MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru rights groups denounce torture at mine

Published by MAC on 2009-01-19
Source: The International Herald Tribune

LIMA, Peru: Two Peruvian human rights groups are demanding a full government investigation into allegations of police torture against protesters in 2005 at a northern mining project, citing photographs of the apparent abuse received from an anonymous source.

The photos, published and broadcast widely in Peruvian media, depict police standing over men and women who have plastic trash bags pulled over their heads and hands tied behind their backs.

Though their origin is unclear, the images have given new weight to torture allegations by protesters at the British-owned Majaz mining project in August 2005. The mining operation was later purchased by Chinese interest and renamed Rio Blanco SA.

"I'm horrified," Peruvian Chief Cabinet Minister Yehude Simon said Monday about the contents of the photos.

Ronald Gamarra, executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinator, has filed a lawsuit and is demanding government action. The Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace in Lima also is pressuring the government for an investigation.

Peru's national police referred questions to the interior ministry, where no spokesman was available. No one was available for comment at Rio Blanco headquarters in Lima or at the Hong Kong corporate headquarters of British-owned Monterrico Metals PLC, the previous owner of the mine.

According to the rights groups, police detained 28 members of two highland communities near the Majaz project in August 2005 during a march protesting mine pollution.

Victims say they were held captive in the mining facilities for three days and that police and mining security officers beat them, deprived them of food and forced them to sleep in the extreme cold.

"They put tear gas in our ears, nose and mouth. I still have hearing damage," Mario Tabra, a local journalists held captive with the protesters, told reporters.

At the time, police said several officers and protesters were injured when hundreds of protesters stormed the mine.

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