Nuria Garcia: Let this violence mark the end of decades of discrimination

Thursday 11 June 2009 00:00 BST

Lying in the wake of this month's violence are human rights violations, unanswered questions and unresolved tensions between Peru's authorities and its indigenous peoples. The violence has catapaulted the Peruvian jungles on to the world's radar but the situation has not arisen without warning. Tensions have been mounting for weeks.

Protests by some of the indigenous population came after the government passed decrees over the use of land and resources in this corner of the Amazon. According to the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 – a piece of legislation that Peru has ratified – authorities are obliged to consult indigenous communities on any legislation that affects their interests. Yet the Peruvian government singularly failed to do this.

The latest protests follow decades of discrimination and a persistent disregard for the rights of indigenous peoples in Peru. During the internal conflict between Peru's government forces and armed opposition groups which raged for 20 years, it was the indigenous peoples who bore the brunt of serious human rights abuses committed by both sides. A Truth Commission established after the war concluded that most of those who had been killed or had disappeared were from these poor communities. Yet this went unnoticed by much of the country.

Before any of the current tensions can be eased, decisive measures must be put in place to stop further rights abuses. The injured must be allowed access to medical services and the detainees access to a lawyer. The authorities must also carry out an immediate and impartial investigation to establish the truth about the crimes committed and to bring to justice all those responsible.

The writer is the Amnesty International researcher for Peru

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