No. 7/91



Today, October 31, 1991, marked the end of the visit that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made to Peru, at the Government's invitation, to observe the human rights situation in the country.  The visit was made by the Commission's full membership, including Dr. Patrick Robinson, its Chairman; Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, its First Vice Chairman; Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, its Second Vice Chairman; and members Dr. Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza and Professor Michael Reisman.  Ambassador Oliver Jackman was unable to take part in the visit.  The Commission was assisted by its Executive Secretary, Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, and by attorneys from the Commission's Executive Secretariat--Dr. Luis F. Jiménez, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, and Dr. Jorge Seal Sasiain.  Mr. Marcelo Montesinos served as the Commission's interpreter, while Mrs. Gabriela Hageman, Elsa Ergueta and Nora E. Anderson provided administrative assistance.


During the visit, the Inter-American Commission met with Ing. Alberto Fujimori, President of the Republic; with Dr. Carlos Torres y Torres Lara, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Council of Ministers; with Dr. Augusto Antonioli Vásquez, Minister of Justice; with Peruvian Army Division General Víctor Malca Villanueva, Minister of the Interior; Peruvian Army Division General Jorge Torres Aciego, Minister of Defense; with the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, under Air Force General Arnaldo Velarde, and the General Commandant of the Navy, Admiral Alfredo Arnaiz Ambrossiani, and the Commander General of the Army, Peruvian Army General Pedro Villanueva Valdivia; with Dr. César Fernández Arce, President of the Supreme Court; with Dr. Pedro Méndez Jurado, Attorney General of the Nation, and with Dr. Clodomiro Chávez, Prosecutor for Human Rights and Public Defender.


During the visit, two subcommittees journeyed to the interior, one to Tarapoto and Tocache, and the other to the cities of Ayacucho and Huancayo.  In Tarapoto, the subcommittee met with the Political-Military Commander of the emergency zone, with representatives of the Moyobambo Prelate's Office of Social Work and with members of the San Martin Peace Commission, with relatives of disappeared detainees and with clergy from the Pastoral Center.  It also visited Cordesan, the National Police, and the Tarapoto Prison, where it spoke with a number of those being held in confinement.  In Tocache, the subcommittee met with military, political, judicial and police authorities.  The subcommittee that traveled to Ayacucho and Huancayo met with government, military and judicial authorities and with representatives of the Catholic Church and of human rights institutions.


  The Commission also met with members of Congress and with institutions whose purpose is to defend and promote human rights:  the National Coordinator for Human Rights; the Andean Commission of Jurists and the Episcopal Social Work Commission.  The Inter-American Commission also received individuals and members of institutions representative of Peruvian society, the Commission of Relatives of the Disappeared (COFADER), journalists and officials of press agencies, and the Association of Peruvian Lawyers for Democracy.  It also visited the Castro Castro Penal Center.


This visit to Peru follows an earlier visit made by two members back in May 1989.  Individual cases have also been processed and decisions adopted thereon.  The contacts during this visit enabled the Inter-American Commission to get a firsthand look at the complex and sensitive human rights situation in Peru and to compile valuable information that will be used for the Special Report now being prepared.


  The Commission saw the evidence of the violence of the conflict afflicting Peru and received abundant testimony demonstrating how much the people have suffered, especially those caught in the middle between the conflict's chief protagonists.  The Commission was informed of the utterly reprehensible tactics used by those persons, groups or institutions that would achieve their political ends even at the cost of the individual's inalienable rights.  Subordinating the individual's inalienable rights to political ends is the distinctive feature of those who operate in this way.  Hence, the Commission would again assert what it said in the press communique released at the end of its 1989 visit:  neither the struggle to conquer poverty and build a new State nor defense of democratic institutions can, under any circumstances, justify recourse to selective assassination, summary execution, destruction of the means of production, torture, forced disappearance of persons and the use of terror as a method of public control.  Those willing to work for a political settlement, at as little cost to the public as possible, will find this difficult to accomplish so long as such vile tactics are being used.


By the same token, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finds that there is an overriding need to humanize the conflict.  Working within its basic legal framework, provided by the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission will continue to examine, with ever increasing scrutiny, the acts of violence committed by groups of armed irregulars and the blame that follows therefrom.  In this regard, the Commission's premise is that no individual, group or State can, by its conduct, violate any of the rights recognized in the American Declaration and the American Convention on Human Rights.  The Commission is calling upon all Peruvians to respect the rights guaranteed by those instruments.


The Commission paid close attention to the comments describing how the living conditions of the Peruvian people have severely deteriorated and the negative impact this has had on the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.  It was deeply disturbed to hear how this situation is exacerbating the social conditions linked to the evolution of the present conflict.  The Inter-American Commission believes that one of the key elements in the policies adopted to correct the economy must be satisfaction of the economic, social and cultural rights, especially among those sectors most severely affected.  The Commission expresses its full support for the work being conducted by humanitarian organizations to correct the poor social conditions, organizations that have become the target of a cruel terrorist campaign.


