U.S. Department of State
Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996

[Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997.]

Table of Contents


Peru is a multiparty republic with a dominant executive branch. President Alberto Fujimori was reelected to a second 5-year term in 1995 under provisions of a Constitution enacted in 1993. The President's party also controls Congress, which passed a law permitting the President to run for an unprecedented third term (opposition parties were challenging the law at year's end). The Constitution also provided for several new judicial institutions to help create a more effective and independent system of justice and, with a view to reform, the entire legal system is undergoing a review directed and controlled by the executive branch.

The police and military share security duties. Civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. Since 1980 much of the security forces' effort has been directed against the Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) terrorist groups. They continue to pose a threat in some areas, but at a much reduced level than in previous years, despite the MRTA's hostage taking attack in December. Members of the security forces committed some human rights abuses.

Over the past 5 years, the Government implemented major economic reforms, moving from heavy regulation to one of the most market-oriented economies in the hemisphere. Government controls on capital flows, prices, and trade have been eliminated. The Government has privatized most state enterprises, and those remaining are scheduled to be sold by the end of 1997. As a result, inflation was brought under control, and growth and foreign investment soared. Gross domestic product was estimated at $51.5 billion. Major exports include minerals (principally copper), fishmeal, and textiles. Illegal exports of processed coca are thought to have earned about $600 to $800 million in past years. Unemployment is around 8 percent, but more than half of the economically active population works in the informal sector of the economy, which largely operates beyond government supervision and taxation. The poor account for 45 percent of the population, of which half live in extreme poverty.

Although the human rights situation improved somewhat, serious problems remain. Security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and beatings. Although individual prison directors made some efforts to improve conditions in their own prisons, overall prison conditions remain extremely harsh, particularly in the case of prisoners jailed for terrorism offenses. Arbitrary detention, accountability, lack of due process, lengthy trial delays, and prolonged pretrial detention remain problems. The authorities at times infringed upon citizens' privacy rights. Violence against women and children and discrimination against the disabled, indigenous people, and minorities are continuing problems. Child labor is also a problem.

In April a Human Rights Ombudsman was sworn in, and in August Congress established an ad hoc commission to review and recommend for presidential pardon those unjustly detained for terrorism or treason. However, Congress extended yet again "faceless" tribunals, considered a major reason for the unjust imprisonment of an estimated 700 to 1,000 individuals on terrorism and treason charges, and it also extended the processing by military judges of civilians accused of the most serious terrorism offenses.

Sendero Luminoso and MRTA terrorists were responsible for the vast majority of the killings and other violence. Sendero Luminoso used torture and other forms of brutality, infringed upon citizens' privacy rights, intimidated religious workers, and violated the rights of indigenous people. In December the MRTA attacked the Japanese ambassador's residence, initially holding hundreds of people hostage, an event not resolved by year's end.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political And Other Extrajudicial Killings

There were no political killings attributed to security forces. However, there continued to be reports of deaths caused by police beatings of detainees. On March 22, police picked up engineer Mario Palomino on a Lima street and beat him to death in a police station after he allegedly complained about the police publicly mistreating a detainee. The Government is currently prosecuting five officers for Palomino's death.

Armed forces personnel also beat citizens to death. According to human rights monitors, on August 23 soldiers detained Nicolas Carrion Escobedo, a resident of Uruspampa village in Sanchez Carrion, La Libertad, and took him to the military base at Sarin. Later that day, Escobedo was found dead. An autopsy revealed that he had received heavy blows to the head as well as other parts of his body. Relatives of Alberto Flores Montejo reported that soldiers based in the town of Aucayacu detained him on March 24; he was never seen again. The judicial investigation into the case determined that Montejo was killed in Madre Mia, San Martin department, and referred the case to the prosecutor's office in Tocache for further investigation. In August military personnel also reportedly beat and killed one soldier who lost a rifle at the Monzon base. On August 30, military personnel killed farmer Jorge Chavez, who was suspected of a role in the rifle's disappearance, and then--according to witnesses--drank Chavez's blood.

In the case of Jhoel Huaman Garcia, who was killed while in police detention in 1995, a court sentenced two police officers in July to 5 and 6 years in prison. A third police officer is charged but has fled.

A 1995 law granted amnesty from prosecution to those who committed human rights abuses during the war on terrorism from May 1980 to June 1995. When lower court judge Antonia Sacquicuray declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional, Congress immediately passed a second law blocking any judicial review of the law's constitutionality. Subsequently, a split decision by a superior court overturned the Sacquicuray decision. These events created considerable concern over military and police impunity for past abuses. The Amnesty Law also cleared the records of security force personnel who had already been convicted of human rights abuses, including the eight military perpetrators of the 1992 La Cantuta massacre, who were sentenced in 1994 but released by military authorities a few days after the Amnesty Law's passage.

In July the United Nations Human Rights Committee severely criticized the Amnesty Law and called for its repeal. Committee members considered the Amnesty Law a violation of the Constitution, reflecting the earlier Sacquicuray decision. The Amnesty Law demonstrates a lack of serious commitment to accountability and the protection of human rights.

