(Ottawa, June 6, 2013) More than 77 global organizations have sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to protest Barrick Gold’s treatment of rape victims at the company’s Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea.
Over 170 indigenous women allege brutal rape and gang rape at the hands of the mine’s security guards. After years of denial – even though these human rights abuses had been brought repeatedly and directly to the attention of Barrick’s founder and chair of the board, Peter Munk, as well as to the company’s board members and shareholders, since 2008 – Barrick has finally acknowledged the rapes.
The company has implemented a non-judicial grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims and, if validated by the complaints process, these women may receive a benefits package. However, Barrick is conditioning the provision of individual benefits packages on the women signing away their right to sue the company. This is wrong. Remedy for harm caused by corporate human rights abuses should not be made conditional on legal immunity from civil action for the company in question.
“Corporate project-level remedy processes do not have any legal status, do not necessarily 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 receive through a legal process,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.
While Barrick amended the text of its legal waiver on May 16, the company still requires immunity from legal action by the women in return for remedy:
“The Claimant agrees that, she will not pursue any claim for compensation, or any civil legal action that relates to the event(s) giving rise to the remedy claim, against the Porgera Joint Venture, PRFA or Barrick in Papua New Guinea or in any other jurisdiction. This limitation expressly excludes any criminal action that may be brought by any relevant state, governmental or international regulatory entity.”
Barrick claims that its non-judicial claims process conforms to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. “We have demonstrated that Barrick’s claims process fails to meet the “effectiveness criteria” outlined in the Guiding Principles” says Catherine Coumans, “the Guiding Principles do not condone the use by a corporation of a non-judicial remedy process as a means to secure legal immunity for the company from civil action by the victims.”
For more information contact: Catherine Coumans, 613-569-3439, catherine(at)miningwatch.ca
For a copy of the international sign-on letter see: letter to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights
For more information see: Global Condemnation of Barrick’s Effort to Secure Legal Immunity from Rape Victims