Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 10:51 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Peru

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2009
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Peru, 18 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a5f301723.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

The year 2008 was characterised by little progress in terms of human rights, as no ad hoc public policies were promoted and the advances in democratisation recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de Verdad y Reconciliación – CVR) came to a standstill. In addition, an eagerly awaited Law on Human Rights Defenders did not come up for debate in Congress.1 Equally worrying were the conflicts related to the environment and the land of farmers and indigenous peoples, as well as the small and slow advances in the process of truth, justice and reconciliation.2

Over the past years, the Government has abandoned dialogue in order to tackle the large number of social demands, and has adopted a confrontational stance based on a series of measures that only serve to criminalise social protest. In addition, the Government privileged the interests of large economic groups to the detriment of those of the population, as evidenced by bills benefiting extractive industries, as well as by the Government's defence and promotion of mining and oil projects in areas where they could affect the population's health and land ownership relations. The so-called "Forest Law" (Ley de la Selva),3 which consists of various legislative decrees issued by the Government, is considered by farmers and indigenous communities as contrary to their interests. They united in order to protest against the destruction of the Amazon and dangerous mining and oil and gas extraction. The law was revoked in August 2008 after large demonstrations by indigenous peoples. Moreover, State officials did not follow the procedure of prior and informed consultation of populations on whose land and subsoil they authorised mining by, mostly, Chinese, Canadian or American companies.

In the fight against impunity of human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict, the extradition of Mr. Fujimori and the judicial proceedings against him, which began on December 10, 2007, represent important and highly symbolic advances.4 Nevertheless, in order to hinder the judicial proceedings related to the Fujimori period, clandestine groups supporting former President Fujimori frequently harassed and threatened relatives, witnesses and lawyers involved in these cases, as exemplified by the threats against retired General Rodolfo Robles and his family as well as against Dr. Avelino Guillén, Prosecutor in the Fujimori case. Another serious matter in this respect concerns the Bill No. 02848/2008-CR, proposed before the Congress on November 6, 2008 by the President of the Defence Commission in Congress, Mr. Edgar Núñez. The bill, which would grant amnesty to members of the military accused or convicted for human rights abuses committed during the internal armed conflict, received the support of several members of Congress, and must be approved by Parliament. It is a clear threat to the fight against impunity and it contravenes international law, which prohibits such amnesty in relation to human rights violations. Indeed, in its 2001 decision in the "Barrios Altos" case and 2006 decision in the "La Cantuta" case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos – Co IDH) had already denounced an amnesty law approved in 1995, which was declared void by the Co IDH resolution.

At the international level, Peru was examined through the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 6, 2008. During the review, UPR Member States highlighted the following issues that the Government needs to attend to: the worrying situation of human rights defenders (despite the concern already expressed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders in 2006), the high incidence of child labour, the fact that one third of the population does not have identity documents and that marginalised communities do not have access to health care, the extremely poor conditions of detention in prisons, including overcrowding, the reopening of discussions about the death penalty in Parliament in 2007 and the removal of the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDDHH), the Episcopal Commission for Social Action (Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social – CEAS) and the National Evangelical Council (Concilio Nacional Evangélico – CONEP) from the National Human Rights Council (Consejo Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDH), of which they had been observers since 1986.5

Acts of harassment against defenders fighting against impunity, particularly in the Fujimori case

In 2008, defenders and civil society organisations fighting for justice and truth in the Fujimori case continued to face continuous attacks and threats carried out by pro-Fujimori groups. According to the CNDDHH, about ten cases of harassment of defenders in relation to the Fujimori trial were registered over the year.6 Members of the Association for Human Rights in Peru (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos – APRODEH) were subjected to threats and several defamation campaigns carried out by Government members. Its offices were attacked by large groups on three occasions. For instance, on May 8, 2008, 80 activists from a pro-Fujimori group gathered in front of the NGO headquarters. On June 10, 2008, a demonstration with 400 participants carrying anti-APRODEH banners took place.7 Subsequently, the APRODEH and its Director, Dr. Francisco Soberón, were the victims of a serious media campaign of defamation. In addition, Mr. Francisco Soberón was accused of praising terrorism and committing treason by several members of the Government. First Vice-President Luis Giampietri even described Mr. Soberón as a "prominent agitator of the masses, who will one day be held accountable by the Peruvian State". The association had responded to a request by several members of the European Parliament concerning the existence of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru – MRTA), to which APRODEH had replied that "this organisation has not been active since April 1996, and to overestimate its presence could lead to the criminalisation of social protest".

