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Peru: Controversy Over Legislative Decree 1097 and Human Rights

Image from blog Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense –EPAF- (Peruvian Team of Forensic Anthropology)

On September 1, the text for the Legislative Decree N° 1097 [es] was published, which “regulates the application of procedural rules for crimes involving the violation of Human Rights.” Immediately, people and organizations dedicated to defending Human Rights began criticizing [es] this decree because it “conceals a new amnesty law in favor of Grupo Colina and other military groups.” During the era of terrorism by El Sendero Luminoso (Shinning Path) and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, military and paramilitary groups (like the aforementioned Grupo Colina) allegedly acted as collaborators in the fight against terrorism, but in practice they functioned like death squads. Its members were subsequently tried and sentenced to various penalties, but in some groups the interest to release them has persisted.

In fact, shortly after the decree was announced, members of the Grupo Colina and  Vladimiro Montesinos Torres, former chief of the National Intelligence Service (SIN), sought to apply [es] Decree 1097 to their case, excluding ongoing processes. Although the prosecutors asked for the inapplicability [es] of the decree during these processes, and although various government representatives have declared that Decree 1097 will not apply to these cases, bloggers have a different view. Lawyer Christian Donayre Montesinos from the blog Sin Censura Previa (Uncensored) writes from a legal standpoint in his post “A well-intentioned legislative decree?…but unconstitutional” [es]

habría que recordar que la Ley Nº 29548 delegó en el Ejecutivo la facultad de legislar, entre otros temas, respecto de:

“c) La dación de normas procesales y penitenciarias relacionadas exclusivamente al personal militar y policial que ha sido procesado o condenado por delitos que implican violación de derechos humanos”.

Sin embargo, el Decreto Legislativo Nº 1097 regula la aplicación de normas procesales por delitos que implican violación de derechos humanos para todos los ciudadanos en general y no sólo para el personal militar y policial, pues adelanta la entrada en vigencia del nuevo Código Procesal Penal y dispone su aplicación en todos los Distritos Judiciales del país a los procesos que se siguen por los delitos contra la vida, el cuerpo y la salud previstos en el Código Penal de 1924 y el Código Penal de 1991, así como por los delitos contra la humanidad previstos en este último código.

one must remember that Law Nº 29548 delegated to the Executive the ability to legislate, among other things, on:

“c) The enactment of procedural and penitentiary laws related exclusively to military and police personnel who have been processed or convicted for crimes that imply the violation of human rights”

However, Legislative Decree Nº 1097 regulates the application of procedural laws for crimes that imply the violation of human rights by all citizens in general and not only by military and police personnel, it advances the entry of the new Criminal Procedure Code and it applies to all Judicial Districts in the country for ongoing processes for crimes against life, body and health under the Penal Code of 1924 and the Penal Code of 1991, as well as crimes against humanity under the latter code.

Melissa Ramírez from Amicus Luris also shares her opinion on the legality of Decree 1097 in the post “1094,1095,1096,1097….what's next?” [es], where she also gives examples of its possible consequences:

Para señalar un ejemplo que grafique la disposición señalada en el DL 1097 en el caso El Frontón que sucedió en el año 1986 si consideramos que los hechos ocurridos son un delito simple este prescribiría en unos diez o quince años, pero al ser considerados estos hechos por el Estado peruano como un delito de lesa humanidad ello le permitía la característica de la imprescriptibilidad es decir pese al paso de los diez o quince años los hechos podían seguir en investigación y con ello seguir judicializados, con este nuevo Decreto la figura varía totalmente pues al cumplirse el plazo señalado por la norma puede archivarse de forma definitiva el proceso.

An example that illustrates the provision specified in Legislative Decree 1097 is the case El Frontón which took place in 1986[.] [If] we consider that these events are a simple offense they would expire in ten or fifteen years, but since they are considered acts by the Peruvian State as a crime against humanity this would allow for applicability [,] in other words[,] despite the ten years that have passed the events could still be investigated and prosecuted, with this new Decree this varies completely because once the deadline set by the law arrives the process can be permanently archived.

Jaime Abanto Padilla from the blog Balcón Interior (Inside Balcony) explains some of the scope of the decree in the post “New amnesty law for Human Rights violators” [es]:

El DL 1097 otorga a todos aquellos militares inmersos en crímenes y violación de Derechos Humanos, la posibilidad de seguir los juicios desde su casa, previo pago de una caución o fianza. El monto de la fianza estará basado en su capacidad económica, en su solvencia. Y solo en los casos donde se mantenga la orden de detención, ésta se cumplirá en una instalación militar o policial. … El canallesco Decreto dispone que las investigaciones que superaron el plazo de tres años, plazos legales, serán declaradas como archivadas a favor de los encausados.

