GUATEMALA GANG-RAPE LAWSUIT NAMES CANADIAN MINING COMPANY
A group of Guatemalan women is seeking millions from a Canadian mining company after claiming they were assaulted and gang-raped by security and police forces near the company's operations in the Central American country.
The 11 women are seeking $55 million in damages after claiming they were assaulted in January 2007 near an HMI Nickel site during armed evictions of local residents in El Estor, Guatemala. HMI Nickel is a subsidiary group of Toronto-based HudBay Minerals and both companies are named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges some of the attackers were wearing uniforms bearing the logo of HMI's Guatemalan subsidiary group.
A spokesman for HudBay, however, said the company did not have interests in that region in 2007 and strongly denies the claims. In a statement, the spokesman said they will "vigorously" defend against the women's claims. "HudBay and its subsidiaries are disturbed by the serious nature of the allegations, which run counter to our values and the manner in which we operate," John Vincic wrote Tuesday in an email to Postmedia News. "We will investigate the allegations, but they are counter to all of the available information we have regarding the events of January 2007 and as such we intend to defend ourselves vigorously against them."
Vincic noted the date cited for the purported assaults "predate(s) HudBay Minerals' business interests and operations in Guatemala, and we are not aware that they have ever been reported to Guatemala law enforcement or other authorities."
HudBay and its subsidiary group acquired the Fenix nickel operation from another Canadian company - Skye Resources - in 2008.
The Toronto law firm representing the women said the close links between the groups is why HudBay is cited in the statement of claim. "That's part of the problem with corporations is they pass things around and they evade responsibility by doing so," said lawyer Cory Wanless. "The company that was involved is HMI Nickel. HudBay Minerals is now the owner of HMI Nickel. For business purposes, HudBay and HMI are the same . . . in the same office. We're saying that the legal liability is HMI Nickel's and also HudBay's because of that close relationship."
Wanless said the hefty amount of the lawsuit is not the focus for the women who claim they were assaulted. "For the women, this isn't about the money. It's about accountability, it's about truth and it's about justice . . . and the best option that was available to them was a civil suit in Canada. That's what you do in a civil suit - you ask for money. Money is the language that corporations understand."
The Toronto law firm is also representing the widow of a Guatemalan man who claims her husband was murdered by the head of the same security force at the centre of the women's allegations.
Wanless said Tuesday that a statement of claim in that case was filed with the Ontario Superior Court in December 2010, but he believes lawyers for the company intend to argue before the court that the matter should not be heard in Canada.
Bradley Bouzane, Postmedia News
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