Sendero Luminoso, whose insurgency has led to the deaths of over 25,000 persons since 1980, continued to kill civilians. During the year, Sendero killed a total of 124 persons, including security force personnel and civilians, according to statistics compiled by Peruvian nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). Among the civilians killed by Sendero was Pascuala Rosado, a community leader in Huaycan known for her opposition to Sendero. On July 30, Sendero killed community leader Epifanio Santarria in Los Olivos, near Lima. In February Sendero killed a community leader and his two sons in Angashyacu, Huanuco. On August 22, Sendero murdered the brother of the mayor of Delicias, Huanuco.

b. Disappearance

Disappearances continued to be reported. A human rights group working in the Huallaga valley reported nine disappearances. The army is believed responsible for two of them. On July 27, the army detained Maria Cardenas Espinoza in Chinchabito, Huanuco. While the army denied that it is holding her, other detainees reported seeing her at the Tingo Maria army base.

On February 13, Belen Zavallos Masgo disappeared from his home in La Esperanza, Huanuco. According to members of his family, three masked and armed men took him away when they raided his house. They beat him badly and dragged him into a waiting car. Two days later, Belen Zavallos' wife reported her husband's disappearance to the human rights prosecutor's office in Huanuco. On March 15, the prosecutor's office reported that it had evidence that members of the armed forces carried out the kidnaping.

A human rights group working in the Huallaga valley blamed Sendero for the disappearance of Rufino Velasquez Pujay on July 28 from Moyuna near Aucayacu, Huanuco.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or humiliating treatment, security force torture and brutal treatment of detainees remains common. This is as true for common criminals as it is for alleged subversives. Torture most often took place in the period immediately after detention. The law permits police to hold terrorism suspects incommunicado for 10 days, and for another 15-day period in cases of treason. Human rights groups report that the incidence of torture is high during this time, partly because detainees are normally not allowed access to family or an attorney except when giving sworn statements to the public prosecutor.

Eyewitnesses and human rights monitors credibly reported that government security forces still routinely torture suspects at military and detention centers in some emergency zones, where certain constitutional guarantees are suspended due to high levels of terrorist activity. In Tocache 17-year-old Juan Gutierrez Silva was tortured repeatedly on July 6, when he refused to sign a confession for allegedly shooting at the girlfriend of a military officer. When hospitalized after 10 hours of beatings, Gutierrez's skull was cracked, he had been stabbed with a thin rod 10 times in the chest area, and suffered cuts in the neck and left arm. Near death, Gutierrez was transported to Lima for medical treatment. At that point, the police offered to pay for his medical treatment if Gutierrez's family would sign a statement that his injuries were self-inflicted. The family refused. The police in Tocache nevertheless issued a statement asserting that Gutierrez's injuries were self-inflicted. Human rights workers claim that incidents similar to Gutierrez's are not rare in Tocache. However, most detainees who are tortured or beaten do not speak out for fear of reprisal.

Army personnel at the Monzon army base in the Huallaga Valley have been implicated in the torture of a 5-year-old girl, who was beaten in an effort to obtain her mother's confession. Human rights groups received numerous reports of torture and beatings by soldiers in emergency zones. In Pucallpa on April 11, three police officers detained and beat the 21-year-old son of a former police officer. One of the officers allegedly tried to rape the detainee, who was never told why he was being held. The young man was released April 13 as a result of his father's intervention. Reports also continue of rape of female detainees by the security forces or prison personnel. In one high-profile case in Lima, a woman reported that she was drugged by a male prison nurse and raped. As a result, the nurse was arrested and charged with a crime; however, the charges were dismissed, and he returned to his job. Legal action against those who commit prison rapes is rare.

Besides beatings, common methods of torture included electric shock, water torture, asphyxiation, and the hanging of detainees by a rope attached to their hands tied behind the back. Common forms of psychological torture included sleep deprivation and death threats against both detainees and their families. Interrogators frequently blindfolded their victims during torture to prevent them from later identifying their abusers. The authorities rarely if ever bring the perpetrators of such acts to trial in court.

Many victims of Sendero Luminoso terrorism also showed signs of torture. Credible accounts indicate that Sendero tortured people to death by slitting throats, strangulation, stoning, and burning.

Prison conditions are extremely harsh. Prisoners in many facilities experienced unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition and health care, and occasionally harsh treatment by both prison staff and fellow inmates. Human rights groups report that prisoners jailed for terrorist acts are singled out for particularly inhuman treatment. This includes years of incarceration in cells 2 meters square, unusually short exercise periods (30 minutes per day), and infrequent, brief family visits (30 minutes per month by adults, but 30 minutes every 3 months by children), as well as refusal by prison authorities to allow prisoners to touch their visiting children. At least some of the prisons where those convicted of terrorist acts are jailed, such as Yanomayo in Puno, are located at very high altitudes where the cold temperature and inadequate supply of oxygen negatively affect the health of inmates. Illegal drugs are available in abundance, and tuberculosis and AIDS are reportedly at near-epidemic proportions in Lima's Lurigancho prison, the country's largest, containing just over 24 percent of the male prison population. The police chief at Lurigancho prison admitted that some of the prisoners there had contracted AIDS or tuberculosis while in prison. There were reports of prisoners suffering from severe depression, advanced neuroses, and schizophrenia, but there was no mental health assistance available.

