Conga Conflict

Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru

The State of Human Rights in Peru

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, on Tuesday 7th February 2017 will embark on a trip to Peru, Colombia and Cuba.

“Mr Higgins will visit Peru at the invitation of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, before going on to meet senior members of the Peruvian Government and he will also deliver a keynote address on the contribution of Roger Casement to human rights in the Putamayo region in Peru.” The Irish Times

President Higgins has stated that Latin America is “an innovative force in the world wide struggle against neoliberalism”.

The Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC) has provided the President with the following report in advance of his trip:

The State of Human Rights in Peru



Peru is a country with an extremely high level of social conflict. According to the Ombudsman, as of November 2016 there were 213 such conflicts nationwide, with most classified as “socioenvironmental” and most relating to mining activity [1]. The dependence of Peru on mining as a source of income has over the years seen successive governments introduce a variety of law “packets” that have sought, among other measures, to weaken regulation, lower environmental standards, remove protections for workers, criminalise protest, limit the influence of indigenous and campesino peoples, and put the resources of the Peruvian state at the service of multinational corporations. These reforms have resulted in a variety of human rights issues, including the harassment and intimidation of Human Rights Defenders, the use of legal proceedings to delegitimise and even criminalise protest and dissent, and to allow for outright violent repression at times. The ceding of control over the state’s judicial resources has also heightened the vulnerability of other members of society, in particular women. Since taking power in July 2016, the government of President Kuczynski has continued and deepened this mining dependency. Between December and January the president has issued 122 legislative decrees, 65 of which were designed to further facilitate foreign investment at the expense of weakening indigenous and labour rights, and environmental norms.

1. Treatment of Human Rights Defenders

i) Harassment and Intimidation:

Maxima Acuña is the current holder of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for Latin America 2016. Maxima is a subsistence farmer who lives on a small plot of land in the highlands of the region of Cajamarca with her family. As a consequence of their refusal to sell or abandon their land to the Yanacocha Mining Corporation – in which the World Bank is a partner – the family members have faced six years of physical, psychological and judicial abuse.

In 2011 family members were brutally attacked and their home destroyed. A subsequent attempted prosecution lasted for four years and came at significant economic and emotional cost to the family, even though it resulted in a not guilty verdict by the Superior Court of Cajamarca. Yanacocha has now launched an expensive civil suit against Maxima and her family. Mining company employees regularly enter the family property without prior warning or justification, and have destroyed crops and animal shelters. This last occurred on 4th October 2016. On 30th January Maxima’s husband, Jaime Chaupe, was arrested while carrying out an inspection of his property.

The family are also hemmed in by barricades erected by the mining company, and are not permitted Latin America Solidarity Centre February, 2017 to freely come and go from their land, while visitors are routinely stopped and turned away by mining security. This constant harassment of the Chaupe family persists despite the granting of protective measures by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) [2].

ii) Criminalisation of Protest:

Nearly 400 protesters and HRDs, including community leaders, have faced court proceedings initiated by mining companies, their staff or the public prosecutor over the past five years. The charges brought have included: rebellion, terrorism, violence, usurpation, trespassing, disobedience or resistance to an official order, obstructing public officers, abduction, outrage to national symbols, criminal damage, causing injury, coercion, disturbance or other public order offences including obstructing roads. Over the years, several HRDs have faced dozens of lawsuits, either civil or criminal. In the vast majority of these cases, court proceedings were eventually dropped or ended with the acquittal of the HRDs, which attests of their frivolous or unfounded nature. Lawsuits and charges against HRDs appear to have been used as retaliation for the role of the accused in the protest movement rather than due to a genuine violation of the law.

One such case is that of Milton Sanchez Cubas, Secretary-General of the Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina (PIC). Milton has faced approximately 50 court proceedings but has never been convicted of any crime [3]. At present he has approximately five cases open, two of carry potential sanctions of over 30 years in prison.This trend persists throughout other social conflicts across Peru. For example, Mariluz Marronquín, a community leader from the Valle de Tambo in Arequipa, is facing 25 years for alleged money laundering. Similarly, Yeni Cojal – also of the PIC in Celendin – is charged with kidnapping.

Even when ending with an acquittal, court proceedings succeed in hindering the work of the HRDs concerned, affecting their reputation and furthering the view – often upheld by national media – that they are violent extremists. This is especially the case when accusations of terrorism, rebellion or violence are levied. As with Maxima Acuña, many of these criminalized human rights defenders have been granted protective measures by the IACHR because their life and human integrity is at risk (there are 46 in total in the Cajamarca region).

