PRESS RELEASE

REPORT BY THE IACHR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN PERU

 

No. 06/AG/00

1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("the Commission" or "the IACHR") is a principal organ of the Organization of American States, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights in the hemisphere. It comprises seven independent experts who act on behalf of all the OAS member states. The members of the IACHR are Dr. Hťlio Bicudo, its Chairman (Brazil), Dean Claudio Grossman, First Vice Chairman (Chile), Dr. Juan E. Mťndez, Second Vice Chairman (Argentina), Dr. Marta Altolaguirre (Guatemala), Prof. Robert K. Goldman (United States), Dr. Peter Laurie (Barbados), and Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo (Ecuador). The IACHRís Executive Secretary is Amb. Jorge E. Taiana, and its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is Dr. Santiago Canton.

 

    1. THE REPORT

2. On June 2, 2000, the Commission adopted its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru. This report was drawn up from the information and documents received before, during, and after the on-site visit the IACHR made to the Republic of Peru on November 9Ė13, 1998, at the invitation of the government.

3. In the first part of the report, the Commission analyzes democracy and the rule of law in Peru. This includes a study of the structure of the State, the current situation with the administration of justice and Peruís international obligations, political rights, and freedom of expression. In the second section of the report, the Commission analyzes economic, social, and cultural rights, and the situation in the countryís prison system. The issues this section focuses on are the rights of women and children, the prison situation, and the rights of indigenous communities in Peru. As stipulated in the Commissionís Regulations, a preliminary version of the report was transmitted to the Peruvian State, which offered observations and comments and provided information on certain specific matters. This information was analyzed and, as appropriate, incorporated into the text of the report.

4. The Commission would like to stress three main issues in the report that directly affect the currency of the rule of law and democracy in Peru: (1) the lack of independence of the judiciary, (2) threats and attacks on freedom of expression, and (3) restrictions on the free exercise and enjoyment of political rights.

 

II. LACK OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY

5. The IACHR has seen that the Peruvian judiciary lacks independence on account of constant interference by the executive branch. This interference in the courts means that, in practice, citizens are without the access to impartial justice guaranteed by the American Convention and other international instruments freely ratified by the Peruvian State.

6. Typical examples of this can be seen in the dismantling of the Constitutional Tribunal and in the process of judicial reform, with which most judges have been subordinated to the executive. As it notes in the report, the IACHR stresses that the arbitrary removal of three members of the Constitutional Tribunal was directly related to that courtís decision ruling that President Alberto Fujimori was ineligible to stand in the 2000 presidential election. In addition, the Commissionís report notes that, "80 percent of judges in Peru are temporary; in other words, they do not enjoy the guarantee of stability and can be removed for any reason whatsoever."

7. Among the final comments in the report, the IACHR holds that, "the weakening of the rule of law in Peru affects the fundamental corollary of human rights: the right to appear before independent and impartial judicial authorities so they can ensure respect for protected rights and the essential principles of representative democracy in accordance with a separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches that is real and not merely formal." Hence, the judiciary is not able to perform its role as an "impartial third party for settling conflicts, investigating and judging those who commit breaches of public order, and controlling the constitutionality of the acts of the other two branches of government."

 

III. THREATS AND ATTACKS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

8. Following the on-site visit conducted in 1998 and in the report published today, analyzing the right of free expression has been a key component in assessing the human rights situation in Peru. In the report the Commission concludes that the effective exercise of freedom of expression has been severely undermined in the country, through the systematic use of the Stateís intelligence services and security forces to harass and persecute investigative journalists and opposition politicians. These campaigns of harassment and persecution have involved such serious practices as kidnappings, threats, torture, the illegal interception of private communications, and campaigns to discredit opponents.

9. As it states in its report, the IACHR believes that these violations are even more worrying given the current political situation in Peru, since "the importance of respect for free expression is at its highest at times when the citizenry requires the information necessary to elect those who will be responsible for directing the affairs of government." The Commission also repeats that, "the State must guarantee, without discrimination, the right to transmit and receive information in order to enable all citizens to enjoy their political rights to participate in the electoral process, either as candidates or as voters."

