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Peru must halt oil talks until indigenous rights and contamination are taken into account – UN experts

Indigenous rights

13 July 2017

GENEVA (13 July 2017) – Peru must suspend negotiations for a new contract to exploit one of the country’s most productive oil areas until the rights of local indigenous peoples are protected, two United Nations human rights experts have said. 

The area, known as Lot or Block 192, lies in a remote section of the Amazon rainforest in Peru’s Loreto region, near the border with Ecuador.  A 30-year contract for future extraction rights is under negotiation.

The Special Rapporteurs on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said they are making the call in the light of “grossly inadequate efforts” to provide remedies for previous widespread oil spills in the region. 

“The oil spills continue to adversely impact the rights of indigenous peoples, and the ongoing negotiating process does not give sufficient recognition of their right to free, prior and informed consent,” noted the Special Rapporteurs.

“The Peruvian Government must suspend the direct negotiations with companies until the right to free, prior and informed consent is guaranteed, and all environmental damage has been remedied,” they said.

“As we have emphasized in the past, Peru must protect and respect the rights of indigenous peoples to their land, territories and resources, as well as to consultation in accordance with relevant international standards,” the experts reiterated.

Indigenous people have for years demanded measures such as land titling, payment for the use of land, restoration of soil and water, adequate compensation for environmental damage and consultation.

“The Government has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the people in the region, and to hold the companies accountable for any failure to respect human rights, before re-licensing the land,” the experts stressed.

Block 192, formerly known as Block 1 A/B, has a long history of contamination, environmental emergencies and conflict.  Decades-old, corroded pipelines have repeatedly ruptured in recent years, contaminating water and food sources with toxic substances. Protests by indigenous communities have disrupted drilling activities several times in recent years.

The state-owned company Petroperú is negotiating a new contract in conjunction with Perupetro, another state company responsible for production.  Argentine firm Pluspetrol withdrew from the site in 2015, and a temporary contract was given to Canadian firm Pacific Stratus Energy.

The UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes was scheduled to visit Peru in May 2017 at the invitation of the Government, but the visit was postponed because of a flooding emergency. 

“I hope to visit Peru as soon as an appropriate time can be agreed by the Government,” he said.

“A visit would be an excellent opportunity to continue to engage constructively with the relevant authorities. I stand ready to support the Government’s efforts to address community concerns,” Mr. Tuncak concluded.

Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes and Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page: Peru

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