Saturday, April 03, 2010

Continuing to Pursue Human Rights Violators in Peru

Peru has done an excellent job of late going after those military leaders and politicians who in the past supported crimes against humanity, including sending former-president Alberto Fujimori to jail for what will most likely be the rest of his life.

In spite of accomplishing this high-profile sentencing, Peru's legal system has not rested on its laurels, and now prosecutors are going after three generals for their role in the murders of 36 university students:
There is more than enough evidence to convict three generals and other army officers in the kidnapping and murder of 36 university students from the highlands city of Huancayo in Peru between 1989 and 1993, Víctor Lizárraga of the National Human Rights Coordinator (CNDDHH) told IPS.

Charges in the case were brought on Mar. 8 against Generals Manuel Delgado, Luis Pérez and David Jaime Sobrevilla, who during those years commanded the army's 31st infantry brigade based in Huancayo, in the central region of Junín, where the Universidad Nacional del Centro (UNC) is located.

But details from the prosecutor's charge sheet are just coming out now.

The UNC students, suspected of belonging to or sympathising with the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) or Tupác Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas, were killed during one of the bloodiest periods of the 1980-2000 civil war between the leftist rebels and government forces.
Some critics may point to the fact that the students were "suspected" of alliances to armed leftist movements in order to justify the military's actions in the 1980s and 1990s, but "suspicion" is not equated to guilt; those students who were murdered were never given a fair shot at a trial in the way the generals are. As for the likelihood that the generals will be found guilty, the prosecution's case seems strong, drawing on military documents, as well as accounts from students who managed to escape military captivity, to demonstrate the methodical approach the military used in kidnapping and killing students. And as for the potential success or failure of that approach, the prosecution seems in good shape, given that a similar approach resulted in Fujimori's guilty verdict:
"Prosecutor Carlos Carhuancho is accusing the generals of authorising the murders - the same formula used to convict former president Alberto Fujimori for the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres, committed by the Army Intelligence Service," which was under the president's command, said Lizárraga of the CNDDHH, which represents the victims' families.
Given the success in the past with this method, plus what appears to be overwhelming evidence against the generals, this will hopefully result in another victory for human rights in Peru, even if it cannot bring back those who were wrongly murdered.