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Mr. Tyler Giannini (Harvard Law School) before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE)

by Mr. Tyler Giannini (Lecturer on Law, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School)Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE)
October 20th, 2009

Mr. Tyler Giannini (Lecturer on Law, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School):

    Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and committee members, for giving us the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Tyler Giannini, and I head the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. I'm joined today by Ms. Sarah Knuckey of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law.

    Before I begin, I wish to state my understanding that my presentation and my statements to this committee are covered by the parliamentary privilege, and to the extent I need to assert such privilege, I hereby do.

    Ms. Knuckey and I are human rights lawyers with some two decades of combined experience documenting human rights violations. Since 2006 Ms. Knuckey has traveled to Papua New Guinea, or PNG, three times, and I twice, to investigate personally the impact of the Porgera Joint Venture, or PJV, mine, majority-owned and operated by Canadian mining interests since its inception.

    Today we speak about security and human rights at the PJV mine and discuss why Bill C-300 is particularly important when independent investigations have failed to materialize despite consistent allegations of abuse. First, I will illustrate how Bill C-300 gives the Canadian government a critical role in promoting accountability by offering a venue for victim complaints when other actors fail to do so. This is especially true when host countries like PNG and corporations may have an inherent conflict of interest that inhibits the likelihood of independent investigations from taking place.

    Secondly, Ms. Knuckey will discuss the serious allegations of violence that have persisted during the life of this mine in light of the failure to investigate the abuses adequately. The PJV mine began operations in the 1990s in a remote area of PNG, pursuant to an agreement between the PNG government and Placer Dome, a Canadian corporation. In 2006 Barrick Gold purchased Placer Dome and acquired the mine.

    Dating to the 1990s, there have been reports of serious human rights abuses associated with the mine. Individuals we have spoken with have detailed allegations of the following grave abuses: rapes, including gang rapes; physical assault; and killings. The PNG government and the PJV mine have responsibilities to investigate such allegations; however, based on interviews and documents obtained in PNG, independent investigations by these parties appear unlikely.

    First, according to many witnesses and victims, local police have repeatedly failed to investigate adequately allegations of abuse by PJV personnel. Police officers have also indicated that their investigative efforts have been hampered by PJV security officers who have restricted immediate access to crime scenes within the mine and, in their view, may have tampered with evidence.

    In 2005, in the wake of local pressure and company acknowledgement of mine-related deaths, the PNG government created a committee to investigate the situation. However, despite completing its work in 2006, the committee report has not yet been released.

    Secondly, we have concerns about the independent investigations because mine security forces are comprised largely of police reservists. Many of the abuses alleged to have been committed by mine security forces are attributed to these police.

    During our March 2009 fact-finding trip to the country, we were able to view and transcribe a memorandum of understanding between the mine and the police force, which we have included in its entirety for the record. This document, which was shown to members of the Harvard team by a senior police official in PNG, authorized “the deployment of an agreed number of Reserve Police (who are employees of the PJV)”. The MOU also specifies that the mine is responsible for “all costs and expenses associated with the Reserve Police, made up of authorized PJV employees, including remuneration, training and the provisions of uniforms and equipment”.

    Law enforcement offices we spoke with also indicated that the police reservists comprise the majority of the mine's armed security officers and take day-to-day orders from mine officials.

    We were further told that the weapons and equipment used by the reservists--the weapons and equipment that may have been used to commit the alleged abuses--are purchased by the mine. On its face, the MOU raises significant conflict of interest concerns.

    As it stands now, given that, one, the PNG government's failure to act or even make public its government committee report on deaths related to the mine; two, the existence of the MOU, which creates inherent conflicts of interest; and three, the consistent inaction on the ground, there is little possibility of a comprehensive, independent, and fair investigation of alleged abuses by the actors in PNG. In such a situation there's a clear need for an external party to conduct an independent review. That's exactly what Bill C-300 does. It establishes a mechanism that makes such an external review possible.

    With what, I now turn this over to Ms. Knuckey, who will detail the gravity of the allegations and further demonstrate the need for a bill like Bill C-300.

 

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