Early in the morning of 5 June 2009, the Peruvian military police violently attached a group of indigenous people who were peacefully blockading a road outside of Bagua, in northern Peru. Protesters included many women and children. Police dropped tear gas bombs from helicpoters and fired live ammunition from both sides into the crowd, trapping some of the protesters.
Reports estimate that the number of people killed is somewhere between 40 and 85, including three children. ENS reports that “As the demonstrators were being killed and injured, some wrestled with police, fighting back in self-defense, which resulted in the reported deaths of the nine police officers.” Peruvian authorities say that 22 police were killed.
On 6 June 2009, 29 organisations signed a statement condemning the massacre and calling on Peru to respect human rights. The statement notes that “The tragic unfolding incident illustrates how ignoring peoples’ rights and meaningful participation in processes that affect their lands and livelihoods can lead to serious social conflict and failed policies. As the world’s climate negotiators gather in Bonn, we must heed these lessons and guarantee that indigenous peoples’ rights are considered an integral part of any final agreement to save forests and the climate.”
The chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has also issued a statement calling on the Peruvian government to “cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations.”
The Indonesian Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara) has written to Peru’s President, Alain García, pointing out that in September 2007, “the Peruvian government demonstrated true leadership in introducing and supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the UN General Assembly.” Now, however, the Peruvian administration is “acting in contrary to its stated commitment, leading to the violation to this Declaration as well as international laws and conventions ratified by Peru, that guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples.”
Several thousand indigenous peoples have been blockading waterways and roads in the Peruvian Amazon for several weeks demanding the repeal of legislative decrees issued last year to bring Peru into compliance with the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement. “This is a struggle to defend our rainforest, to defend our natural resources, to defend the territory we live in,” Daysi Zapata, vice president of the Peruvian Rainforest Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESEP), told ENS.
The police have now imposed a curfew, which is preventing the indigenous peoples from looking for the dead. “The police were shooting to kill, but that’s not all, because they hid the dead,” the BBC reported one local man as saying. “They took them to the ravine and threw them from the helicopter in plastic bags. There are also dead on the river banks. Up there beyond the hill, there are more, as if it were a common grave.” Amazon Watch also reports that the police took bodies and disposed of them.
Calls on Peru and International Community to Respect Human Rights
6 June 2009
We, the undersigned organizations, condemn the violence against peaceful indigenous protesters and police in Peru that has already resulted in at least 30 deaths.
We call on both the Government of Peru and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) to engage in a good faith dialogue to prevent further escalation. We urge the international community to send a clear message to Peru that military repression is not an acceptable form of conflict resolution.
The current violent human rights crisis is a vivid illustration of the consequences of a systematic failure in the basic governance processes related to consultation, land tenure and access to resources.
The indigenous mobilization that ended in violence on Friday began in April as a reaction to a series of laws promulgated by President Alan Garcia’s government over the past year. The laws contain provisions that indigenous organizations believe threaten their fundamental rights to access and decision-making over their forests, resources and territories. They were written and passed into law without any formal or informal consultation with indigenous peoples, in violation of Peru’s obligations under ILO 169.
This is the second time in less than a year that Peru’s indigenous peoples in the Amazon have resorted to organizing massive and prolonged blockades of roads, rivers and extractive industry infrastructure, as their increasingly frequent calls for consultation and dialogue have gone unheard in Lima.
The tragic unfolding incident illustrates how ignoring peoples’ rights and meaningful participation in processes that affect their lands and livelihoods can lead to serious social conflict and failed policies. As the world’s climate negotiators gather in Bonn, we must heed these lessons and guarantee that indigenous peoples’ rights are considered an integral part of any final agreement to save forests and the climate.
Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN).
COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica)
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Environmental Investigation Agency, US & UK
Friends of the Earth International
Global Exchange, United States
Global Social Justice, Belgium
Global Witness, UK
Humane Society International, Australia
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
International Accountability Project, US
International Youth Caucus, Bonn
North East Peoples Alliance on Trade, Finance and Development, India
Rainforest Action Network, United States
Rainforest Foundation UK
Salva le Foreste, Italy
Sierra Club, United States
Sustainability Watch Network, Central America
Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education)
Third World Network
Wetlands International, Netherlands
World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay
The Wilderness Society, Australia
The Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expresses her shock and deep distress at reports received of atrocities committed starting 5 June against indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, resulting in the loss of lives, disappearances and grave injuries. The Chair sends her deepest condolences to the families of the victims. The Chair calls upon the Peruvian Government to:
- Immediately cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations,
- Ensure immediate and urgent medical attention to the wounded and assist the families of the victims,
- Abide by its national and international obligations regarding the protection of all human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, especially their right to life and security.
Jakarta, 6 June 2009
Mr. Presidente Alan García
Jirón de la Unión S/N 1 cda
Lima 1, PERU
To the Honourable Mr. President Alan García,
On behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN – Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara)* of Indonesia, I am writing to express our shock and deep concern about the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Peru where as reported; the Peruvian Government’s Special Forces are suppressing peaceful Indigenous Peoples’ demonstrations in the Amazon region, resulting in the loss of lives of 84 people (update 5 June 2009), disappearances and grave injuries.
In September 2007, the Peruvian government demonstrated true leadership in introducing and supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the UN General Assembly. Today, we regret that your administration is acting in contrary to its stated commitment, leading to the violation to this Declaration as well as international laws and conventions ratified by Peru, that guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples. We concerned that this happen as the result of and triggered by the Free Trade Agreement with the US Government that giving permits to oil and mineral extraction by multinational corporations within the Indigenous Peoples’ territories in the Amazon Rainforest.
As part of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we fully support and joined solidarity to our indigenous brothers and sisters in Peru. Therefore, we urge your administration to show immediate restraint and refrain from using force on indigenous demonstrators. More, we respectfully urge your administration and the Peruvian Congress to:
1. Immediately cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations,
2. Uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples especially to their rights of self determination to their land, territories and natural resources and to free, prior and informed consent, over any policies and activities that affect them.
3. Repeal the series of contested Decrees associated with the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
4. Enter into good faith meaningful process of dialogue with indigenous leaders to resolve this conflict.
We believe that your leadership as the President of Peru is now in an important phase to ensure the security of each indigenous persons and communities and to fulfill the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Peru.
Secretary General AMAN
§ Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia
§ Javier Velásquez-Quesquén, President of the Congress of Peru
§ Yehude Simon Munaro, President of the Council of Ministers
§ Rafael Vásquez Rodríguez, President of Congress
§ Public Ombudsman Office of Peru
§ Juan Alvarez Vita, Peruvian Ambassador to Indonesia
§ Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Chairperson United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
§ James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Fundamental Freedom and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
§ Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIPs)
§ UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
§ UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom expression
§ IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
§ IACHR Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Expression
* The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN-Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara) is an independent social organisation comprised of Indigenous communities and organisations from various parts of the Indonesian Archipelago. AMAN is a forum for the struggle of Indigenous Peoples in matters relating to upholding the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in politics, social, economy, cultural and natural resources through just and sustainable ways.
AMAN was founded in 1999 as a result of the March 1999 Congress of the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago and was declared on March 17 1999 in Jakarta. Since then, AMAN has held a second Congress in Lombok, September 2003 and a third Congress in Pontianak, March 2007. As of the third Congress, the number of Indigenous communities that had registered and become AMAN members totalled 1016 communities. From this number, a total of 695 indigenous communities are verified members.