Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Peru: Release of Alleged Death Squad Members

I mentioned yesterday that two alleged members of the Grupo Colina had been released. The Associated Press has reported on the issue today:

A Peruvian court freed two men accused of belonging to a military death squad linked to several massacres in the early 1990s, after the suspects completed six years in prison without a conviction, a court official said Tuesday.
Under Peruvian law, prisoners must be freed after 32 months in prison if the have not been convicted. Luna said the court extended the term to six years for the two men because of the violent nature of the alleged crimes.

The Barrios Altos case went to trial in 2005 and a verdict is expected this year, Luna said.

[emphasis mine]

Look, it's clear to me that Peru is a country where there isn't always a huge amount of spare cash flying around. In addition, it's a highly bureaucratic sort of place. And on top of that, we are talking about extremely complex cases with multiple witnesses, which are naturally going to drag on. But the tortoise-like pace of the legal system is leading, by default, to miscarriages of justice. It's wrong that these people were imprisoned for such a long time without a conviction, but it's also wrong that they haven't faced a court to answer for the the crimes of which they are accused. There have been several similar examples that I've seen recently. Processing cases with an acceptable level of efficiency must be made a priority if there is to be any hope for justice.

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