Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Fujimori Verdict: Justice in Latin America

The Fujimori Verdict: Justice in Latin America


by Binoy Kampmark

“With this ruling, and its exemplary performance during the trial, the Peruvian court has shown the world that even former heads of state cannot expect to get away with serious crimes.”
Maria McFarland, Human Rights Watch, April 8, 2009.

In a region of the world where state brutality has been the depressing norm, the conviction of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on grave human rights charges seems something akin to a miracle. Usually, cases of brutality have been papered over by the granting of amnesties, ostensibly to allow countries to reconcile contesting and bitter factions. This decision challenges that approach, setting a chilling precedent to leaders who might argue that such an outcome is best reserved for dictators and despots. Fujimori was, after all, democratically elected.

The Peruvian leader, elected in 1990, had promoted himself as strongman and protector of the state during that turbulent decade, overwhelming the insurgent challenge posed by the guerillas of the Maoist Shining Path. But that came with its share of blood and carnage. Faced with a mountain of corruption charges, he submitted his resignation, somewhat unusually, by fax, promptly fleeing to the country of his parent’s birth, Japan, in 2000. Feeling the wanderlust of a political return, he traveled to Chile, only to find himself facing an extradition order in 2007.

The three judges who tried Fujimori found him guilty of an assortment of “crimes against humanity” after a fifteen-month trial, imposing a 25-year prison sentence. Amongst the charges were military operations that left 15 people dead on November 3, 1991, including the death of an eight-year old boy in the Barrios Altos neighbourhood in Lima; the kidnapping, disappearance and murder of a group of students along with a professor from La Cantuta University on July 18, 1992; and the murder of 25 others. These had been perpetrated by a military death squad belonging to the Army Intelligence Service headed by Fujimori’s close advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Fujimori has had little interest in the charges, or for the process that brought him there in the first place. And little wonder. Students of the region will remember his efforts to immunize the police and armed forces from charges of human rights violations with a blanket amnesty in 1995. His amnesty laws were subsequently struck down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found them obnoxious to notions of justice.

From Fujimori’s perspective, evidence linking him to the events in question is lacking. The links simply did not exist. “As I said in the beginning,” he had told the court, “I’m innocent.” The murders and kidnappings were simply the enterprising moves of free spirited anti-communist operatives connected with the security forces, known as the Grupo Colina or Colina Group.

This, it would seem, was far from the case. Reports have circulated since 2005, most notably a Human Rights Watch document, Probable Cause: Evidence Implicating Fujimori, showing strong links between Fujimori and the brutalities of the Colina group. Abundant testimony and documentation suggests that the group figured prominently in military operations. The army and National Intelligence Service, both under Fujimori’s control, supplied them with plentiful resources and logistical support. Even the US Embassy in Lima had to concede that the Fujimori regime had been engaged in a “covert strategy to aggressively fight against subversion through terror operations, disregarding human rights and legal norms.”

Whatever the international repercussions of the decision, its effectiveness will have to be gauged within Peruvian circles. Hugo Relva, legal advisor for Amnesty International, lauded it as a blow to those who still believed in impunity. Efrain Gonzales, vice rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima, suggested the healing propensities of the verdict. In this sense, the argument is very conventional: punishment through regular tribunals in a manner just for both the person charged and the society he is said to have harmed. In Gonzales’s words, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, “It’s an acceptance that we had a problem. He is guilty… The nation can move forward from here.”

A considerable minority of Peruvians who continue supporting the convicted leader may not be convinced. The matter has become something of a family affair, with Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, describing the verdict as one filled with “hate and vengeance.” The precedent against impunity in Latin America has, however, been set, whatever the aspirations of the Fujimorists and their supporters.

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Suzan Mazur: Stuart Newman: The Virosphere And Non-Linear Evolution

It was Stuart Newman who was the first of the Altenberg 16 scientists I discussed developments with following the Extended Synthesis symposium in 2008 at Konrad Lorenz Institute, a meeting I was barred from attending for having gotten out in front of ... More>>

Werewolf: Artificial Intelligence: Real Anxieties?

The movie Ex Machina feels so current there are powerful moments of recognition – despite the seemingly unlikely scenario of a walking, talking artificial intelligence (AI). Right now Google is enlisting its massive databases, drawing on the contents of every email and Internet search ever made, in the service of what has been called ‘the Manhattan Project of AI’. More>>

ALSO:

Open Source, Open Society: More Than Just Transparency

Bill Bennett: “Share and share alike” is the message parents drum into children. But once they grow up and move out into the wider world, the shutters start to come down. We’re trained to be closed. Dave Lane, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society, says that explains the discomfort people find when they first encounter the open world. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Journalism, History And Forgetting

Compare that [the saturation coverage of WWI] not just with the thinly reported anniversaries last year of key battles in the New Zealand Wars, but with the coverage of the very consequential present-day efforts to remedy the damage those wars wrought, and the picture is pretty dismal. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Climate Of Fear

New Zealand, promoting itself as an efficient producer, has been operating as a factory farm for overseas markets with increasing intensity ever since the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882. The costs to native forests and to bio-diversity have been outlandish. The discussion of impacts has been minimal... More>>

ALSO:

Greek Riddles: Gordon Campbell On The Recent Smackdown Over Greece

There had been a fortnight of fevered buildup. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the February 28 showdown between the new Syriza government in Greece and the European Union “troika” and… no-one seems entirely sure what happened. Did the asteroid miss Earth? More>>

ALSO:

Keith Rankin: Contribution Through Innovation

The economic contribution of businesses and people is often quite unrelated to their taxable incomes. EHome, as a relatively new company, may have never earned any taxable income. Its successors almost certainly will earn income and pay tax. Yet it was eHome itself who made the biggest contribution by starting the venture in the first place. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news