A year ago, on 5 June 2009, a protest by Indigenous people against the exploitation of natural resources on lands traditionally occupied by them ended in the deaths of 33 people.
Over 200 more were wounded when the protest, which had been going on for 50 days on the stretch of road known as the Curva del Diablo leading to Bagua and Bagua Grande in Amazonas department, Peru, was broken up by police.
Twenty-three of those killed were police officers, five were local townspeople, and five were Indigenous people. The fate of one police officer remains unknown to this day.
The protest was against the adoption of laws relating to the exploitation of natural resources on lands traditionally occupied by them. The laws had been adopted without consultation by the Indigenous people and had the potential to affect their rights.
The right of Indigenous Peoples to be consulted on any legislative or administrative measure that affects them is recognised in the ILO Convention 169 and in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On 27 May, Alberto Pizango, the leader of one of the country’s main Indigenous organizations, AIDESEP (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana), was arrested when he returned from exile in Nicaragua.
Alberto Pizango fled there almost a year ago after charges were brought against him for the violence in Bagua.
He was released the following day but he and other Indigenous leaders still face charges which Amnesty International believes are unsubstantiated. They do not appear to be based on any concrete evidence and may be politically motivated.
Less than a month ago, on 19 May, a law providing for consultation with Indigenous people on matters that affect them was passed by the Peruvian congress. Amnesty International believes that this law is an important step in recognising the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It is now essential that the President makes this law official so that it can be implemented without delay and in full consultation with the Indigenous Peoples.
Justice for the violence and human rights violations that occurred a year ago in Bagua is still owed to the hundreds of victims and families of victims, these include the 23 police officers and the 10 civilians that lost their lives, as well as the hundreds who were injured.
To this day no-one has been brought to trial for the violence that occurred following the protest at Bagua. Three Indigenous protestors remain in prison, over a dozen remain under arrest warrants and many more still face charges. No police officer or government official faces charges at present.
Amnesty International is calling upon Alan García, president of Peru, to show his commitment to resolving the issues that led to the events of 5 June 2009.