The Interamerican Human Rights Commission (IACHR) is demanding that the Peruvian Government take action in defence of Shipibo community Tres Islas, Tambopata, against illegal miners who are backed by the regional government of Madre de Dios.

On March 10, the third anniversary of the IHRC’s precautionary measure in favour of the community, the Commission convened a working meeting in Port au Prince, Haiti attended by the head of the community, his legal adviser from the NGO IIDS, and representatives of the Peruvian ombudsman office (Defensoría).

The community reported on the deterioration of conditions in the community since the IHRC inspection in 2017 confirmed the invasion of community lands, contamination of water sources and crops with mercury, and an absence of health care.

The precautionary measures applied by IHRD in 2017 have been disregarded. Indeed, the scale of extraction has increased with the deployment of heavy equipment and the construction of a petrol station (grifo) at Kilometre 24 on the Interoceanic Highway.

The miners have armed themselves and, in 2018, confronted and seen off a detachment of police which the community had requested by way of protection. Prostitution has become established, exposing the women of the community to abuse.

Based on an inspection of Tres Islas prior to the hearing in Haiti, Defensoría confirmed that, periodic meetings and surveys apart, there had been little progress in improving health or nutrition.

The community presented IHRD once again with a list of its most urgent needs:

  • the transfer of patients with serious symptoms of mercury poisoning to hospitals in Cuzco or Lima, accompanied by a relative;
  • the expulsion of the miners from the community’s territory and the establishment of a temporary police post at Kilometre 24 to ensure they do not return; and
  • the cancellation of all concessions within the community territory approved by the regional government of Madre de Dios.

In response, IACHR urged Peru to develop an integrated plan for health, nutrition and security, commenting on the long delay of the state in implementing the precautionary measures.

The problems facing Tres Islas go back some 15 years to the date when the regional government issued agricultural and mining concessions covering over 60% of the community’s territory without any prior consultation of the Shipibo.

For eight years the community’s leaders have been tied up in court proceedings, always successfully but without the slightest real impact on the ground. In 2012 the Constitutional Tribunal ruled favourably on the community’s rights of autonomy and self-determination in their own territories.

In 2018, a civil court of Tambopata ordered the cancellation of the illegal concessions, with orders to the police to enforce the ruling. In the event, this proved impossible owing to the strength of the miners and others who have moved in on Shipibo territory.