Executive sends to Congress bill to repeal decree 1097 following Vargas Llosa resignation from Memory Museum

President Alan García’s administration has sent to Congress a bill to repeal the controversial legislative decree 1097, the president’s office said in a press release.

The bill follows the resignation of Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa from his position as the commission president of the Memory Museum. Vargas Llosa resigned in protest of the decree, which has been criticized as a defacto amnesty for Peruvian military men accused of human rights violations.

Peru rewrote its terrorism laws in 2003 to bring them into compliance with the American Convention of Human Rights. Under international law, crimes against humanity are immutable, or forever punishable. The decree, however, made crimes against humanity committed by Peruvian police and military personnel prior to 2003 subject to statutes of limitation.

In effect, the decree, pushed by Defense Minister Rafael Rey, created a grandfather clause for crimes considered so heinous that they normally carry a penalty forever.

In a letter sent to President Alan Garcia, Vargas Llosa said the decree “in all forms, constitutes an amnesty barely disguised to benefit a good number of people connected to the dictatorship and convicted or prosecuted for human rights crimes – murders, tortures, disappearances – among them the ex-dictator [Alberto Fujimori] and his right-hand man [Vladimiro Montesinos].”

The decree has drawn strong criticism from national and international human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights, Martin Shceinin.

Recently, the head of the Colina group death squad, former army Maj. Santiago Martin Rivas, invoked article 6 of the decree  in an attempt to halt his court proceedings on speedy trial grounds.  He is accused of, among other atrocities, leading the May 1992 raid on La Cantuta University,  kidnapping and murdering one professor and nine students believed to be Shining Path sympathizers, and then buying their burnt corpses in shallow graves.

“There is, in my opinion, an essential incompatibility between, on the one hand, promoting a monument to pay homage to the victims of violence that the Shining Path unleashed in 1980 and, on the other, opening through a judicial ruse the prison door for those, who in the framework of this disastrous rebellion of fanatics, also committed horrendous crimes and contributed to sow anger, blood and suffering in Peruvian society,” Vargas Llosa said in a letter posted by daily El Comercio.

The museum is to honor the 70,000 people that died during the 20 years of political violence in Peru between the Maoist Shining Path insurgents and government security forces.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, 54 percent of all deaths in the conflict were attributed to the Shining Path rebels. The armed forces were blamed for 30 percent, and most of the remaining fatalities were blamed on government-backed peasant militias.

Eighty-five percent of the victims were poor, Quechua-speaking Indians from the Ayacucho region and five other departments in Peru’s Andean highlands, a fact that the Truth Commission report noted was proof of the country’s continuing exclusion and rejection of Andean peasants and their communities and traditions.

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