Peru's attorney general has asked Congress to charge former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) with murder in a high-profile human rights case. That case and several others are working their way through the legal system following the decision by interim President Valentin Paniagua to return to the binding jurisdiction of the Organization of American States (OAS) human rights court.
Earlier this year Peru formally returned to the Inter- American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), based in San Jose, Costa Rica, two years after Fujimori withdrew rather than accept the court's order to grant new trials for four Chileans convicted of terrorism (see NotiSur, 2001-02-16). Under Fujimori, Peru's human rights record was among the worst in Latin America.
On May 23, Attorney General Nelly Calderon asked Congress to charge Fujimori with being a co-author of the Barrios Altos massacre. In the November 1991 attack, masked assailants burst into a party in the Barrios Altos district, a poor Lima neighborhood close to the presidential palace, and opened fire, killing 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy.
"This is very serious," said Deputy Daniel Estrada, chair of the congressional subcommittee investigating allegations of murder, forced disappearances, and terrorism involving the former president.
The Barrios Altos charges are the most serious against Fujimori to date. The ex-president, in self-exile in Japan, was fired as "morally unfit" to rule last November. He had left the country during a corruption crisis involving his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos. Fujimori faces charges of dereliction of duty, while Montesinos is wanted on charges ranging from arms and drugs trafficking to running death squads and ordering torture.
Estrada said if Congress approves the request by the attorney general and formally opens an investigation, it could pave the way for a Japanese judge to proceed against Fujimori. He said if Congress considers that there are sufficient grounds, it would then charge Fujimori and order the attorney general's office to proceed.
IACHR ordered Barrios Altos investigation reopened
On March 20, the IACHR said Peru's amnesty laws aimed at protecting military officers from prosecution for rights abuses were incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights and thus lacked legal standing. The court called on the Peruvian government to punish members of the Comando de Liberacion Nacional (Colina) death squad for the Barrios Altos massacre.
No charges were ever filed in the Barrios Altos case, but human rights groups, citing survivors of the massacre, said it was the work of the Colina death squad. The Fujimori government always denied the existence of the Colina group, which human rights organizations say was formed by Montesinos to combat leftist guerrillas.
On March 28, Peru's Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) said it would accept the IACHR ruling. Two days earlier special prosecutor Ronald Gamarra said the former heads of the Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN), Gen. Julio Salazar Monroe, and the Servicio de Inteligencia del Ejercito (SIE), Juan Rivera Lazo, had been arrested. Warrants were issued for other Colina members, including Col. Federico Navarro Perez and Majs. Carlos Pichilingue Guevara and Santiago Martin Rivas, as well as several lower-ranking military.
Besides the Barrios Altos massacre, the Colina group is accused of murdering nine students and a professor from the Universidad Enrique Guzman y Valle, known as La Cantuta, in 1992 (see NotiSur, 1993-10-01, 1994-02-25), assassinating labor leader Pedro Huillca in December 1992, and murdering a former intelligence agent, Mariela Barreto, and torturing another, Leonor La Rosa, in 1997 (see NotiSur, 1997-04-25). …