Human Rights Clinic Assists in Win for Transparency and Justice Regarding Violent Repression of Protests at Site of Proposed Mine in Peru
Federal court in Colorado orders U.S. mining company to turn over evidence to Peruvian farmer wounded in protests.
New York, April 16, 2015—A federal court has ordered Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation to turn over evidence relating to police repression of protestors opposing a proposed Newmont mine in Peru. The ruling came in response to a request for discovery that EarthRights International (ERI) filed in 2014 on behalf of Elmer Campos, a 33-year-old Peruvian farmer who was shot in the back in November 2011 while peacefully protesting near the proposed mine site, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic students Carolyn Forstein JD ’15 and Daniela Paez Cala LLM ’15, under the supervision of Clinical Teaching Fellow Benjamin Hoffman, provided legal research and writing support to ERI for the case.
“Mr. Campos has waited far too long for justice. This court order is an important step in changing that,” said Benjamin Hoffman.
The request for discovery was sought under the Foreign Legal Assistance Statute, a law which allows people to request evidence found in the United States to assist legal proceedings in another country. In this case, the information was sought to benefit a criminal investigation and a civil case currently pending before Peruvian courts. Mr. Campos specifically sought any information held by Newmont – including photographs and video, reports of mine employees, communications with the police, and internal company communications – to assist Peruvian courts in determining exactly what happened, and who should be held accountable.
With the legal issues fully briefed before the Colorado federal court since May 2014, and the Peruvian cases proceeding without the benefit of evidence held by Newmont, the Clinic, in November 2014, assisted ERI in drafting a motion to expedite the resolution of the application for discovery. The motion explained the urgency of the application, and how the court’s failure to promptly respond could undermine Mr. Campos’s ability to influence the development of the legal proceedings in Peru. On March 16, 2015, the District Court of Colorado granted the motion to expedite and authorized the majority of the discovery sought by Mr. Campos. Within the following months, Newmont Mining will have to turn over to Mr. Campos the requested information in its possession, and Mr. Campos and his lawyers will be allowed to depose a representative from Newmont.
“Working on this case introduced me to the Foreign Legal Assistance Statute, and the ways in which this statute can be used to support public interest lawyers and human rights advocacy in other countries,” said student Carolyn Forstein, who assisted with the motion to expedite. “The discovery ordered by the Court will assist Mr. Campos in obtaining recognition and compensation for his injuries, as well as provide much-needed transparency about the role of an American corporation in repression of protests in Peru.”
The Clinic will continue to assist ERI in the analysis of the documentation provided by Newmont, and in the preparation of questions for the deposition of a Newmont representative.
The Human Rights Clinic is an intensive year long course directed by Sarah Knuckey, the Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Associate Professor of Human Rights and the faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, as well as by Clinic Fellow Benjamin Hoffman. The Clinic brings together human rights work, student education, critical reflection, and scholarly research. Students are trained to be strategic human rights advocates, while pursuing social justice in partnership with civil society and communities, and advancing human rights methodologies and scholarship.