Officers of justice also received threats in relation to the opening of Mr. Fujimori's trial. For instance, Mr. Avelino Guillén, Supreme State Prosecutor, who had requested a 30-year sentence for Mr. Fujimori for supposedly masterminding the crimes committed by the "Colina Group" (Grupo Colina), received telephone death threats on December 9, 2008 as well as on the previous days. Furthermore, on August 28, 2008, the memorial "The Crying Eye" (El Ojo que Llora), erected to raise awareness and spur reflection about the years of the armed internal conflict, was attacked by unknown persons during a ceremony in connection with the fifth anniversary of the CVR report.

On April 28, 2008, the Peruvian Executive took another step limiting dialogue with civil society, through a decree signed by the Ministry of Justice and which removed 67 NGOs that were members of the CNDDHH from the CNDH, which is a body under the Ministry of Justice charged with promoting and monitoring the defence and guarantee of human rights. This brutally cut back the mechanism that had allowed these NGOs to participate in the national human rights debate. The exclusion of NGOs was justified on the basis of a confidentiality clause that in reality NGO members do not have to respect. In addition, there was an attempt during 2008 to enlarge the oversight power of the Peruvian International Cooperation Agency (Agencia Peruana de Cooperación Internacional – APCI), so that this institution might exercise more control over NGOs, by reducing their autonomy and freedom of action. In this context, it is worth recalling that on September 3, 2008, Mr. Carlos Pando, the Head of APCI, declared it necessary to carry out a new "integrated" audit8 of the Legal Defence Institute (Instituto de Defensa Legal – IDL), a human rights organisation working especially on impunity and corruption, even though the APCI audited the IDL twice in 2007, with good results. This reflects the constant harassment on the part of the APCI. After its powers were increased, the agency has indeed become a tool for persecution and harassment in the context of the significant above-mentioned media campaign against organisations like the IDL. It should be highlighted that the situation of human rights defenders was also affected throughout 2008 by the inefficient protection programme the State provides for witnesses, victims and defenders, as well as by the lack of State protection for persons who benefit from provisional measures of protection granted by Co IDH.9

Reprisals against defenders of the environment and of communities affected by exploitation projects of big extraction companies

The year 2008 provided a generally adverse context for human rights defenders and organisations working in favour of the protection of the environment. According to the CNDDHH, 44 cases of harassment against defenders of the environment were recorded in 2008.10 Besides, some newspapers supporting Mr. Fujimori and his advisor Mr. Vladimiro Montesinos continued their campaign trying to discredit and defame several human rights NGOs and organisations working on environment protection.

Reprisals continued in 2008 against defenders who opposed private extraction projects that affect the environment as well as local communities of farmers and indigenous peoples. The Government stamped these persons as terrorists and troublemakers, and a stigmatisation campaign was launched against them.11 On February 25, 2008, a discrediting campaign was launched against the priest Marco Arana, leader of the Training and Intervention Group for Sustainable Development (Grupo de Formación y Intervención para el Desarrollo Sostenible – GRUFIDES) and a mediator between the Government and mining companies, in which he was accused of resisting development and called an "anti-miner" and a "terrorist".12 Also, on March 24, 2008, a complaint was filed against 24 leaders and mayors who organised a local referendum near the mining company Río Blanco Copper SA, in the Sugunda and Cajas community in the Ayabaca province. The complaint for "terrorism and other crimes" was filed by the Civil Association Unity Front of the Peasant Community of Segunda and Cajas (Asociación Civil Frente de Unidad de la Comunidad Campesina de Segunda y Cajas), an organisation that supports the mining industry and was previously sanctioned for actions against local farmer communities and environmental damages. As of the end of 2008, the charges remained pending against the 24 defenders. In connection with the protests in the "Selva", the priest Francisco Muguir, Vicar of Jaén, was accused on August 20, 2008 on the web page of the national police of inciting protest in the Amazon through the regional Catholic radio station Radio Maratón. Subsequent to several reactions in favour of the priest, the accusations were withdrawn.13

Furthermore, some NGOs that had supported indigenous communities opposed to the "Forest Law" were also victims of harassment. In this climate of hostility towards NGOs, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Ismael Benavides, referred to NGOs as "the vultures of the 21st century" in an interview with RPP Noticias on August 21, 2008. He accused them of wanting to keep indigenous communities in poverty in order to "receive more international funding". On August 28, 2008, Messrs. Humberto Paredes Vargas, Regional Coordinator of the "Selva Central del Bloque Amazónico", Francisco Solano Cantoral Huamani, Secretary of the Chanchamayo Defence Front (Frente de Defensa de Chanchamayo), and Fredy Palomino Ñahuero, President of the Civic Front of Defence and Development of Farmers and Native Communities of Pichanaki (Frente Civico de Defensa y Desarrollo de los Agricultores y Comunidades Nativas de Pichanaki), were accused along with eight other persons of "threatening national heritage, security and law and order". In addition, a warrant for arrest was issued against them. At the end of 2008, the judicial proceedings against them remained pending, although they were free, with an obligation to appear in court (condición de comparecencia). This followed the demonstration organised by the Pichanaki Defence Front (Frente de Defensa de Pichanaki) on March 17, 2008 in the Pichanaki district in the Junín department, Chanchamayo province, against the "Forest Law". The demonstration led to a confrontation between protesters and police, and several persons sustained gunshot wounds. Likewise, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Forest (Asociación Inter-étnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana – AIDESEP) was also subjected to harassment on two occasions in 2008. On August 18, unidentified persons attacked the association's premises and stole 10,000 soles and on September 2, three APCI officials came to audit the organisation, due only to its actions against the "Forest Law". The ACPI investigation showed that everything was in order. As for the investigation of the robbery, the case had not been solved as of the end of 2008.

