United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Peru, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b52c.html [accessed 22 October 2017]
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A marked drop in violence, and the efforts of individual communities, the Catholic Church, NGOs, and the government, continued to encourage the return of internally displaced persons to their homes in 1996. Limited assistance and uncertainty about the future discouraged others from going home, however. USCR and local NGOs thought that as many as 30 percent of all of the displaced may have returned home, leaving some 420,000 persons still internally displaced. In the state of Ayacucho, where most displaced persons originated, the government estimated that 7,380 families (20 percent of the total displaced) had returned to their homes. Background A fourteen-year war between the government and leftist rebels began to fade in 1992. That year, the Peruvian military captured one of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path's top leaders, and was able, with the help of armed peasant self-defense groups, to drive the rebels out of Peru's central and southern highlands. The Shining Path remained a threat only in Peru's Amazon jungle area. During the 1980s and early l990s, an estimated 600,000 Peruvians had been internally displaced, most from rural areas. In June 1996, USCR published a report, Go Home/Stay Put: Tough Options for Displaced Peruvians, which said that as many as 120,000 displaced persons had returned home by the end of 1995, and that many of those who had not returned planned to remain in their new homes. The report noted, however, that "whichever option they chose, displaced persons were still ending up in the same grinding poverty and misery in which they lived before and during their displacement.... In all the displaced and returnee communities USCR visited, we were astounded by the level of displaced persons' and returnees' poverty." The government-funded Project to Assist the Repopulation continued to assist communities returning in four departments: Ayacucho, Apur'mac, Huancavelica, and Jun'n. However, most returnee communities faced considerable hardship. Aid to rebuild their homes and replant crops remained scarce. As importantly, returnee communities confronted fractured relations both among families and between neighboring communities. An estimated 61,000 male peasants belonged to so-called civil defense committees, or peasant patrols, that were responsible for detecting guerrilla movements and being the first line of defense for returnee communities. A government decree implemented in 1996 allowed men to substitute 18 months of service in the patrols for Peru's obligatory military service. The administration of President Alberto Fujimori implemented laws to protect displaced people, including a decree allowing individuals who had lost or had their identity documents destroyed to obtain new ones. However, the government did not take any concrete steps to protect displaced people who had been forced to aid guerrillas and who were wanted by the authorities. Returnees also still feared being accused of political crimes upon their return home by Peru's faceless civilian and military courts, which have been condemned by international and national human rights groups as unjust and especially hard on poor, rural Peruvians, who often lack adequate legal representation. The mandate of these courts was extended through 1996. According to some human rights groups, there were hundreds of individuals incorrectly accused of terrorism or treason in Peru's jails. Emergency measures implemented to give the security forces broader powers to arrest and interrogate persons suspected of aiding the rebels remained in effect in Lima and several jungle provinces. Analysts agreed that Peru's two guerrilla insurgencies, the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), posed less of a threat than in years past. However, the Shining Path continued to target political opponents for murder. The National Coordinating Committee for Human Rights recorded 124 selective assassinations by the Shining Path in 1996. Among them were local leaders in areas where returnees and displaced families live. Leaders in both Purus and Uchuraccay, newly reconstructed communities, reported threats from the guerrillas. In December, the MRTA took dozens of government officials and diplomats hostage in the Japanese embassy in Lima.