Friday, 30 May 2008

Peru: More Bodies Found

Exhumations continue at the mass grave on the military base at Putis, Huanta, as reported by newspaper La Republica. Here is a partial translation of their recent article:

60 Bodies of Men, Women, and Children Disinterred in Mass Grave in Putis

The skeletal remains of some 60 people, among them women, men, boys and girls of different ages have now been exhumed from the largest common grave existing of victims of the dirty war against terrorism in Ayacucho.

The grave is located in the Andean community of Putis, at 3500m above sea level in the district of Santillana, Huanta, in Ayacucho.

123 inhabitants of Cayramayo, Vizcatampata, Orccohuasi and Putis were executed by the Army in December 1984 under suspicion of collaborating with Shining Path.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the villagers were caught between a rock and a hard place; Shining Path on one side and the Army on the other.

The villagers had asked those stationed at the Putis military base to protect them from the action of Shining Path, but the military turned their suspicion on them and murdered them, the TRC concluded.

Moreover, according to various witnesses, the soldiers benefited economically from their crimes, since after murdering the peasants they took their livestock and sold them.

[...] According to testimonies received by the TRC, the military forces [...] assured [the villagers] that they would protect them and work with them to improve the quality of life of the population. They then used this pretext to order the men to dig a large hole. They told some of them it was to build a fish farm to breed trout, while others were told they were going to build houses.

However, when the supposed pool was finished, the military forces gathered the villagers, who numbered around a hundred, including men, women, and children, around the grave and without more explanation, shot them. Exhumations will continue for the next week with the aim of discovering all the remains.
Full article: Desentierran sesenta cuerpos de hombres, mujeres y ninos en fosa comun de Putis (La Republica)

La Republica's report also includes a number of photographs of skeletal remains with some scraps and pieces of clothing, rope, etc. also visible. I was reminded that this newspaper often includes graphic, sometimes horrific, images, so this is not out of line with their usual practice, but it still strikes me. I am turning something over in my mind about the display of photographs of bodies in this way, but it looks like it will have to wait for another post.

Edited to add: The Peruvian Times takes an indepth look at this story:

Peruvian forensic team exhumes bodies from a mass grave victims were forced to dig themselves

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