Day: May 8, 2019

When Pan American Silver bought the Escobal mine, it bought a legacy of violence

Valerie Croft
Two people carry a banner in the streets of Guatemala City that reads, "The march for life: We demand that the Constitutional Court respect our rights." Photo credit: CPR-Urbana. Used with permission.

Shareholders of one of the world’s largest silver mining companies will meet in Vancouver today to discuss their latest acquisition — the conflict-ridden Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala, acquired by Pan American Silver when it bought Tahoe Resources earlier this year. The mine is set to play a key role securing Pan American Silver’s place on the world’s stage as a premiere silver mining company that, in 2018, boldly committed to a year with no significant community conflict.

The problem? The Escobal mine — set to represent nearly 25 per cent of the company’s earnings — is currently suspended due to widespread and long-term community opposition to the project.

Impacted communities argue that mining is incompatible with their ways of life, culture, and spirituality. For nearly two years, operations have been suspended — first by massive community protest and later, by a court injunction that found the local Indigenous Xinka population were discriminated against and had their rights violated when they were not adequately consulted prior to the start of mining operations. The Constitutional Court has since ordered that the Xinka people be consulted in accordance with international standards before mining operations can resume.

Pan American Silver’s claim to be “conflict free” doesn’t hold up to even a cursory glance at the Escobal project. The company bought a mine that has caused extensive community conflict in Guatemala. Communities in opposition to the project have faced a series of assassinations, kidnappings, criminalization of movement leaders, and the militarization of areas surrounding the mine.

As shareholders meet today, they should recognize this well-documented and violent legacy they now inherit and seriously question Pan American Silver’s claim that it’s only a matter of time before the Escobal mine is back up and running.

Ongoing threats and intimidation as court-ordered consultation takes place

According to international standards, the Xinka people must give their free, prior, and informed consent before operations can begin. Circumstances being what they are — there can be no “prior” since the mine has already spent multiple years in operation and irreversible harms have already been done — members of the Xinka Parliament are calling for a transparent consultation process free from company interference.

The Xinka Parliament is the legitimate ancestral body that represents the Xinka people. And since denouncing interference in the consultation process, they have seen a spike in threats and intimidation. Today, they issued a press release denouncing the multiple acts of surveillance and verbal death threats that their lawyer, Quelvin Jiménez, has received. They call on Pan American Silver to cease all efforts at dialogue with communities on the sidelines, as it generates more conflict and insecurity for local leaders and violates the free nature of the consultation.

In the past, threats against local leaders have ended in serious violence and the Xinka Parliament has reason to be concerned. In 2013, four members were kidnapped returning from a community-organized consultation and one person was killed. Weeks later, the mine’s private security opened fire on peaceful protesters on a public road outside the mine’s entrance, causing serious injuries. This violence is now the cause of a civil lawsuit in Canada against Tahoe Resources.

In 2014, 16-year-old Guatemalan youth leader and environmental activist Topacio Reynoso Pacheco was killed. Her father, Alex, was seriously injured in the same attack. He survived another assassination attempt in 2015, when he was shot returning home from a community meeting. Since then, the family has continued to face threats, intimidation and defamation related to their work as environmental defenders. There has been no investigation into the attacks.

A message from the Xinka Parliament to Pan American Silver shareholders

Ahead of today’s shareholder meeting, the Xinka Parliament issued a call to shareholders:

“It is important that the shareholders and the general public are fully aware that the consultation ordered by the Constitutional Court is not a simple administrative process as the mining company has presented it. The continuation or not of the Escobal mining project depends on the consultation, given the size of the project and its impact on the Xinka People. The purpose of the consultation is not to come to an agreement, but to obtain our consent.

We want to emphasize that the legal and social struggle that we have been carrying out to recover our territory is not over. We are not willing to allow the continual violation of our rights, and we will not rest until our territory is completely free of mining.”

Read the full translation here.

Valerie Croft is a mining justice activist who organizes with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) in Toronto, Canada. She has spent over a decade working in solidarity with communities in Guatemala who are protecting their lands from Canadian mining projects.

