In July 2013, Supreme Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown made history when she ruled that Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals could be held liable for the actions of staff at their Guatemalan subsidiary Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel S.A. Private security staff employed at Hudbay’s Fenix mining site near the town of El Estor, Guatemala are accused of murder, eleven counts of gang rape and serious assault carried out between 2007 and 2009.
A statement released today by Toronto-based Klippensteins law firm, who represent 13 Mayan plaintiffs in the case against Hudbay, reads: “[We] have learned that there will be no appeal of Justice Brown’s recent judgement allowing the Guatemalans’ claims against Hudbay Minerals regarding shootings, murder and gang-rape in Guatemala to proceed to trial in Canadian courts. As a result, the judgement is now final and will stand.”
The Guatemalan plaintiffs’ trio of related law suits against Hudbay withstood a previous court hearing to determine whether Canadian or Guatemalan courts had jurisdiction in the matter. When faced with compelling evidence as to why a fair trial would not be possible in Guatemala, Hudbay conceded that a Canadian court should hear the case, the first time a Canadian mining company has done so.
A 2011 Human Rights Watch report on Guatemala makes clear why the plaintiffs have a better chance of finding justice in Canada: “More than a decade after the end of the [Guatemala civil war], impunity remains the norm for human rights violations.” The authors of the report continue, ”According to official figures, there was 99.75 percent impunity for violent crime as of 2009. Deficient and corrupt police, prosecutorial and judicial systems, as well as the absence of an adequate witness protection program, all contribute to Guatemala’s alarmingly low prosecution rate.”
Hudbay’s decision not to appeal Justice Brown’s July ruling means that the case will proceed to trial sooner than expected.
Other Canadian mining companies must be nervously following this case. A guilty verdict would have huge implications for the industry, which to date has largely managed to avoid responsibility for abuses committed abroad.
For more information on the cases and judgements to date, see our previous post on the issue.
More details of the lawsuits can be found at http://www.chocversushudbay.com/.