From July 15-24, delegates from the Denver Justice & Peace Committee will travel to Lima, Peru to participate as international observers in the historic trial of ex-President Alberto Fujimori. Through this blog, you can follow developments in the trial and accompany our delegates as they meet with some of the principal protagonists in the successful effort to hold Fujimori responsible for his crimes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Justices Admit GW's Amicus Curiae in the Fujimori Trial

Last week, I reported on a debate at the trial of ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori over the admissibility of an amicus brief submitted to the court by George Washington University's International Human Rights Clinic. Fujimori's defense opposed the brief--which concludes that Fujimori "permitted, facilitated, and participated in" the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta Massacres--as a partisan document that would compromise the impartiality of the court.

In a unanimous ruling on Friday, the court dismissed the defense's argument and allowed the admission of the brief, explaining that it constituted a "relevant legal instrument" that would permit the court "to consider legal and social arguments that are in play" at the trial. The court stressed, however, that the brief was "non-binding" and would "not produce a detriment" to either the prosecution or the defense.

Perhaps foreshadowing Friday's ruling, the three Supreme Court justices sitting in the Fujimori trial personally accepted the amicus brief from GW's International Human Rights Clinic on June 27th and proudly stood for a photograph with the brief's author, Prof. Arturo Carrillo, and his student clinicians.

--Hayden Gore

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Debating Amicus Curiae and More Dubious Testimony: the Fujimori Trial in a Nutshell

Last Wednesday, the Fujimori trial got off to a dramatic start as Cesar Nakasaki, Fujimori’s defense attorney, and Ronald Gamarra, an attorney for the family members of Fujimori’s victims, debated the admissibility of an amicus curiae brief submitted to the court from George Washington University’s International Human Rights Clinic. The debate, which lasted more than two and a half hours, provoked passionate arguments from both sides on an issue that apparently had very little precedence in Peruvian jurisprudence.

Nakasaki, who claimed he had no objection to amicus curiae in general, challenged GWU’s brief because he said it was too closely aligned with the arguments and conclusions of the prosecution. According to Nakasaki, only the court has the ability to request amicus briefs from third parties in order to clear up an issue that is beyond the court's competency. To the contrary, Nakasaki argued, the admission of a partisan amicus brief would tilt the scales of justice to one side, in this case the prosecution, and compromise the impartiality of the tribunal.

Gamarra responded that amicus briefs, in the true spirit of democracy, provide a mechanism for third party actors to take part in the judicial process and communicate to the tribunal the impact of an eventual ruling. Moreover, Gamarra thanked the court for the opportunity to debate the brief’s admissibility but said that the court itself was ultimately responsible for accepting, or not, the conclusions of an amicus brief, making the question of admissibility irrelevant.

Nakasaki, who debated with a flare greater than the substance of his arguments, seemed to lose out to Gamarra’s more prosaic reasoning. In this way, the morning’s debate represented the trial in a nutshell: Nakasaki is a wily defense lawyer and an unquestionably accomplished orator, but he is bedeviled by a weak case. If the argument over the admissibility of GWU’s brief did not sufficiently demonstrate this, the afternoon’s witness, General Juan Briones Dávila, Fujimori’s former Minister of the Interior, certainly proved the point.

Briones, called as a witness for the defense, asserted that Fujimori did not give orders to the members of his cabinet like a general might do to his subordinates in the military. Rather, Briones claimed that Fujimori gave broad directives to his cabinet ministers, who then determined the optimal strategies and tactics to carry them out. As a result, his testimony nicely insulated the former dictator from the organization of the Grupo Colina death squad and the planning of their ghastly crimes.

However, under cross-examination, Briones’s credibility completely collapsed. As Minister of the Interior, he oversaw the operations of the National Police, which investigated the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta Massacres. In spite of that, he repeatedly said that he never inquired about or was ever briefed on Colina’s role in the two atrocities. According to Briones, he continued to believe that the crimes had been committed by terrorist groups within the country, despite the fact that Colina’s involvement was popularly known and widely reported in the press from 1993 on.

