The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian have released details of an out-of-court settlement reached with rape victims, assaulted by Barrick Gold employees. This comes after a number of victims refused to accept packages offered by Barrick Gold, through their ‘Remediation Program’, which would have denied victims access to justice. Instead these women initiated legal proceedings in the US against Barrick, which forced the company’s hand.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
‘Eleven women and girls who were raped, gang-raped or violently molested in the Papua New Guinea Highlands have reached an out-of-court settlement with the world’s biggest gold miner, having refused to accept the “insulting” compensation paid to 120 fellow victims of the company’s security guards.
“It would be like accepting lollies as compensation,” one of the 11 told Fairfax Media … The remedial framework compensation package was very low by local customary standards, say Jane Doe 10 and another of the 11 women, Jane Doe 2. To accept it would “add disgrace to the disgrace”, Jane Doe 10 said’.
Mining Watch Canada, who has been a stalwart in this campaign for justice, claims:
‘This case proves once again that victims of criminal acts at the hands of employees of companies such as Barrick Gold absolutely require truly independent legal counsel to ensure their legal and human rights are protected’. They also allege ‘our interviews with victims of rape by mine security in 2008, 2009 and 2013 provided evidence not only of the incredible extent of the problem, but also, once Barrick started offering ‘remedy packages,’ that women were insulted by what they were being offered’.
Yet not everyone accepts this point of view, a range of actors from Australia have claimed that these ‘insulting’ compensation packages were good enough for PNG women, given local cultural norms.
Australia’s Department of Foreign and Trade, states :
‘In 2011 Barrick started implementing a major project, Olgeta Meri Igat Raits (All Women Have Rights); which included a two stage remediation framework.
The remediation framework entailed an individual claims process designed for women who have been the subject of sexual violence or abuse by former employees of the PJV. The second part of the project was the development of community activities designed to provide services to all women who have experienced violence. Currently, the individual claims process has been completed, with over 120 claims assessed and agreed upon; many with remedies already in place. Remedy packages were developed through discussions between claimants and members of the Framework team, and tailored to the specific circumstances of each claimant.
They consist of a range of services and financial support components (such as business development grants, trade good credits and bank savings accounts) that will provide a lasting benefit for the claimant … The project is managed through a trust primarily funded by Barrick. It is overseen by an independent body of experts including prominent PNG citizens including: Dame Carol Kidu (former Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister) and Ume Wainetti, the National Director of the PNG Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee. The focus is on the community programming work with the development and implementation of community projects a priority’.
Barrick also found strong support from the State Society and Governance in Melanesia program, a multi-million dollar Canberra think-tank funded from Australia’s aid budget:
‘The second initiative, the PRF (Porgera Remediation Framework), offers compensation and livelihood opportunities to women and men who have been identified as victims of assault by Barrick employees. Uncertain as to how to translate international human rights standards into an effective remediation package in Porgera’s complex social environment, Barrick drew upon the knowledge of leading figures in Papua New Guinea, including Ume Wainetti and Dame Carol Kidu.
The PRF has been criticised by organisations such as MiningWatch Canada for clauses which obstruct PRF beneficiaries from taking further legal action against Barrick. However, informants involved in the delivery of the PRF defended it on the basis that it offers opportunities that might not otherwise be available through formal judicial mechanisms’.
This support for Barrick is part of a broader movement backed by the Australian government which argues that corporate actors in the Pacific would be best governed through voluntary human rights codes, and public-private partnerships. While the rule of law is good enough for some, it appears Papua New Guineans do not meet the standard of humanity required.