Peru's President Humala faces "dirty war" complaint before OAS rights commission

Reuters reports April 11 that it has been leaked documents revealing that a complaint has been filed at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over the 1992 disappearance of two campesinos at the village of Madre Mia in Peru's conflicted Upper Huallaga Valley—a case in which President Ollanta Humala was accused. The 21-page complaint mentions Humala nine times, and was filed confidentially in early 2010, bearing the signature of Ronald Gamarra, then head of Peru's National Coordinator of Human Rights. At the time of the incident, Humala was a solider leading counterinsurgency operations against Sendero Luminoso guerillas in the area of Madre Mia (near the border of San Martín and Huanuco regions). The IACHR complaint says Peru's judiciary improperly dismissed a suit against Humala over the incident in 2009.

The case pivoted on whether Humala ordered or allowed soldiers to abduct a campesino couple who were suspected of being Sendero collaborators, Benigno Sullca Castro and Natividad Avila Rivera. Although Reuters reported that the two "were never seen again," in fact Sullca's body washed up in the Huallaga River with a bullet wound to the forehead and stab wounds in the chest.

Humala's legal affairs office referred Reuters' questions about the case to the justice minister, Juan Jiménez—who said that Huamala had already been cleared by respected jurists in Peru. "What is most probable is that the case won't even proceed," he said. "Ollanta Humala was exonerated."

The leader of Humala's Nationalist party bloc in Peru's congress, Fredy Otárola, dismissed the IACHR case as politically motivated: "They want to lower the image of the president because he is doing well, he has allowed Peru to continue growing rapidly, he has deepened social inclusion, and has entered the hearts of all Peruvians." He said the complaint "is not just, and is not correct." (Periodismo en Linea, April 12)

Rolando Reátegui, leader of the right-wing fujimorista bloc, Fuerza 2011, suggested the move was a strategy by Humala's former allies on the left. He told RPP Noticias: "We see here that there is an interest group that was in the government, that is the radical left, dismissed for their ineptitude. Now they are trying to pressure to get their jobs back; therefore they want to re-open a case that is already judged." (This theory ignores the fact that the case was brought two years ago, before Humala was elected, when he was still viewed favorably by Peru's left.)

In January, Peru charged that the IACHR has been "abusing" its powers and should be urgently reformed—joining Colombia, Venezuela and other South American governments that accuse the commission of meddling in internal affairs. The criticism came after the IACHR agreed to hear a case concerning accusations of summary executions by security forces in the 1997 hostage rescue mission at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, which had been seized by guerillas of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). "All of the commandos who participated in the raid are heroes to us," Humala's Prime Minister Oscar Valdés told Peru's congress. "The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been committing abuses that other friendly countries have made serious complaints about too." (Reuters, Jan. 6)

See our last post on Peru.

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