Barrick Settlement on Rapes and Killings in Papua New Guinea Proof that Victims need Independent Legal Counsel
On April 3, 11 of at least 120 women who claim to have been raped and gang raped by security guards at Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture mine, and three of many more men and their families who claim to have been the victims of violence and killing by security guards, finally got equitable settlements. These fortunate claimants were the clients of lawyers with US-based EarthRights International, who was prepared to file legal cases on their behalf.
“This case proves once again that victims of criminal acts at the hands of employees of companies such as Barrick Gold absolutely require truly independent legal counsel to ensure their legal and human rights are protected” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.
Once Barrick stopped years of denial of violence by mine security guards against local indigenous men and women at the remote mine, the company put in place its own “remedy program” at the mine site for the female rape victims. However, these women did not receive independent legal advice. And in return for remedy packages that many women themselves felt were not commensurate with the severe harm they had endured, women were required by Barrick to sign away their right to take civil action against Barrick and its subsidiaries.
“Our interviews with victims of rape by mine security in 2008, 2009 and 2013 provided evidence not only of the incredible extent of the problem, but also, once Barrick started offering ‘remedy packages,’ that women were insulted by what they were being offered” says Coumans “public complaints over this to Barrick did improve the package somewhat, but we know that there were still women who accepted the package and signed away their legal rights only because they felt it was all they could get.”
Eleven women became clients of Earth Rights International, rejected the packages offered through the “remedy program,” and were prepared to take legal action. As a result, these women have now received the packages offered under the “remedy program,” as well as additional compensation to ensure that they would drop their legal claim.
“This case, and a similar one at Barrick’s North Mara subsidiary in Tanzania, raises serious concerns of equity for the victims” says Coumans “Porgeran women who suffered similar criminal offences, but did not have independent legal council willing to file a credible law suit on their behalf, were clearly at a disadvantage, their cases should be reviewed.”
MiningWatch also questions why the remedy program for raped women was closed down as we are still receiving reports of violence by mine security.
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Photo: Barrick Porgera