Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Peru

Assassinations of human rights defenders

Assassination of Mr. Hernán Aturno Vergara204

On July 19, 2006, Mr. Hernán Aturno Vergara, a member of the office of the Public Prosecutor and a magistrate in charge of inquiries into the drug trafficking of the "Tijuana Cartel" in the country, was shot dead with two bullets by contract killers hired by drug traffickers, in a restaurant near the Courthouse of Lima.

Assassination of Mr. Edmundo Becerra Palomino205

On November 1, 2006, Mr. Edmundo Becerra Palomino, a member of the farmers' organisation Rondas Campesinas and secretary of the Protection of the Environment Front (Frente de Defensa del Medio Ambiente) in Yanacanchilla, was shot dead at point range in his barn.

He was supposed to travel to Lima the next day to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Mines to voice his concerns about the exploitation project of the hill of San Cirilo by the Yanacocha mining company of Yanacanchilla.

The murderers were reported to have used weapons similar to those provided in August 2006 to the "Forza" security company, employed by Yanacocha.

Mr. Becerra Palomino had previously been threatened with death. On March 5, 2005 for instance, he was hit and threatened to be killed by three individuals due to his activities against the Yanacocha company. On December 23, 2005, he had once again received threats.

Mr. Edmundo Becerra Palomino had filed a complaint with the Chanta Alta police station, in vain.

On August 10, 2006, Mr. Edmundo Becerra Palomino had also been shot at while accompanying users of the Munshuyuc-Palo Blanco canal and a civil engineer, who were about to take a topographic sample prior to an authorisation request to use the water of the irrigation sector of Cajamarc.

Defamation campaigns against several organisations

Defamation campaigns against NGOs206

On January 19, 2006, Mr. Robinson González Campos, a member of the Supreme Court and president of the Academy of Magistrates, stated in the national newspaper El Expreso that the real interests of human rights defenders were "by nature economic and political" and that they "[did] not defend human rights but rather [...] their financial interests as well as their political and demagogic goals".

On January 20, 2006, the president of the Congress' Finance Commission, Mr. Javier Velásquez Quesquén, stated to the same newspaper that "NGOs defend their own interests rather than human rights", adding that they "[assumed] a legitimacy that the people has not granted them and [claimed] to subject the public authorities to their purposes in order to justify the funds they receive and to fill their pockets". He also said that "the time [had] come to put them back in their place and to put an end to their arrogance".

On that same day, the president of the Congress' Defence Commission, Mr. Luis Ibérico Núñez, asserted, during an interview given to the same newspaper, that NGOs "cannot claim to defend solely the rights of victims of violence and leave aside the soldiers and police officers who fight terrorist delinquents".

On January 25, 2006, the second vice-president of Congress, Mr. Gilberto Díaz, stated in an interview with El Expreso that "NGOs have turned into a power of darkness [that] aspires to work in the place of the political parties to control the country".

Defamation campaign against CEDAL207

On April 12, 2006, the executive director of the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (Agencia Peruana de Cooperación Internacional – APCI), Mr. Oscar Sciappa-Pietra, threatened to request the office of the Public Prosecutor to issue a court order to disband the Labour Advice Centre (Centro de Asesoría Laboral – CEDAL), by resorting to Article 96 of the Civil Code, which provides that "the Public Prosecutor may request the dissolution of an association by court order if its activities or objectives are proved to be contrary to public order or moral standards". According to the same article, "the judge may, at any stage in the proceedings, order preventive measures to suspend in whole or in part the activities of an association".

These threats followed a press conference broadcast on television earlier that day. On that occasion, members of the CEDAL human rights programme, the Health Forum and the Peruvian Episcopal Commission for Social Action highlighted the negative impact on human rights of the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Peru, signed that same day. Since then, the authorities have conducted a real "witch hunt" aimed at discrediting social organisations and NGOs that have expressed their concerns over this issue.

For instance, APCI and Congress officials publicly accused CEDAL and the Health Forum of embezzling funds from the international cooperation for development in favour of the anti-Free Trade Agreement campaign, accusation which CEDAL has vigorously denied.

Threats, acts of harassment and assault against human right defenders

Death threats and acts of harassment against APORVIDHA members208

On January 3, 2006, Ms. Iscra Chávez Loaiza, director of the Association for Human Life and Dignity (Asociación por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana – APORVIDHA), received phone calls threatening her and her children with death.

On January 4, 2006, the organisation received an insulting and intimidating message targeting two members of the organisation, Mr. Freddy Rodríguez Olivera and Ms. Evelyn Zevallos Enriquez, both lawyers.