The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) is a Tkaronto-based activist group that organizes to resist the harmful practices of Canadian mining companies. We write about the struggles of communities directly impacted by these mines, as well as allied movements fighting for environmental justice. 

Photo credit: CPR-Urbana. Used with permission.

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By The Wall of Law May 8, 2019 Off

Aasia Bibi, Christian Woman Acquitted Of Blasphemy, Left For Canada: Pakistani Officials

In this Nov. 20, 2010, file photo, Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore, Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD — A lawyer representing a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after she spent eight years on death row in Pakistan says she has arrived in Canada.

Pakistani officials and others involved in the case said Wednesday that Aasia Bibi had left Pakistan to be reunited with her daughters in Canada, where they had been granted asylum. Her lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, said she had already arrived in Canada.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after a quarrel with a fellow farmworker. Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned her conviction last year and she had been in protective custody since then.

Pakistani policemen stop Islamist activists during a protest against the Supreme Court decision on the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman accused of blasphemy, in Karachi on February 1, 2019.

Islamic extremists have rioted over the case and threatened to kill her. The same radical Islamists, many of whom have been jailed for their threats, also urged the overthrow of the government following Bibi’s acquittal.

Wilson Chawdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he received a text message from a British diplomat saying “Aasia is out.” A close friend of Bibi also confirmed that she had left the country, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

A statement from the association says it received confirmation around 8 p.m. ET Tuesday that Bibi “had safely exited Pakistan.”

“Asia Bibi bravely held on to her faith through the most brutal of incarcerations that involved her having access to sunlight for two hours per month,” the statement says. “Now she finally travels to Canada to be reunited with her children.”

Trudeau: ‘I have no comment’

Chowdhry said in the statement released by the association that Bibi is “unwell” after suffering a decade of isolation both in and out of captivity.

“She must be treated with utmost care and receive appropriate medical care now she is free,” he said.

Officials at Pakistan’s interior and foreign ministries also confirmed her departure, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not discuss the case Wednesday.

“I have no comment,” Trudeau said. “Obviously, there are sensitive privacy issues and security issues on this and unfortunately I can’t comment at this time.”

Global Affairs Canada said Wednesday it “has no comment on this matter.” Trudeau said last November that Canada was then in talks with the Pakistani government about Bibi.

The friend, who last spoke to her on Tuesday, said Bibi and her husband Ashiq Masih had spent the last several weeks getting their documents in order. He said she was longing to see her daughters, with whom she talked almost daily from her secure location, protected by Pakistani security forces.

Watch: Bibi’s acquittal upheld by court. Story continues below.

Chawdhry said he had been in regular contact with Bibi’s husband throughout the ordeal as well as with several diplomats involved in international efforts to get her to safety.

The case has brought international attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death penalty. The mere suspicion of blasphemy against Islam is enough to ignite mob lynchings in the country. The accusation of blasphemy has also been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle scores.

Radical Islamists have made the punishment of blasphemy a major rallying cry, bringing tens of thousands into the streets and paralyzing major cities.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his guards in 2011 for defending Bibi and criticizing the misuse of the blasphemy law. The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hardliners since he was hanged for the killing, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad. Pakistan’s minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated later that year after demanding justice for Bibi.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed not to be intimidated by the rioters, saying the rule of law would decide Bibi’s fate. But she was denied permission to leave the country for several months until sentiments cooled.

A three-judge Supreme Court panel in January cleared Bibi’s final legal hurdle when they ruled there was no compelling reason to overturn the court’s earlier acquittal. The judges accused those who charged Bibi with blasphemy of committing perjury, but said they would not be tried because of the sensitivity of the case. The judges upheld the blasphemy law.

With files from The Associated Press

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source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2019/05/08/aasia-bibi-pakistan-canada_a_23723133/

By The Wall of Law May 8, 2019 Off

Family of slain Toronto physician emotional, ‘heartbroken’ at killer husband’s sentencing

The family of a Toronto physician beaten to death to by her husband in 2016 says the grief they feel will never match the impact her death will have on her three young children.

The mother, father and sister of 40-year-old Elana Fric-Shamji were among those who told a sentencing hearing on Wednesday how her killer and husband, Mohammed Shamji, has destroyed their family.

