EL ESTOR, GUATEMALA—The murder trial of Mynor Padilla, a former security guard for a mine owned by a then subsidiary of HudBay Minerals Inc., provides a fascinating glimpse into Guatemala’s problematic justice system.
Padilla, 52, is charged with killing Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, and shooting German Chub, a bystander, during a protest on contested land at Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, in eastern Guatemala, on Sept 27, 2009.
These alleged crimes are also at the centre of a series of landmark lawsuits in Ontario Superior Court, where HudBay, a Toronto-based company, faces three negligence claims, launched by Ich, Chub and 12 other Q’eqchi’. The cases are being watched closely by Canada’s mining companies, as it is the first time lawyers are attempting to hold a Canadian company liable for actions of a subsidiary operating overseas.
Normally, such lawsuits would be heard in the country where the alleged transgressions took place. But lawyers argued that the plaintiffs could not get a fair trial in Guatemala, due to judicial corruption.
Long delayed, Padilla’s yearlong trial has been plagued with what the prosecution calls “irregularities”. Though a warrant was issued for Padilla’s arrest shortly after the 2009 shooting, Padilla remained at large for three years, and continued to be on the payroll of HudBay’s Guatemalan subsidiary. In 2012, he was finally arrested and jailed, but his trial didn’t begin for another three years.
Judge Ana Leticia Pena Ayala took the unusual step of closing the courtroom to the public for “security reasons” partway through the case, which is being held in the Caribbean port city of Puerto Barrios.
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