U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Peru
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Peru, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa650.html [accessed 26 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
PERUPeru is a multiparty republic with a dominant executive branch. Under provisions of a Constitution enacted in 1993, President Alberto Fujimori was reelected to a second 5-year term in 1995, at which time his party also won a controlling majority in Congress. The Constitution also created several new judicial institutions, including a Constitutional Tribunal, designed to enhance the independence of the judiciary. However, the independence of both the legislative and judicial branches was brought into question when the congressional majority, faced with the constitutional provision limiting presidents to no more than two consecutive terms in office, passed an interpretive law that would permit President Fujimori to run for a third consecutive term. The administration's attempt to maintain its hold on power created a constitutional crisis. Congress removed three members of the Constitutional Tribunal who had voted against the interpretation allowing a third term, the Tribunal stopped functioning to its fullest capacity, and Congress had not replaced the ousted judges by year's end. The police and military share the responsibility for internal security. Since 1980 the security forces have directed most of their efforts against the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) terrorist groups. Although the threat posed by these groups continued to decline in overall terms, the MRTA's takeover of the Japanese Ambassador's residence from December 17, 1996, to April 22 demonstrated that it remained a real, albeit diminished, threat. Within the emergency zones, which cover 16 percent of the country, certain constitutional protections are suspended and the military is in charge. In the rest of the country, the civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. Nevertheless, the military and the police were responsible for serious human rights abuses. The Government has implemented major economic reforms, transforming the economy from one based on heavy regulation to a market-oriented one. The Government has eliminated controls on capital flows, prices, and trade. It has privatized most state enterprises and plans to sell those that remain by the end of 1999. The inflation rate has dropped into single digits, and growth and foreign investment have soared. Per capita gross domestic product is estimated at $2,000. Major exports include copper as well as other minerals, fishmeal, and textiles. Illegal exports of processed coca are thought to have earned about $600 to $800 million annually in past years. The unemployment rate in Lima is estimated at 8 percent, but the national rate of underemployment is about 40 percent. More than half of the economically active population work in the informal sector of the economy, which largely functions beyond government supervision and taxation. The poor comprise 45 percent of the population, and slightly less than 20 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. Although egregious abuses of human rights continued to decline, serious problems emerged in several areas. Security forces were responsible for torture and beatings. The officers found responsible for torturing army intelligence officer Leonor La Rosa were sentenced to prison terms. Although overall prison conditions remained extremely harsh, significant progress was made with the adoption of a more liberal prison regime covering inmates jailed for terrorism and treason. Arbitrary detention, absence of accountability, lack of due process, persistent lengthy trial delays, and prolonged pretrial detention remained problems. The judicial system is inefficient and subject to executive influence. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights; the disclosure of a reported secret government intelligence program to monitor the telephones of a broad spectrum of government officials, opposition politicians, journalists, business executives, and entertainers led to severe public criticism. The Government infringed upon press freedom; journalists accused the security forces of harassment and intimidation; and the Government revoked the citizenship of the foreign-born owner of a major television station after the station broadcast negative stories about the regime. The authorities often hindered the operations of human rights monitors. Violence and discrimination against women, violence against children, and discrimination against the disabled, indigenous people, and racial minorities remained problems. Child labor, including forced child labor, is also a problem. The office of Defender of the People, or Human Rights Ombudsman, increasingly gained the public's respect and confidence. The ad hoc Pardons Commission, whose work was interrupted by the MRTA hostage crisis, continued to recommend presidential pardons for individuals unjustly jailed for terrorism and treason. During the year, it won the release of an additional 250 detainees, bringing the total of those pardoned and released to 360. In response to the decreased terrorist threat, the Government abolished on October 15 both the civilian and military faceless tribunals, which had been responsible for many judicial abuses. Treason trials in the military courts continued as before, but with clearly identifiable judges; terrorism trials in the civilian jurisdiction were suspended, pending establishment of a new system of specialized terrorism courts. Sendero Luminoso and MRTA terrorists continued to commit the great majority of killings and other egregious human rights abuses. Sendero Luminoso practiced torture and other forms of brutality, disrupted the home and family life of many citizens, and violated the rights of indigenous people.