Fric-Shamji’s mother was the first to describe her grief to the court.

Ana Fric described her daughter as idyllic, “the child any parent would hope for.”

Fric and her husband, Joe Fric, worked overtime to help put Fric-Shamji through medical school. They were proud when she obtained two university degrees – in education and science – in four years.

“There was always a smile on her face,” Fric said. “She was full of love and laughter.”

She said the loss has “destroyed” their lives and the lives of her daughter’s three young children forever.

“Instead of making gifts for Mother’s Day, they have to lay flowers on her grave,” she said.

Court heard Fric-Shamji handed her husband divorce papers two days before he attacked her during a heated argument in the bedroom of their North York home while their children were asleep.

Shamji beat her, breaking her neck and ribs, before choking her to death. He then stuffed her body in a suitcase and abandoned it by a river in Kleinberg, Ont. Her body was found on Dec. 1, 2016 and Shamji was arrested a day later.

Fric told the court she and Joe are raising Fric-Shamji’s three children.

“(We) can’t ever come close to replacing the love of their mother,” said Joe.

Fric-Shamji’s sister, Caroline Lekic, told the court she’s “haunted” by the violent way Shamji took her sister’s life.

“I will never be able to talk to her, see her smile or laugh at her funny jokes,” she said. “She deserved a beautiful life with her children. The wrong life was taken.”

Lekic said the family has only their memories to hold on to now – all of which are good.

“Her compassion and enthusiasm were an inspiration to all those around her,” she said. “We all have good memories, but no Elana.”

Those sitting in the body of the courtroom could not hold back their tears, the couple’s eldest daughter among them.

She wiped away tears while her aunt described her mother, eventually leaving the courtroom upset.

Shamji’s family, however, showed little emotion as they listened to the submissions.

Court previously heard about the emotional and physical abuse Fric-Shamji suffered during their “volatile and dysfunctional” marriage. When Fric-Shamji decide to “give up the marriage for good,” her family believed she was finally on the path to a new life.

The Toronto neurosurgeon pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in his wife’s death.

Before court adjourned, Shamji addressed the room, apologizing to his family and his children.

“Your honour, I killed my wife. She was my friend and mother of my children. There are really no words to express the shame and remorse I have,” he said.

“That night I should have killed myself, not Elana.”

At one point, he addressed Fric-Shamji’s parents – “I know this is difficult to see me, hear me.”

“Dr. Elana Fric loved life, but most of all she was a wonderful mother,” he said.

“I think of our children and pray they are happy. There are no excuses for the many people I’ve hurt.”

The 43-year-old is facing an automatic life sentence, but it is up to a judge to determine when he can apply for parole.

The Crown and defence submitted a joint recommendation to set parole ineligibility at 14 years.

A no-contact order between Shamji and his children has also been requested.

The Crown argues that the aggravating factors in the case include Fric-Shamji being murdered in her family home, with her children sleeping nearby, and that her body was disposed of in a suitcase.

However, the Crown said there are prospects for Shamji’s rehabilitation.

Shamji’s defence lawyer, Liam O’Connor, said about 14 letters had been filed with the court in support of his client.

He pointed to Shamji’s career, accolades and contributions to the medicine field as mitigating factors that should be considered.

“He has three wonderful children he loves dearly,” he said. “Sadly and unfortunately, this crime is what now defines him.”

The sentencing hearing will continue tomorrow.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Heather Wright and the Canadian Press

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/family-of-slain-toronto-physician-emotional-heartbroken-at-killer-husband-s-sentencing-1.4413157

By The Wall of Law May 8, 2019 Off

Family of slain Toronto physician emotional, ‘heartbroken’ at killer husband’s sentencing

The family of a Toronto physician beaten to death to by her husband in 2016 says the grief they feel will never match the impact her death will have on her three young children.

The mother, father and sister of 40-year-old Elana Fric-Shamji were among those who told a sentencing hearing on Wednesday how her killer and husband, Mohammed Shamji, has destroyed their family.

Fric-Shamji’s mother was the first to describe her grief to the court.

Ana Fric described her daughter as idyllic, “the child any parent would hope for.”