APORVIDHA notably works on the killing of 34 farmers in Lucmahuayco in 1984, which may have been carried out by members of the 44th Command of the former police force serving in the province of La Convención, in Cuzco district. Members of the Peruvian army stationed in the province of Andahuaylas in Apurímac district might also have been involved.

Threats against the Peruvian section of Amnesty International209

On January 18, 2006, the Peruvian section of Amnesty International reported that one of its leaders had received six anonymous telephone calls during the last week of December 2005 and the first week of January 2006.

Assault on Ms. Cristina del Pilar Olazábal210

On February 2, 2006, Ms. Cristina del Pilar Olazábal, Prosecutor in charge of human right violations committed between 1980 and 2000 in the Ayacucho district, which were uncovered by the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y la Reconciliación – CVR), was attacked in the vicinity of the Los Cabitos military barracks, in Huamanga, Ayacucho.

Following this assault, she filed a request for protective measures with the authorities, which had still not been granted as of the end of 2006.

In addition, Ms. Olazábal was remoted to the position of deputy Prosecutor on a decision of the Attorney General on November 2, 2006, and was replaced by Dr. Andrés Avelino Cáceres Ortega, close to the ruling party Aprista – American Revolutionary Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana – APRA).

In 2005, Ms. Cristina del Pilar Olazábal had already been the subject of threats and harsh criticism from representatives of Aprista, following a complaint for genocide and assassination involving party leaders and the former Peruvian President, Mr. Alan García, as well as other members of the military, in connection with the Accomarca massacre, in the Ayacucho district, on August 14, 1985.

By the end of 2006, the complaint lodged against Ms. Olazábal, Mr. Francisco Soberón, a member of the Human Rights Association (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos – APRODEH) and executive secretary of the National Coordination for Human Rights (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDDHH), and Ms. Gloria Cano, a lawyer and head of the APRODEH legal department, by Mr. Fernando Olivera, former Justice Minister, and Mr. Julio Quintanilla, Prosecutor in another case involving Mr. Alan García in connection with the El Frontón massacre in 1986, had still not been examined. Ms. Olazábal, Mr. Francisco Soberón and Ms. Gloria Cano were accused of "illegal association seeking to break the law" and of being part of a conspiracy to prevent the candidacy of former President Mr. Alan García to the 2006 presidential elections.

The complaints lodged by Ms. Olazábal with the office of the Prosecutor of the Ica department and by Mr. Soberón and Ms. Cano with the office of the Prosecutor of Lima, following the threats received in 2005, were not investigated either.

Death threats against Mr. Roberto C. Parra and Mr. Iván Rivasplata Caballero211

Forensic doctors specialising in exhumations in the framework of investigation into cases of human rights violations were also subjected to acts of harassment. On January 26, 2006 for instance, Mr. Roberto C. Parra, coordinator of the forensic team of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, received two death threat messages advising him to "be cautious".

In March 2006, Mr. Iván Rivasplata Caballero, a member of the roaving forensic team specialised in human rights violations, also received threats in a note posted on the ww.equipoforense.blogspot.com website.

Threats against Mr. Alejandro Arturo Silva Reina212

On March 30, 2006, Mr. Alejandro Arturo Silva Reina, executive secretary of the National Coordination for Human Rights (CNDDH), received two threatening phone calls.

On November 3, 2005, the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fundación Ecuménica para el Desarrollo y la Paz – FEDEPAZ), a CNDDH member organisation, had received an anonymous phone call threatening several people, including Mr. Alejandro Silva, if he did not stop making statements to the media. These events followed a presentation on October 17, 2005, in Washington (United States), of a CNDDH report on the existing threats against human rights defenders, witnesses, victims and their relatives, as well as Peruvian judges and prosecutors, due to their inquiries into crimes and human rights violations committed in Peru during the past two decades.

Death threats against GRUFIDES members213

On August 3, 2006, Father Marco Arana, a member of the Training and Intervention Group for Sustainable Development (Grupo de Formación e Intervención para el Desarrollo Sostenible – GRUFIDES214), laureate of the 2005 National Human Rights Award and a mediator between the government and mining companies215, received phone calls insulting him and threatening him with death. These calls occurred following violent riots against the expansion project of the Minera Yanacocha mining company216.

On August 31, 2006, Ms. Mirtha Vásquez Chuquilin, GRUFIDES director, received an anonymous phone call stating: "we will rape you and then kill you". On the same day, hundreds of employees of the Minera Yanacocha company mobilised against GRUFIDES, and shouted verbal abuse and threats, on the order of the company.

Since December 3, 2006, GRUFIDES members have been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by unidentified individuals photographing or filming them, noting the time employees arrive and leave the offices, etc.

On September 20, 2006, GRUFIDES informed the Vice-Minister of the Interior, the police, the Cajamarca municipality, as well as the Ombudsman, of these acts. No investigation had been opened as of the end of 2006.

