Two years ago yesterday, Peru’s Supreme Court found former President Alberto Fujimori guilty of individual criminal responsibility in four cases of grave human rights violations committed during his administration (1990-2000) and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. In December 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld this sentence on appeal. The Fujimori verdict is seen worldwide as a fundamental step forward in the global struggle against impunity for grave human rights violations, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
To mark the anniversary of this historic achievement, WOLA is circulating the Executive Summary of the proceedings of an international conference organized in 2010 by George Mason University and the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) in Lima, which featured prominent international and Peruvian jurists, scholars, and human rights activists reflecting on the local and global significance of the Fujimori trial and verdict.
“This was the first time a democratically elected president was convicted for human rights violations in an unimpeachable judicial process,” said conference organizer Jo-Marie Burt, Senior Fellow at WOLA and political science professor at George Mason University. “The trial also demonstrated that national courts can be effective venues for accountability for human rights violations with important international implications.”
At the same time, WOLA is concerned at the very real possibility of a presidential pardon for Fujimori. Peruvian law prohibits pardons to individuals who have been convicted of aggravated kidnapping, as Fujimori was, and international law prohibits pardons to those responsible for crimes against humanity.
“Outgoing President Alan Garcia has publicly contemplated the possibility of granting Fujimori a pardon, at one point even suggesting holding a national referendum to determine public support for such a measure,” according to WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt. “Peru’s presidential elections take place this Sunday, and several candidates have suggested they would consider a pardon for Fujimori under certain conditions. And there’s no doubt that if she is elected, Fujimori’s daughter Keiko would promptly pardon her father.”
Fujimori’s historic trial and verdict were milestones in the administration of justice and the fight against impunity. WOLA takes this opportunity to reiterate its congratulations to the Peruvian Judiciary and the Peruvian people, and calls for vigilance to ensure that these historic gains are not undone.
The Executive Summary for the “The Human Rights Trial of Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori: A Milestone in the Global Struggle Against Impunity” Conference from May 2010 is available here.
Jo-Marie Burt, WOLA Senior Fellow
John Walsh, WOLA Senior Associate