Corruption continued to be a problem among prison staff, who were implicated in offenses such as sexual blackmail, selling narcotics and weapons, and arranging escapes. Prisoners often have to bribe guards to get a mattress and report that guards subject inmates to beatings, torture, and degrading treatment. In an effort to improve prison staff, the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) began to evaluate the work performance and ethics of its personnel and dismissed 222 INPE employees in August. As part of its anticorruption drive, INPE announced in September the arrest of an employee in Callao for taking a bribe from a relative of a detainee. INPE, as part of its efforts to improve prison management, moved all female prisoners from facilities in Callao to the Chorrillos prison in Lima, leading to increased overcrowding. Public phones for use by inmates were installed in both Callao and Chorrillos.

Detainees held temporarily in windowless cells in Lima's Palace of Justice are not allowed outside for exercise and fresh air and are taken to the bathroom only once a day. Adequate food, health care, and bedding are often not provided by the prison authorities, requiring families of prisoners to provide for these basic needs. In some prisons, female inmates are allowed to see their children only once every 3 months. While conditions for many prisoners remained inadequate, the Government continued to make a costly and extensive effort to improve existing penal facilities, construct new penitentiaries, and ameliorate the physical conditions of detention.

The authorities were able to quell peacefully a June 14 riot by 5,000 prisoners at Lurigancho prison protesting new restrictions on family visits, unlike in 1986, when security forces killed over 120 prisoners after a riot at that facility.

The authorities suspended the prison director and security chief, but later reinstated the prison director. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in September that the Government should pay $154,000 in compensation to the families of three prisoners who died in a similar 1986 El Fronton prison riot.

Many rural communities lack appropriate detention facilities. For example, in Tocache, all male and female detainees are held separately in two large rooms with no privacy, sometimes for up to 2 years. Detainees who are minors are held with adults in the same room, even though this contravenes the law.

The authorities continued to permit International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representatives to visit detainees in any place of detention, including prisons, jails, police stations, and military bases. However, in late December, in the wake of the MRTA's seizure of the Japanese ambassador's residence (see Section 1.g.), the Government suspended an agreement that allowed the ICRC to visit over 4,000 accused or convicted terrorists, among them MRTA members, in the prisons of the Ministry of Justice. During the year, the Government prohibited many human rights monitors from other groups from visiting some prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution, Criminal Code, and antiterrorist legislation delineate the arrest and detention process. However, a number of constitutional protections are suspended in emergency zones. For example, security forces do not need an arrest warrant; they may legally hold incommunicado those detained for treason or terrorism and deny them access to an attorney during the 10-day interrogation period, except when giving formal statements.

In areas not subject to a state of emergency, the law requires a judicial warrant for arrest, unless a perpetrator is caught in the act. However, the Organic Law of the National Police permits detention of an individual for any investigation, which is contrary to constitutional provisions. The authorities must arraign persons arrested within 24 hours (a law they frequently violate, according to informed observers), except in cases of terrorism, drug trafficking, or espionage, for which the limit is 15 to 30 days. If the military is the detaining authority, it must turn over detainees to the civilian police within 24 hours (or as soon as practicable in remote areas). However, the military regularly disregard this law.

A 1993 modification to antiterrorism legislation authorized lower court and superior court judges to order the unconditional release of terrorism defendants if there was insufficient evidence to bring a case against them. However, in practice, judges have rarely applied this law; rather, persons accused of terrorism sometimes must wait until their cases have been reviewed and dismissed by the Supreme Court before they are freed, a process that often lasts more than a year. Another 1993 modification to the antiterrorist laws restored a detainee's right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of the detention ("habeas corpus"). In practice, however, this provision has gone unheeded. According to human rights attorneys, judges have denied most requests for such hearings.

According to INPE statistics, almost 76 percent of the country's prison population--about 16,700 of the almost 22,000 detainees--consisted of accused prisoners awaiting the conclusion of their trial. The average delay between arrest and trial in civil cases as well as in criminal or terrorism cases was between 26 and 36 months. However, those tried on treason charges by military courts generally wait no longer than 40 days between the time of detention and the beginning of the trial.

In November retired General Rodolfo Robles was violently abducted on a street and placed under arrest. For 2 hours, his family had no news of his whereabouts, until a government Congressman announced that Robles was being held in a military prison on charges of disobedience, insulting a superior officer, insulting the military, and giving false testimony. Robles's arrest took place after he had charged in a televised interview that the military had reactivated a death squad and was responsible for the October bombing of a television transmitter. (In 1993, Robles had publicly confirmed the existence of a military death squad whose members were later convicted of killing nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University.) After widespread criticism of the arrest, on December 3 President Fujimori sent to Congress a bill for an amnesty of retired military officers under trial for criticizing the military. Congress passed the law on December 5, and Robles was released from custody 2 days later. After his release, Robles publicly charged that his arrest was a bungled attempt by the military to kill him disguised as a terrorist assassination.