On September 27, 2006, the niece of Father Marco Arana received a telephone call stating that her uncle would get a "bullet in his head" if he did not put an end to his activities.

In late December 2006, Father Marco Arana was accused in Correo de Lima, a regional newspaper, as well as on radio and television, of having encouraged social conflicts in Celedín, where the Minera Yanacocha company has new projects. However, he had gone to Celedín to attend a workshop of the Muqui Network, a national network of human rights and environmental NGOs, and a meeting organised by the Celedín Association of Health Promoters (Asociación de Promotores de Salud de Celedín) relating to the environmental impacts and the protection of the rights of the communities affected by the mining company. During this workshop, three individuals barged into the room and filmed them. One of them was identified as an engineer for the Minera Yanacocha company. These men then gave false information to the local press, which is closely linked to the mining company.

On November 14, 2006, GRUFIDES members managed to stop and hand in to the local authorities of Cajamarca two of the men who had filmed and photographed them during the Celedín workshop. Both were members of the firm in charge of Minera Yanacocha's security.

As of the end of 2006, no further information had been made available regarding the arrest of these two men.

Moreover, no inquiry was initiated into the threats received by Father Marco Arana and the complaints lodged with the local and national authorities had not been examined.

Acts of harassment against DEMUS217

After the NGO Study for the Defence and the Rights of Women (Estudio para la Defensa y los Derechos de la Mujer – DEMUS) asked for registration with the APCI, the National Council for Human Rights told the organisation that DEMUS had to fall into line with the National Plan for Human Rights of December 2005 before its request could be acknowledged, thereby indicating that it disagreed with DEMUS campaign for the legalisation of abortion. By the end of 2006, following a campaign denouncing these difficulties, DEMUS was finally granted registration with APCI.

Obstacles to freedom of expression218

On December 8, 2006, the Law (25/2006-PE) amending Law No. 27692 on the creation of the Peruvian Agency of International Cooperation (APCI) – a decentralised agency operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – was published in the official gazette El Peruano. The bill had been adopted at first reading on October 26, 2006, and at second reading by the Congress on November 2, 2006.

This Law could seriously undermine the work of human rights organisations, by creating more obstacles to fundraising. Indeed, in order to raise funds, NGOs shall first register with the ACPI. Moreover, any cooperation contract shall comply with the regulations on technical cooperation, which have to be harmonised with the development and "general interest" national policy. This allows for an increased interference of the State with the activities of civil society organisations.

In addition, the new Law grants APCI wide discretionary powers since it is entitled to impose sanctions against NGOs carrying out activities considered to "disrupt public order, or to infringe private or public property" (demonstrations, sit-ins, forums, for example). According to this Law, the central government would thus be able to prohibit organisations from challenging its policies.

This Law reinforces the provisions of Law No. 28875 of August 15, 2006 establishing the Decentralised National System of International Non Reimbursable Cooperation (Sistema Nacional Descentralizado de Cooperación Internacional No Reembolsable – SINDCINR), which already enabled an increased interference in NGOs internal affairs and objectives, by defining APCI's supervision role in the programmes, projects and activities of all private and public actors concerned.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

204. See International Fact-Finding Mission Report, Perú: Una situación preocupante para los defensores de derechos humanos, December 2006.

205. See Urgent Appeal PER 003/1106/OBS 132.

206. See Press Release, January 26, 2006.

207. See Press Release, May 5, 2006.

208. See Urgent Appeal PER 001/0106/OBS 003.

209. See International Fact-Finding Mission Report, Perú: Una situación preocupante para los defensores de derechos humanos, December 2006.

210. See Annual Report 2005 and International Fact-Finding Mission Report mentioned above.

211. See International Fact-Finding Mission Report mentioned above.

212. See Annual Report 2005 and International Fact-Finding Mission Report mentioned above.

213. See Urgent Appeal PER 004/1106/OBS 137.

214. GRUFIDES is an organisation for the protection of the environment which sets up training programmes and legal advice to the rural communities of the Cajamarca province.

215. This mediation falls within the scope of negotiations seeking to establish detailed rules to regulate mining activities, in particular relating to their consequences on the environment.

216. The riots occurred during a demonstration in protest of the construction of a dock near the People's Centre of Combayo, Cajamarca. The expansion of operations of the Yanacocha mining company in the framework of this project sparked opposition from farmers of the Combayo area because of the harmful consequences caused by the mining business on the environment and the unsatisfactory prospect of participation to social and economic benefits of the company.

217. See International Fact-finding Mission Report mentioned above.

218. See Open Letter to the Peruvian authorities, November 1, 2006, and International Fact-Finding Mission Report mentioned above.


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