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Peru: Military Shields Identity of Rights Abusers

Peru: Military Shields Identity of Rights Abusers

Failure to Disclose Pseudonyms in Humala Case Reflects a Deeper Problem

(Washington)—Peru’s military has systematically failed to provide courts and prosecutors with the identities of military personnel under investigation for human rights abuses committed during the country’s armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today to Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.

Human Rights Watch called on the Peruvian government to ensure that the armed forces fully cooperate with civilian prosecutors and courts investigating human rights violations committed in Peru’s armed conflict, which lasted from 1980 to 2000.

The issue came up most recently amid allegations that presidential candidate Ollanta Humala was involved in human rights abuses, including torture and forced disappearances, while stationed at the Madre Mía military base in the San Martín region in 1992 and 1993. When asked for the pseudonyms of the officers stationed at the base, Minister of Defense Marciano Rengifo publicly denied that the armed forces kept such records.

The ministry of defense has long claimed that the use of pseudonyms by military officers was purely informal, and that as a result it has no record of such pseudonyms. Human Rights Watch questioned these assertions.

“The military’s blanket denial that these records exist lacks all credibility,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “This policy of denial seems designed to cover up abuses and shield those responsible.”

In fact, military records concerning the pseudonyms and identities of military personnel have been uncovered in several instances, Human Rights Watch said.

In one case, a defense ministry official informed a victim’s family that the military had found no records in its files of the pseudonyms or real names of the officers presumably responsible for the victim’s death. But two weeks later, an inspector from the same military region stated in a memo to army headquarters in Lima that 90 pseudonyms had been found in personnel records at an army base at Cangallo, responsible for the province of Vilcashuaman, where the abuses occurred.

“It’s clear that the military did keep records of the identities and pseudonyms of military personnel in some cases,” said Vivanco. “In all cases, the military should make a serious effort to collect the information and cooperate with prosecutors.”

Records have also been uncovered of a November 1992 interview at the base where Humala was allegedly stationed, conducted by a military officer investigating drug-trafficking allegations at the base. In the interview, Major Jorge Flores Tello gave the names and aliases of several officers at the base, including that of Humala, whom he identified as “Humala Tasso, Ollanta, ‘Carlos.’” Humala has admitted that he used the pseudonym “Carlos” but claims that there were other officers also known as “Carlos” who are responsible for the alleged abuses.

“It is crucial that the armed forces fully cooperate with investigations of human rights abuses, not only to ensure accountability for those abuses, but also to protect innocent officers from prosecution,” added Vivanco.

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