The law which amnestied Robles also applied to the military judge and prosecutor who had refused to accept a civilian court judge's habeas corpus ruling in favor of Robles. The authorities initially had transferred that judge--Greta Minaya--from her job after she issued the habeas corpus decree, but they transferred her back after Congress approved the Robles amnesty.

The Constitution does not permit exile, and the Government does not practice involuntary exile of its citizens.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial branch is not fully independent of the executive. The 1993 Constitution provides for an improved system for naming judges, which was intended to produce a significantly more independent judiciary. It also provides for several new judicial institutions that would theoretically enhance the professionalism and independence of the judiciary: An Office of the Defender of the People (a human rights ombudsman); a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees (to rule on the constitutionality of legislation and government actions); the National Judiciary Council (a permanent, independent entity designed to test, name, confirm, and periodically evaluate and discipline the country's judges and prosecutors); and a Judicial Academy (to train judges and prosecutors).

In June Congress finally agreed upon seven members to form the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees, and they were installed in August. However, many critics have already questioned the independence of this tribunal: While three of its members are in some way associated with the President and his party, it only takes two to prevent any law or government action from being declared unconstitutional. In addition, these critics point to recent legislation that limits the window of opportunity for challenging the constitutionality of a particular law to a brief 6-month period immediately following promulgation.

In order to improve the entire judicial branch's performance, the President created a Judicial Coordination Commission, which serves as an umbrella over a number of important judicial institutions. However, in what government opponents say was an effort to ensure executive control of the justice system, the President appointed as head of this commission a retired Navy commander who reports directly to him.

The judicial structure consists of lower courts, superior courts, and appellate courts, with the Supreme Court at its apex.

The justice system is generally based on the Napoleonic Code. Judicial proceedings have three stages. The first is before an examining judge in a lower court; the second is conducted by a superior court which tries and sentences the defendant; and the third is before an appeals court. A Public Ministry prosecutor investigates criminal cases and submits an opinion to a lower court judge, who decides whether to indict. Following study of the case, the judge renders a verdict, which must then be reviewed by a superior court prosecutor. The superior court prosecutor submits an advisory opinion to a superior court judge, who holds a trial. Virtually all civilian court convictions are appealed to the Supreme Court. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. A 1993 modification to antiterrorism laws eliminated convictions in absentia. Defendants have the right to counsel, but the Government often does not provide indigents with qualified attorneys.

Jorge Santistevan de Noriega was sworn in as the first human rights ombudsman in April. The Ombudsman's office opened in mid-September in Lima, and there are plans for additional offices throughout the country. In August the Ombudsman was named along with the Justice Minister and a representative of the President, Father Hubert Lanssiers, as members of a congressionally mandated ad hoc commission to recommend presidential pardons for detainees believed to have been unjustly accused of terrorism or treason. According to human rights groups, there are more than 1,000 such individuals. The commission's mandate lasts 6 months and can be renewed for an additional 6-month period. On September 30, President Fujimori granted the first 3 pardons; by the end of the year 110 persons had received such pardons. The Government suspended the granting of pardons after the MRTA terrorist takeover of the Japanese ambassador's residence on December 17, but the process was expected to resume after the hostage crisis is over.

President Fujimori acknowledged the problem of those unjustly detained for terrorism in a speech on July 1, in which he spoke about the work of a team of attorneys which, with government support and under the guidance of Father Lanssiers, had obtained the release of 150 such individuals during the previous 2 years. In his July 28 state of the union message, President Fujimori also referred to the problem of those unjustly imprisoned and asserted that the abuses resulted from the "repentant terrorist" law, which expired in November 1994. Although human rights groups have welcomed the review of the cases of those unjustly incarcerated for terrorist acts, they claim that those unjustly accused should be released and declared innocent rather than pardoned and should be compensated for the years that they have spent in jail.

Proceedings in military courts that hear terrorism and treason cases do not meet internationally accepted standards for due process. Military trials are closed to the public and are carried out in secrecy by military judges whose identities are not revealed in court. Defense attorneys do not have access to evidence, nor can they interview police or military witnesses (to protect their identities) prior to or during the trial. There are reports that many of the judges are active duty line officers with no legal background. Military tribunals in theory must pass judgment within 10 days. Defendants may appeal a verdict to the Superior Military Council, which has 10 days to make a decision. The Supreme Council of Military Justice must act on a final appeal within 5 days, although this calendar is subject to delays. Human rights groups charge that military judges have sentenced some defendants before their lawyers were even notified that the trial phase had begun.

According to Supreme Council of Military Justice statistics, between 1992 and August 1996, these faceless military tribunals tried 1,498 cases of treason. In those cases in which a verdict was reached, the tribunals sentenced 346 individuals to life sentences, 338 persons to 30 years or less, sent 256 cases to civilian court terrorism trials, and absolved 40 persons of all charges. From January to August, the Supreme Council of Military Justice reached verdicts in 124 treason cases, leading to 41 life sentences, 59 sentences of 30 years or less, 23 cases sent to civilian courts for trial, and 1 individual found not guilty.

The sentencing in January to life imprisonment of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson on treason charges focused additional international attention on the lack of due process in the faceless military tribunals. The authorities ignored requests on Berenson's behalf for an open trial in a civilian court on charges stemming from her involvement with the MRTA.

