Peru Clashes with Inter-American Commission Over Human Rights Case

  • by Ángel Páez (lima)
  • Inter Press Service

Sources at the Peruvian Justice Ministry who preferred to remain anonymous told IPS the IACHR had committed an 'excess' in forwarding to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the details of alleged summary executions of three captured guerrillas by an army commando that raided the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima in 1997 to free hostages.

The three insurgents, members of the leftwing Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), were purportedly killed in cold blood after they handed over their weapons to the Chavín de Huántar commando unit, after a successful raid to free 71 hostages who had been held for four months.

The IACHR, which is part of the Organisation of American States (OAS) human rights system, argues that the Peruvian state has failed to investigate the incident and punish those responsible. All 14 MRTA members who participated in taking the hostages for the purpose of exchanging them for imprisoned guerrillas were killed in the operation.

But the ministry sources claim that the Peruvian justice system is taking legal action against suspects of the alleged summary executions.

They point out that in January 2011 the attorney general's office requested a 20 year prison sentence for Vladimiro Montesinos, former intelligence adviser to then president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), 18 years for former army commander Nicolás Hermoza, and 15 years for officers Jesús Zamudio and Roberto Huamán, for their involvement in the killings.

'If they say the Chavín de Huántar commando did not violate human rights, why have Montesinos and Hermoza been accused of these crimes that the state says did not exist?' asked lawyer Gloria Cano of the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), a local human rights group.

'The IACHR recommended investigating and resolving this contradiction, but the Peruvian state has not complied, which is one of the reasons why the IACHR initiated the lawsuit,' Cano, who represents the relatives of Eduardo Cruz, Víctor Peceros and Herma Meléndez, the three alleged victims of unlawful killings, told IPS.

'There is evidence of these crimes. In two cases we have the testimony of former Japanese official Hidetaka Ogura, who was one of the hostages, as well as forensic evidence, while for Cruz we also have the testimony of two police witnesses,' she said.

'Although these events took place 15 years ago, no one has yet been convicted,' she complained.

'Instead of complying with the IACHR's recommendations, the Peruvian state questions the Commission's competence and rejects the lawsuit against it. That is exactly the way the Fujimori government behaved,' Cano said.

But in the view of constitutional law expert Enrique Bernales, the IACHR should not have initiated the suit against the Peruvian state, because the case in Peru is still ongoing.

'In the irreproachable trial and sentencing of Fujimori, Peruvian justice has shown its high standards, so there can be no doubt that it will leave no stone unturned to bring cases of human rights violations to justice,' he said.

'According to my information, prosecution of the perpetrators of the alleged summary executions is ongoing in this country. Therefore the state has a right to reject the lawsuit brought by the IACHR,' he said.

Bernales also said that the government has the right to propose changes in the Commission's operating rules. 'The inter-American human rights system cannot remain motionless in time. Everything changes, and regulations must also reflect reality,' he said.

The IACHR sent a confidential report on the case to the Peruvian Justice Ministry on Jun. 13, which concluded that the Fujimori regime had prevented prosecution of those responsible because it was implicated in the crimes.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by IPS, states that the authorities at the time also refused to hand over the bodies of the guerrillas to their families, and ordered instead that they be buried secretly in different parts of Lima, without ever having published autopsy reports as required by law.

The document also highlights that on Aug. 12, 2002 Peru's Supreme Court accepted an application for the members of the Chavín de Huántar commando unit to be tried by the military justice system, despite the fact that military courts do not have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, according to the American Convention on Human Rights.

The IACHR recommends that the Peruvian state investigate members of the Chavín de Huántar commando unit, since only Montesinos and Hermoza, already serving lengthy prison sentences for other human rights abuses, Zamudio who is a fugitive from justice, and Huamán, who is not in custody, are being prosecuted for the crimes.

The Commission's final report was delivered to the government of Alan García (2006-2011), but it was only leaked to the press after President Ollanta Humala took office Jul. 28. When no reply was received, the IACHR forwarded the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica.

When news of the lawsuit broke, Humala, a former military officer, said he would protect the members of the Chavín de Huántar unit, because they are 'national heroes.'

Rocío Silva Santisteban, executive secretary of the National Coordinating Coalition on Human Rights (CNDDHH), said she does not understand why the government does not simply back the existing proposal for restructuring the IACHR. The OAS formed a working group based on that proposal, which has been meeting for over a year, chaired by Peruvian ambassador Hugo de Zela.

'What people should know is that 70 civil society organisations from all over Latin America have sent a letter to de Zela, demanding that the inter-American human rights system be strengthened, not weakened,' Silva Santisteban told IPS.

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service