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Oct. 20 2009 - 6:57 am | 6 views | 1 recommendation | 2 comments

Torture accountability at last (for Peru)

Detained protesters at Monterrico's 2005 project in Rio Blanco (photo from The National Coordinator of Human Rights in Peru)

Detained protesters at Monterrico's 2005 project in Rio Blanco (photo from The National Coordinator of Human Rights in Peru)

A British mining corporation is facing a multimillion-pound claim for damages after protesters were detained and allegedly tortured at an opencast copper plant that the firm is seeking to develop in the mountains of northern Peru.

via British mining company faces damages claim after allegations of torture in Peru | World news | The Guardian

This story is interesting for two reasons. First, it’s a disturbing example of “corporate torture” where a powerful corporation, in this case a mining company called Monterrico Metals, operates under such a wide umbrella of immunity that the corporation’s managers feel they can justifiably torture workers without fear of one day being forced to pay restitution to their victims.

Peruvian protesters say police, who they claim were being directed by the mine’s managers, sprayed noxious substances in their faces before they were hooded, beaten with sticks, and whipped. Two female protesters say they were sexually assaulted and threatened with rape. Certainly, Monterrico Metals deserves to be held accountable for its managers’ actions if these allegations are true.

Second, this story is important because it shows a willingness on Peru’s part to seek accountability for this example of corporate torture, while the U.S. government continues to skirt, and in some cases avoid, prosecuting high-level officials responsible for torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Interrogation and detentions implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of at least 100 detainees, and while some of those deaths were caused by “bad apple” interrogators, many deaths were caused by torture methods authorized at the highest levels of George W. Bush’s White House. Attorney General Eric Holder’s myopic method of limiting investigations to the grunts responsible for the brawn side of torture is as pointless as if Peru limited its torture accountability to the cops responsible for the physical aspects of the assaults on workers. Yes, the police must be held accountable, but so too must the managers who passed along the orders, and the corporate masters who have permitted such a reckless culture to ferment under their watch.

Similarly, those U.S. government suits that pass along torture orders are no less guilty of torture than the soldiers who actually carried out the torture’s physical aspects. That’s why it is not cliché or radical to demand the U.S. hold our own torturers (at all levels) to the same level of accountability as British mining corporations.

Indeed, at this point, it’s actually the very least the U.S. government can do. International laws have already been broken. If the U.S. refuses to prosecute the guilty parties in a one-tier justice system where all officials face the same standards of punishment, the door has officially been left open to future officials who will be permitted to torture, and do whatever else they desire, in a system of total immunity for the rich and powerful.


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