FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Measure of Justice in Latin America

“With this ruling, and its exemplary performance during the trial, the Peruvian court has shown the world that even former heads of state cannot expect to get away with serious crimes.”

Maria McFarland, Human Rights Watch, April 8, 2009.

In a region of the world where state brutality has been the depressing norm, the conviction of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on grave human rights charges seems something akin to a miracle.  Usually, cases of brutality have been papered over by the granting of amnesties, ostensibly to allow countries to reconcile contesting and bitter factions.  This decision challenges that approach, setting a chilling precedent to leaders who might argue that such an outcome is best reserved for dictators and despots.  Fujimori was, after all, democratically elected.

The Peruvian leader, elected in 1990, had promoted himself as strongman and protector of the state during that turbulent decade, overwhelming the insurgent challenge posed by the guerillas of the Maoist Shining Path.  But that came with its share of blood and carnage.   Faced with a mountain of corruption charges, he submitted his resignation, somewhat unusually, by fax, promptly fleeing to the country of his parent’s birth, Japan, in 2000. Feeling the wanderlust of a political return, he traveled to Chile, only to find himself facing an extradition order in 2007.

The three judges who tried Fujimori found him guilty of an assortment of “crimes against humanity” after a fifteen-month trial, imposing a 25-year prison sentence.  Amongst the charges were military operations that left 15 people dead on November 3, 1991, including the death of an eight-year old boy in the Barrios Altos neighbourhood in Lima; the kidnapping, disappearance and murder of a group of students along with a professor from La Cantuta University on July 18, 1992; and the murder of 25 others.  These had been perpetrated by a military death squad belonging to the Army Intelligence Service headed by Fujimori’s close advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Fujimori has had little interest in the charges, or for the process that brought him there in the first place.  And little wonder.  Students of the region will remember his efforts to immunize the police and armed forces from charges of human rights violations with a blanket amnesty in 1995.  His amnesty laws were subsequently struck down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found them obnoxious to notions of justice.

From Fujimori’s perspective, evidence linking him to the events in question is lacking.  The links simply did not exist.  “As I said in the beginning,” he had told the court, “I’m innocent.”  The murders and kidnappings were simply the enterprising moves of free spirited anti-communist operatives connected with the security forces, known as the Grupo Colina or Colina Group.

This, it would seem, was far from the case.  Reports have circulated since 2005, most notably a Human Rights Watch document, Probable Cause: Evidence Implicating Fujimori, showing strong links between Fujimori and the brutalities of the Colina group.  Abundant testimony and documentation suggests that the group figured prominently in military operations.  The army and National Intelligence Service, both under Fujimori’s control, supplied them with plentiful resources and logistical support.  Even the US Embassy in Lima had to concede that the Fujimori regime had been engaged in a “covert strategy to aggressively fight against subversion through terror operations, disregarding human rights and legal norms.”

Whatever the international repercussions of the decision, its effectiveness will have to be gauged within Peruvian circles.  Hugo Relva, legal advisor for Amnesty International, lauded it as a blow to those who still believed in impunity.  Efrain Gonzales, vice rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima, suggested the healing propensities of the verdict.  In this sense, the argument is very conventional: punishment through regular tribunals in a manner just for both the person charged and the society he is said to have harmed.  In Gonzales’s words, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, “It’s an acceptance that we had a problem.  He is guilty… The nation can move forward from here.”

A considerable minority of Peruvians who continue supporting the convicted leader may not be convinced.  The matter has become something of a family affair, with Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, describing the verdict as one filled with “hate and vengeance.”  The precedent against impunity in Latin America has, however, been set, whatever the aspirations of the Fujimorists and their supporters.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail