covers many issues familiar to readers of the PSG’s publications, but the concentrated reporting of what the researchers found makes it a powerful document. The report details instances of “intimidation, death threats, physical attacks, surveillance, stigmatisation, smear campaigns and judicial harassment” (p.7). It describes how the abuse of judicial process appears to be used as a means of harassment and stigmatisation, claiming that “lawsuits and charges against human rights defenders <HRDs> appear to have been used in retaliation for the role of the accused in the protest movement rather than due to a genuine violation of the law.” Numerous instances are cited where human rights protesters face up to fifty charges. “In the vast majority of these cases, court proceedings were eventually dropped or ended with the acquittal of the HRDs” (p.2) it says.
The report also highlights the “precautionary protection measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to 46 community leaders and members of rondas (peasant patrols) in Cajamarca, and the state's failure to comply with these. The group is asking for ten steps from the government, including the review of the new impunity law (see ‘Law 30151’ below). The report is available at http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/peru-reportonhumanrightsdefenders.
Families recall La Cantuta killings
As Peruvians celebrated in July’s anniversary of national independence, the families and friends of the nine students and a professor from Universidad Nacional Enrique Guzmán Valle (La Cantuta) who disappeared on 18 July 1992 also remember this month. But they have nothing to celebrate.
It has been established that the disappearances and subsequent killings were reprisals that followed the detonation by Sendero Luminoso of a car bomb in Miraflores (Lima) two days before. Nearly a year later, on 8 July 1993, four makeshift graves were discovered in the outskirts of the capital at Cieneguilla. The charred remains of some of the students were found alongside some personal possessions. The families have been campaigning for justice ever since.
Simmering frustration this year reached boiling point as the students’ relatives found the area of the graves covered by a mound of earth, as a building project got under way on the site. Concerned that they will not be able to find those still missing, they staged a sit-in outside the public prosecutor’s office on 14 July. They accuse the authorities of dragging their feet in carrying out the 2006 directive of the Inter-American Human Rights Court that ruled that those in the military found guilty of the killings should be tried in a civil court.
For more on the commemoration of the La Cantuta killings, see https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Cantuta-en-nuestra-memoria/275548789219124
Law 30151: License to Kill
Another bitter anniversary is that of the socio-environmental confrontation that took place five years ago in June 2009 in Bagua. On that occasion, 23 police officers and 10 civilians lost their lives. The anniversary provides the backdrop to growing opposition to a new law promulgated by the Humala government at the beginning of this year.
Law 30151, which was originally approved by Congress in June last year, provides for police and military officials to be “exempt from criminal responsibility” if they cause death or injure while on duty. First introduced by the Fujimorista bloc in Congress in September 2011, the draft law had been beset by controversy. Few predicted that it would eventually receive government support. It was eventually approved by 77 votes in the Congress, including members from the ruling Gana Perú.
Diverse organisations including the Peruvian human rights ombudsman, Amnesty International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, have all expressed grave concerns regarding this norm which they say seriously weakens protection of fundamental rights.
Rocío Silva Santisteban, the human rights advocate, has described the new law as granting “permission to kill”. By contributing to an atmosphere of impunity, it is feared that the law will provoke more deaths in a context of rising social conflict, not least in the area of extractive operations where environmental protest has become commonplace.
Notably, while 53 civilians stand trial for alleged crimes committed during the Bagua confrontation in 2009, no charges have been brought against police for the killing and injuring of protesters on that day.
Rights advocates view Law 30151 as further evidence of government policy to effectively subordinate the rights of indigenous peoples to the demands of powerful economic actors concentrated in the mining sector.
Activists further predict that the law will have a powerful deterrent effect on legitimate environmental social protest, with powers extending not only to official impunity for death and injury, but also to enhanced electronic surveillance and other means of intimidation.