Majaz Protest Investigations Closed

14 June 2012

A court in Huancabamba has dismissed a wide variety of charges against 107 people involved in the 2005 demonstrations against Minera Majaz, a subsidiary of then British-owned mining firm Monterrico Metals.

Those acquitted, including a number of peasant farmers and provincial politicians, had marched with thousands of others to the company’s mine site in Piura, northwest Peru, in August 2005. Twenty eight of the demonstrators were subsequently detained and tortured by police and, allegedly, by the firm’s private security personnel. Shortly after the march, Lorenzo Félix Toledo Leyva, then serving as Huancabamba’s public prosecutor, filed a series of charges against all the detainees, plus another 99 protestors.

Locals allege that Levya was present at the mining camp throughout the time of the abuses, and that these charges were merely an attempt to divert attention from the mistreatment of demonstrators. Despite serious questions over the integrity of the former prosecutor (he is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption and remains under investigation for failure to report the 2005 abuses), the investigations against the protestors continued for a number of years.

In January 2009 Huancabamba residents celebrated a small victory when charges of embezzlement were dropped against numerous local officials who had supported the protests. The court decision in early June this year saw the dropping of all remaining charges (including theft of firearms, obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting violence) against the march participants.

To date, no-one has been convicted of the mistreatment of protestors at the Rio Blanco mine in 2005. Last year, Monterrico Metal’s new owners, Chinese mining firm Zijin, agreed to make compensation payments of an undisclosed size to 33 claimants following legal proceedings in the UK. The firm denies any involvement in the abuses.

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