Executive Sends Bill To Congress To Create Prison Terms For Downplaying Terrorism

Peru’s Executive has presented legislation to Congress that would send to prison individuals who publicly deny or attempt to justify the violent acts used by rebel groups in the 1980s and 1990s.

The bill seeks to amend the criminal code by giving prison sentences to people who “publicly approve, justify, deny or minimize terrorist crimes,” according to the minister of Justice, Eda Rivas.

If approved, individuals could face four years to eight years in prison if they minimize the violence perpetrated by leftist-rebel groups, according to daily La Republica.

Peru’s internal conflict, which began in 1980 and lasted for most of the 1990s, left some 70,000 people dead.  According to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report, the Maoist-inspired Shining Path guerrillas were responsible for 46% of the deaths, 30% were killed by the police and military, and the remaining 24% were killed by other agents or circumstances, including in armed combat and by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, and paramilitary, self-defense, peasant-watch groups.

The Executive has said the law is important to ensure social peace in the Andean nation, taking into account recent violence in Peru, RPP radio reported. 

The bill comes as an organization known as Movadef, which includes many former Shining Path members and supporters, has been recruiting thousands of young students as well as participating in anti-mining protests and working within the national teachers union, Sutep.  It denies that Shining Path committed assassinations and says the deaths were collateral damage in a people’s war. 

Movadef (Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights), which has unsuccessfully tried to register as a political party with the national elections board, JNE,  is led by Alfredo Crespo, the lawyer of jailed Shining Path founder and leader Abimael Guzman. The movement has called for an amnesty for Guzman and other inmates who were tried and convicted during Peru’s internal conflict. 

The government’s initiative has drawn reaction from analysts and politicians, and also from the Vice-President, Marisol Espinoza, who said the bill “could prove to be dangerous,” adding the need to recognize that terrorism was also committed by the State.

Carlos Tapia, an analyst and former ally of President Ollanta Humala, has said that the legislation is, “Useless, awkward and dangerous.”

Congressman Mariano Portugal of Peru Posible believes the bill needs an in-depth analysis by Congress, because of the danger of infringing on people’s right to a free opinion, while Javier Diez-Canseco, elected to Congress with President Humala’s party, said the bill was “poorly thought out, immature, and badly timed.” 

“The problem lies in the fine line that divides terrorist propaganda from a person’s right to free thought, opinion and expression,” said journalist Augusto Alvarez Rodrich, under the title Witch Hunt in La Republica.

“There’s a factory defect in lawyers: they often believe that problems are solved with disciplinary sanctions,” says Rocio Silva-Santisteban, president of the National Human Rights Coordinator.  “But battles over memory are not won by punishment and bullets, but by arguments, offering specific testimonies, communicating the pain of the widows and orphans, transmitting the impotence of the wounded and the women who were raped, and above all, ensuring that the victims obtain justice.”

Diego Garcia-Sayan, head of the high commission in charge of the Memory Museum, which is to cover the 20 years of internal conflict, suggests that the Executive’s efforts to protect the nation’s memory against denial of what happened “should include all the actors who contributed to the violence,” a suggestion made also by the former State prosecutor Ronald Gamarra and the People’s Ombudsman, Eduardo Vega.

Historian and sociologist Nelson Manrique suggests the law should include the denial of all acts of violence: “A law that makes talking about the assassinations commited by Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA a crime, but that does not consider that a large number of the crimes were committed by the Armed Forces and that there is a whole series of claims for human rights violations, is denying part of history.  A law against negation would have to incorporate all the actors or else it would not be particularly effective.”

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  1. We have already seen the potential for the law to do damage to innocent people. Even speaking about having had members of the Sendero Luminoso as teachers in university and being inspired as a young person by their call for liberty has one Peruvian judged and found guilty in the local press. Maximo Laura was removed as Ambassador for the Marca Peru because he spoke about when he was a 17 year old student in Ayacucho. This is a very dangerous law and I fervently hope that it doesn’t pass Congress.

  2. There are similar laws in Germany to prohibit Nazis and Nazi supporters from denying that the Nazis murdered 20 million people (in total), denying even that there WERE concentration Camps and mass graves.

    There are also laws prohibiting anyone from spreading or advocating Nazi philosophy.

    There are always people who think that ‘the end justifies the means’, and that hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths are just ‘collateral damage’.

    As for those ‘professors’ at the universities who teach that Maoism and Marxism are ‘just fantastic’….justifying the millions murdered in the name of these philosophies as “collateral damage’…..perhaps they SHOULD be muzzled….and the teaching of these people SHOULD be prohibited as ASSISTING TERRORISM.

    These ‘professors’ are part of the reason that Terrorism existed in Peru in the first place……there in their Ivory Towers, they don’t have to see the mutilated bodies that their ‘teachings’ produce. Perhaps their noses should be rubbed in the blood.

  3. Excuse me “Joe Normal” but those university professors, who were the founders of Sendero Luminoso and who, with the military, were responsible for 70,000 deaths are ALREADY in prison and have been for a very long time. Do your research, amigo; for starters read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – an English language version is online just in case you don’t read Spanish:

    http:// www. cverdad. org. pe/ingles/ifinal/index.php

    Yes, re Germany; I’m aware of the German laws but nobody is suggesting that Maximo Laura was denying what happened in Peru – he was speaking of a time when he was a 17 year old kid. For the past 30+ years he has done nothing other than make a huge contribution to his country. Do your research on that too and perhaps, stay on topic, thank you.

    The issue is whether this new law – which excludes the military, by the way – will be a slippery slope to more innocents (including Maximo Laura who LOST FAMILY MEMBERS during those years) being denounced. I prefer to err on the side of FREE SPEECH.

    • Yeah, I was THERE in la selva in the late 80s and 90s saw the mutilated corpses of farmers and their families killed for not wanting to be Maoists….in Miraflores watching the carnage resulting from car bombs….the bodies in the streets….WERE YOU?

      It’s very easy to comment on these things ‘after the fact’, especially if you WWEREN’T there to SEE the ‘collateral damage’ from the SL and MRTA……and you seem to FORGET….that without those two groups’ murderous activities in the name of IMPOSING THEIR particular barbarous philosophies ON THE REST OF US, there would not have been a NEED for the ‘state’ to respond in kind.

      SHORT MEMORY? or just too young to have “been there”?

  4. The German legislation? Working for you “Joe Normal”?

    http:// www. stopracism. ca/content/terrifying-rise-fourth-reich-fears-germany-losing-its-battle-neo-nazi-menace-0

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