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Impunity legalized
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President Alan García issues decrees protecting human rights violators.

President Alan García´s government issued a legislative decree on Sept. 1 that could cancel the trials of dozens of military and police officers accused of human rights violations during a period of internal violence.

While the rest of the country is heavily focused on the Oct. 3 local elections, García´s administration issued the decree which would drop human rights charges against police and the military for human rights crimes if they are not sentenced within three years or if they were committed before Nov. 9, 2003, when Peru signed the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. This stipulation could mean that cases of violence against the population during the 1980-2000 armed conflict could be dropped, even though convention establishes that no statutory limitation shall apply to human rights violations, irrespective of the date of their commission.

The decree, which was championed by ultra-conservative Defense Minister Rafael Rey, also establishes that the accused police and military could stay at home during their trials, after making bail. This would be granted to 57 soldiers who have been accused of human rights violations, including members of the Grupo Colina death squad, which was responsible for Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres of 25 people during the 1990-2000 government of Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori is serving a 25-year sentence for authorizing the massacres, which occurred in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

Human rights organizations called the decree an amnesty for the soldiers and police officers that only seek to close off investigations of the crimes.

“They´re not taking into account rulings from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Tribunal that say that human rights violations have no statute of limitations and that an amnesty or any other kind of benefit cannot be applied,” said Gustavo Campos, a lawyer with the nongovernmental Human Rights Commission.

In a statement published after his Sept. 1-8 visit to Peru, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said that the decree reinforces a “perception of a climate of impunity that already exists” and “is the start of violations of international law.”

Some analysts, such as former Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi, argue that the decree is a step back from the steps toward justice in the 2000-2001 government of Valentín Paniagua (2000-2001), which established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and of the 2001-2006 administration of Alejandro Toledo. The commission released its findings under Toledo´s government in August 2003, and found the police and armed forces were responsible for 31 percent of the 69,280 deaths during the armed conflict between the government and two armed groups from 1980 to 2000. According to the report, nearly 80 percent of the victims lived in rural areas and 75 percent were Quechua speakers or indigenous peoples from the Amazon.
—Latinamerica Press.

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