(Ottawa) Barrick Gold has finally acknowledged that the security guards at its Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea have been raping local indigenous women for years. Barrick’s shareholder meeting today is the first since the company has started to implement a long-overdue remedy program for hundreds of alleged rape victims. However, in return for individual benefit packages the women must provide Barrick legal immunity by signing an agreement never to sue the company for their rape.
Barrick’s Remedy Framework stipulates that, “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.” Barrick has defended this requirement publicly on numerous occasions in recent months. However, in a recent release of April 16, Barrick says that a newer version of the remedy framework “contains much narrower terms” for the legal waiver. It is unclear what those terms are and Barrick has not provided the new version of the remedy framework.
Corporate remedy processes do not have any legal status, do not afford victims the safeguards and protections of a court of law – such as independent legal counsel – and are not required to provide remedy that would be commensurate with what victims may get through a legal process. Private agreements also fail to address any question of criminal culpability of the corporation.
MiningWatch Canada’s Catherine Coumans travelled to the remote Papua New Guinea mine in March to interview rape victims. “We have detailed our findings and concerns regarding Barrick’s remedy program in letters to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights,” says Dr. Coumans. “We are pleased that Barrick has started to adjust aspects of the remedy program in response,” she adds. “However, while the changes clearly indicate the program is a ‘work in progress,’ Barrick has still not discarded the legal waivers.”
Barrick’s Annual General Meeting is an opportunity for shareholders and the Board of Directors to find out what is really going on at the company’s mine sites around the world – if they cared to listen to the community leaders who travel to Canada to share their concerns. As early as 2008, Jethro Tulin, a local community leader from Porgera, addressed the directors: “As you know, your security guards have been shooting and killing our people and raping, even gang-raping, our women with impunity for years now.” While Barrick denied the allegations, the rapes continued unabated.
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For more information contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, e-mail; catherine(at)miningwatch.ca
Related documents on MiningWatch Canada’s web site:
- Barrick Gold's Framework of Remediation Initiatives in Response to Violence Against Women in the Porgera Valley, no date.
- letters by MiningWatch Canada to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which detail concerns related to the remedy program for rape victims:
- Joint news release with Rights & Accountability in Development and EarthRights International: Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick. January 30, 2013.
- Background Brief - Concerns regarding the Remediation Framework for women victims of sexual violence by Porgera Joint Venture security guards. January 29, 2013.
- OECD Complaint Against Barrick’s Porgera Operations, March 1, 2011.
- Legal Brief before the Standing Committee on the Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) of the House of Commons by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law. November 16, 2009.