In October Congress extended for another year trials by faceless superior court tribunals of terrorism cases, thereby further undermining fairness, due process, and accountability. Human rights groups remain concerned about persons found not guilty by the faceless military courts but remanded to faceless civilian courts where a new trial is initiated. There were fewer reports of such problems in 1996 than in 1995. In July the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, called for an end to the faceless tribunal system because of its lack of due process guarantees. In September United Nations Special Rapporteur Dato'param Cumaraswamy visited Peru and repeated this call.

The President did not sign criminal procedures code legislation passed by Congress in December 1995 and returned it to Congress for revision. This legislation was designed to institute new accusatorial, investigative, and trial procedures; to grant more investigative authority to civilian prosecutors; and to allow prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts for crimes that do not come under the Military Code of Justice. Informed observers noted that the police opposed increased authority for civilian prosecutors, and the armed forces opposed civilian prosecution of military personnel.

There were no reports of political prisoners. Members of Sendero Luminoso and MRTA charged with terrorism--however arbitrarily in some instances--are not considered political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution requires security forces to have a judicial warrant to enter a private dwelling, but this requirement is suspended in the emergency zones. Security forces in those areas routinely conduct searches without a warrant. There were frequent credible reports of illegal telephone monitoring.

A number of rural communities--with arms, training, and encouragement from the army--have organized self-defense forces (or "rondas") to protect local communities against terrorism and banditry. These have had a noticeable impact on curbing Sendero's activity in certain areas of the country. In some parts of the country, rondas have existed for centuries as a form of social organization to protect communities from invaders and rustlers. However, military authorities organized many of the newer rondas and sometimes coerced peasants into participating.

As a regular practice and to a far greater degree, Sendero and the MRTA forced peasants to join their military ranks, often for extended periods, and to participate in terrorist attacks and executions.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

With the internal conflict winding down, reports of use of excessive force by the military declined significantly from previous years. However, there were reports of excessive use of force by the military in counterinsurgency operations against terrorists in San Martin and Huanuco departments. During operations in these departments, reports continued of arbitrary detention by the military in communities where Sendero Luminoso had entered and terrorized residents.

Although both the army and Sendero Luminoso committed serious human rights abuses in Peru's internal conflict, the latter was responsible for many more heinous acts. Sendero frequently used arbitrary violence against civilians and nonmilitary targets. It continued to detonate powerful bombs in public places, indiscriminately killing and injuring bystanders, and persisted in its practice of entering villages and killing residents. Victims included unarmed women and children. Sendero Luminoso terrorists were responsible for 124 killings, including 6 current or former members of that organization. A Sendero car bomb on July 26 killed one civilian and seriously injured a police officer in front of a police station in central Lima. A Sendero car bomb next to a Shell warehouse in Lima on May 16 injured 10 persons. In armed confrontations, Sendero never took prisoners or attended to the wounded. Sendero also practiced forced military conscription of children. In Delicias, Huanuco department, Sendero terrorists forcibly recruited eight adolescents in August. There were also reports that Sendero forced Ashaninka tribesmen in the Satipo area of Junin department to join its ranks.

On December 17, MRTA terrorists took control of the Japanese Ambassador's residence during a national day reception and initially took over 600 hostages. The hostage takers gradually released most of the hostages, however, and by the end of the year there were fewer than one hundred hostages, including the Foreign Minister and Ambassadors from Japan and Bolivia. The hostage takers' key demand was the release of over 400 imprisoned MRTA terrorists. Through November MRTA terrorists were blamed for the deaths of three persons, including a soldier and a police officer.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. The Government generally respects these provisions, although the Government uses its economic power in the form of newspaper advertising to influence the press. The Government selectively disseminates information in order to exert some control over the views expressed. Government press offices have refused to send news releases and other information to some magazines and often limited opposition media access to official transportation when the President visited remote parts of the country or traveled abroad.

The media represent a wide spectrum of information and opinion, with 22 daily newspapers, 10 television stations, 2 cable systems, and 120 radio stations in Lima alone. The media regularly criticize the Government and its policies. The Government owns a daily newspaper, a television network, and two radio stations, none of which are especially influential.

Opposition political parties have access to the media. Television stations, although generally progovernment, provide regular access to opposition figures on a variety of news and public affairs programs. The print press is divided between popular, largely apolitical tabloids and more comprehensive editorial-bearing papers, which at times articulate positions in opposition to the Government's policies.

The authorities detained and prosecuted three military intelligence officers for their involvement in the October 17 bombing of the television transmitter of a station in Puno that broadcasts a Lima program hosted by an outspoken critic of the Government. One of those arrested, Angel Sauni Pomaya, had been investigated for his involvement with the military death squad responsible for the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre.

As part of the newly enacted legislation to review terrorism cases, the Government pardoned on September 30 and released from detention journalist Jesus Alfonso Castiglione and two other detained journalists. Castiglione, the former director of Radio Amistad in Huacho, was serving a 20-year sentence for terrorism despite a lack of evidence. Another well-known case of a detained journalist, Javier Tuanama Valera, remains unresolved. The authorities have detained Tuanama, the former managing editor of the Tarapoto daily newspaper Hechos, for 6 years on various terrorism charges, despite two acquittals, one on a charge that he took part in a terrorist act committed after his detention in 1990.

