In a precedent-setting judgment, the Superior Court of Ontario Justice has ruled that three lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals over human rights abuses at its former mine in Guatemala can proceed to trial in Canada. Thirteen members of the Mayan Qeqchi community filed the claims over the killing of Adolfo Ich, the shooting and paralyzing of German Chub and the gang rape of 11 women by security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiaries at their Fenix mining project.
Earlier this year, the Mayan plaintiffs celebrated another victory when Hudbay dropped its objection to the lawsuits being heard in Canada instead of Guatemala. This came after Hudbay filed extensive legal briefs to avoid court proceedings on Canadian soil despite the confirmed corruption of Guatemala’s legal system.
In a press release Cory Wanless, co-counsel for the Mayan community, called the ruling a “wake-up call” to the mining industry. Wanless is working alongside Murray Klippenstein, who elaborated, “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
The ruling has national and international implications, as it is the first time that a Canadian mining company will face claims in a Canadian court for failing to prevent human rights abuses at its foreign subsidiary. The fact that the trial will take place in Toronto is another significant breakthrough given that 75% of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada. This is, indeed, a harsh wake-up call for an industry that has acted with near impunity.
Fourteen Guatemalan women’s rights and human rights organizations released a joint statement on the landmark ruling, expressing their “recognition to the group of eleven women who survived the sexual assault, to Angélica Choc, widow of Adolfo Ich, and to German Chub, for having the courage to demand justice from a powerful transnational enterprise”.
Read the full statement from the Guatemalan groups below.
Justice Court of Canada will judge the company HudBay Minerals for serious crimes committed by the Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN) in Guatemala
On January 17, 2007, eleven women from the Maya Q´ueqchi community of Lote Ocho in El Estor, Izabal, were raped by private security guards of the Guatemalan Nickel Company (GNC), in conjunction with agents of the National Civil Police and the Army during a violent land eviction. On September 27, 2009, private security guards from the GNC killed Adolfo Ich and shot Germán Chub, leaving him completely paraplegic, when they repressed people who were protesting to stop another land eviction that was taking place in the community Las Nubes. The two issues, violent land eviction and sexual violence against indigenous women, are intertwined in the history of Guatemala, causing enormous damage and having a profound impact on the lives of women, communities and society as a whole.
The victims in the two violent events filed three lawsuits in Canada, seeking justice and reparations before the indifference and impunity in Guatemala’s justice system. The CGN in the last several months has stepped up a campaign of coercion and threats to get the legal actions in Canada withdrawn. This campaign particularly targeted the group of women, claiming that they would provide jobs and economic benefits to the community in exchange for withdrawal of the accusations of rape. In addition to seeking impunity, the CGN intends to break the community organization, in order to stop their fight in defense of the land.
As a result of the demands presented on June 22, 2013, Judge Carole Brown of the Ontario Court of Justice in Canada ruled that the Canadian company HudBay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for crimes committed in Guatemala by the GNC, which was a subsidiary of HudBay when the acts of violence occurred. This ground-breaking ruling has huge national and international implications, creating a precedent that may contribute to impeding transnational extractive enterprises from violating human rights and from further plundering natural resources belonging to Guatemala, Latin American and the rest of the world.
We express our recognition to the group of eleven women who survived the sexual assault, to Angélica Choc, widow of Adolfo Ich, and to German Chub, for having the courage to demand justice from a powerful transnational enterprise, despite the enormous power and resource inequalities between them, and despite the repressive policies of the GNC, in conspiracy with the State of Guatemala.
July 28, 2013
Statement signed by:
Women’s Political Alliance Sector
Feminist Association “La Cuerda”
Center for Forensic Analysis and Applied Sciences- CAFCA
Guatemala Legal and Social Environmental Action Center – CALAS
Center for Human Rights Legal Action– CALDH
International Center for Human Rights Research – CIIDH
Peasant Unity Committee – CUC
Group of Community Studies and Psychosocial Action- ECAP
The shelter of childhood
Guillermo Toriello Foundation
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA – GHRC
Guatemala Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences – ICCPG
Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala- ODHAG
Security in Democracy – SEDEM
Protection Defenders Unit and Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala- UDEFEGUA
National Union of Guatemalan Women – UNAMG
http://www.chocversushudbay.com/ for background and details of the claims.
Precedent setting ruling in Canada against Hudbay Minerals, for indigenous plaintiffs in Guatemala, Rights Action, July 22 2013
Ontario court rules Guatemalan lawsuits against HudBay can go to trial in Canada, Macleans, July 23 2013
http://www.defensorathefilm.com/ new documentary film about Mayan Q’eqchi’ resistance against mining in Guatemala.