Peru’s APRODEH awarded Letelier-Moffitt prize by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington

Aprodeh, one of Peru’s most reputable human rights organizations, and its founding director Francisco Soberon, have been awarded the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award for their campaign against the impunity of human rights crimes committed during Peru’s 20-year internal war, reported the Institute for Policy Studies, IPS.

“APRODEH has been the driving force behind the current trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for alleged crimes against humanity during his 1990-2000 reign,” stated the IPS, known as Washington D.C.’s first progressive, multi-issue think tank.

“This trial marks the first time a former head of state has been extradited to his own country to face justice for human rights violations.”

Jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori is now in the final weeks of a year-long human rights abuse trial for allegedly sanctioning the Colina group paramilitary death squad.

The Colina group, accused of a series of abuses,  machine-gunned 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy, in the courtyard of a tenement building in Lima’s Barrios Altos district in 1991, and kidnapped and murdered nine students and one professor at La Cantuta University in 1992.

Peru’s counter-insurgency response through the 1980s and 1990s was overreaching and brutally indiscriminate : according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 30 percent of deaths in the conflict were caused by the Peruvian armed forces.

Human rights organizations who reported human rights abuses – including extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and rape – rapidly became targets of paramilitary forces, who sometimes posed as Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.

In March 1991, a letter bomb was delivered to Augusto Zúñiga Paz, a well-known human rights lawyer who had worked for Aprodeh. The bomb, crafted with sophisticated plastic explosives available only to special commandos of the Peruvian army and marine infantry, cost Zúñiga his arm.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, suscessive governments expressed disdain for human rights. In 1984, President Fernando Belaunde Terry unabashedly proclaimed that he had thrown Amnesty International’s report on the “dirty war” into the trash.

Later, in 1986, President Alan Garía refused to meet a UN human rights delegation on an official visit to Peru. In 1990, Defense Minister General Jorge Torres Aciego and his right-hand man, General Alberto Arciniega, accused a human rights delegation sponsored by the World Council of Churches of acting as “international missiles of Sendero.” And, in 1991, Fujimori criticized Amnesty International and Americas Watch, accusing them of belonging to an international campaign against Peru.

Today, the post-script legal battle still rages over efforts by groups like Aprodeh to bring those responsible for human rights abuses to justice.

“In the violent, vicious military and political battle that has divided his country, Soberón has been viewed with suspicion and fear by both sides. Throughout the last arduous twenty years, Soberón has never failed to report abuse, even though doing so has endangered his life,” reported the IPS.

The IPS was founded in 1963 with the belief that progressive thought, advocacy, and action could build a better society. In 1976, a car bombing – later tied to the highest levels of Pinochet’s regime – killed Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and American Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Both IPS collaborators, Letelier had become one of the most outspoken critics of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Each year in October, the IPS hosts the annual human rights award in the names of Letelier and Moffitt “to honor these fallen colleagues while celebrating new heroes of the human rights movement from the United States and elsewhere in the Americas.”

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