The Government exercised substantial influence over the media through the placement of advertisements. Some media owners claimed that the Government also encourages private advertisers to boycott opposition publications and uses tax investigations to harass them. Many media owners are involved in other economic activities that require government licensing or involve bidding on government contracts. Opposition media access to government information has been restricted.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution expressly provides for the right of peaceful assembly and association, and the authorities normally respect these rights in practice, except in areas under a state of emergency (where the right of assembly is suspended). Public meetings in plazas or streets require advance permission, which may be denied only for reasons of public safety or health. Municipal authorities usually approved permits for demonstrations in Lima and nonemergency zones.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this provision in practice. The Constitution recognizes Roman Catholicism "as an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation" but also establishes the separation of church and State. Conversion to other religions is respected, and missionaries are allowed to enter and proselytize.

Sendero Luminoso rejects religion and continues to threaten and intimidate religious workers. Members of the Mormon Church, in particular, continued to receive threats and were victims of extortion by Sendero.

d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for the right of free movement, and there are no political or legal constraints on foreign travel or emigration. However, the authorities can restrict people with pending criminal and, in some cases, civil charges from leaving the country. The Constitution prohibits the revocation of citizenship; repatriates (both voluntary and involuntary) are not treated any differently from other citizens. Freedom of movement is suspended in the emergency zones but is generally permitted under the army's supervision. Nonetheless, the authorities may detain travelers in an emergency zone at any time. Passengers on public transportation are controlled at check points throughout the country.

Sendero still occasionally tries to interrupt free movement within the country. Sendero roadblocks were reported to be commonplace in sections of the Huallaga valley.

The Government cooperates with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. There are provisions for granting asylum and refugee status, although the procedures have been used by only a few persons in recent years, principally Cubans. The issue of the provision of first asylum did not arise in 1996. There were no reports of forced return of persons to countries where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to change their government, and citizens exercise this right in practice. The law bars only groups that advocate violent overthrow of the Government from participating in the political process. Voting by secret ballot is mandatory for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70; however, prisoners and members of the armed forces and the police are ineligible to vote. Legal opposition parties represent a wide variety of opinion and ideology, although the degree of grassroots support and organization of some parties is often not significant.

Running for a second term under provisions of the 1993 Constitution, President Fujimori was reelected to a 5-year term in 1995 over 12 other candidates, with 65 percent of the valid vote. Voters also elected 120 members of the unicameral Congress. Fujimori's Cambio 90/Nueva Mayoria party won 67 seats in Congress; 12 opposition parties won the remaining 53 seats. In August Congress passed a law, over considerable opposition, permitting the President to run for a third term. This law states that the President could run again in 2000 because he would be running for his second term under the 1993 Constitution. The opposition embarked on a petition drive for a referendum on this issue. However, on October 10, Congress approved a law declaring that, for a referendum to take place, not only must the proponents gather 1.2 million signatures (as was the original requirement), but at least 48 members of Congress must also vote to hold it. In a 4-to-1 decision on October 31, the National Elections Commission (JNE) ruled that the new law could not be applied retroactively. The JNE's decision not only put the petition drive for a referendum on the third term back on track, but also that for another referendum on the privatization of the state oil company, PetroPeru.

Women and minorities participate fully in government and politics. There are 11 female members of Congress. In addition, 3 of the 15 cabinet ministers and several vice ministers are women, as are the Attorney General and a Supreme Court justice.

Peruvians of Asian descent hold leadership positions in government; President Fujimori is from an Asian ethnic minority. There are several indigenous congressmen, and a recent vice president was a Quechua speaker. However, it is rare for indigenous people, who represent 30 percent of the population, to reach the highest leadership levels in the public sector. Until recently, discrimination has often led to exclusion of members of these groups from leadership positions in government. Members of the black minority have no leadership role in government, and there are no black members of Congress.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government allowed numerous nongovernmental organizations dedicated to monitoring and advancing human rights to operate freely, although government officials continued to criticize them. The military often restricted the ability of local and international human rights workers to investigate human rights abuses; the Government usually ignored human rights groups' requests for information. It prohibited many human rights monitors--except those from the ICRC (until late December)-- from visiting some prisons. Public attacks by the Government against both domestic and international human rights monitors lessened in 1996. Legitimate fears of physical attack by Sendero severely limited the ability of human rights monitors to carry out their work in some parts of the country.

A human rights attorney fled Peru for 3 months early in 1996 due to threats that she received. On February 18, three masked men entered the home of human rights attorney Edith Luquillas Gonzalez, who was investigating the case of Jhoel Huaman Garcia (see Section 1.a.). When they did not find Luquillas, the men threatened her family members that she could be killed at any moment.

Most Peruvian human rights NGO's are independent and generally objective in their views. Several private human rights groups joined in 1985 to form an umbrella organization known as the National Coordinating Committee for Human Rights, or Coordinadora. The Coordinadora maintains a policy of not mixing politics with human rights (its individual members may do so, but not in the Coordinadora's name). Its members, although widely recognized by the general public as thorough and impartial observers, are privately criticized by military, judicial, and police officials as biased against the authorities. The Coordinadora has begun to work closely with the newly established Human Rights Ombudsman in addressing key areas of mutual concern.

