Peru government seeks reform in OAS of human rights court case procedures

The Peruvian government’s response seemed unified and swift last week against a proposal by the vice president to defy verdicts by Inter-American Court of Human Rights against Peru for brutal excesses during its 20-year battle to crush leftist guerrilla insurgencies.

It was just such a decision in 1999 by ex-President Alberto Fujimori — now on trial for crimes against humanity — that elevated Peru to pariah status and marked it internationally as one of the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere.

But on Monday, Foreign Minister Ántero Flores-Aráoz said the administration of President Alan Garcia shares Vice President Luis Giampietri’s indignation over the Costa Rica-based court’s rulings.

He referred to a comment reportedly made by Antonio Cançado Trindade, the human rights court’s former lead judge, that imprisoned Shining Path rebels “had the mystique of Joan of Arc” when they were killed in 1992 by state security forces sent in to quell a prison uprising.

Flores-Aráoz told state news agency Andina that Giampietri’s call to partially withdraw from the court’s jurisdiction for cases dealing with terrorism is out of the question. But he added that there are other measures Peru plans to pursue.

He said Peru will appeal to the Organization of American States to streamline the assignment of human rights court cases.

Peru will also push for a statute of limitations on backlogged cases being considered by the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which recommends which cases should be heard by the human rights court.

The commission has a documented history of publicly lambasting Peru for its abysmal human rights record.

Maria Clara Galvis, a staff lawyer with Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, a non-profit human rights organization, told Peruvian Times that her group considers Flores-Araoz’s proposal “very unfortunate.”

“Even if it did succeed in resolving the backlog problem,” she said, “procedural justice does not contribute to the advancement of international law or the respect of human rights.”

The Inter-American Court was established in 1979 as the judicial arm of the OAS. After Fujimori’s fall from power in 2000, his successor, Valentin Paniagua, returned Peru to the court’s jurisdiction.

Since taking office in 2006, Garcia has firmly sided in defense of active and retired military officials accused of human rights abuses. His administration has fought against court ordered compensation payments, and, in the case of the 1992 prison riot, has instead offered to create a fund to cover education and health care costs for the relatives of the killed guerrilla inmates.

Garcia’s Cabinet chief, Jorge Del Castillo, on Sunday revived Giampietri’s proposal to create a higher international body with power to overturn Inter-American human right court verdicts, which currently are final and without appeal.

“This doesn’t mean withdrawing, but proposing a modification,” Del Castillo said.

“Not only does it resolve cases with compensations that go way beyond national standards, but it exceeds itself by ordering that we pay tribute to terrorists,” he said.

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