REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN PERU
A. The general context
1. The Republic of Peru has today a population of 24 million, one third of whom live in the Lima metropolitan area. Peru has been experiencing extreme political violence, to which the drug producers and traffickers are important contributors, Peru being the world's leading producer of coca, the raw material from which cocaine is made.
2. In 1968, a military coup toppled the democratic government of Fernando Belaúnde Terry, leader of the Acción Popular party. Congress was dissolved and the economic and social reforms instituted gave the State a much larger role in such areas as expansion of the agrarian reform, reform of the industrial property system, nationalization of businesses that produce the principal natural resources, nationalization of the banking system and expropriation of the daily press. Following a series of changes, the military government convened a Constitutional Convention that was held in 1978 and that culminated with adoption of the 1979 Constitution. The Constitutional Convention called general elections for 1980. The winner was Fernando Belaúnde Terry, who, after serving his term in office, was succeeded by Alan García Pérez, the leader of APRA. On July 28, 1990, Alberto Fujimori, the winner of the 1990 elections, was sworn in as President.
3. Ironically, the present cycle of armed political violence in Peru began with the elections held to reinstate democratic institutions. On May 9, 1980, a group affiliated with the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP) -also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shinning Path)- took over the voter registration office in Chuschi, a town in the department of Ayacucho, where it burned the voter records. The group launched its activities under the slogan "Elections no; People's war yes". The goal was complete destruction of the "old State" to build the "new State", inspired by the philosophy of Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse Tung, tailored to Peru's circumstances. Its leader and principal ideologue, Professor Abimael Guzmán, was known by his followers as President Gonzalo. He was arrested in Lima on September 12, 1992, together with other members of the PCP-SL's Central Committee.
4. The activities of the PCP-SL were dismissed as relatively unimportant at the outset. Later, however, the armed forces and the police began to regard categorize those activities as antisubversive. According to reports received, the following is said to be the number of activities and the number of deaths caused by the group in the period between 1980 and 1990: In metropolitan Lima, 2,705 actions and 883 deaths; in the departments surrounding Lima, 8,190 actions and 5,490 deaths; in other departments, 9,565 actions and 12,624 deaths. In other words, it has conducted a total of 20,465 actions, leaving 18,997 dead (McCormick, Rand, page 22). An official PCP-SL document recounting its ten years of armed violence, reckons 121,455 actions nationwide.
5. The tactics employed in the activities attributed to the PCP-SL or for which it has claimed responsibility, have caused enormous suffering and damage, even among the civilian population uninvolved in the conflict. Very destructive explosive devices have been detonated. Union leaders, politicians and leaders of grassroots organizations, most of them associated with the most disadvantaged sectors of Peruvian society, have been targeted for assassination. Young people and even children have been recruited by force and persons whose activities are considered to be contrary to the party's plans have been tried, summarily executed or mutilated. Catholic priests engaged in religious and social work have also been victimized. According to studies conducted, the methods used are calculated to hurt not only the individuals against whom they are targeted, but also to create within the people the kind of terror that will discourage any active opposition to the PCP-SL's political ends.
6. In 1984, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) began to engage in armed violence. Its target is the democratic system, which it considers contrary to the interests of the masses. It believes the masses are being exploited by a system that serves the interests of "American imperialism". The MRTA traces its roots to disaffected members of leftist Peruvian political parties which do participate in the system of representative democracy. The MRTA considers the PCP-SL to be a dogmatic group and says that it does not believe in the methods that the PCP-SL employs. The MRTA is said to be responsible for a number of armed actions and selective assassinations, especially of members of the security forces involved in violent actions against it. It has also been reported that the MRTA uses powerful explosives, though not to the extent to which the PCP-SL is said to use them. Recent information reports deep internal division within this group. Its leader, Víctor Alfredo Polay Campos, was arrested again in June.
7. According to recent information, the death toll from political violence in Peru between 1980 and July 1992 was 24,250 persons, of whom 2,044 were members of the security forces, 10,171 were civilians, 11,773 were suspected subversives, and 262 were allegedly connected with the drug traffic (PERUPAZ, July 1992). The Special Committee on Violence and Pacification of the Peruvian Senate places the cost of political violence to Peru down to December 1991 at about 20,000 million dollars.
8. Because of the armed conflict in Peru since 1980, much of Peruvian territory is now under a state of emergency, which is allowed under the National Constitution. The state of emergency suspends certain rights recognized in the Peruvian legal system and in the applicable international legal system, though it is not, in itself, incompatible with the provisions of Article 27 of the American Convention on Human Rights. However, with the armed conflict, armed forces and police forces charged with suppressing the activities of these armed irregular groups have resorted to methods that are themselves human rights violations. Those violations have been committed either directly or by paramilitary groups acting in concert with the armed forces and police forces or with their acquiescence. A case in point was the Rodrigo Franco Command, which summarily executed persons it believed had ties with subversive organizations.
