Monday, 18 August 2008

Peru: Barrios Altos Survivors Want Justice

The survivors of the Barrios Altos massacre want their innocence to be publicly acknowledged, as Benedicto Jimenez did last week. The partial translation which follows is mine:
For almost 17 years, the survivors of the Barrios Alto massacre have tried to banish not only the unforgettable memories that left bullets in their bodies, but also the stigma of being "terrorists", which the members of the Colina group used to justify their criminal activities.


Alfonso Rodas Alvitez is one of the four survivors of the military operation. On the night of 3 November 1991, he saved himself by "playing dead", when eight bullets pierced his body. He spent a month in the Dos de Mayo hospital, where he was treated, not as a victim, but as if he were a terrorist.

"There were police inside and outside the room. One was from Intelligence and he insulted us, he searched people who visited us, our things, even our beds. He didn't respect our suffering", he recalls.

When he left hospital, the police continued to pursue him. Rodas remembers how they would turn up at his house and take him to Dincote [Peruvian anti-terrorism police department] and other police statons, until just after the autogolpe [Fujimori's dissolution of Congress, or 'self-coup'] in April 1992, they detained him, charged him with terrorism and transferred him to the prison Castro Castro.

"I spent 13 months in jail, with the terrorists. I tried to keep my head down, not say anything so that they didn't harass me. In the end, a faceless trial [court with officials who wore masks to protect them from retribution by guerilla groups] found me not guilty and I could go free", he says.
Rodas was "lucky" in this last fact, at least... many, many people were found guilty by the "faceless courts" with very dubious evidence, or after unfair trials (for example, by not providing interpreting services for indigenous people who did not speak Spanish). But the lack of a guilty verdict didn't erase the stigma of being associated with the Shining Path.

Rodas and other survivors and family members of victims are asking for a public apology by the government, which they hope would go some way to mitigating the suspicion they still face.

Sobrevivientes de masacre de Barrios Altos demandan desagravio publico del Estado
(La Republica)

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