In recent statements, President Alan García and other high-ranking Peruvian officials have falsely and recklessly accused Peruvian human rights defenders of acting as apologists for terrorism. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) today denounced these accusations and asked Peruvian officials to retract them immediately. WOLA and other international human rights organizations have written President García directly to express concern over these statements. Click here to read this letter.
On April 24, President García called Francisco Soberón, institutional outreach director of the esteemed human rights group, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), a "traitor to the fatherland." Such attacks on Mr. Soberón and APRODEH risk creating a climate of intolerance toward human rights defenders that could threaten their work and their safety.
WOLA calls on President García to publicly retract his and other government officials' defamatory and threatening statements about Mr. Soberón and APRODEH, and to clarify the president's support for the important work of Peru's Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos and its members, including APRODEH.
The furor over APRODEH was sparked by a decision by the European Parliament on April 23 not to endorse a motion to add the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) to the European Union's (EU) list of international terrorist groups, as the Peruvian government had sought. As the parliamentarians considered the government's request to add the MRTA to the list, they asked for APRODEH's views on the matter.
In reply, Mr. Soberón and APRODEH Executive Director Juan Miguel Jugo wrote that their organization and the Peruvian human rights movement had taken a clear position since the outset of political violence in Peru in the 1980s, "rejecting and condemning the acts of terror by groups such as the SL [Shining Path] and the MRTA that operated in those years."
Given the fact that the MRTA has been inactive for more than 8 years, APRODEH advised against adding MRTA to the European list of terrorist groups. To add it to the list might, in APRODEH's view, risk exaggerating the current relevance of the moribund MRTA in a way that would play into the Peruvian government's strategy of attempting to intimidate social activists and political opponents by accusing them unjustly of crimes of terrorism.
APRODEH was clear that its advice against adding the MRTA to the list of terrorist groups was because the MRTA is defunct – not because it did not commit acts of terror when it was active. In fact, the MRTA has never been included in the EU's list of international terrorist groups since that list was created in 2001. Nor has it appeared on the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 2002. The latest U.S. report on terrorism, released April 30, 2008, does not even mention the MRTA in the Peru section.
The García government's attempt to demonize APROHEH as "apologists for terrorism" underscores the validity of APRODEH's concerns about precisely such behavior on the part of the government.