There can only be two possible explanations for Briones’s ignorance about Colina: 1) he was completely incompetent as Minister of the Interior, or 2) he was lying to protect his former boss. Earlier in his testimony, he had proudly stated that he served longer in Fujimori’s cabinet than any other minister, undermining the incompetence theory. For 5 years and 5 months, he said, he had served at the pleasure of the President. Given the nature of his testimony on Wednesday, it appears that he still does.

--Hayden Gore

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Photo Essay: A Final Adíos, the La Cantuta Massacre 16 Years Later

(Click here to see this blog entry accompanied by Jonathan Moller's photographs.)

Lima, Peru--On July 18, 1992 agents from a secret detachment of military intelligence officers, known as the Colina death squad, entered the La Cantuta University campus in a midnight raid and abducted 10 supposed "subversives"--9 university students and a university professor. The death squad agents loaded the captives into two 4x4 vehicles registered to the Ministry of Defense, took them to a field off of the highway on the outskirts of Lima, and murdered them execution style. In an effort to conceal the crime, the death squad members buried them in a shallow grave and covered their bodies with lime, a caustic substance famous among the Colina agents for "eating the flesh" of their victims.

Still nervous that the hasty execution and burial had left incriminating evidence of the massacre, the Colina agents twice returned to the scene of the crime: once to rebury their victims and a second time to disinter their remains, incinerate their bodies, and deposit their ashes in two pits dug from the desert moonscape of Lima's surrounding foothills.

This past Fiday, 16 years to the day of their disappearance, the remains of the La Cantuta victims finally returned home for burial from a forensic laboratory in France, where they have undergone extensive analysis as evidence in the prosecution of Alberto Fujimori, Peru's ex-president and former dictator who stands trial as a principal architect of Colina and an enthusiatsic enabler of its murderous heyday.

From July 15 to 24, an 11-member delegation from the Denver Justice & Peace Committee will participate in the Fujimori trial as international observers and attend the funeral services for the La Cantuta victims at the invitation of their family members, who have fought tirelessly and heroically to bring their loved ones' perpetrators to justice for the horrific crimes committed against them.

Under international law, widespread and systematic human rights violation, such as those committed by the Fujimori regime, constitute crimes against all of humanity, not just a single individal, community, or even nation. In offering our solidarity and accompaniment to the La Cantuta family members, we aspire to give purposeful meaning to this important legal principle and send a clear message to the Peruvian government--indeed to all governments, including our own--that the practice of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and torture will never again be tolerated or excused as an isolated incidents against anonymous, faceless victims.

When crimes against humanity occur, they imperil the rights and security of everyone. Their impact is universal. In adding our voices to the clamor for justice in Peru, we hope to demonstrate that the condemnation of mass violence is equally widespread.

--Photos by Jonathan Moller, text by Hayden Gore

Click here to see this blog entry accompanied by Jonathan Moller's photographs.

(Photos taken at the 16th annual commemoration of the La Cantuta Massacre--Universidad Nacional de Educación Enrique Guzmán y Valle, "La Cantuta University". July 18, 1992.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Photo Essay: DJPC Delegation Attends the Fujimori Trial

Lima, Peru--Yesterday, the delegation attended the Fujimori trial during the testimony of General Nicolás Hermoza Ríos, the powerful ex-Commander General of the Armed Forces during the Fujimori regime.

In his testimony, Hermoza Ríos dismissed the prosecution's suggestion that human rights violations--in particular torture, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings-- formed a fundamental part of the military's counterinsurgency strategy. He insisted that the military's primary objective in the fight against the Shining Path and the MRTA was to win over the population and that massive human rights violations were antithetical to that goal.

He then denied that the doctrine for military intelligence had changed in the early 1990s from an exclusive focus on intelligence gathering to one that included the "elimination of subversives". In reponse, the prosecution asked him to read from the military´s 1991 anti-subversion operational handbook, which clearly details the new mission: "prevent, detect, locate, identify, neutralize, and/or eliminate subversive leaders." Interestingly, Hermoza Ríos skipped over "and/or eliminate" in his reading. The court promptly corrected his omission, saying that he had receivede a blurry copy of the manual.