9. The conduct of the State agents is in violation of the principles contained in the American Convention on Human Rights, an international instrument ratified by Peru on July 28, 1978. On January 21, 1981, Peru deposited the instrument whereby it recognized the competence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, pursuant to articles 45 and 62 of the Convention.
B. The Commission's activities
10. For some time now, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been closely monitoring the situation of human rights in Peru. As a result, the Commission adopted a number of reports on individual cases in 1988 (14 cases), 1989 (2 cases), in 1990 and 1991 (51 cases) which hold the State responsible for serious human rights violations. In 1990 and 1991, it decided to submit two cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: the case concerning the disappearance of the inmates in the El Frontón prison in 1986 (actions in which a total of around 250 inmates died in two prisons), and the case of the death of forty people as a result of the events that occurred in the village of Cayara, Ayacucho, in 1988. The Commission petitioned the Inter-American Court for adoption of precautionary measures to protect the personal safety of the wife of journalist Hugo Bustíos, whose death, attributed to security forces, resulted in a case filed the Commission. The request for precautionary measures also covered the witnesses in that case, who had been threatened.
11. Because of the many violations of human rights in Peru, the Commission visited that country from May 8 through 12, 1989, in response to an invitation from the Government. At the end of that visit, a press communique was issued (Appendix I). And as a result of that visit, two detailed communications were forwarded to the Government of Peru on September 29, 1989 (Appendix II) and May 23, 1990 (Appendix III). Those communications reported the Commission's findings based on what it had observed and made recommendations that, in the Commission's opinion, would correct some of the serious problems pointed out.
12. As for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' relations with the Government of Peru, one aspect discussed at length was the need for the Government to respond promptly to the Commission's requests for information, following the procedure stipulated in the American Convention on Human Rights and in the Commission's Regulations. This issue was addressed before, during and after the visit of the Special Commission that went to Peru in 1989. It was also raised in the communications of September 29, 1989 and May 23, 1990 (pages 1 and 2-3, respectively).
13. In a communication dated September 18, 1990 (Appendix IV), the Peruvian Government made reference to the complex work involved in investigating certain individual denunciations:
... the Government of Peru would like to remind the Commission of the enormous work involved in investigating the many complaints of human rights violations, and what it means for a developing country, gripped by economic crisis and terrorism.
In the case of disappearances, for example, it takes a long time to ascertain the true situation of individuals who are alleged to have disappeared. When the alleged disappearances involve Andean peasants who do not speak Spanish, who are not formally registered with any bureau of vital statistics, who have no known or permanent domicile, who do not have a military or voter identification card and who migrate in search of work or to escape the violence, the investigations are invariably slow. To complicate matters, most of the complaints are incomplete: the names are spelled incorrectly, the circumstances of the "disappearance" are vague, and the date and place of the "disappearance" imprecise.
Terrorist groups use every imaginable strategy to stop, thwart or discredit any countersubversive operation that the Armed Forces might conduct, and try to portray the Armed Forces as the only party guilty of massive human rights violations. To accomplish that objective -i.e., discredit, both nationally and internationally, the forces that use lawful means of repression-, terrorist groups frequently resort to a number of tactics: they use military uniforms to kidnap, murder and rob; they recruit individuals by force, who are then reported as "disappeared" at the hands of the Armed Forces; they invent "disappearances" of nonexistent persons in order to create a bottleneck in the investigations. Here, using different names, one person will report the "disappearance" of different people who never existed. Terrorists commit murders and then leave behind evidence that incriminates the Armed Forces.
Peruvian authorities are thus forced to use their valuable time and resources to investigate complaints that would not be admissible under domestic law, because they do not meet the minimum requirements stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, but that must be clarified because Peru respects international authorities and procedure, even though it believes that the admissibility conditions have become too broad. Though humanitarian considerations must be preeminent, this should not be to the detriment of the minimum juridical guarantees to which States charged with human rights violations are entitled.
14. On December 26, 1990, the Government of Peru sent an invitation for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit that country. As a result of that invitation, the Commission conducted a visit from October 28 through 31, 1991, which was preceded by a preparatory mission in early September 1991. During the course of the Commission's visit, an agreement was reached with the Government to cooperate more closely with the Commission to enable the latter to observe the implementation of the measures that the Government adopted to improve the human rights situation. It was also decided to continue follow-up visits, so that the Commission could observe how the situation developed. A press communique was issued (Appendix V).
