Peru: Former President Alberto Fujimori Charged with Crimes against Humanity
The wheels of justice continue to turn against Peru's disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). The Peruvian Congress has accused him of responsibility for two brutal massacres in the 1990s, and the attorney general has filed homicide charges against him. The government is pressuring Japan to cooperate in bringing the former president to trial, but so far the Japanese government has refused.
On Aug. 2, Peruvian Judge Jose Luis Lecaros declared Fujimori a fugitive from justice (reo ausente) and ordered his arrest. Fujimori has been in Japan since last November. He left Peru to escape a corruption scandal and faxed his resignation from Japan. Congress rejected his resignation, firing him for dereliction of duty (see NotiSur, 2000-12-08).
An official at Japan's Foreign Ministry said that, despite the arrest order, Japan would not extradite Fujimori because he is protected by his dual Japanese and Peruvian citizenship.
"We will respond according to Japanese law," the official said. Asked if this meant Fujimori would not be extradited because he is a Japanese citizen, he said, "It would depend on the situation, but, generally speaking, that's what it means."
"While Japan can take that position on principle, it is a signatory to a series of international treaties," said Prime Minister Roberto Danino. "When we have the legal route laid out and established, we will push their compliance with the treaties so Fujimori can be brought to justice."
Fujimori has said that he will not return to Peru because he is a victim of political persecution.
"The government...will give Mr. Fujimori every guarantee of a clean, just, and transparent trial before Peruvian courts," President Alejandro Toledo told reporters on Aug. 6.
Toledo said he wanted to encourage Japanese investment in Peru and sought a bilateral relationship of "mutual respect," but he also said Fujimori should be considered Peruvian.
"From our perspective, Fujimori was elected as a Peruvian, governed as a Peruvian, and...needs to face Peruvian courts," Toledo said. "Japan cannot buy his immunity with money."
Congress removes Fujimori's immunity
On Aug. 27, Congress convened a special session to debate the charges against Fujimori. That night, the lawmakers voted 75 to 0 to lift Fujimori's constitutional immunity. Deputy Martha Chavez, the ex-president's staunchest supporter and the only member of Congress to insist the motion was a "tremendous injustice," left the chamber before the vote.
In the vote, Congress accepted an investigative committee's report holding Fujimori responsible for the actions of the Grupo Colina, a paramilitary death squad allegedly run by jailed ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.
The report cited testimony from Fujimori's former military chiefs, former intelligence agents, and a secretly filmed videotape from 1998 in which Montesinos tells two former officials that the Colina massacres "came from" Fujimori.
The allegations include the 1991 murder of 15 people who were attending a party in the Barrios Altos district in Lima and the 1992 killing of nine university students and a professor at the Enrique Valle y Guzman University, known as La Cantuta. Fujimori granted amnesty to some of those convicted of murdering the La Cantuta victims and burying their bodies (see NotiSur, 1995-07-07).
Committee chair Deputy Daniel Estrada of Union por el Peru said evidence showed clearly that the death-squad killings were part of the Fujimori government's strategy to defeat the guerrillas. The massacres "could not have occurred without the consent of the highest spheres of power," Estrada said.
The government said the vote should make it easier to force Fujimori's return from Japan to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
"The possibility of extradition would be much more concrete [with the congressional vote]. …