INTERNATIONAL - Peruvian villagers suing miner Glencore will argue in the high court in London this week that the company should be held liable over its allegations that they were abused by Peruvian police, the law firm representing them said on Tuesday. 

The allegations, to be presented in a 10-day hearing that starts on Monday, illustrates potential legal risks for mining companies that sign pacts with Peruvian police for the provision of security services at their operations. 

The lawsuit by 22 Peruvians said Xstrata, acquired by Glencore in 2013, failed to take reasonable steps to prevent abuses by police in deadly protests at the Tintaya copper mine in 2012, said London law firm Leigh Day. Xstrata paid, fed and provided lodging for police and knew or should have known that Peru’s police tend to use excessive force, Leigh Day said. Glencore said Xstrata was not responsible for actions taken by the Peruvian National Police (PNP) in policing the protests and noted that the lawsuit does not allege that Xstrata or the mine’s private security force harmed anyone. 

Xstrata “appealed to the PNP to respect the human rights of protesters before and during the protest”, Glencore said in a statement. Like many mining companies in Peru, Xstrata had signed an agreement with Peru’s national police for the provision of security services at Tintaya, which stopped operating in 2013. 

The agreements, which usually include payment for police, have long been criticised by activists who say it creates a police force loyal to companies instead of the broader public. Defenders of the agreements say they allow companies to pay for their policing needs in poor, remote regions, where they tend to operate alongside villages that lack basic services. Leigh Day law firm said a Peruvian villager believed to have been shot by police in the 2012 unrest would attend the hearing. The case would be determined under Peruvian law, the firm said.