C. Human rights problems identified by the Commission
15. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly called the Peruvian Government's attention to those human rights problems that should be corrected immediately. It has done this via the written communications mentioned earlier, in the course of talks with high ranking Peruvian officials, and through the specific statements contained in reports on individual cases. The problems that the Commission has identified are in the following areas:
a. The right to life
16. The complaints of violations of the right to life that the Commission has received and on which it has adopted decisions can be classified into forced disappearances, summary executions and massacres. Since 1989, the Commission has adopted 43 decisions on individual cases that concern enforced disappearances involving 106 victims. During that same period, it decided 16 cases of summary execution, involving 22 victims. The Commission adopted decisions on 4 cases involving mass slayings in which a total of 60 people were killed. At present, the Commission is processing 128 cases claiming violations of the right to life and involving 465 alleged victims.
17. National and international organizations dedicated to defending human rights have, through a variety of activities, expressed grave concern over the situation of human rights in Peru in general and the right to life in particular. Peru has been discussed by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and, according to information received, was the country with the highest number of such disappearances in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 (UN documents: E/CN.4/1085; E/CN.4/1986/18/ADD.1; E/CN.4/1987/15; E/CN.4/1988/19; E/CN.4/1989/18; E/CN.4/1990/13; E/CN.4/1991/20). According to official information from the Peruvian Government, 5,000 cases of disappearances were reported in that country between 1983 and 1991 (Presidential Office on Human Rights, September 9, 1991).
b. The right to humane treatment
18. The information that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received as part of a number of the cases it is processing indicate that the violations of the right to life are frequently preceded by mistreatment and torture, generally aimed at forcing the victims to make self-incriminating confessions to get those victims to provide information on subversive groups or to create the kind of fear among the people that will deter them from cooperating with subversive groups.
19. In many cases, the violations to the right to humane treatment end in the victim's death or elimination of those who have been witnesses to the events. In many situations, the cases that the Commission is now processing in connection with the right to life show that the first violation was a violation of the right to humane treatment, which ultimately led to the victim's death or disappearance. Testimony from persons who have managed to escape captivity or who have been released by courts, indicates that for the security forces, gross mistreatment and torture are a routine practice.
c. The right to personal liberty
20. At the time of its initial visit in 1989, the Commission expressed serious concern over the fact that no formalities were being observed in the arrests made by State agents. In effect, according to the petitions that the Commission is processing and based on the testimony received, there are numerous cases where the arrests are made without informing the interested party of the charges against him, without revealing the identity of the individuals who made the arrest -who are often masked and dressed in such a way as to prevent them from being identified; no one is told where the individual arrested has been taken and the individual is not advised of his rights. Many of these arrests occur in remote places and often involve groups of people.
21. The fact that no formalities are observed at the time of arrest ties in directly with forced disappearance, as it is the first step in that direction. Violations of the right to personal liberty have a particular significance, as the Peruvian authorities were repeatedly told, since if proper measures are taken to protect that right, violations of other rights may be prevented. In effect, observance of the standards contained in Article 7 of the Convention would safeguard not only the right to personal liberty, but also the right to humane treatment and the right to life, as the Peruvian Government was told in a letter of November 29, 1989 (page 2). Those violations of the right to personal liberty are closely related to the inefficacy of the remedies instituted to safeguard the rights of individuals, a matter addressed below.
d. The right to judicial protection and to due process of law
22. In its communications to the Peruvian Government of September 29, 1989, and May 3, 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights cited the weakening -and perhaps virtual total inefficacy- of the legal and institutional remedies to safeguard the rights of individuals (page 2 of the letter of September 29, 1989), indicating the need to reinforce the remedies that the Judiciary has available to protect its members and to strengthen the functions of the special prosecutors in the emergency zones in defending the rights of individuals. The Commission pointed out on that occasion that it "attaches particular importance to the facilities that the Peruvian Government provides to prosecutors and how important it is for prosecutors to have a proper working relationship with the authorities of the political-military commands" (communication of September 29, 1989, page 2).
23. The Commission has also noted that the remedies of habeas corpus and amparo, the proper remedies for protecting the rights of individuals, have been severely limited. In effect, in virtually all individual cases on which the Commission has adopted a decision, the petitioners of habeas corpus have been filed on behalf of the victims, without result. This is due to several factors: the Judiciary is unable to dictate the conduct of political military authorities; there are "restricted military areas" where only military personnel are allowed to enter, and the suspension of guarantees is given a very broad interpretation, which has had the effect of curtailing the exercise of those remedies. As the Commission pointed out in its letter of May 23, 1990 (pages 12 and 13) all of this caused the people to lose confidence in the Judiciary and to fear reprisals from the military authorities.
