The Human Rights Brief is a publication of The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Washington College of Law, American University. Please note that this is a copyrighted material. Feel free to download and read articles from The Brief, but these materials may not be republished or reposted without the written permission of The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Commission Evaluates Administration of Justice in Peru

By Antonio Maldonado & Diego Rodriguez *

The United States and Peru recently reached an unprecedented agreement permitting an independent commission of human rights experts to examine the administration of justice in Peru following the April 5, 1992, auto-coup by Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. In an effort to concentrate power in the executive branch, Fujimori dismissed the Peruvian congress, the majority of judges and public prosecutors, and the Tribunal de Garantías Constitucionales (Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees). The United States responded to the coup d'état by freezing most U.S. aid to Peru. The agreement worked out by key congressional leaders and the Clinton administration calls for the restoration of aid to Peru if, inter alia, it implements the commission recommendations.

"This has never been done before," says American University professor Robert Goldman, who was selected to chair the commission. "Other people in Congress are looking at the commission as a possible model to be used in other cases."

Goldman and the other three members of the commission - former Argentine Minister of Justice Leon Carlos Arslanian, Italian congressman Fernando Imposimato, and head of the Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction Section of the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General's Office, José Raffucci - visited Peru for a total of three weeks in September and December 1993. They met with high government officials of Peru, as well as with other independent sources, such as the Colegio de Abogados de Lima( Bar Association) and the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordination of Human Rights) in order to form their recommendations.

Fujimori claimed that the concentration of powers within the presidency was necessary in order to rid the government of corruption and strengthen efforts to combat violent opposition groups. Peru's most powerful dissident factions, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), and the Movimeinto Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA), have terrorized the Peruvian people for many years with bombings and assassinations. These indiscriminate attacks have transformed Peru into the only country in Latin America involved in a non-international armed conflict.

Since the April 1992 coup, Fujimori has attained a level of popularity never before achieved by any Peruvian leader in a time of internal conflict. Known as the "Fujimori Phenomena," this level of popularity has been achieved despite wide-spread human rights abuses. Fujimori authorized, for example, the creation of special civil and military courts staffed by "faceless" judges and prosecutors.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and virtually all human rights groups, the military's efforts to suppress the Sendero Luminoso and MRTA have resulted in egregious violations of human rights. These transgressions include the imprisonment of innocent persons, summary judgments, forced disappearances, tortures, extrajudicial executions, and arbitrary detentions within emergency zones under political control of military commanders. Approximately 500,000 persons have been displaced from the emergency zones since 1985.

Fujimori has increased national efforts to suppress the insurgent movements by creating new crimes, including the crime of treason as an aggravated form of terrorism, for which civilians can be tried in military courts. He also has increased the penalties for these crimes to include the death penalty, previously only authorized in limited circumstances. The Commission of Human Rights recently requested an advisory opinion from the Inter-American Court on Peru's expanded application of the death penalty.

The commission, better known in Peru as the "Comisión Goldman," has made a series of recommendations aimed at bringing the Peruvian judiciary into conformity with international standards on due process and independence. The recommendations of the commission were transmitted to the Peruvian government and are expected to be made public in the near future.

*Antonio Maldonado is a Peruvian attorney currently pursuing his LL.M. in International Legal Studies at WCL. Diego Rodriguez is a Columbian attorney who recently completed the International Legal Studies Program at WCL and is currently interning at the International Human Rights Law Group.

©Copyright 1994 The Human Rights Brief


Next Article
Previous Article
Return to this issue's Table of Contents
Return to The Human Rights Brief Home Page