Peru: controversy over “dirty war” truth commission

Six years after the final report of the Truth and National Reconcilliation Commission (CVR) on Peru’s 1980-2000 “dirty war” against the Sendero Luminoso guerillas, the citizens group Para Que no se Repita (roughly translated as “Never Again”) has pledged a new campaign to raise awareness of human rights in the Andean nation. The move comes in response to comments by Defense Minister Rafael Rey calling the CVR’s findings “false, unjust and calumnious.” (La Republica, Aug. 27; RPP, Aug. 26)

The controversy comes as a ceremony was held in Huanta, Ayacucho region, to commemorate the 1984 army massacre at the outlying village of Putis, where over 100 peasants were killed. Forensic specialists have just unearthed 92 sets of human remains form the massacre, which were carried through Huanta’s central plaza in white coffins. (CNR, Peru, Aug. 28)

Of the 15,000 believed “disappeared” in the campaign against the Maoist guerillas, only 769 have been been uncovered, according to the Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF) charged with the continuing investigation. (La Republica, Aug. 29)

See our last post on Peru and Sendero Luminoso.

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  1. Peru: rights defender threatened
    From Human Rights Watch, Sept. 25:

    Peru: Investigate Threats Against Rights Defender
    Ex-Head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports Threatening Calls, Poisoned Dogs

    Peruvian law enforcement authorities should take immediate action to investigate threats against the former president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, and ensure his safety, Human Rights Watch said today.

    Lerner has reported that on September 5, 2009, unknown persons poisoned his dogs on his property, killing them. This week, he received anonymous phone calls both at his house and at his office at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the Catholic University of Peru. The caller left a message warning, “What we did to your dogs, we will do to you,” he said.

    “These threats appear very serious, and the Peruvian authorities need to find those responsible quickly,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Such threats against a prominent human rights defender like Dr. Lerner could have an intimidating effect on the country’s entire human rights community.”

    Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its report in 2003, Lerner has been a victim of several incidents of harassment and has received repeated threats by phone and email.

    Lerner is a distinguished academic and an important figure in the field of human rights in Peru. In addition to presiding over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lerner is the president of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights and rector emeritus of the Catholic University of Peru. He is vice president of a commission charged with creating a Museum of Memory, which will focus on human rights abuses in Peru.

    “This is still a delicate time for human rights defenders in Peru, given the longstanding lack of action to stem abuse,” Vivanco said. “The conviction of former President Alberto Fujimori was a significant step forward, but it is a fragile gain. The government needs to show clearly that harassment and threats against human rights defenders are not permissible.”

  2. Peru: government seeks legal shield for security forces
    Fom IPS, Oct. 16:

    The Peruvian government has moved to protect the armed forces and police against investigations for crimes committed in the line of duty, especially in areas convulsed by social protests or where remnants of the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas are still active.

    The administration of Alan García sent Congress a package of bills that would limit action by prosecutors and grant extraordinary powers to the military authorities.

    One of the draft laws would modify the Criminal Code, so that no legal action could be taken against soldiers and police who kill or injure civilians in the so-called “emergency zones,” areas controlled by the security forces by order of the executive branch because of “terrorist” threats or violent social protests.

    The presidential initiative also proposes that prosecutors must be in receipt of a “technical report” issued by the armed forces or police authorities, before opening investigations of soldiers and police for alleged human rights violations in the “emergency zones.” The report must explain why the accused used the degree of force that caused death or injury.

    The executive branch also sent a draft law to Congress on the purpose, scope and definition of the term “use of force” by the National Police, detailing situations in which a police officer is exempt from responsibility when his or her actions have a lethal outcome.

    If the accused officer can justify the use of lethal force by the intensity and dangerousness of the aggression, the behaviour of the aggressor, or the hostile surroundings and situation, he or she will be exempt from criminal, civil and administrative responsibility, says the draft law.

    The bills were introduced in Congress just as the Ombudsman’s Office reported that as of Sept. 30, 2009, 288 social conflicts (such as protest demonstrations) had occurred in the country over the past year, nearly 62 percent more than the 177 conflicts recorded by September 2008.