The Democracy Center is part of a campaign against the criminalization of social protest in the Puno region of southern Peru along with local NGO Human Rights and Environment (DHUMA) and other Peruvian and international organisations.
This is part of our ongoing work supporting local communities and grassroots organisations in resistance to extractive projects. Pushing back against the criminalisation of these communities and their spokespersons is a joint strategic priority in this area.
The legal cases against community leaders and spokespersons after the Aymarazo mobilisations is emblematic of the criminalisation of indigenous communities across the region when they stand up in defence of their land, water and territories in the face of extractive projects.
Our work on this case began in 2017, when eighteen Aymara indigenous spokespersons faced the final stages of criminal trials brought against them for participating in 2011 protests against the Santa Ana mine owned by Canadian multinational Bear Creek. We published this article and this podcast about the Aymarazo in our efforts to begin to highlight the case internationally.
This June 2017 video from DHUMA gives a good overview of the case:
The international campaign, included this appeal from the organization FrontLine Defenders, calling for the aquittal of all of the accused.
On June 28th, 2017 seventeen of those accused were acquitted, but Walter Aduviri was sentenced to 7 years in prison and a huge fine.
Aduviri’s case was particularly important because of two legal precedents that were at stake that risked weakening the broader movement in Peru in defence of indigenous rights, land, water and territory.
This Democracy Center video from July 2018 gives more background on the case.
On 17th September 2018, an appeal hearing was held at the Supreme Court in Lima, Peru and the 5th October was set as the date for the final decision on Aduviri’s case.
The campaign continued with an international sign-on letter, available on DHUMA’s website here, that was endorsed by over 130 organisations from 5 continents and was delivered to the Peruvian Supreme Court, the government of Peru, and the company involved, Bear Creek Mining, highlighting the injustices of the case, the legal precedents involved, and demanding that the charges against Aduviri be dropped.
The Sign-on letter was launched at this press conference in Puno, Peru and was accompanied by a sustained social media campaign, that included this short video.
On October 5th the Supreme Court gave its ruling. The Court accepted Walter Aduviri’s appeal and overturned the sentence against him. The Court ordered that the case should begin again from scratch in the regional courts. More in this recent press release.
The struggle of the Aymara indigenous communities to defend their territories continues. For now two legal precedents have been blocked. Our support, in particular our efforts to bring the weight of international civil society to bear on the case, was but a small contribution. It reflects our continued attempts to align our work much more squarely behind the struggles of those individuals and communities risking the most on the front-lines of resistance to extractive projects.
Materials on The Aymarazo – Criminalisation of Protest in Peru
- PRESS RELEASE: Supreme Court Accepts Appeal of Peruvian Human Rights Defender and Overturns Sentence.
- PRESS RELEASE: 130+ organisations call on Lima Supreme Court for annulment of Walter Aduviri's sentence
- Podcast 3CR Australia radio interview about the 'Aymarazo'
- Video Criminalisation of protest - the case of Walter Aduviri and the Aymarazo