Fujimori on Trial :: Fujimori procesado

Accountability in Action :: Rindiendo cuentas

Fujimori on Trial :: Fujimori procesado random header image

-CONTEXT- Campaign against human rights

May 15th, 2008 · No Comments

 (Lawyers representing the families of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta victims in the current trial against Alberto Fujimori.)

As “a favor” to the Peruvian government, European Parliament member Ignacio Salafranca requested that the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) — one of the subversive groups involved in the 1980-2000 Armed Conflict — be added to the Parliament’s list of terrorist organizations. This would essentially put the MRTA in the same grouping as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC).

Subsequently, the Association Pro Human Rights (Aprodeh) — one of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) that currently represents the families of the victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta murders in the trial against former president Alberto Fujimori — sent a letter on April 23 to the European Parliament, suggesting it shouldn’t “over estimate” the MRTA’s activity.

Aprodeh stated that while it has had a “clear position of rejecting and condemning the acts of terror committed by groups like Shining Path and MRTA” since the beginning of the political violence, there has been no MRTA activity for more than eight years. Furthermore, the organization warns that including the MRTA as an active terrorist group “can serve to persecute social activists and political opponents, unjustly accusing them of being terrorists.” Read the full letter (in Spanish)

Since the violence began in the 1980s, Peruvian NGOs have condemned all human rights violations, including those committed by the Shining Path and MRTA. Likewise, they have also condemned rights abuses committed by the Armed Forces, including many that occurred during the first government of current president Alan García’s (1985-1990).

Accused of supporting terrorists

When the European Parliament decided on April 25 to reject the request of MRTA’s inclusion in the list of terrorist organizations, a surprising series of events unleashed, demonstrating an obvious campaign against Aprodeh, revealing a decline of human rights in the country.

The APRA ruling party as well as the “fujimoristas” claimed that the Parliament’s decision was based on Aprodeh’s letter, asserting that the NGO defends subversive groups. Subsequently there was a explosion of information in the media regarding the letter, culminating in President Alan García’s declaration that Aprodeh is a “traitor to the country” and Vice President Luis Giampietri’s accusation that Aprodeh attacked the nation’s security, demanding that the organization be investigated.

This is not the first time Giampietri has questioned a human rights organization. Since 2006, he has insisted on investigating the Institute of Legal Defense. Like Aprodeh, this NGO is also currently representing the victims of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta in Alberto Fujimori’s trial, as well as families of the victims of cases El Frontón, whose sentence has already been emitted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and implicates Giampietri.

In light of these accusations, the Peruvian Agency of International Cooperation, or APCI, requested that Aprodeh hand in a report within 48 hours on the finances that allowed them to “intermediate on behalf of the terrorist group MRTA to international bodies.” The NGO responded that the money spent on the letter amounted to the cost of sending it by fax. Moreover, Aprodeh was removed as an observing organization from the National Human Rights Council — a governmental body that, according to the NGO, is “a space for dialogue between the State and civil society.”

The Peruvian Army later chimed in, voicing its concern on the MRTA’s exclusion from the list through a press release on April 28. However, it has remained silent on other worrying issues, such as the gross abuses that army officials have testified to during Alberto Fujimori’s human rights trial.

(Lawyers from human rights defending organizations.) 

This campaign, headed by APRA members and fujimoristas, also extended beyond the Peruvian border. Congressmen from both parties presented a proposal to the Organization of American States to create a third body in the Inter-American System of Human Rights where what Giampietri calls “illogical sentences” emitted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could be reviewed. These rulings are the result of human rights violations committed by the Peruvian State, including the Cantuta, Barrios Altos, El Frontón (1986) and Castro Castro (1992) cases. The voices of the APRA and fujimoristas also reached US newspaper the Wall Street Journal, where an article titled “Friends of terrorism” insisted that while the European’s decision to not include the MRTA in the list of terrorist groups is frustrating, it “is also instructive, in that it shows how terrorists can advance their cause with the help of nongovernmental organization.” 

The campaign against Aprodeh and human rights organizations in general has already affected the work of rights defenders in Peru, possibly halting advances in investigations on certain violations, such as the exhumations in Ayacucho. Since 2005, the Institute of Legal Medicine has been exhuming bodies from a military base known as “Los Cabitos,” located in Ayacucho, the region most affected by the Armed Conflict. To date, 81 bodies have been uncovered — including men, women, children and fetuses — and there are four ovens where the ashes of human bodies were found. These bodies belong to people who disappeared between 1983 and 1993, during the governments of Alan García (back in government) and Alberto Fujimori. The organizations conducting this research are the same who are defending the family members of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta victims in the current trial against Fujimori.

Additionally, the fulfillment sentences emitted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could be affected or even the criminal trial against Fujimori, since these both require the participation and insistence of human rights organizations in order to be carried out.

Self-Censorship

In the end, it seems that Aprodeh’s letter did exactly what the organization was trying to prevent: it served “to persecute social activists and political opponents, unjustly accusing them of being terrorists,” just as stated in the letter.

However, the letter also served to shed light not just on the never-ending issue of terrorism in the country, but also the consequent self-censorship. While many analysts agree that the accusations of Aprodeh supporting terrorism are exaggerated, they also agree that the NGO “put its foot in its mouth.” Augusto Álvarez Rodrich, editor in chief of local newspaper Perú21, wrote in his column that Aprodeh made a mistake in that “it should have seen how its letter could be misused” (Perú21, April 27, 2008).

Martín Tanaka said in an interview that Aprodeh’s attitude “is the perfect gift that Vice President Giampietri needed to reinforce his ‘claim’ that human rights organizations defend terrorists” (Perú21, April 27, 2008).

In another local newspaper, El Comercio, journalist Mariella Balbi asserted that while she understood Aprodeh’s position, since MRTA has not acted in recent years, her criticism toward Aprodeh is “for not having foreseen the practical consequences of its opinion”.

If it’s true — as well-known Peruvian analysts claim — that groups like Aprodeh should seriously evaluate the consequences of their words before voicing them, then there is undoubtedly a problem in Peru regarding freedom of expression. If there are issues so taboo that you can’t give an opinion without the president accusing of treason and intellectuals giving you a slap on the hand for not knowing better, just how free are the Peruvians to express an opinion opposed to the views of the government? Is iself-censorship necessary?

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