Urgent Interventions issued by The Observatory in 200814

Names of human rights defenders / NGOsViolationsIntervention ReferenceDate of Issuance
Messrs. Javier Jahncke Benavente, Juan Aste Daffós, Nicanor Alvarado, Carlos Martínez Solano, Humberto Marchena, Euler Jave Díaz, Práxedes Llagsahuanca, Fidel Torres Guevara, Edward Gómez Paredes, Quique Rodríguez Rodríguez, Wilson Ibáñez Ibáñez, Servando Aponte Guerrero, Cenesio Jiménez Peña, Alfonso Meléndez Clemente, Eusebio Guerrero, Alfonso Huayama Guerrero, Pascual Rosales, Edilberto Neyra Alberca, Mario Tabra, Manuel Campos Ojeda, Edgardo Adrianzén Ojeda, Miguel Palacín Quispe, Ms. Julia Cuadros Falla and Ms. Deyber Flóres CalleJudicial proceedingsPress ReleaseApril 3, 2008
Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH) and Dr. Francisco SoberónDefamation campaignOpen Letter to the authoritiesApril 30, 2008
Joint Open Letter to the authoritiesMay 6, 2008
NGOsDefamation campaignPress ReleaseAugust 26, 2008
Legal Defence Institute (IDL)HarassmentPress ReleaseSeptember 8, 2008
Messrs. Humberto Paredes Vargas, Francisco Solano Cantoral Huamani and Fredy Palomino ÑahueroArbitrary detention / AccusationsUrgent Appeal PER 001/0908/ OBS 156September 24, 2008
Mr. Avelino GuillénThreats / Harassment / Fear for safetyUrgent Appeal PER 002/1208/ OBS 213December 16, 2008

1 On November 12, 2008, the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDDHH) presented Prime Minister Yehude Simon with a Bill for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders that would provide them with a legal framework for the protection they would enjoy while exercising their activities.

2 See CNDDHH, Informe Anual 2008, El Difícil Camino Hacia la Ciudadanía, March 2009.

3 Through Law No. 29157, the Congress of Republic granted the executive branch the authority to issue legislatives decrees. In this context, the executive branch promulgated Legislative Decrees No. 1015, 1073 and 1079, which stimulated private investment in land belonging to indigenous and farmer communities, and enabled the communities to decide to sell the land with a 50 per cent plus one approval, rather than requiring their general assemblies to agree (by two thirds in Peru's forest and mountain regions). The decrees, which called into question the rights of indigenous peoples, e.g. those protected under the ILO Convention No. 169, by which Governments are obliged to consult interested indigenous peoples, were revoked by the Plenary Session of Peruvian Congress on August 22, 2008.

4 At the end of 2008, Mr. Fujimori was being prosecuted for his alleged responsibility in the extrajudicial execution of 15 persons in Lima's Barrios Altos district in November 1991, as well as in the enforced disappearance and death of nine students and one teacher from La Cantuta University in July 1992.

5 See Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Peru, United Nations Document A/HRC/8/37, May 28, 2008. The Peruvian National Human Rights Council consists of 67 associations and NGOs, including the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the CNDDHH.

6 See CNDDHH, Informe Anual 2008, El Difícil Camino Hacia la Ciudadanía, March 2009. In 2008, the CNDDHH recorded 73 cases of incidents against defenders. In 2007, it had recorded 53 cases. This represents a 30 % increase in only one year.

7 See APRODEH.

8 This is a difficult and onerous process for an organisation. The APCI normally selects certain NGOs to be controlled each year, but the IDL was picked three times in only two years.

9 See CNDDHH, Informe sobre Derechos Humanos en el Perú – Examen Periódico Universal, May 2008.

10 See CNDDHH, Informe Anual 2008, El Difícil Camino Hacia la Ciudadanía, March 2009.

11 See Association for Life and Human Dignity (Asociación por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana – APORVIDHA).

12 See APRODEH and the Centre for Studies and Action for Peace (Centro de Estudios y Acción para la Paz – CEAPAZ).

13 See APRODEH and CEAPAZ.

14 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-Rom attached to this report.

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