Thursday, January 11, 2007

Peru: Garcia to Oppose Human Rights Court Ruling

Way back in 1992, second year Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, unhappy with the gridlock of democracy and faced with a growing rebel movement, decided to dissolve Congress, annul the Constitution and and begin a Dictatorial reign in concert with the military. After widespread condemnation, the United States decided to support Fujimori's path and defended him from attacks from the likes of the Organization of American States.

In this context the Peruvian armed forces launched an assault on the Castro Castro prison which was full of suspected and convicted members of the Maoist Shining Path movement, including several leaders. Over the course of some days, at least 41 were killed and there is evidence that many were summarily executed.

The killers evaded justice, along with the executioners of several surrended rebels who had taken over an Embassy the same year. The case was brought to the Inter-American Human Rights Court, who last month ruled that the country must publicly apologize for the extra-judicial killings of unarmed prisoners and provide compensation to their families. This has very much upset new President Alan Garcia, who (not coincidentally) has several similar episodes under his belt, from when he was President in the 1980s. Garcia's rejection of the decision comes only one month after he publicly pledged to uphold any human right court decisions.

The BBC has more:

Peru slams ruling on rebel rights
By Dan Collyns, BBC News
Peru's president has said he will challenge an international human rights court after it ruled the country should compensate families of rebels killed.
In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Peru to pay the families of Shining Path rebels killed in a prison riot 15 years ago.

But Alan Garcia says he cannot allow Peruvian taxpayers to pay the $20m (£10.3m, 15.4m euros) in compensation (and is considering pulling out of the the Court's jurisdiction).
He also criticised his predecessor, Alejandro Toledo, for allowing so many allegations of human rights abuses to be dealt with by the supra-national court.
Human rights groups have welcomed the court ruling as an opportunity for Peru, as a signatory to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to acknowledge the human rights abuses committed during the civil war in the 1980s and 1990s.

Around 70,000 people died in that era - a significant proportion of them at the hands of government forces and their vigilante groups.

Former President Fujimori fled Peru in 2000 amid a corruption scandal. He is now living in Chile from where Peru is seeking his extradition on human rights and embezzlement charges.

Peru has been ordered to pay up to $20m (£10.3m) in compensation and has a year to comply with the court's demands.

But some analysts say the current government of Alan Garcia is reluctant to agree to the court's ruling as Mr Garcia himself faces accusations of political responsibility for a prison massacre in 1986 during his first term as president.

We will closely watch how the human rights groups and OAS respond to this blatant rejection of the Rule of Law, rights to life and judicial procedures.

Oh, I just also learned that the Peruvian Congress held fast and defeated Garcia's attempt to re-institute the death penalty in Peru. Garcia's approval rating is apparently heading down the tubes, but he'll always have friends in Washington given that he defeated a strong leftist challenge in last year's election.


Blogger jsb said...

Speaking of the Inter-American Human Rights:

...the human rights situation in Cuba is still extremely serious. The fact is that the deterioration in living conditions, the repressive control exercised by the State through the security agencies against individuals and groups who differ with the regime and the extreme economic difficulties that the Cuban people are suffering caused a mass exodus of persons who put out to sea on makeshift rafts in search of new horizons, despite the fact that they were taking their lives in their hands by so doing.

Once again, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the lack of civil and political rights and the continuous deterioration of economic, social and cultural rights.


The human rights branch of the Organization of American States on Wednesday condemned Cuba for jailing 75 dissidents and swiftly trying and executing three hijackers during a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended that Cuba free the prisoners, compensate the victims and their families and modify its laws to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the rights of its citizens.

The opinion, stated in two separate reports, likely will have little immediate impact because Cuba has long refused to recognize the commission's decisions. But human rights lawyers say it might lay the groundwork for future legal actions, including suits for reparations, if there's a change of government.

"As a result of this case, these three deaths ... are not anonymous deaths anymore," said Claudio Grossman, a law professor at American University who led a legal team that argued the hijackers' case. "Their story should be told by a legitimate organ with authority."

The commission, widely respected by non-government human rights groups, has been credited with helping thousands of victims of violations in the hemisphere obtain redress and prod OAS member-states to improve their human rights protections.

Cuba argues that the commission has no jurisdiction over Havana because the country was suspended from the OAS in 1962. It routinely returns the commission' s communications unopened.

The 75 dissidents were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison after brief trials on charges that they were acting as U.S. agents. The commission report mentions another four dissidents jailed around the same time. Fifteen were released later on health grounds.

The three hijackers were executed by firing squads just nine days after their arrests following a foiled attempt to hijack a passenger ferry to Florida. Their swift trial and executions infuriated international human rights organizations, many Cuban-Americans and the U.S. government.

The commission regularly condemns Cuba for its lack of liberties but also urges the United States to end its embargo against the island. The panel rarely tackles specific cases, however.

In 1996, it condemned Cuba for the 37 deaths that occurred after government vessels rammed and sank a Florida-bound tugboat in 1994. And in 1999 it blamed Cuba for shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. Four people were killed.

The commission argues that Cuba is still subject to its jurisdiction because it continues to be part of the 1948 Charter of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man of the same year. Both documents gave rise to the commission in 1959.

However, Cuba isn't part of the 1969 agreement that created the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, meaning that neither side can take the report to that tribunal for a more binding decision.

The Cuban American Bar Association and the rights group Cuban Democratic Directory acted as plaintiffs for the jailed dissidents, filing their complaint shortly after the 2003 crackdown. They argued that the dissidents were forced to use court-appointed lawyers and were allowed only hours to prepare their defenses. They were subject to solitary confinement, beatings and other abuses, according to the 78-page report.

The commission says Cuba also denied the dissidents their right to a fair and public trial and humane treatment in jail, among other violations. It also condemned Cuba for laws that limit the rights of freedom of expression and opinion.

The Venezuelan representative on the commission, Freddy Gutierrez, wrote the sole dissenting opinion, saying the legal arguments were "weak and inconsistent" and that Cuba's 1962 suspension meant that the country had no representation in the OAS.

The hijackers, Lorenzo Copello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez, were executed by firing squad on April 11. The family members were never informed of the trial and weren't allowed to see their bodies afterward.

11:51 AM  

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