Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Peru: El Fronton Case Isn't Over

In Peru, the case regarding the prison massacre of El Fronton is set to return to the Inter-American Court. There are complicated legal issues going on here, but basically, the case is now resting on the issue of whether a statute of limitations has been reached. There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity.

In August 2000, the Inter-American Court ruled that no statute of limitations applied to the crimes committed in El Frontón, and declared that the state had violated the American Convention on Human Rights.
In January and February 2007, in compliance with that ruling, the Attorney General’s Office accused 34 members of the Navy of summarily executing 118 prisoners, in jail on charges of belonging to the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist guerrillas.
When the legal charges were brought, one of the former members of the Navy who was prosecuted, Teodorico Bernabé, filed a writ of habeas corpus arguing that the crime of which he was accused was a common crime, and that the statute of limitations expired in June 2006.

A Lima court accepted the argument that the statute of limitations had expired in his case.

Obviously, there is a contradiction here. Peru's justice system has accepted in previous cases that a statute of limitations did not apply - hence the fact that Fujimori's is even happening - but now a court has decided that in this case it did, in defiance of the ruling of the Inter-American Court.

The Legal Defense Institute (IDL) will therefore go back to the Inter-American Court and seek to have this recent ruling, that limitations had expired, overturned.

Oh yes, and do we remember who was President at the time of the El Fronton massacre? Yes, it was indeed current Peruvian President Alan Garcia, during his first period at the top. The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted that in all probability, the decision to execute large numbers of rioting prisoners at the prisons of El Fronton and Lurigancho was taken at a very high level. Two military witnesses claimed that the order came from Garcia himself (see CVR Informe Final, p. 756); a charge which he denies. All the same, I can't imagine that this is a case which he wants bringing back to life. And equally obviously, this is one reason why it is even more urgent that the case does not fall victim to impunity.

El Fronton Massacre Case Heads Back to Inter-American Court

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