Fric and her husband, Joe Fric, worked overtime to help put Fric-Shamji through medical school. They were proud when she obtained two university degrees – in education and science – in four years.

“There was always a smile on her face,” Fric said. “She was full of love and laughter.”

She said the loss has “destroyed” their lives and the lives of her daughter’s three young children forever.

“Instead of making gifts for Mother’s Day, they have to lay flowers on her grave,” she said.

Court heard Fric-Shamji handed her husband divorce papers two days before he attacked her during a heated argument in the bedroom of their North York home while their children were asleep.

Shamji beat her, breaking her neck and ribs, before choking her to death. He then stuffed her body in a suitcase and abandoned it by a river in Kleinberg, Ont. Her body was found on Dec. 1, 2016 and Shamji was arrested a day later.

Fric told the court she and Joe are raising Fric-Shamji’s three children.

“(We) can’t ever come close to replacing the love of their mother,” said Joe.

Fric-Shamji’s sister, Caroline Lekic, told the court she’s “haunted” by the violent way Shamji took her sister’s life.

“I will never be able to talk to her, see her smile or laugh at her funny jokes,” she said. “She deserved a beautiful life with her children. The wrong life was taken.”

Lekic said the family has only their memories to hold on to now – all of which are good.

“Her compassion and enthusiasm were an inspiration to all those around her,” she said. “We all have good memories, but no Elana.”

Those sitting in the body of the courtroom could not hold back their tears, the couple’s eldest daughter among them.

She wiped away tears while her aunt described her mother, eventually leaving the courtroom upset.

Shamji’s family, however, showed little emotion as they listened to the submissions.

Court previously heard about the emotional and physical abuse Fric-Shamji suffered during their “volatile and dysfunctional” marriage. When Fric-Shamji decide to “give up the marriage for good,” her family believed she was finally on the path to a new life.

The Toronto neurosurgeon pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in his wife’s death.

Before court adjourned, Shamji addressed the room, apologizing to his family and his children.

“Your honour, I killed my wife. She was my friend and mother of my children. There are really no words to express the shame and remorse I have,” he said.

“That night I should have killed myself, not Elana.”

At one point, he addressed Fric-Shamji’s parents – “I know this is difficult to see me, hear me.”

“Dr. Elana Fric loved life, but most of all she was a wonderful mother,” he said.

“I think of our children and pray they are happy. There are no excuses for the many people I’ve hurt.”

The 43-year-old is facing an automatic life sentence, but it is up to a judge to determine when he can apply for parole.

The Crown and defence submitted a joint recommendation to set parole ineligibility at 14 years.

A no-contact order between Shamji and his children has also been requested.

The Crown argues that the aggravating factors in the case include Fric-Shamji being murdered in her family home, with her children sleeping nearby, and that her body was disposed of in a suitcase.

However, the Crown said there are prospects for Shamji’s rehabilitation.

Shamji’s defence lawyer, Liam O’Connor, said about 14 letters had been filed with the court in support of his client.

He pointed to Shamji’s career, accolades and contributions to the medicine field as mitigating factors that should be considered.

“He has three wonderful children he loves dearly,” he said. “Sadly and unfortunately, this crime is what now defines him.”

The sentencing hearing will continue tomorrow.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Heather Wright and the Canadian Press

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By The Wall of Law May 8, 2019 Off

Sentencing hearing set to begin for Toronto neurosurgeon who murdered his wife

TORONTO – A Toronto man who killed his wife, stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it in a river is scheduled to have a sentencing hearing today.

Neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji, 43, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the death of his physician wife, Elana Fric Shamji.

Court heard Fric Shamji served her husband with divorce papers two days before he attacked her, broke her neck and ribs, and choked her to death as their three children slept nearby.

Fric Shamji’s body was found a day after she was last seen on Nov. 30, 2016, and police arrested Shamji 24 hours later.

Court heard the couple’s marriage was volatile and included reports of both physical and verbal abuse of Fric Shamji by her husband.

A second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

Family and friends are expected to provide victim impact statements at today’s hearing.

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/sentencing-hearing-set-to-begin-for-toronto-neurosurgeon-who-murdered-his-wife-1.4413157

By The Wall of Law May 8, 2019 Off