IDL: Use-of-force legislation could open the door for human rights violations

A bill passed by Peruvian lawmakers regulating the military’s use-of-force opens the door for human rights violations, says the Lima-based Legal Defense Institute, IDL.

According to IDL, the legislation would grant the military with unconditional authority in order to quell internal conflicts.

IDL’s military specialist, Ana María Tamayo, told Radio San Borja the legislation ¨doesn’t specify anti-subversive areas where the enemy takes up arms and the State has the right to repel an attack. The law seems to be more intended for social conflicts and internal disturbances.¨

Tamayo added that maintaining social peace is the responsibility of the police, not the military.

But the president of the Congressional Defense Commission, Mercedes Cabanillas, snapped back at critics on Friday. Cabanillas, a member of President Alan Garcia’s ruling Aprista party, told Agencia Andina the legislation is necessary in order to provide soldiers with ¨absolute constitutional and legal backing so they don’t end up being unjustly charged for defending the nation, defending the country and defending society.¨

President Alan García and all lawmakers who approve the legislation will ultimately be responsible for military actions under the Use of Force Law, according to José Robles Montoya, a military defense researcher at IDL. ¨No one is against the military acting in a legal framework. To the contrary, everyone, including the military, supports regulating the use of force, but not like this,¨ said Robles in a Radio San Borja interview.

The approval of the bill comes as Peru is preparing to host the 2008 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. It also came a day before U.S. President George W. Bush ratified a free trade agreement with Peru. Critics are concerned the Government is pushing through the legislation in order to subdue public opposition to the APEC summit and the FTA.

¨Next year there will undoubtedly be conflicts as a result of the free trade agreement and other aspects. What is the State going to do?¨ asked Robles. ¨Will it quickly send out the military because now they have the law on their side.¨

¨Demonstrators or citizens, who have the right to protest, shouldn’t be classified as the enemy. The only internal enemy is the insurgent, not the man on the street¨ Tamayo said.

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