On Monday, a federal court ordered Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation to turn over evidence relating to police repression of protestors against Newmont’s proposed Conga mine in northern Peru. EarthRights International (ERI) filed the request in 2014 on behalf of Elmer Eduardo Campos Álvarez, a 33-year-old Peruvian farmer. Mr. Campos was paralyzed from the waist down in 2011 when he was shot in the back while peacefully protesting near the mine.
Mr. Campos, a resident of Peru’s Cajamarca province, where the Conga mine is planned, was among at least 24 protestors injured on November 29, 2011. He alleges he was shot by Peruvian National Police officers, under contract to Minera Yanacocha, a joint venture majority-owned and managed by Newmont. In addition to being permanently paralyzed, Mr. Campos lost a kidney and his spleen as a result of the brutality.
Judge Robert E. Blackburn issued Monday’s order under the Foreign Legal Assistance (FLA) Statute, which allows people to request evidence found in the United States that can assist a legal case in another country. ERI has pioneered the use of the FLA in human rights and environmental cases. In the past, the FLA has been used by large corporations like Chevron to gather information from their opponents and critics, but cases like Mr. Campos’s have put the tool back in the hands of those challenging corporate power.
In response to the ruling, Mr. Campos stated: “I am very happy about this news that the judge in Colorado has done justice because here in Peru there is no real justice for farmers.” Both a criminal investigation against the two commanding police officers and a civil lawsuit against the police are currently proceeding in Peru. Mr. Campos is represented in Peru by the National Coordinator for Human Rights.
“This decision requires Newmont to turn over numerous documents that we hope will shed light on the events leading to the shooting and paralysis of Mr. Campos,” said ERI attorney Marissa Vahlsing. The evidence includes photos and videos relating to protests near the Conga mine, reports of Yanacocha security, communications between Yanacocha and the police, and internal company communications. The court also granted Mr. Campos’s request to take a deposition of a Newmont representative.
Mar Perez, an attorney with the National Coordinator for Human Rights, added, “Peru has seen many cases of repression of protestors in recent years. This U.S. court decision will strengthen Mr. Campos’s ability to obtain justice here in Peru, and enable our courts to fully investigate his case.”
In addition to EarthRights International, Mr. Campos is represented in the federal court action by Gail Johnson of Johnson, Brenner & Klein, PLLC, based in Boulder, Colorado. ERI is also grateful to the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic for providing additional legal support in Mr. Campos's case.