FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2020
Contact: Kate Fried
In light of new details highlighting corruption within the Peruvian judicial system, legal advocates urge courts to try the case in the U.S.
Washington, D.C.–On Monday, EarthRights International filed an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Maxima Acuña Atalaya and her family’s case against U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation. Subsistence farmers from the rural highlands of Cajamarca, Peru, Maxima and her family sued Newmont in the United States for abuse at the hands of the company’s security forces. The appeal is intended to reverse a decision made in March by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware that the case should be heard in Peru rather than in the United States.
“By trying to have this case moved to the Peruvian court system, Newmont is blatantly attempting to avoid accountability in the United States for its abuse of Maxima and her family,” said Wyatt Gjullin, Staff Attorney for EarthRights. “But the court erred in its decision to try the case in Peru because it did not require the defendants to meet their burden to prove that Peru is an adequate forum for the case. Newmont is a U.S.-based company and should be held accountable for its actions in the U.S. court system.”
For the past eight years, the defendants have intimidated and physically attacked the Chaupes, killing their animals and destroying their property, all to force them from their farm and to pave the way for a massive open-pit gold mine. The family sued the mining company in its home forum of Delaware. Asserting that it would inconvenience them to litigate at home, defendants sought dismissal of the case, arguing that it should instead be brought in Peru, notwithstanding Peru’s notoriously corrupt court system.
In its appeal brief filed on Monday, the family argues that the district court made several legal errors and abused its discretion in dismissing the case. Far from requiring the defendants to prove that Peru is an adequate forum, the court acknowledged that it “remains concerned that [the] plaintiffs’ ability to be fairly heard in Peru is compromised.” It also impermissibly resolved a host of factual conflicts in the defendants’ favor, even against the great weight of the evidence, failing to adequately understand the extent of corruption within the Peruvian court system–a problem that will take years to fix.
Since the district court’s initial decision to dismiss the case, the breadth of the Peruvian court systems’ corruption has become more evident. After the court ruled, the government of Peru concluded “without a doubt” that the reforms implemented by the government are “insufficient to recover and ensure the guarantees of a correct administration of justice at a national level” and that real change requires a “deep restructuring.”
“Simply put: Newmont has not proven that the Peruvian courts can fairly review this case and that’s because they can’t,” said Gjullin.
The family also argues on appeal that the district court erred by failing to ensure that the Chaupes will be able to present critical evidence in Peru. While it recognized that Peruvian law could prohibit the Chaupes from presenting their own eyewitness testimony, it dismissed, contrary to the Third Circuit’s repeated holding, that where a plaintiff cannot access critical evidence in the alternative forum, that forum is inadequate.
Read more about the case here.