News Release

MiningWatch Canada Launches Legal Action Against Arbitrary Detention in Connection with Hudbay Minerals’ Operations in Peru

(Ottawa) On Tuesday, MiningWatch Canada filed a motion for habeas corpus in a Peruvian court in response to the illegal and arbitrary detention of the organisation’s Latin America Program Coordinator Jen Moore and American journalist John Dougherty on April 21 in Cusco, Peru, following a screening of a film about Hudbay Minerals’ operations in the Americas. The legal action against the Peruvian Interior Ministry, the Security Department in Cusco, and migration authorities in Cusco, seeks to stop the criminalization of the MiningWatch worker and to prevent future police surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detention, and criminalization against her and any other foreign researchers, journalists, public speakers, and human rights defenders.

MiningWatch Canada is being represented in this legal action by the Peruvian organizations: Institute for Legal Defence (IDL), Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF), Cooperacción and the Association for Life and Human Dignity (APORVIDHA).

Even before their illegal and arbitrary detention, Moore and Dougherty were harassed and subjected to constant police surveillance. The Interior Ministry made clear the political nature of the detention by issuing a public notice within hours, declaring the two guilty of inciting violence and stating that expulsion would be a fitting sanction, while expressing explicit support for Hudbay’s operations.

The habeas corpus filed yesterday argues that the detention, during which time Moore and Dougherty were subject to further harassment, was illegal and arbitrary, and seeks to shelve the investigation now underway, over an alleged infraction of Peru’s migration law, which lacks any guarantee of due process.

The legal action also cites the contract between Hudbay’s Peruvian subsidiary and the National Police, which subordinates police to the company and its security needs, creating a serious conflict of interest with their public service role. It alleges that Moore’s and Dougherty’s arbitrary detention is a result of this privatization of police services, which facilitates the criminalization of protest in Peru.

The legal action further argues that this process of criminalization is a violation of the right to freedom of expression, as both an individual right and a collective right, in this case both for communities affected by Hudbay’s Constancia mine and audiences in the cities of Cusco and Lima.

“At its core, this process of criminalization aims to cut off the communities living near Hudbay’s copper mine in Cusco from independent information and international solidarity today and in the future,” said Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

“It is a terrible precedent for many others who work to share their research, their journalism, and their experience of all sorts – technical and personal – with mining-affected communities and the broader population in Peru. We cannot let this go unchallenged.”   

The habeas corpus seeks to prevent police and migration officers from any future detention, surveillance, harassment, criminalization or any other such act that would threaten the liberty or freedom of opinion and expression, or related rights, of the MiningWatch employee. Further, it requests that the public prosecutor investigate the authorities responsible for the abuses that Moore has already suffered. Finally, the action urges Peruvian authorities to adopt adequate measures so that this will not happen again to any other foreign researchers, journalists, public speakers, and human rights and environment defenders.

In recent years, legal persecution, threats and violence against people fighting to protect their land, environment, and wellbeing from the negative impacts of extractive projects has been intensifying in many parts of Latin America. A 2016 report from the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto identified over 700 cases of criminalization in 28 incidents related to Canadian mining operations in Latin America alone.

Contact:

  • Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca

Background:

Moore and Dougherty were in Peru to participate in a series of public screenings of Dougherty’s documentary film ‘Flin Flon Flim Flam’ with support from local organizations and authorities. Dubbed in Quechua and Spanish, the film screenings were set up to share the documentary with communities living near Hudbay’s Constancia mine who feature in the film, as well as audiences in the cities of Cusco and Lima.

The film shares the experiences of mining-affected communities in Canada, Guatemala, Peru, and the U.S. where Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals operates or has operated. It recounts stories of environmental contamination, violence against community members fighting for their land, police repression against local protests, and conflict over future company operations that could harm ecologically and culturally important areas.

Even before Moore and Dougherty arrived in Peru, an anonymous columnist accused MiningWatch and Peruvian organizations Human Rights Without Borders and Cooperacción of “planning an ambush” against Hudbay Minerals and mining investment in southern Peru. During the screenings in the communities, unidentified individuals filmed the delegation and police tracked their activities. Under this pressure, only two of the three community screenings that had been planned from April 18 to 20 were actually held.  

Police surveillance of Moore and Dougherty continued after their return to the city of Cusco. Following an evening film screening on April 21, the two were surrounded by 15 to 20 mostly plain-clothes police and migration officials and taken into custody for four hours.

The habeas corpus filed Tuesday argues that the detention, during which time Moore and Dougherty were subject to further harassment, was illegal and arbitrary. The norm in Peru’s migration law that regulates police intervention of migrants is not in effect, and Peru’s Constitutional Court has determined that such detentions should only take place in exceptional cases. Furthermore, provisions in Peru’s criminal code do not allow police to undertake investigations when they detain persons without a warrant, or to hold them for longer than necessary. Police sought to take lengthy statements from Moore and Dougherty and held them for much longer than needed to confirm their identity. During this time, unidentified individuals continued to film the two and, when police accompanied Moore to her hotel to retrieve her passport, they went right to her bedroom.

The investigation underway against Moore and Dougherty, over an alleged infraction of the migration law in which they are alleged to have disturbed the peace, interfered in internal affairs or been a threat to national security – grounds for possible expulsion from Peru for up to 15 years – lacks any guarantee of due process. Rather than being properly notified about the investigation and assured of their fundamental rights, Moore and Dougherty were subject to constant police surveillance, harassed, and, immediately following their illegal and arbitrary detention, the Interior Ministry further compromised the process and its role as a fair arbiter when it issued a public notice declaring them guilty of having incited communities to violence and that expulsion would be a fitting sanction, while expressing explicit support for Hudbay’s operations.

The habeas corpus also alleges that the contract between Hudbay’s Peruvian subsidiary and the National Police subordinates them to the company and its security needs, creating a serious conflict of interest with their public service role. Notably, from 2006 to 2014, 230 people were killed and 3,318 wounded in socio-environmental conflicts in Peru, principally around mining projects. State armed forces (police and army) have frequently been the aggressors.

The legal action further argues that this process of criminalization is a violation of the right to freedom of expression, as both an individual right and a collective right, which is fundamental to the exchange of information and communication, such as in this case with local communities living near Hudbay Minerals’ Constancia mine and audiences in the city of Cusco and Lima.