Legislative Decree 1097 allows all those military personnel charged for crimes and violations of Human Rights, the possibility to continue their trials from their home, with a previous payment of a bail. The bail amount will be based on their economic capacity, in their solvency. And only in the cases where the arrest warrant remains, the sentence will be served in a military or police facility. … The despicable Decree allows for investigations that are older than three years, legal deadlines, to be declared as archived in favor of the accused.

Juan Sheput, a Peruvian politician who blogs at Mate Pastor, in his post “Decree 1097 and the moral breakdown of the country” [es] manifests his dismay for the almost null demands for justice summoned by congressmen and political parties toward the government on this issue:

En las próximas horas los asesinos del Grupo Colina podrían salir en libertad. Esta simple posibilidad habría generado la repulsión en cualquier otra sociedad y un emplazamiento de los grupos políticos que entienden a la Política como un conjunto de acciones orientadas al bienestar de los ciudadanos. Pero nada de esto pasa en nuestro país. Más allá de unos cuantos comentarios y de una conferencia de prensa del Partido Nacionalista, los congresistas se dedican a cualquier otro menester pero no plantean ninguna de las acciones que la Constitución y el Reglamento del Congreso les permite. ¿El resultado? Las risas de hiena de aquellos que hoy ven el futuro lejos de las rejas y celdas que merecen, por haber asesinado a mujeres, niños y otros inocentes.

In the upcoming hours, the murderers from the Grupo Colina could go free. This simple possiblity would have generated repulsion in any other society and a summoning from political groups that understand Politics as a group of actions oriented toward the well-being of citizens. But this does not happen in our country. Beyond a few comments and a press conference by the Nationalist Party, congressmen are dedicated to other needs but they do not raise any of the actions the Constitution and the Rules of Congress allows. The result? Hyena-like laughter from those who now see the future far away from the bars and jail cells they deserve, for murdering women, children and other innocent people.

Finally, Ricardo Alvarado from the blog AveCrítica reflects on this issue and on the real quality of democracy in Peru in his post “The end to the Spring of democracy” [es]:

Los decretos legislativos de autoamnistía han puesto fin a la primavera democrática iniciada con la caída de la dictadura fujimorista … ¿Han sido años perdidos? Sin duda. Pero no sólo se ha perdido tiempo: también se jugó con las esperanzas de mucha gente en la posibilidad de un cambio real en democracia, de salir del juego necio del toma y daca para obtener un mínimo avance en materia de derechos, o de inclusión … Hay aspectos del modelo económico y social fujimorista que no se han tocado y no se van a tocar. Las privatizaciones, las concesiones, la economía extractiva, las mafias de la economía y los medios de comunicación, los abundantes y bien pertrechados lobbys. A lo sumo, se discute si el gas, o la electricidad, debe ir al Chile de Piñera, o al Brasil de Lula, o a la Venezuela de Chávez. Mientras tanto, Pisco sigue en el suelo, y buena parte del Perú -no sólo Lima; no sólo la Costa- le da la espalda a los pueblos amazónicos.

The legistlative decrees of amnesty have put an end to the Spring of democracy which began with the end of the dictatorship [of Alberto Fujimori]… Have these years been lost? Without a doubt. But times is not the only thing that was lost: they also played with the hopes many people had for the possibility of a real change in democracy, of getting out of the game of give and take to achieve a small advance on the subject of rights, or of inclusion…There are aspects of the economic and social model of Fujimori that have not been touched and will not be touched. Privatization, concessions, extractive economics, the mafias in the economy and the media, the abundant and well-armed lobbys. At best, we discuss if gas, or electricity, should go to the Chile of Piñera, or the Brazil of Lula, or the Venezuela of Chávez. Meanwhile, Pisco is still on the ground, and a big part of Peru -not only Lima; not only in the Coast- turns their back to the amazonian people.

Members of the group Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense –EPAF- (Peruvian Team of Forensic Anthropology), published in their blog a sample letter to send authorities asking for the repeal of Decree 1097. The text is in English and Spanish. On Facebook the group NO al Decreto Legislativo 1097 [es] (NO to Legislative Decree 1097) currently has 1,294 members. The group's profile says: “We say NO to legislative decree 1097 because we want human rights violators to be appropriately prosecuted.”

But the controversy around the decree does not end there. The Minister of Justice, Víctor García Toma, declared [es] that he would resign “if it is established that the Executive sent Legislative Decree 1097 to Congress based on the opinion of the Ministry of Defense and not the whole ministry.” Later, the president of the Justice parliamentary Comission, Rolando Sousa, questioned [es] that “the Minister of Justice had signed legislative decree 1097 without knowing the content of the law.” finally, the Minister declared that the impasse was over and added [es] that the decree “will not allow limitations for crimes against humanity and human rights.” What is not over is the impression of informality by politicians and the impression that certain groups want to cheat in the enactment of laws in the country.

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