Page last updated at 23:58 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 00:58 UK

Peru urged to investigate protesters' deaths

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

A miner looks at the bodies of fellow miners who were killed during clashes with police in Arequipa, Peru, Sunday, April 4, 2010
Six protesters died during Sunday's clashes with police

Human Rights Watch has urged the Peruvian government to conduct a full investigation into the deaths of six civilians during a demonstration.

They died during a protest by some 6,000 unlicensed miners in the south of the country.

Opposition politicians are pushing the government to scrap or amend the laws which provoked the unrest.

Police opened fire as they were pelted with stones by protesters blocking the main coastal road, the PanAmericana.

Five demonstrators were killed, 30 more injured, and a woman passenger on a stalled bus reportedly died of a heart attack.

Fight for resources

Human Rights Watch spokesman Jose Miguel Vivanco said using lethal force to disperse a demonstration was not permitted simply because a state of emergency had been declared.

The unlicensed miners were among more than 10,000 across the south of the country who marched against a presidential decree which aimed to impose environmental controls which, they say, threaten their jobs.

President Alan Garcia said on Monday that unlicensed mining must be formalised not just because of its impact on the environment.

"It's a savage form of mining because it's completely unregulated and doesn't pay taxes," he said.

"It creates forms of work which are a type of slavery or servitude which generate other forms of servitude such as prostitution, people trafficking and child labour," he added.

Blocking roads in Peru is illegal and the government has refused to negotiate with the protest leaders as long as miners occupy the road.

Meanwhile, the political opposition are pushing to see the laws revoked or modified in an effort to ease the tensions.

The Peruvian government wants to create a mining exclusion zone in the Amazon region of Madre de Dios - the most heavily mined area.

Official figures say it produces around 20 tonnes of gold a year.

How natural resources are exploited and by whom is the main cause of unrest in Peru.

As last weekend's events demonstrate, the tension can unexpectedly flare up and turn to violence.

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