10. The systematic violation of freedom of expression in Peru could be seen even before the Commissionís visit, depriving the countryís citizens during all that time of the debate of ideas and opinions that is the basic precondition for ensuring a free election according to international standards.

11. The IACHRís report concludes that Peru lacks the minimum conditions necessary for full enjoyment of the right to freely express opposition political ideas or to criticize the actions of the authorities in the press. The Commission believes that the restrictions on free expression are a major obstacle to the normal functioning of democracy in Peru. The rule of law cannot be attained if the freedom to express ideas, denounce irregularities and abuses, and criticize public officials is not guaranteed.

12. In order to address the many different aspects of these violations of the right of free expression, the Commission has had to invoke the full range of powers granted to it by the American Convention and other applicable instruments: precautionary measures, reports on individual cases, cases brought before the Inter-American Court, and special reports. In addition to the special analysis contained in the document published today, the most recent report by the IACHRís Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression assessed the status of this basic right. The Commission approved this report and resolved to publish it as one of the volumes of its 1999 Annual Report.

 

IV. RESTRICTIONS ON THE FREE EXERCISE OF POLITICAL RIGHTS

13. In its report, the IACHR conducts a detailed analysis of the development of Peruís electoral process, underscoring its concern about the restrictions of the free exercise of the political rights guaranteed by Article 23 of the American Convention. First of all, the IACHR notes than an analysis of the election of President Fujimori for a third period in office must first consider the legitimacy of his candidacy. In this regard, in addition to the arbitrary removal of three members of the Constitutional Tribunal because they believed President Fujimori was ineligible for reelection, the Commission must also emphasize the remarks made by the Peopleís Defender, the Peruvian ombudsman, who after an exhaustive analysis of the countryís Constitution, concluded that it was not possible "for a citizen to stand for the presidency for three or more consecutive periods."

14. The criticisms regarding the illegitimacy of President Fujimoriís candidacy must be seen in conjunction with a series of grave irregularities in the electoral process itself. These serious faults were reported by the electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States and by numerous independent agencies from Peru (including the office of the Peopleís Defender) and other countries. In spite of being filed on time and with due documentation, these complaints were not addressed by the Peruvian authorities, which decided instead to conduct the election with the irregularities in place. The documents published by the OAS observation mission, as well as those of observers from Peru and numerous other countries, agree that the recent general election in Peru took place without meeting the applicable international standards. In its report the Commission concludes that this situation constitutes a serious violation of the political rights enshrined in Article 23 of the American Convention.

 

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15. The IACHR believes that the lack of judicial independence, the serious restrictions of free expression, the harassment and intimidation of opponents, and the serious irregularities in the election represent a clear violation of the basic foundations for the rule of law in a democratic system under the terms of the American Convention. The report thus states that, "the recent election in Peru clearly constitutes an irregular interruption of the democratic process." Moreover, "the Commission calls for the reestablishment of the rule of law in Peru and the organization of free and sovereign elections that meet the applicable international standards," and to this end it offers the Peruvian State its cooperation.

16. Among the final comments in its report on Peru, the Commission concludes that given current circumstances in the country, "the international protection of human rights is assuming even greater fundamental importance." In this regard, of particular concern is the governmentís rebellious attitude toward its international human rights commitments in openly defying the rulings of the Inter-American Court, since both the Court and the Commission are "among the few avenues still open to persons subject to Peruvian jurisdiction for attempting to the secure independent and impartial justice they cannot obtain in Peru."

17. The Commission urges the Stateís authorities and the different sectors of civil society to analyze the report and to engage in constructive discussion on how to apply its recommendations, in order to progress toward unrestricted currency of the human rights of Peruís inhabitants, without any distinction whatsoever. Attached to this press release is an executive summary that gives a general idea of the issues analyzed in the report and of the IACHRís perceptions of the human rights situation in that country. The full text of the report will be available shortly on the Commissionís web page at www.cidh.oas.org.

 

Windsor, Canada; June 4, 2000