Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) sent a letter to Peruvian President Alan García expressing its profound dismay regarding Decree Law 1097 that applies time limits to judicial investigations and statutes of limitation to human rights violations committed during Peru's internal armed conflict. The decree will effectively put an end to many ongoing human rights investigations and trials. In the letter, WOLA urges the Peruvian government to immediately repeal Decree Law No. 1097.
"The decree is basically a 'get out of jail free card' for individuals who committed systematic atrocities against civilians, including massacres, tortures, forced disappearance," said Coletta Youngers, WOLA Senior Fellow and a prominent advocate for human rights in Peru for more than two decades. "The decree is an affront to the victims of the internal conflict and their family members, who for so many years have fought for justice," she said in reference to Decree Law No. 1097, which went into effect on August 31st, 2010.
"This decree is a major step backwards in Peru's efforts to promote truth and justice," said Jo-Marie Burt, one of the leading international experts on human rights in Peru and author of Political Violence and the Authoritarian State in Peru. "It amounts to state-sanctioned impunity. This decree law blatantly violates international law, and the Peruvian government should repeal it immediately."
According to the WOLA letter, "The conviction of former president Alberto Fujimori to 25 years in jail for aggravated homicide, assault and kidnapping – which the judges referred to as crimes against humanity – represents a milestone in the struggle against impunity in Peru and across the hemisphere. In contrast, the new decree law represents a major setback and could lead to the release of some individuals already convicted or on trial for human rights violations; of particular concern is the on-going trial of members of the Colina death squad implicated in the Barrios Altos and La Cantata massacres."
Another disturbing element of the decree law is that it also introduces regulations that provide for the conditional liberty of those prosecuted for grave human rights violations.
"Military and police officers being prosecuted for torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings should not be granted the opportunity to go into hiding or flee the country, or worse, walk out of jail as if nothing ever happened," said Coletta Youngers, WOLA's Senior Fellow. "That is the wrong message to send to security forces."
For more information, including President Garcia's power to declare decree laws, contact:
Coletta Youngers, WOLA's Senior Fellow at 301-404-1905 or
Jo-Marie Burt, WOLA Advisor and Professor at George Mason University at 703-946-9714. For additional commentary on Decree Law No. 1097 tune in to Jo-Marie Burt's recent audio podcast.