The Commission has received information on the measures recently adopted by the Government to deal with the existing human rights problems.  The Commission hopes that those measures will be applied in practice and will be coupled with other measures to develop a positive, comprehensive and sound policy.  The Commission believes that a fundamental part of that policy must be recognition of the laudable and at times even dangerous work that institutions engaged in defending and promoting human rights perform.  Accordingly, it believes that such institutions and their members should be accorded every guarantee necessary to enable them to perform their functions, as the Commission has repeatedly emphasized and as the General Assembly of the Organization of American States has recommended.  It is the duty of the Government of Peru and the obligation of its highest ranking authorities to ensure that such organizations will be able to perform their functions.  The Commission will continue to cooperate with all the institutions and with the Peruvian Government so as to further the measures adopted to protect human rights.


The Inter-American Commission has found the high ranking military authorities to be responsive to its suggestions.  It has also been informed of forms of cooperation recently instituted between military and police forces and nongovernmental human rights groups.  The Commission hopes that cooperation will be reinforced and that it will serve to make respect for human rights a permanent factor in any measures taken in connection with the conflict in the country.  The Commission is aware that for the military and police engaged in a conflict with those who believe themselves to be above the law, application of a serious human rights policy will be difficult.  As the Chairman of the Commission told the then Foreign Minister of Peru back in 1989, the Armed Forces are called upon to defend the Constitution and the laws and that noble calling cannot be betrayed by recourse to methods specifically prohibited by those very laws.


It is the Commission's opinion, moreover, that an essential element of the human rights policy must be to identify and punish those responsible for human rights violations, thus making examples of them.  It is encouraging to see that recently individuals operating in the emergency zones and who may be implicated in human rights violations are being identified.  This would help to eliminate the disturbing problem of impunity that, according to reports received by the Commission, has been typical of the conduct of the security forces in Peru and is reflected in the absence of any convictions on charges of human rights violations.  Here, the Commission paid close attention to the arguments in favor of removing human rights violations from the military jurisdiction, so that they would be tried in the regular courts.


The Commission was able to confirm that the state of emergency remains in effect in a number of regions in the country; even in places where the state of emergency has been lifted, certain problems persist, the kind usually associated with a preponderance of military power.  The Commission also found that an increasing number of campesino bands have been formed, depicted as a voluntary method that enables a rural community to defend itself.  According to information the Commission received, some of those bands were not set up on a volunteer basis and the creation of still more bands would lead to violations of the people's rights.


As for the right to life, the Commission has been informed that although the number of violations of this most basic of all human rights is said to be on the decline, the number of summary executions and forced disappearances is still very disturbing.  Indeed, according to informed sources, Peru still has the highest number of forced disappearances in the world.  The way this phenomenon develops in the immediate future will be a meaningful indicator of what effects the Government's measures have had in practice.


As for the rights to personal liberty and due process, which have a close bearing upon the right to humane treatment, the Commission has received reports to the effect that serious problems persist, having to do with the absence of formalities at the time of arrest, the inefficacy of the remedies of amparo and habeas corpus, and the slow pace of proceedings.  As a result, a large percentage of those now confined to penal institutions have never actually been convicted of a crime.  On this point, the Commission hopes that the directive that allows prosecutors to enter the military facilities to which persons are taken at the time of their arrest will bring about a significant improvement in the problems that have figured so prominently in the human rights picture in Peru.  As the Commission suggested, that measure should be coupled with others calculated to reinforce the independence and effectiveness of the Judiciary and with efforts to give public prosecutors and judges the means they must have if they are to perform their functions properly, to overcome the serious crisis that was particularly apparent in the country's interior.  The Commission was also told that there is a veritable public outcry to have the National Police again made the guardians of the rights of the citizenry.  The Government is already working on this.


The Inter-American Commission saw the difficult circumstances in which the prison population serves its sentence.  It was pleased that the highest ranking prison officials are committed to improving conditions in the prisons.  The Commission was also told of the measures recently adopted in connection with the prisons in downtown Lima, especially the declaration of the state of emergency in those prisons, with the result that they came under the authority of the Political-Military Commander.  Considering Peru's recent experience, this could pose serious risks.  It also listened closely to the scenarios suggested in connection with the eventual effects of the information recently published by the news media reporting uprisings of conflicts that never occurred.  The Commission has duly noted the commitment voiced by the ranking authorities of the prison system to guarantee the basic rights of the prison population, in the climate of order and respect that every prison system has the duty to guarantee.  The Commission hopes that the right to self defense and the activities performed by attorneys to that end will be fully guaranteed.


Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ends its visit, which will be followed by others in the near future.  At this time, it would like to express its special thanks to those people and institutions who gave of their time to present the problems in the area of human rights.  It would also like to express its appreciation to the Government of Peru for the many courtesies it provided to enable the Commission to conduct its activities.  The Commission is convinced that its activities will help strengthen democracy in Peru which, as has been said so many times before, is the system that best guarantees the exercise of human rights.  

Lima, October 31, 1991

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