Images of 'Amazon's Tiananmen'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Peru accused of cover-up after indigenous protest ends in death at Devil's Bend

First, the police fire tear gas, then rubber bullets. As protesters flee, they move on to live rounds. One man, wearing only a pair of shorts, stops to raise his hands in surrender. He is knocked to the ground and given an extended beating by eight policemen in black body-armour and helmets.

Demonstrators getting worked-over by the rifle butts and truncheons of Peru's security forces turn out to be the lucky ones, though. Dozens more were shot as they fled. You can see their bullet-ridden bodies, charred by a fire that swept through the scene of the incident, which has since been dubbed "the Amazon's Tiananmen".

The events of Friday, 5 June, when armed police went to clear 2,000 Aguaruna and Wampi Indians from a secluded highway near the town of Bagua Grande, are the subject of a heated political debate. They have sparked international condemnation and thrown Peru's government into crisis.

Yet until today, details were shrouded in mystery. Now, pictures have emerged. They were taken at the scene by two Belgian aid workers, Marijke Deleu and Thomas Quirynen, and provide compelling details of the chaotic confrontation that killed a reported 60 people, many of them unarmed, with vast numbers still unaccounted for.

"At first, we saw police firing guns and tear gas at a mass of protesters," said Ms Deleu, who reached the highway at 7am, an hour after heavily armed police arrived at the location, 870 miles north of Lima. "Then we saw them beating and kicking people detained on the ground. Later, they shot people in the back as they started fleeing."

A dossier of photographs, many too graphic to be printed in this newspaper, will be shown to MPs at the House of Commons on Monday by Ms Deleu and Mr Quirynen, who are volunteers for Catapa, a Flemish organisation supporting indigenous communities in Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Called Death at Devil's Bend, it attempts to explain what happened when police tried to evict the indigenous tribespeople, who had been blockading the road for several weeks in protest at new laws allowing energy and mining companies to exploit swaths of their ancestral homelands.

One series shows police stopping a passing ambulance. They force four injured protesters out of the vehicle, and beat them for several minutes, claiming, without any apparent justification, that their vehicle was carrying concealed weapons. Another, taken later in the day shows rows of wounded being treated in local hospitals. Nineteen are at Bagua Grand; 47 in Bagua Chica. Many have heavy bruising, and bandages covering bullet wounds.

"Several people said they had been shot while they were fast asleep," said Ms Deleu. "They claim the police woke them up by opening fire. One of the bodies had a bullet wound in his shoulder, which suggested to me that he'd been shot while lying down."

Further pictures, which will only fuel rumours of a government-orchestrated cover-up, show twisted corpses of native Indians lying by the side of the road. When tribal leaders tried to collect them, they came under fire and were refused access. By the next day, the corpses had disappeared.

The Peruvian President, Alan Garcia, has claimed 32 people were killed in the incident, of which 23 were police officers. However human rights lawyers and news reports put the number of confirmed deaths at closer to 60, and say hundreds are still missing.

Until this week, many international observers have been unable to visit the region because of a curfew. Pressure groups have accused security forces of burying and burning corpses to hide the extent of the death toll.

"There needs to be an independent investigation to establish exactly what happened," said Jonathan Mazower of Survival International, which will today publish Ms Deleu and Mr Quirynen's dossier on its website. "Our initial reaction to these dramatic photographs is that they may provide the first impartial account of what actually went on."

The pictures emerged as Alberto Pizango, the head of Aidesep, the organisation representing 56 of Peru's indigenous tribes, arrived in Nicaragua, after being granted political asylum. Last week, he was prosecuted for "sedition, conspiracy and rebellion".

Meanwhile Mr Garcia has been forced to suspend the introduction of laws allowing foreign companies to exploit the rainforest. His Prime Minister Yehude Simon resigned on Monday, joining populist minister Carmen Vildoso, who quit last week during a general strike in protest at the incident.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us