24. One of the fundamental aspects that had to be addressed to reinforce the institutional mechanisms for defending human rights was the question of the prosecutors under the Office of the Attorney General. These civil servants, who are in charge of the investigations, encounter numerous obstacles to prevent them from conducting their activities. This was described in detail in the communication of May 23, 1990 (pages 14 to 16). Some of those obstacles were the lack of jurisdiction over military authorities, the lack of proper means, insufficient staff for these sensitive functions, the lack of auxiliary technical units for the investigations that the Office of the Government Attorney must conduct--and not the military authorities--,the fact that they could not enter military facilities, and the fact that they were themselves the target of attacks and harassment from the military authorities because these prosecutors did not have the backing of political authorities at higher levels.
e. Freedom of expression
25. During its two visits, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the people of Peru enjoy considerable freedom of expression in that country. As a result, newspapers like El Diario, believed to have links with the PCP-SL, was in circulation, though not without its problems; also in circulation was the weekly newspaper Cambio, which is alleged to have ties with the MRTA and is routinely sold at newsstands. The foregoing notwithstanding, the Commission also received reports that there was considerable risk involved for journalists working in emergency zones; many of them have been killed on the job. Noteworthy in this regard are the cases of the journalists murdered in Uchuraccay and the cases of Hugo Bustíos and Eduardo Rojas, among others.
26. One element that has been particularly disturbing to the Commission is that up until 1990, no member of the security forces had been tried and punished for involvement in human rights violations (communication of 5/23/90, p. 19). The fact that no one had been sanctioned was an indictment not only of the authors of very serious human rights violations, but also of the Peruvian State organs charged with enforcing the law. Not only do those guilty of serious human rights violations go unpunished, but there are no effective measures taken to defend the rights of the affected parties, as mentioned earlier.
27. In its communication of September 18, 1990 (page 5), the Government of Peru had the following to say in this regard:
... when the Peruvian Government exercises its right of self-defense, excesses and abuses sometimes occur in the course of the repression; these are isolated cases and not a State policy or systematic practice of human rights violation employed by Government agents in their fight against subversion. Such cases have been investigated and where there has been blame, the guilty parties have been punished with all the rigor that the law allows.
However, the Government did not mention at the time the names of individuals who had been punished for conduct that violates human rights.
D. Democracy, political violence and actions of irregular armed groups
28. From its very first interventions in Peru the Commission expressed disagreement with the use of political violence and asserted the need to strengthen representative democracy in the country. Thus, the Special Committee that visited Peru in May 1989 stated in its press release
its profound concern at the persistent recourse to terror and indiscriminate violence as instruments for the settlement of social and political conflicts, which unerringly threatens the consolidation of democracy and prevents economic development, the two essential requirements for the full enjoyment of human rights.
Exacerbation of the conflict and the violent means chosen for resolving it have led to a disquieting situation that strikes at human rights such as the right to life and to humane treatment. The dynamic unleashed threatens to lead to the gradual impairment of other rights. The Special Committee considers it essential to reverse the observed trends, a task which summons all the political sectors and basic institutions of Peru. The Special Committee must express its realization of the urgent need that the measures adopted to combat subversion shall also take account of the human rights that could become involved.
The Special Committee is also of the view that it is imperative to put an end to the activities of irregular groups, which is making violence widespread and more acute, taking a dire toll in human lives, and striking at the country's basic institutions. Neither the alleged struggle to eradicate poverty and build a new State nor the need to take justice into one's own hands can justify in any way recourse to selective assassination, summary execution, destruction of the production infrastructure, tortyure, forced disappearance of persons, or the use of terror as an instrument of social control.
29. In the press release issued in Lima on October 31, 1991, at the end of its on-site visit to Peru, the Commission expressed the views stated in the preceding paragraph and said that
it has received abundant testimony to the profound suffering inflicted on the population, and especially on the persons who have found themselves trapped between the two sides of the conflict. The Commission has been informed in the process of the methods, reprehensible by any standard, employed to resolve the conflict by persons, groups and institutions that put the attainment of their political ends before the inalienable rights of the human being. This perversion of priorities is what sets apart those proceed in this fashion.
30. The Commission went on to say that it would continue to view ever more minutely the acts of violence perpetrated by irregular armed groups and the blame accruing thereto. The Commission bears in mind that no person, group or State can act in such a manner as to violate the rights recognized in the American Declaration and the American Convention on Human Rights.