MAC: Mines and Communities

Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick

Published by MAC on 2013-02-04
Source: Statement, The Tyee (2013-02-02)

Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick

MiningWatch Canada - Rights & Accountability in Development - EarthRights International press release

30 January 2013

Ottawa - Washington, D.C. - Oxford - Following years of denial, Barrick Gold is implementing a remedy program for victims of rape by employees of its Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In order to receive a remedy package, women must enter into an agreement in which "the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement."

Included in the remedy options offered to women are "access to phychosocial/trauma counseling" and "access to health care." "We do not believe women should have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape," says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, "this requirement is not best practice in cases of non-judicial remedy."

"We are also concerned that Barrick is not offering remedy to those women who have been raped and gang raped by members of police Mobile Squads who are being housed, fed and supported by PJV on PJV property" says Tricia Feeney, Executive Director of Rights& Accountability in Development.

"Barrick appears to be rushing women through the claims process," says Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, which has brought several transnational lawsuits in U.S. courts against extractive companies for similar abuses. "Women should not be coerced into giving up their legal rights and, at a minimum, Barrick should allow women to keep the remedial offers made to them open long enough for them to seek legal counsel and evaluate their options."

MiningWatch Canada, Rights& Accountability in Development and EarthRights International are currently engaged in mediated discussions with Barrick Gold as a result of a complaint filed with the Canadian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. The information and related documents provided in this release were obtained outside of that process.

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For more information contact:

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, (+1) 613-569-3439

Patricia Feeney, Rights& Accountability in Development, (+44) (0) 1865-436-245

Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, (+1) 860-233-4938

Related Documents Available Here:
http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/rape-victims-must-sign-away-rights-get-remedy-barrick

Background Brief - Concerns regarding the Remediation Framework for women victims of sexual violence by Porgera Joint Venture security guards. January 29, 2013.

A Framework of Remediation Initiatives in Response to Violence Against Women in the Porgera Valley

OECD Complaint Against Barrick's Porgera Operations

Legal Brief before the Standing Committee on the Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) of the House of Commons by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law. November 16, 2009.


Barrick Gold's Offer to Rape Victims Slammed by NGOs

Women assaulted by mining giant's Papua New Guinea employees waive rights by taking help, say critics.

By Rob Annandale

The Tyee

2 February 2013

Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company, has come under fire for attaching strings to a "remediation framework" offered to women raped by employees of its Papua New Guinea mine.

Following allegations of a series of gang rapes at its Porgera mine, Barrick devised a strategy the company says will help fulfill its promise to the surrounding communities: "We will uphold your rights and we will protect your dignity."

But a group of NGOs from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. says that the resulting document, far from protecting rape victims, requires them to waive their rights.

The framework document stipulates that in exchange for remedies such as access to counselling and micro-credit, "the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Porgera Joint Venture], PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of [Papua New Guinea]. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement."

MiningWatch Canada's Catherine Coumans said the NGOs "do not believe women should have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape."

NGO claims 'erroneous and misleading': Barrick

While some of the alleged rapists were company employees, others were members of the police assigned to provide additional mine security. But the NGOs say the material support Barrick provided to these police officers blurred the line between employees and non-employees, and they want the company to assist women raped by either category of security forces.

"We are also concerned that Barrick is not offering remedy to those women who have been raped and gang raped by members of police Mobile Squads who are being housed, fed and supported by PJV on PJV property," according to Rights & Accountability in Development's Tricia Feeney.

Barrick has issued a statement responding to these "erroneous and misleading" claims and arguing its remediation package "fully accords" with the voluntary UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The company offers community programs including "a variety of health, counselling, and medical care to victims of sexual violence" which are open to all members of the local public. And the filing of a claim does not affect a woman's legal rights. Any agreement over individual remedies, however, "settles the claim against the PJV and Barrick and the claimant may not then pursue further legal action against the companies." Barrick calls this limitation "the norm for companies in the practice of settling grievances."

Barrick named 'most sustainable' Canadian mining firm

In stark contrast to the NGO criticisms, Toronto-based Corporate Knights last week included Barrick Gold in its Global 100 list of companies that "squeeze more wealth from less material resources while honouring the social contract." And late last year, Corporate Knights anointed Barrick the most sustainable Canadian mining company.

"In the mining industry, strong sustainability performance is not just a nice-to-have -- it's an essential condition for survival as a business," according to Corporate Knights' Doug Morrow.

And yet, controversy has plagued Barrick projects around the world, from fatal shootings in Tanzania to shrinking glaciers on the Chile-Argentina border.

In 2011, its Papua New Guinea operation found itself in the international spotlight after Human Rights Watch released a report on the Porgera mine, filled with grisly details such as a woman forced by guards to swallow a condom used to rape two other women.

A couple of weeks later, Barrick's founder and chairman Peter Munk told the Globe and Mail that in Papua New Guinea "gang rape is a cultural habit." To which the man whose name adorns the University of Toronto's school of global affairs added: "Of course, you can't say that because it's politically incorrect."

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