Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Gives in to Pressure From Guatemala

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Gives in to Pressure From Guatemala

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January 5, 2012

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has once again submitted to the demands of a Nation State at the expense of Indigenous Peoples.

To the astonishment of Mining Watch, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and many others, in late December, the IACHR announced that it had decided to reverse its 2010 recommendation to suspend any ongoing mining activity at Goldcorp’s Marlin gold mine in San Marcos, Guatemala.

Both MiningWatch and CIEL expressed deep concern over the move, calling it “a wake-up call for organizations and communities concerned about the defense of human rights in the Americas.” Given the IACHR’s role as an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) charged with “promoting the observance and the defense of human rights in the Americas” and the frequency with which the judicial body sides with Indigenous Peoples–it is certainly that.

It’s the second time in less than a year the IACHR has given in to government demands, the NGOs observe. “Several months ago, under threat that Brazil would revoke its funding, the IACHR backed down from its order to Brazil to halt construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam based on allegations that the right of local indigenous communities to free, prior and informed consent had not been respected.”

“Questions need to be asked about what kind of pressure the IACHR was under when it made this decision to modify the order,” said Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “It is unconvincing that the IACHR would be satisfied with the evidence that the company-sponsored water committee and Guatemalan government have presented. The most recent hydro-geological study lauded by the government does not resolve the question of whether the mine is contaminating the local drinking water and its neutrality has been roundly criticized by local authorities. Furthermore, I’m surprised to see no mention of other independent studies that indicate depletion of surface water supplies, arsenic contamination and possible leakage from the tailings pond.”

Goldcorp, meanwhile, is celebrating the move, even going so far as to say with great pride that the IACHR has vindicated them. In a press release dated Dec. 19, 2011, Goldcorp President and CEO Chuck Jeannes states:

“Goldcorp is gratified that the IACHR has taken into account the extensive information available, including water quality monitoring since before mine construction began and technical studies, which demonstrates that the Marlin mine is not causing and has not caused harm to human health or the environment, and has removed the suspension of Marlin operations from the precautionary measures… We take seriously our commitment to the responsible stewardship of the environment and to the human rights of the people in communities near Marlin. We are proud of Goldcorp’s record of safe, responsible conduct at Marlin and everywhere we operate.”

“If Goldcorp truly respected human rights as it purports to, it would not be celebrating this decision,” says Kristen Genovese, Senior Attorney at CIEL. “In addition to the IACHR, the International Labour Organization´s Committee of Experts and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People have also recommended suspension of mine operations until local communities are adequately consulted. The company’s own Human Rights Assessment of the Marlin mine also recommended that the company halt its land acquisition and mine expansion until consultation takes place. The company is conveniently ignoring these orders, in the same way it supported the Guatemalan government’s intransigence in the face of the earlier IACHR suspension order.”

Fortunately, the IACHR’s decision doesn’t affect the underlying petition which alleges that Guatemala failed to obtain the free, prior, and informed, consent of the local Maya communities before developing the Marlin mine. The petition is currently under consideration at the Commission.

Further Reading

W5: Paradise Lost: Canadian Mining in Guatemala, The Business Of Gold In Guatemala, Sipakapa No Se Vende/Sipakapa Is Not for Sale, 8 Mayan Women, El oro o la vida” (Life for Gold), Tufts University Study on Marlin Mine

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