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Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Saturday, 20 June 2009 09:34 UK

UN calls for Peru clashes probe

Police patrol the Peruvian town of Bagua Grande (7 June 2009)
Indigenous groups say at least 30 civilians died in the clashes

The UN's envoy for indigenous people has urged Peru to launch an independent investigation into recent deadly clashes between police and protesters.

James Anaya told the BBC he had heard troubling allegations of abuse by security forces, while visiting Peru.

Officials say at least 34 people died in weeks of protests by indigenous people in the Amazon over land rights.

The protests were called off after two laws allowing foreign companies to exploit Amazon resources were revoked.

Mr Anaya, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People, said he had heard "testimony of allegations of abuses that need to be taken seriously" on a recent fact finding mission to Peru.

"I'm not in a position to make conclusions about these allegations, but there should be an investigation," he said.

"Those people who are making these allegations should be heard, and the conditions should be set that they feel safe in their ability to convey those allegations."

He said indigenous people and the international community would need to be included in any investigative body.

Regional tension

Prime Minister Yehude Simon (centre)
Peruvian Indians said the revoking of the laws was historic

Mr Anaya said some people remained unaccounted for after the protests and that officials he had spoken to were "very reluctant" to give exact figures.

"Until everybody is accounted for, there should be some concern," he said.

Officials says 24 police officers and 10 civilians were killed in the protests over laws which gave foreign companies permission to exploit resources in the Amazon forest.

But Amazon Indian groups say at least 30 civilians died.

The worst of the clashes occurred on 5 June when police tried to clear roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of Lima.

Indigenous groups called off their protest on Friday, after the controversial laws, passed to implement a free trade agreement with the US, were revoked by Peru's Congress.

The BBC's Dan Collyns in Lima says the laws were seen by Peruvian Indians as a threat to their way of life.

The violence had provoked tension with Peru's neighbour, Bolivia, where President Evo Morales backed the Indians' tribal rights.



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