Fujimori on Trial :: Fujimori procesado

Accountability in Action :: Rindiendo cuentas

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-CONTEXT- Six years after Truth Commission report, contention still abides

September 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

(Rights groups and family members of victims remember those who perished during Peru’s conflict. Photo: Praxis) 

Each year on August 28, a commemoration is held to remember and honor the victims of Peru’s 20-year internal armed conflict between state agents and subversive groups.  In Lima, rights and victims’ organizations gather around the victims’ memorial — the Crying Eye — in solidarity, usually with the support and participation of the Ombudsman’s Office and other public institutions. 

This ritual was introduced with the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report on August 28, 2003, which had sought to “investigate and make public the truth regarding the 20 years of political violence that started in Peru in 1980.”  Yet now, despite the six years that have passed, there are still various unresolved and even contentious issues regarding the Commission’s recommendations and findings.

For one, the government has yet to fully implement the TRC’s recommended institutional reforms, which were planted in efforts to prevent the repetition of violent internal conflict.  These reforms were related to the decentralization of national democracy, justice administration, quality education (including basic values and respect for others’ rights and cultures) and increasing trust in public institutions. 

Public officials’ resistance in considering these reforms has hardly gone unnoticed. Carmen Amaro, one of the victim’s relatives told a local rights organization, “it is an unfortunate fact that this is still not part of our country’s agenda, which should be assumed and should be fundamental for our public officials…the issue of justice is still pending.” 

Well-known rights activist and former member of the Commission, Sofía Macher, commented in an interview with a local rights organization that “for politicians, the most important message [of the TRC] is institutional reforms…and the reforms are urgent.”  Likewise, Germán Vargas, executive director of organization Paz y Esperanza noted that Peruvians are responsible for “demanding that the government’s commitments be fulfilled.” 

Journalist and political analyst Augusto Álvarez Rodrich also recognized that the “drama” of the conflict still continues for families who have yet to find the bodies of their loved ones.  He explains, these people “feel that justice has not been done, that truth is hidden and reparation has yet to arrive.”

However, for Peru’s Defense Minister, Rafael Rey, the problem with the TRC is that its conclusions regarding the Armed Forces are “false, unjust and slanderous.”  Rey argued it was unacceptable to say that “in Peru it was the Armed Forces that violated human rights, and much less that this was systematic and part of a state policy.” 

Based on testimony, the TRC found the Armed Forces, along with paramilitary and self-defense groups, responsible for 37% of the dead and disappeared during the conflict.  However, in its final conclusions the TRC also paid “homage to the more than one million valuable members of the Armed Forces that lost their lives or were left disabled as a result of fulfilling their duty.”

But Rey contends:  “It outrages me that no one talks about the crimes against humanity that the terrorists or drug-traffickers always commit.”

Former defense minister, Ántero Flores-Aráoz, claimed that this “existing prejudice” against the Armed Forces is the reason the TRC has failed to bring reconciliation for Peruvians even six years after its conclusion.  He asserted that “reconciliation doesn’t take place because military officials that defend this country from evil-minded delinquents are still being unjustly accused.”  He also mentioned that the TRC has had positive aspects, such as revealing the government’s abandonment of the highland areas during the conflict.

In contrast, Álvarez Rodrich attributed this lack of reconciliation to the adverse standpoint some have taken toward the TRC, but contends that the truth on the past conflict is essential.  “This requires a change of attitude among many,” he said, including the government that continues to keep some information hidden and the “unacceptable” occasional comments launched by some government representatives.

Rodrich questioned the efforts of some like Rey to redirect attention away from reform and towards the idea that the TRC maliciously targeted the military.   However, he also stressed that “all necessary attention must be given so that the TRC is not interpreted as being against the Armed Forces, as some heartless people with ulterior motives have tried to imply.” 

In light of the mixed feelings on the TRC and how to remember the country’s recent past, ex-minister Flores-Aráoz has suggested that the Museum of Memory — a German-funded museum underway to recount Peru’s internal armed conflict — is unnecessary since “we are still unprepared for it.” 

Álvarez Rodrich, however, sees the museum as “a magnificent opportunity to [give this year’s human rights award to a military official that deserves it] and begin to build a more integrated and dignified country.”

While the debate ensues on the TRC’s portrayal of the military and its role in the conflict, long-term reforms that could serve to mend the underlying conditions of the conflict still wait to be addressed.

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