British mining company Monterrico Metals has reached an out-of-court settlement with 33 Peruvian farmers who accused the company of colluding in their detention and torture by Peruvian police, while refusing to admit liability.
Catholic aid agency CAFOD and campaigners from the Peru Support Group have been working with Peruvian NGOs supporting the farmers since the events at Rio Blanco came to light in 2005.
According to the claimants, following a march by thousands of farmers protesting about the mine being built without consultation with the local community, a large group were attacked by police. Witnesses reported that the police were being directed by the managers of the mine, a claim that Monterrico strenuously denied.
The High Court trial, which was scheduled to begin in October this year, was to hear from 80 witnesses giving evidence that the claimants had been variously beaten, threatened, hooded, held captive, shot, sexually assaulted and threatened with rape by the Peruvian police.
One protestor was shot and bled to death the following day. Photographs obtained by campaigners show farmers hooded, bound and beaten unconscious, as well as policemen holding up the underwear of female captives.
As part of the out-of-court settlement, the mining company has imposed a gagging order on the amount of the compensation payouts, which applies both to the farmers and to Leigh Day, the British legal firm representing the protestors.
Richard Meeran of Leigh Day commented: “My clients suffered deplorable mistreatment and were denied justice in Peru. This was an extremely costly exercise for Monterrico and constitutes a salutary lesson to multinationals operating in developing countries.”
CAFOD’s senior analyst on the extractives industry, Karen Luyckx added: “Monterrico cannot hide behind gagging orders and out of court settlements. They must not simply buy their way out of this case; they must change the way they operate in future. The truth is that – welcome as it is for the farmers – this settlement does not address the fact that the criminalisation of protest, and threats and violence against activists are on the increase around the world, and that in more and more cases, we are seeing collusion between the police and military authorities and the multinational mining companies."
She added: "For every case like this, there are dozens more examples of abuse and violence which are going unnoticed and unpunished, and hundreds more communities whose livelihoods hang in the balance. Even in this case, despite the settlement, Monterrico’s mine is still going ahead without adequate consultation with the community.”