DA: charges warranted against police in Majaz mine torture case, mining camp’s private security agents exonerated

The Piura region district attorney has pressed criminal charges against some of the police officers involved in the torture and kidnapping of 29 anti-mining protesters in 2005, but has exonerated the Majaz mining camp security guards who also took part in incidents, daily La República reported Wednesday.

According to district attorney Juan Ortiz Arévalo, a group of low-ranking police officers – led by Aurelio Terrones Valladolid – have been charged.

The victims, at least 28 members from isolated outposts in the northern district of Piura, were kidnapped and brutally beaten by police and the company’s security team in 2005. In Peru, low wage-earning cops often moonlight for private companies, such as mines.

The residents, who had been protesting against the development of the $1.4 billion Rio Blanco project, left their communities a week prior to the kidnappings, and set out, on foot, for the Majaz mining camp. Expecting to meet with a high level negotiating commission, they were instead greeted by police and tear gas-shooting choppers.

Taken inside the camp, stripped of their clothing and blindfolded, the protesters – including two women and a 16-year old – were physically and psychologically tortured. Evidence of this torture has been documented by doctors from Physicians for Human Rights, a NGO that mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.

Three days of beatings left one dead, and 3 others missing.

“It’s very important that charges have been pressed against (these individuals) for torture,” said the victims’ lawyer, Rosa Quedena, “but we have filed a complaint given the fact that the intellectual authors of this crime have not been included.”

According to the National Human Rights Coordinator, or CNDDHH, charges should also be pressed against the higher-ranking police officers who directed and ordered the operation, the medical examiners of the Huancabamba district attorney’s office who failed to collect usable evidence and report wounds that were clearly caused by torture, and the Majaz mine security guards, who also took part in the torture and kidnapping.

The Rio Blanco mining project has been at the center of controversy between environmental NGOs and the mining industry since 2003, when it was approved by the Peruvian state. In a 2007 popular vote, nearby communities overwhelmingly said they did not want the mine developed.

Proponents argue the mine will bring $65 million annually in taxes to the region, badly needed social services, and over 12,000 jobs after its planned start-up in 2011. But critics say it will contaminate the environment and jeopardize agriculture, which fuels the local economy.

The mine was purchased in 2007 by Zijin Consortium of China from London-based Monterrico Metals. Monterrico Metals estimates the Río Blanco project will be one of the largest copper mines in the world during its first five years of operation.

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