WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
23 Nov 2009 | News

The Fujimori Trial: An Exemplary Process

LIMA, PERU – On April 7, 2009, after 16 months of judicial proceedings, the Special Criminal Court of Peru's Supreme Court found former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) guilty in all four cases of human rights violations of which he stood accused. In its unanimous decision, the Court argued that the gravity and extent of the crimes – and the status of the accused as head of state when the crimes were committed – warranted the imposition of the maximum penalty allowable by Peruvian law, a 25-year prison sentence.  Fujimori's defense lawyer has appealed the decision, and a second tribunal of Supreme Court justices is reviewing the appeal. On November 23, 24 and 25, public hearings in that appeal process will take place. The judges have 15 to 30 working days  to make their final decision.

"Strong political pressures exist to overturn the sentence or to substantially reduce Mr. Fujimori's sentence," said Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of CEJIL. "As the final decision on the Fujimori trial nears, WOLA and CEJIL call upon the Primera Sala Penal Transitoria, which is charged with the important task of reviewing the appeal of the Fujimori sentence, to guarantee the procedural fairness of the process: it must guarantee the utmost respect for the due process rights of Fujimori, as well as ensure the impartiality and independence of the tribunal itself."

The trial of Fujimori marks a milestone in the struggle against impunity in Peru and across the world. It is first time a democratically elected head of state in Latin America has been found guilty of committing crimes against humanity. It is also the first time that a former president has been extradited to his home country to face charges for such crimes.  In other such cases – such as Charles Taylor or Slobodon Milosevic – trials were carried out in internationally constituted courts.  Peru, in contrast, has shown that national governments can hold their former leaders accountable; not even a former head of state is above the law. 

The trial of Alberto Fujimori was an exemplary process, setting a new standard for Peruvian courts. It clearly met the international standards for a fair, independent and impartial trial.  The trial was conducted in a transparent manner. Fujimori's due process rights were guaranteed and he was given ample opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. This historic process, by affirming the fundamental democratic principle of equality before the law regardless of one's power or status, thus contributes to the strengthening of the rule of law and democracy in Peru.

National and international human rights groups enthusiastically commended the Peruvian Supreme Court for the integrity of the process throughout the trial and for ensuring justice.  The U.S. government's prepared statement noted that:  "This verdict is a powerful statement against impunity, and underscores the importance of the rule of law as a foundation of democratic government."

The verdict itself is, in the estimation of WOLA and CEJIL, solid and well-argued. The judges were careful to elaborate in painstaking detail their arguments, documenting their reasoning with national and international jurisprudence, and using internationally accepted standards of circumstantial evidence as well as internationally accepted theories of criminal responsibility such as autoría mediata.  "It is our firm conviction that the crimes of which Fujimori was convicted -aggravated homicide and assault in the cases of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta, and aggravated kidnapping in the cases of Gustavo Gorriti and Samuel Dyer- rise to the level of crimes against humanity, as the judges affirmed in their verdict," said WOLA researcher Jo-Marie Burt.



In Lima:
Jo-Marie Burt (WOLA): +511 99495 0426
Viviana K (CEJIL): (202) 651-07-06

In Washington, DC:
John Walsh (WOLA): (202) 797-2171
Mauricio Herrera (CEJIL): (202) 319-3000, (202) 445-46-76