Members of the indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ population from El Estor, Guatemala have filed three related lawsuits in Ontario courts against Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals over the brutal killing of Adolfo Ich, the gang-rape of 11 women from Lote Ocho, and the shooting and paralyzing of German Chub – abuses alleged to have been committed by mine company security personnel at HudBay’s former mining project in Guatemala.

Key developments

Ontario court rules that lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals regarding shootings, murder and gang-rape at its former mine in Guatemala can proceed to trial in Canada

In a precedent-setting ruling with national and international implications, Superior Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown has ruled that Canadian company Hudbay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for rapes and murder at a mining project formerly owned by Hudbay’s subsidiary in Guatemala.  As a result of Justice Brown’s ruling, the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans will proceed to trial in Canadian courts.

READ THE JUDGMENT: Judgment – July 22, 2013

READ THE PRESS ADVISORY: Ontario court rules claim can proceed to trial

As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world. There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs.

Hudbay argued in court that corporate head offices could never be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries, no matter how involved they were in on-the-ground operations.  Justice Brown disagreed and concluded that “the actions as against Hudbay and HMI should not be dismissed.”

This is the second significant legal victory for the Mayan plaintiffs in 2013.  In February 2013, Hudbay abruptly dropped its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala (read more below).

HudBay concedes lawsuit can be heard in Canadian courts

Community of Lote Ocho

Rosa Elbira sits in the remains of the house where she was assaulted

In a precedent-setting development, HudBay abruptly abandoned its legal argument that the lawsuit should not be heard in Canada, just before an Ontario court was set to determine the issue.  As a result, and for the very first time, a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over human rights atrocities abroad will be heard by a Canadian court. This is a stunning victory for the Mayan plaintiffs, and paves the way for future lawsuits against Canadian mining companies for human rights and environmental harms at their foreign operations.

The victory comes after HudBay forced Rosa, Margarita, German and Angelica to travel to Toronto in November 2012 to testify regarding abuses suffered by them.  Rosa, Margarita, German and Angelica each showed remarkable dignity and strength as they faced extensive full-day cross-examination by HudBay’s lawyers.  Rosa and Margarita showed particular courage as they testified through a Q’eqchi’ interpreter in an office tower in downtown Toronto regarding the destruction and burning of their homes and their village, and the gang-rapes suffered by them at the hands of mine security personnel, police and military.

Responding to Hudbay’s “Facts”

HudBay has posted an article it calls “The facts: Hudbay’s former operations in Guatemala” in which it says that Rosa and Margarita’s testimony regarding rapes suffered by them is “not credible”.  For the Plaintiff’s response see Countering the spin: Hudbay’s “facts” about its operations in Guatemala 

The lawsuits

Adolfo Ich Chaman - Photograph by James Rodriguez

Choc v. HudBay Minerals Inc. – Adolfo Ich Chamán, a respected indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader and an outspoken critic of harms caused by Canadian mining activities in his community, was hacked and shot to death by mine company security personnel employed at HudBay Minerals’ Fenix Mining Project near the town of El Estor, Guatemala in September 2009.  Learn more. Read the legal claim.

Chub v. HudBay Minerals Inc. – German Chub was brutally shot in an unprovoked attack on the same day and by the same mine company security personnel who shot Adolfo Ich.  German was left a paraplegic by the shooting and has lost the use of his right lung. German announced his lawsuit in December 2011.  Learn moreRead the legal claim.

Caal v. HudBay Minerals Inc.  – On January 17, 2007, Rosa Elbria Ich Choc, Margarita Caal Caal and nine other women from the community of Lote Ocho were gang raped by mining company security personnel, police and military during the forced removal of their village and families from their ancestral lands. This forced eviction was sought by Canadian mining company Skye Resources, which intended to clear the land for its Fenix Mining Project.  Skye Resources was bought by and later merged with HudBay Minerals to form one company.  As a result of this merger, HudBay is legally responsible for all of the legal wrongs and liabilities of Skye Resources.  Learn more. Read the legal claim.

In September 2011, HudBay Minerals sold the troubled Fenix Project to a Russian company called the Solway Investment Group.  The lawsuits will continue against HudBay despite the sale: see statement regarding the sale.