Human rights groups repeatedly denounced Sendero Luminoso as the greatest violator of human rights in Peru, while simultaneously documenting violations by the security forces. Documentary evidence indicates that Coordinadora members have been balanced in their denunciations of abuses by both sides. In its annual report, the Coordinadora regularly reported and denounced political violence by Sendero as well as by the MRTA and has issued press communiques denouncing violence by terrorist groups.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens and specifically prohibits discrimination based on ethnic origin, race, gender, language, religion, opinion, or economic condition. Nevertheless, discrimination against women, the disabled, and minorities continued.


Violence against women, including rape and spousal abuse, is a chronic problem, according to local women's groups and law enforcement offices. According to official statistics, nationwide there were approximately 5,900 complaints of violence against women in 1995. Of these, 50 percent were due to marital problems, 20 percent for other family causes, and 18 percent due to economic problems. In 40 percent of the cases the aggressor was under the influence of alcohol, and in 10 percent he was under the influence of drugs. Despite this large number of complaints, many cases go unreported. Rape is also believed to occur frequently, and high-profile cases of minor girls who were raped and killed has led to calls for drastic sentences to punish those responsible. In July Congress formed its first committee to look specifically at women's issues, and among the new legislation it studied was a bill providing for mandatory prison sentences of up to 12 years for those who attack women. Rape victims frequently are reluctant to come forward, and there are no accurate statistics of rape victims. Women's groups complain of police indifference and the pervasive assumption that if a women was raped she probably enticed her attacker.

In order to address the special concerns of women, President Fujimori announced creation in October of a new Ministry of Women's Issues and Human Development and appointed Miriam Schenone to head it. In addition, Human Rights Ombudsman Santistevan named a deputy in November specifically to handle women's rights. Partially in reaction to a lack of response by regular policemen to domestic abuse cases, the authorities established special police stations in Lima and other major cities where policewomen deal directly with abused women. They report a rising number of complaints of domestic violence. In addition, women's groups have established legal aid and health centers for women. Judicial authorities take legal action against perpetrators of domestic violence. Although the Government has passed strong legislation against domestic violence, it is not always implemented, especially outside the major cities.

Sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a common problem. One study by a women's rights organization showed that 62 percent of working women knew of cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Constitution grants women equality, and laws on marriage, divorce, and property rights do not discriminate against women. Nevertheless, tradition often impedes access by women to leadership roles in major social and business institutions. The 1995 employment law treats both men and women equally and supersedes earlier legislation that had provided special working conditions for women. Among the benefits female workers lost were the guarantee of an hour each day for breast-feeding of children up to 1 year of age and the requirement that employers with more than 25 female employees provide a nursery.


The Government made efforts to address children's human rights and welfare; however, much work still needs to be done. The Government provides free, compulsory education through primary school. The President frequently emphasized the need to improve education at all levels, but the Government does not have sufficient funds for public schools, and school enrollment actually declined in 1996. A 1993 government survey reported that only 59 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 attend school, and only 27 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17. Millions of children continue to suffer from malnutrition and live in extreme poverty. There were frequent press reports highlighting issues relating to child labor and children living in poverty.

In Lima there are thousands of orphaned, homeless, and abandoned children, and many of them are forced to work in the informal economy to support themselves. Estimates vary, but most experts believe almost 1 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 work; 55 percent of them live in rural areas.

Violence against children is a serious problem. According to some estimates, approximately half of all rapes are perpetrated against minors. Almost 70 percent of homeless children reported that they left their homes because of mistreatment, whereas only 16 percent said that they left their homes because of economic problems.

New legislation in 1995 discontinued the practice of adult terrorism trials for those under the age of 18 and ordered that underage prisoners be moved to juvenile detention facilities. In 1996, however, new cases continued to come to light of persons under 18 years of age being held in adult prisons.

People with Disabilities

Although the Constitution states that disabled persons "have the right to respect of their dignity and to a regime of protection, care, rehabilitation, and security," the Government has few resources available for assisting the disabled or preventing discrimination against them. There is no law mandating access to buildings for people with disabilities, and few accommodations (such as wheelchair ramps on streets and in buildings) exist for them.

The number of those disabled is believed to have increased as a result of the years of violence during the Sendero and MRTA insurgencies. Although according to the 1993 census, 1.3 percent of the population (288,526 persons) are disabled in some form, nongovernmental experts believe that the figure is in reality much higher. Disabled persons face discrimination when seeking employment, and many are reduced to begging in the streets. The publicity surrounding the performance of Peru's medal-winning team to the 1996 Special Olympics again focused public attention on the problems of the disabled.

The Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, a private institute, has operated in Lima for 29 years providing job skill training and other useful guidance to thousands. There are several schools for blind children throughout the country.

