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For the First Time Ever, Judges in Peru Pass Sentences in Quechua and Aymara


Cathedral of Puno. Photo by Flickr user Diego Giannoni (CC BY 2.0).

Peru is multicultural and its linguistic profile, complex. Estimates point out that between 43 and 60 indigenous languages are spoken throughout the country. Quechua is the second most spoken language after Spanish, and Aymara comes in third.

In 1975, the Quechua language was declared an official state language. According to estimates, there are three million people who speak it as their native language in Peru, and about half a million Aymara speakers (almost 455,000 people of them hail from Puno). Article 48 of the Political Constitution of Peru establishes:

Artículo 48: Son idiomas oficiales el castellano y, en las zonas donde predominen, también lo son el quechua, el aimara y las demás lenguas aborígenes, según la ley.

Spanish and, in areas where they predominate, Quechua, Aymara, and other native tongues are official languages, according to the law.

Despite this, never before had a judicial sentence been handed down in either Quechua or Aymara until this year.

On March 13, the Consolidated Court of Ilave, in the province of El Collao, in the region of Puno, dictated the first sentence ever in Aymara. A part of the ruling can be read on news agency SERVINDI's website:

La primera sentencia en aymara, idioma originario, marca un precedente de interculturalidad del Poder Judicial y de cómo el juez debe acercarse a los involucrados en un juicio, destacó el juez mixto de Ilave de la provincia de El Collao, Julio César Chucuya, quien fue autor de este hecho.
Asimismo, el juez Chucuya […] indicó que desde el Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura (CNM) se estableció que para zonas de habla quechua o aymara, se cuente con jueces que dominen estos idiomas, para facilitar el acceso.

The first sentence ever in the indigenous language Aymara marks a precedent of interculturality by the Judiciary and how a judge must approach individuals involved in a trial, the consolidated judge of Ilave in the province of El Collao, Julio César Chucuya, who authored the ruling, pointed out.
Meanwhile, judge Chucuya […] noted that from the National Council of the Judiciary (CNM) it was determined that for zones where Quechua or Aymara is spoken, there should be judges fluent in those languages, to make access easier.

Legal news website also addressed the issue:

En términos jurídicos, la sentencia emitida en Aymara cumple con un derecho formal y material que sigue un principio fundamental: toda persona debe ser escuchada y juzgada en su propio idioma. Si bien este principio se encuentra garantizado en nuestro país en una norma constitucional, poco se ha hecho por su implementación.

In legal terms, the sentence written in the Aymara language complies with a formal and material right that follows a fundamental principle: every individual must be heard and judged in their own language. Although this principle is sanctioned in our country in a constitutional law, not much has been done for it to be implemented.

About two weeks later on March 30, judge Santos Poma Machaca handed down the first sentence in Quechua in the First Court of Preparatory Investigation in the province of Azángaro, also in Puno. News website explained:

El abogado del imputado, Román Ramos Revilla de la Defensa Pública, ejerció la defensa en el idioma quechua, así como también el juez Santos Poma Machaca procedió a explicarle al imputado los beneficios de la “Terminación Anticipada” en el mismo idioma.
“Nokga kaskani” respondió Chambi Chaucha, que significa “conforme señor juez”, ante la propuesta que le realizó el Ministerio Público.
“Desde el año 2007, cuando fuimos Juez de Paz Letrado, venimos desarrollando audiencias en el idioma quechua porque los justiciables que tienen como idioma original el quechua nos entienden mejor y se sienten mejor atendidos, pero la redacción solo era en castellano. Recién en esta audiencia hemos emitido el documento de la sentencia en quechua”, refirió el juez Santos Poma Machaca.

The defendant's lawyer, public defender Román Ramos Revilla, raised the defense in Quechua language, and judge Santos Poma Machaca went on to explain to the defendant the benefits of an “Anticipated Conclusion” in the same language.
“Nokga kaskani,” answered [defendant] Chambi Chaucha, meaning “I agree, your Honor”, to the proposal made by the Prosecutor's Office representative.
“Since 2007, when I was Judge of the Peace, we've being carrying out hearings in the Quechua language as individuals who speak it as their native language understand us better and they feel they receive better attention, but the documents were written only in Spanish. During this trial, we've issued the sentencing document in Quechua,” said judge Santos Poma Machaca.

Legal news website LaLey posted the whole sentence and called it “unprecedented”:

En una resolución sin precedentes, se dictó – íntegramente en idioma quechua –tres años de pena suspendida al agresor de una mujer. Sucedió en la región Puno, en la sede del Primer Juzgado de Investigación Preparatoria de la provincia de Azángaro, donde las partes y sus abogados condujeron el juicio en la lengua indígena.

In an unprecedented ruling, an aggressor who attacked a woman was sentenced – written up fully in the Quechua language – to three years of a suspended sentence. It happened in the region Puno, in the First Court of Preparatory Investigation of the province of Azángaro, where the involved parties and their attorneys carried out the trial in the indigenous language.

Both sentences prompted discussion on Twitter:

Peru passes sentence in indigenous language: first ruling written in Aymara (official language for 40 years).

The sentence issued in Aymara is a big accomplishment in bringing official justice to life in a multicultural country.

The real social inclusion comes from the Judiciary, about the first sentence in Aymara.

A judicial sentence in Quechua? Learn more about this event which occurred in Puno.

Criminal judge in Azángaro passed sentence in Quechua. The media is amazed.

“Nokga kaskani”, phrase used in the Quechua-language sentence passed in the province of Azángaro: Puno, Apr. 06.

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