Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
Emperatriz is one of 4 mothers, and one of 16 environmental and human rights defenders who are facing long prison sentences for protesting against the Conga Mining Project. (Photo: Celendin Libre)
Once again social leaders, defenders of human rights and the environment, are victims of judicial percussion in Peru.
On March 6, the trial began against sixteen community leaders who oppose the Conga Mining Project after the 2nd Provincial Criminal Prosecutor’s Office of Celendín, Cajamarca, filed an indictment in which it seeks sentences of up to 36 years of prison for several of them.
This process comes as a direct result of the local communities’ struggle against Minera Yanacocha, a joint venture owned by the US company Newmont Mining Corporation and the Peruvian company Buenaventura, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s sub-agency for the private sector. For more than twenty years operations at Yanacocha – the largest open pit gold mine in South America – have caused environmental devastation and social conflicts with negative impacts on the community. With the Conga Project, they intend to deposit 96,000 tons of toxic mining tailings a day, in ecologically sensitive places such as the headwaters of the basin that constitutes the main source of water in this area. Due to the opposition to this project, in July 2012, a repression by the combined forces of the National Police and the Army against demonstrators in the cities of Celendín and Bambamarca, left five dead, among them a young person of 16 years, in addition to wounded and hundreds judicially processed.
These accusations and criminal prosecutions, from our perspective, could criminalize dissent from extractive projects, as not only are the charges far from the behaviour of social leaders, but the penalties are equivalent or more serious than would be requested for highly dangerous criminals in this country.
Among those accused by the Prosecutor’s Office is Milton Sánchez Cubas, General Secretary of the Inter-Institutional Platform of Celendin (PIC), beneficiary of protective measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Another defendant facing unsubstantiated charges is environmental advocate Jeni Cojal, who was informed of the allegations against her when the process had already begun, denying her the opportunity to defend herself. Today, an appeal for annulment is pending against this action.
The organizations that subscribe to this document are deeply concerned that, in the face of legitimate social mobilization, the State’s response is the use of force and the use of criminal law against leaders in the defence of human rights, territory and the environment.
Therefore, in view of the criminalization, prosecution and persecution of the leaders in Cajamarca, we remind the authorities, especially the prosecutors and the judiciary, that they have an obligation to ensure the right of due process of the accused, as well as a fair trial and an impartial tribunal.
The signatory civil society organizations declare our intention to remain vigilant in the face of additional abuses, and we urge the Judiciary to protect the rights of defenders as the fundamental premise of a democratic and pluralistic country.
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH)
Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre temas Iberoamericanos AIETI
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) – Perú
EarthRights International (ERI)
Fórum Solidaridad Perú (FSP)
Fundación Ecumenica para el Desarrollo y la Paz FEEPAZ
Instituto de Defensa Legal y Ambiental y Desarrollo Sostenible de Perú (IDLADS)
Instituto de Defensa Legal IDL
Koepel Van de Vlaamse Noord-Zuidbeweging – 11.11.11
La Pastoral Social del Vicariato Apostólico de San Francisco Javier – Jaén
Observatorio de conflictos mineros de America Latina OCMAL
Paz y Esperanza
Programa Democracia y Transformacion Global (PDGT)
Centro de la Mujer Peruana FLORA TRISTAN
Original text: https://celendinlibre.wordpress.com/