The general then explained that "in a war, eliminate does not mean 'to kill people.'" Rather, he said eliminate meant "remove the subversives from their context" so that a compotent tribunal could charge them for their crimes.

Asked whether military intelligence had committed excesses while implementing this strategy, he said that war itself was an excess and added a wonderful bit of dictum about hoping that "one day war would be unnecessary and that we could all solve our problems through diplomacy."

Military intelligence officers executed 25 people in the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta Massacres for which Fujimori stands trial. Hermoza Ríos is currently serving out a prison sentence for corruption and embezzzlement; he will faces charges for the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta Massacres this fall.

--Photos by Jonathan Moller, text by Hayden Gore

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Video Analysis of the Barrios Altos Massacre

During the month of February, I served as an international observer in the Fujimori trial during the testimony of the death squad agents that committed the two massacres for which Fujimori now stands accused. In the following video blog, I describe the November 3, 1991 Barrios Altos Massacre, using the testimony of the perpetrators to reconstruct the crime.

--Hayden Gore,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Welcome to DJPC's 2008 Delegation Blog!

Next week, an 11-member delegation from the Denver Justice & Peace Committee will travel to Lima, Peru to participate as international observers in the human rights trial of ex-President Alberto Fujimori and accompany the family members of the victims in the 16th annual commemoration of the La Cantuta Massacre, one of the two massacres for which Fujimori stands trial.

While in Lima, we will publish updates on our experiences through the DJPC 2008 Delegation Blog, and we invite you to accompany us by visiting the blog, reading the postings, and sharing your comments. If you have a specific question about the trial, or if you would simply like to pass a message of solidarity along to the family members who have fought tirelessly (and successfully!) to bring Fujimori to justice, we will happily serve as your medium. As we attend the trial and meet with the principal protagonists of Peru's human rights movement, our goal is to keep you directly connected to this important moment in history.

Additionally, if you would like to learn more about Fujimori's repressive decade in power in the 1990s or about the charges he currently faces, we have included detailed information about both under the "important links" section of the blog.

Thank you once again for your continued interest in DJPC's human rights work in Latin America, and we hope you will follow us as we undertake this historic delegation!

--Hayden Gore

Sunday, July 6, 2008

At the Fujimori Trial: General Pedro Villanueva--June 2, 2008

General Pedro Villanueva is a graduate of the School of the Americas where he claims to only have received courses in engineering and weaponry—not in counterinsurgency theory. Since then Villanueva has held various prestigious positions in the national military. This establishes the witness as a powerful figurehead with an extensive military background. On the stand he could be characterized as assuredly defensive and slightly goofy by his responses. Villanueva’s testimony was no where near as lively as Montesinos, who preceded him.

Villanueva described his relationship with Fujimori as administrative and thus, the former president could not give him an order of any kind. This declaration, along with others, was in direct conflict with previous testimony given by the General. When questioned by the Supreme Court Judge César San Martín Castro, Villanueva bluntly stated that he had no explanation for the discrepancies.

Given the scale of the threat presented by Sendero Luminoso to the nation, Villanueva was questioned about the formation of a special group, for example, Grupo Colina, whose goal would be to mitigate or eliminate the threat. His answer was simple and clear, ‘no and no.’ However, Villanueva did confess that in order to combat Sendero it was necessary to ‘win the population.’ In order to accomplish ‘winning the population,’ he explained that schools, roads and medical clinics were constructed.

The core of the testimony given by Villahermosa revolved around recognition of military manuals particular to subversion and low intensity war fare. Despite the General’s extensive career and knowledge of internal military structures, he denied having ever seen the majority of the manuals presented by Fujimori’s lawyer, Nagasaki. Villahermosa consistently complained to Supreme Court Judge about Nagasaki’s repetitive line of questioning and the constant need to identify (or not) an extensive collection of military manuals.

Much of this testimony could be categorized as a complete denial of involvement or knowledge of actions that could have led to the Barrios Altos or the Cantuta massacres.

-Michelle Doherty