Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Peru

Political context

In 2007, although some progress was made in the judicial proceedings against military personnel responsible for exactions committed (in particular extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances) during the conflict between the Shining Path Movement and the Peruvian army from 1980 to 2000, President Alan García's Government continues to display a lack of political will to fight against the impunity enjoyed by the authors of such crimes. This was reflected, among others, in the inadequacy of resources allocated to the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor's office, which led to the ineffectiveness of the protection measures provided for the representatives of justice, the victims, the witnesses of exactions, and their families. Impunity thus remains the rule, and enquiries have often been thwarted by the lack of cooperation on the part of the military.

It should however be stressed that the efforts of the Peruvian prosecutors to bring to justice in Peru former President Alberto Fujimori, who was arrested in Chile in November 2005, finally met with success in September 2007, when the Supreme Court of Chile authorised Mr. Fujimori's extradition. The latter is in particular charged in connection with his supposed responsibility in the extrajudicial killing of 15 persons in the Barrios Altos district of Lima in November 1991,1 and in the enforced disappearance and the murder of nine students and a faculty member in the La Cantuta University in July 1992.2 Mr. Fujimori's extradition and the opening of his trial at the end of the year was seen as being highly symbolic of the prospect of success in the fight against impunity, and the establishment of the rule of law and democracy in Peru.

Since Mr. Alan García's election to the Presidency of Peru on June 5, 2006, the Government has made four attempts to reintroduce the death penalty, which was abolished in 1979. In January 2007, Parliament rejected one of the proposals, which was to reintroduce the death penalty for terrorist crimes. Three other projects, one of which concerns persons guilty of having assassinated or raped a minor, were still under discussion in Parliament at the end of 2007.

Furthermore, on July 22, 2007, the President promulgated several decrees (including Decrees n° 982, 983, 988, 989) formalising the criminalisation of social protest, including peaceful demonstrations.

Law 28925: obstacles to freedom of association remain, despite some provisions having been declared unconstitutional

On August 29, 2007, the Lima Constitutional Court ruled that the provisions of Law 28925, modifying Law 27692 establishing the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (Agencia Peruana de Cooperación Internacional – APCI), a decentralised body supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were unconstitutional. The provisions concern the obligation to register international funding of private origin, the penalty for NGOs guilty of "breach of peace, and attacking private or public property" to be struck off the register, and the prohibition for the executives of these organisations to carry out functions related to the implementation of international cooperation projects. Law 28925 had been published in the official journal on December 8, 2006. Law 28875, passed on August 15, 2006, had already paved the way for increased State interference in the affairs and aims of NGOs.3

Assassinations and threats against journalists fighting corruption

In 2007, journalists daring to denounce corruption on the part of the authorities and the police paid the price of their commitment.

Such was the case of Mr. Miguel Pérez Julca, a journalist with Radio Éxitos, assassinated on March 16, 2007 in Jaén (Cajamarca province), after he had declared, during one of his broadcasts, that he was going to disclose the names of Jaén police officers who had ties with drug traffickers and who protected criminals. On September 10, 2007, Mr. Julio César Mendoza Escobar, a journalist with Radio Candela, in Yurimaguas, also received threats and an attempt was made on his life after he had denounced acts of embezzlement involving municipal personnel, including the Mayor of Alto Amazonas.

Reprisals against defenders fighting impunity

This year again, lawyers and human rights organisations fighting the impunity enjoyed by authors of the massacres committed during the 1980-2000 conflict were subjected to numerous acts of harassment and smear campaigns. On March 10, 2007, the lawyers belonging to the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDDHH) were qualified as "communists disguised as lawyers", "fools manipulated by senderism" and "recycled communists" by Mr. Jorge del Castillo, Head of the Government and Chairman of the Special High Level Commission for the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In addition, several defenders received death threats owing to their search for justice and truth, such as Ms. Iscra Chávez Loaiza and Ms. Evelyn Zevallos Enriquez, respectively Chairperson and lawyer member of the Association for Life and Human Dignity (Asociación por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana – APORVIDHA), in the region of Cusco, who received death threats on March 29, 2007.4 Likewise, on December 10, 2007, the lawyers and families of the victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres were verbally attacked while they were preparing to attend the first day of the trial of former President Fujimori, charged with human rights violations. The aggressors were reportedly following instructions given to them by a former colonel of the Peruvian army. Furthermore, on December 18, 2007, the Association for Human Rights (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos – APRODEH) received a phone call in which Ms. Gloria Cano, a lawyer representing the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta victims, and members of APRODEH were threatened with death.

Acts of harassment against defenders of the rights of communities affected by mining and forestry exploitation projects

In Peru, the members and leaders of indigenous communities regularly confront mining companies on their territory, their main complaint being the harmful effect of mining operations on the environment and their way of life. In return, those leaders and others who defend their rights are subjected to acts of reprisal. On December 14, 2007, for instance, the Baños del Inca Court condemned Mr. Neptalí Quispe Sánchez, a lawyer specialising in defending peasant communities affected by mining operations and environmental leaders, to 30 months' imprisonment, a 30-month ban on the practice of his profession, and a deposit of 5,000 new sols for civil reparation, for "fraud" and "falsification". On March 15, 2007, Mr. Javier Rodolfo Jahncke Benavente, a member of the Muqui Network (Red Muqui), a coalition of 19 organisations defending the rights of rural and indigenous communities affected by mining projects, received death threats. Lastly, certain members of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Forest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana – AIDESEP) also received threats following their action against the depredations of the Amazonian forest. Thus, Mr. Robert Guimaraes Vásquez, Vice-President of AIDESEP, received death threats on several occasions, of which logging companies are thought to be the instigators.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 On November 3, 1991, fifteen people lost their lives and four others were wounded following the incursion into the Barrios Altos suburb of Lima of a paramilitary squad identified as being the Colina group, composed of members of the Peruvian armed forces. The massacre is symbolic of the human rights violations committed during Fujimori's presidency.

2 On July 18, 1992, a professor and nine students belonging to the Lima National University, known as "La Cantuta", were the victims of forced disappearance after abduction, committed by a paramilitary group. The incident became notorious for the impunity enjoyed by the authors, and for having been an argument in favour of Mr. Alberto Fujimori's extradition from Japan in 2003.

3 For further information, see Observatory Annual Report 2006.

4 APORVIDHA is in particular investigating the assassination in 1984 of 34 peasants in Lucmahuayco, the authors of which are said to belong to the army.


This 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.