2. Actions by the National Police

i) Agreements with Multinational Companies: Private agreements between the National Police of Peru and a number of mining, hydrocarbons and other extractive companies remain in force in spite of a promise by former President Ollanta Humala to repeal them. The current government of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has to date made no attempts to alter this situation. Under the terms of these agreements, the national police can legally work for private corporations – providing private security and receiving a wage – while still wearing their police uniforms and carrying their police weapons. This is at odds with the protective and objective role the national police is supposed to fulfil for citizens, and creates an unsustainable conflict of interest that threatens basic rights to justice and fair procedure.

ii) Police Brutality:

Repression of social protest by the police and armed forces has claimed many lives in Peru over recent years. In Cajamarca in July 2012, five people were shot dead during protests against the proposed Conga Mining Project, including a 16 year old boy. No proper investigation has taken place and a case brought by the National Coordinator of Human Rights has been closed. Latin America Solidarity Centre February, 2017 Two environmental protesters were killed in May of the same year in Espinar, in the Cusco region, during protests against the Tintaya Copper Mine operated by Xstrata Tintaya S.A., a subsidiary of Glencore Xstrata, headquartered in Switzerland [4]. Unfortunately these violent methods do not appear to have changed significantly under the new government of President Kuczynski: one person was killed and various injured during protests against the Las Bambas Mining Project in October 2016.

3. Indigenous Peoples

The work of Sir Roger Casement in highlighting abuses against indigenous people in Peru is not reflected in modern Peru, as indigenous land and human rights are constantly eroded. A succession of anti-environmental ‘packets’ of laws – including Law 30230 that is the subject of a constitutional challenge by indigenous organisations AIDESEP and the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the National Human Rights Coordinator – have paved the way for further environmental damage, and the accession to indigenous and campesino ancestral lands by multinational companies [5]. These lands provide essential water and plant life for the sustenance of an agricultural livelihood (the essential element of most indigenous and campesino cultures). Their cultural survival depends on maintaining a connection to their land. Under the current government access to indigenous lands has been further simplified: Legislative Decree 1292 gives the State power to acquire lands for the laying of an oil pipeline; while Legislative Decree 1333 grants more access to indigenous lands to private corporations.

Question marks also remain around the implementation of Consultation Law 29785 and the accompanying Consultation Decree. These laws were designed to enact the provisions of ILO Convention 169, which acknowledges the rights of indigenous people to consultation and to free and prior informed consent to activities that may impact on their societies and territories. While the introduction of Law 29785 was initially welcomed by indigenous groups, the implementation of the law has fallen far short of expectations. As research into the law has demonstrated [6], the Peruvian state has attempted to limit the application of the law both in terms of its subjects – a database of ‘indigenous people’ was compiled without the participation of indigenous organisations, and which excluded Andean ‘peasants’ from the database – and in terms of the projects to which it applies, with mining and other resource extraction projects thus far exempted. The failure of Law 29785 as a method of conflict resolution is demonstrated by the fact that levels of social conflict have remained extremely high, with these conflicts “primarily linked to extractive activities and the defence of the environment” [7].

4. Violence Against Women

1) Over 200,000 women were affected by forced sterilizations during the Fujimori regime in the 1990s. Nevertheless the case brought by 2,000 of these women has been closed without them receiving justice. 2) 5,000 women are registered as being raped during the armed conflict, however only 35% of these women have received reparations. 3) The national march against violence against women #NiUnaMenos which brought over 200,000 onto the streets of Peru in August 2016 to protest the ongoing violence against women was a significant milestone. Nevertheless, the subsequent month saw more femicides than in the entire preceding year. A deep reform of the structure and policies of the Ministry of Women is urgently required to address this issue. Latin America Solidarity Centre February, 2017


1. With regard to the case of Maxima Acuña, bearing in mind in particular the recent assassinations of other former Goldman Prize winners Berta Caceres and Isidro Baldenegro, request that the Peruvian government commit to safeguarding Maxima, her family and possessions from further violence, damage or harassment. In particular to give undertakings as to the safety and fair treatment of Jaime Chaupe, Maxima’s husband who is currently in police custody. Further, to give a general commitment to the protection of HRD’s, and to ensuring the rights to speech, association and peaceful demonstration will be upheld in Peru.

2. With regard to the cases of police brutality mentioned, to undertake to order the carrying out of full and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to bring criminal prosecutions against those responsible where appropriate.

3. To protect the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, and further to ensure a fair and participative process of consultation regarding developments that will affect their lives and lands, as provided for by ILO Convention 169.

4. To reopen the case taken by the women subjected to forced sterilisation by the Fujimori regime, and to complete the payment of reparations to victims of sexual violence during the armed conflict.


1 – Defensoria del Pueblo Monthly Report, November 2016 (–Noviembre-2016.pdf)

2 –

3 –

4 – as above

5 –

6 – Schilling-Vacaflor, Almut and Riccarda Flemmer, 2015. ‘Conflict transformation through prior consultation? Lesson from Peru,’ Journal of Latin American Studies, 47(4): 811-839.

7 – Defensoria del Pueblo Annual Report, 2016 (

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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