Press Release

IACHR Expresses its Concern over the Aggressions in the Department of Cajamarca, Peru

July 6, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the killings and the violence in Cajamarca Department, Peru, and urges the State to guarantee the life, the physical integrity and security of the people protesting against the mining project Conga. The Inter-American Commission also calls on the Peruvian State to use force exclusively to comply with its obligation to protect the people attending the demonstration and the members of the security forces, and only using the force strictly necessary, according to the internationally recognized principles. Finally, the IACHR calls all parties to cease violence and to find a peaceful solution of this conflict through dialogue, according to the existing Peruvian institutional mechanisms.

According to the information received, five people were killed – including a 17 years old child – and tens wounded – including three policeman – as a result of violent clashes between the population and the security forces that took place on July 3 and 4, 2012. In addition, several personas were allegedly detained during the protests.

The IACHR reminds the State of its obligation to conduct a judicial inquiry into the deaths of these persons and the acts of violence, sanction those responsible and repair the consequences. Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission reminds that it is necessary to adopt mechanisms to prevent excessive use of force on the part of public agents in marches and protest demonstrations. In this regard, the IACHR calls on the State to urgently adopt all necessary measures for the due protection of the protesters within the framework of respect of inter-American human rights standards. When carrying out security operations, the authorities should take the superior interests of children into special consideration and adopt all necessary measures to assure that children are protected against violence of any kind.

According to the information received, human rights defenders that were conducting verification work in the area were allegedly victims of agression during the police operation. In this sense, information was received on the aggression suffered by Amparo Abanto, a lawer with the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights National Coordination), and Genoveva Gómez, a lawer commissioned by the Office of the Ombudsman, by members of the Police when they were inquiring on the situation of the persons detained June 21 in the Plazuela Bolognesi.

In addition, information was received indicating that excessive use of force was allegedly used in the detention of Marco Arana, a human rights defender participating in the protest and beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on April 23, 2007. Moreover, Marco Arana, who has been freed, said he was beaten during his detention.

The Commission reiterates that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only violate the defenders' individual guarantees as persons, but also assault the fundamental role they play in society and generate situations in which all those who benefit from their work are left defenseless.

The Commission notes that the rights to association, assembly, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights broadly guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the importance of these rights for the consolidation of democratic societies, the Commission has maintained that any restriction of these rights should be justified by an imperative social interest. In this sense, the Commission observes that the States may impose reasonable limitations on protests with the objective of ensuring that they are peacefully carried out, as well as to disperse those protests that turn violent, so long as such limits are governed by the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. As the actions of state agents must not discourage the rights to assembly, association and free expression, dispersion of a protest may only be justified under the duty to protect people. The security operations that are implemented in these contexts should contemplate those measures which are the safest and the least restrictive of the fundamental rights involved. The use of force in public demonstrations should be exceptional and strictly necessary in accordance with internationally recognized principles.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 80/12