HRW: Military hampers human rights investigations

A lack of justice for human rights violators during Peru’s 20-year armed conflict is a leading human rights concern in the Andean country, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Despite the human rights trial of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, HRW’s 2008 World Report says most perpetrators of human rights abuses continue to evade justice.

HRW attributes the impunity to a lack of military cooperation with investigations of massacres and disappearances by the state from 1980 to 2000, when government forces fought Maoist Shining Path and MRTA guerrillas. “The military has often failed to provide information needed to identify potentially key witnesses who served in rural counterinsurgency bases during the conflict,” says HRW. “It has also declined to identify military officials known to witnesses only by their aliases.”

In 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated almost 70,000 people died or were disappeared during Peru’s armed conflict, attributing atrocities to both sides.

However, the report says progress has been made, pointing out that at least 50 members of the Colina group death squad have been on trial since 2005 while the former president stands trial for authorizing the group’s extrajudicial killings of suspected Shining Path collaborators.

The report also highlights other human rights concerns in Peru, alluding to the title of its introduction by HRW director Kenneth Roth, “Despots Masquerading as Democrats.”

They include attacks on journalists, such as the March 2007 assassination of Miguel Pérez Julca, a radio journalist who had been reporting on police corruption and lack of public security in the town of Jaén, Cajamarca Department, before he was executed by two gunmen in front of his wife and children.

Torture of criminal suspects is another human rights problem in Peru says HRW. From January 2005 to October 2007 there have reportedly been 78 torture complaints. It says the Supreme Court has sentenced 15 police officers, military agents, and prison guards for torture in seven cases since 2000.

President Alan García was also criticized for his attempt to reintroduce the death penalty and support for legislation that would have allowed the government to supervise Peruvian NGOs that receive foreign funding.

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