Indigenous People

The 1993 Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and provides for the right of all citizens to speak their native language. Nevertheless, the large indigenous population faces pervasive discrimination and social prejudice. Because of geographic isolation, government centralization, lack of organization, and social marginalization, indigenous people in general are unable to participate in, or are excluded from, decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources. In jungle areas, colonists, coca growers, guerrillas, and business interests steadily encroach on native lands, many seeking to exploit natural resources. Indigenous people lack access to public services in many inland areas while business investment is concentrated on the coast.

The largest indigenous groups are those speaking Quechua and Aymara, which are recognized as official languages. These languages are not taught in schools, however, and efforts to introduce Quechua and Aymara curriculums have so far failed. There are also dozens of smaller native language groups.

The 45,000 Aguaruna-Huambisa people inhabit areas near the Upper Cenepa Valley where the 1995 Peru-Ecuador border conflict took place. Aguaruna-Huambisa leaders have complained about poor living conditions and the lack of consultation by the Government on matters affecting their welfare, including land tenure.

The Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP) is one of eight NGO's representing the more than 50 ethnolinguistic groups--nearly 200,000 people--from the Peruvian Amazon, and does not necessarily speak for the entire indigenous population. CONAP is critical of the 1995 land law which, according to its interpretation, allows Amazonian land to be bought and sold if no one is using it or living on it. Land as a marketable commodity is an alien concept to some indigenous people, who have a religious way of relating to it. Moreover, some indigenous people are nomadic, moving from one part of their lands to another, and do not use all their land all the time. Recognizing that mining and other development activity is inevitable, CONAP says that indigenous people want to benefit from it, rather than die out because of it. Consultation and negotiation about the disposition of their lands is key, however, and CONAP claims that the Government's Indigenous Institute has failed to provide such an opportunity.

Amazon tribes, particularly the over 10,000 Conipo-Shipibo people of the Ucayali region, are also struggling to obtain government recognition of their economic problems and to obtain development projects to improve their living standards. The Conipo-Shipibo people have started their own radio program, "the indigenous voice of the Ucayali," which is broadcast in their native language. Amazon tribes in areas of oil exploration and extraction have complained that environmental damage has negatively affected the health of their members and sometimes led to deaths. These tribes assert that the Government does not take their concerns seriously.

Sendero Luminoso has been the most egregious violator of indigenous rights. At the end of the year, thousands of Ashaninkas in the central jungle area remained displaced, and many were in areas under Sendero control, although some displaced groups of Ashaninkas reincorporated into their original communities. Reports continued, however, of forcible recruitment of Ashaninkas by Sendero.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Peru's population includes several small racial minorities, the largest of which are blacks of African descent and Asians. Blacks, who tend to be concentrated along the coast, face particularly pervasive discrimination and social prejudice and are among the poorest groups in the country. They are excluded from leadership roles in government, military, and business institutions. Both the navy and the air force reportedly have unwritten policies that exclude blacks from the officer corps. According to Peru's two black human rights groups, police routinely detain persons of African descent on suspicion of committing crimes for no other reason than the color of their skin, and police rarely act on complaints of crimes against blacks. The Government has taken no action to remedy these problems.

Although Peruvians of Asian descent have traditionally been subjected to discrimination, this has changed during the past decade as Peru has looked toward Asia as a growth model and as the Asian community has achieved financial success. Apart from President Fujimori, who is of Japanese descent, many other Asians now hold prominent leadership positions in business and government.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

It is estimated that only 5 percent of the total work force of 8.5 million belong to organized labor unions. More than half of all workers are in the informal sector of the economy. Workers do not need prior authorization to form a trade union, nor, by law, can employment be conditioned on union membership or nonmembership. Existing unions represent a cross section of political opinion. Although some unions have been traditionally associated with political groups, the law prohibits unions from engaging in explicitly political, religious, or profitmaking activities. The several union leaders who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1995 all did so as individuals, without union sponsorship.

In 1995 Congress approved a new employment law, which all of the main union confederations publicly criticized for violating the rights of unions, including freedom to bargain collectively and the right to work. Unions also complained that the new law eliminated the compulsory reinstatement of dismissed workers when it is proven that they were unjustly dismissed. At present such workers only have the right to a year's pay as indemnification. In practice, the new Labor Code has had a negative impact on the right of association by making it easier for companies to fire workers involved in union activities.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in June called on the Government to adopt new legislation to enhance freedom of association, including a guarantee that reduction of personnel not be used as an antiunion measure and permitting new probationary workers the right to join a union.

There are no restrictions on membership in international bodies. Several major labor unions and confederations are affiliates of international labor groups, including the ILO and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1993 Constitution recognizes the right of public and private workers to organize and bargain collectively. However, it states that these rights must be exercised in harmony with broader social objectives. Labor regulations promulgated prior to the 1993 Constitution provide that workers can form unions based on profession, employment, or geographic location. The regulations exclude temporary, probationary, apprentice, or management employees from union membership. They require a minimum of 100 members to form trade unions by branch of activity, occupation, or for various occupations; and a minimum of 20 workers to form a union within a company. They also limit the number of union officials, the amount of time they may devote to union business on company time, and require them to be active members of the union. No legal provisions require employers who commit antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers fired for union activities.

Labor regulations set the number of union representatives who can participate in collective bargaining negotiations (a minimum of 3, a maximum of 12) and establish the negotiating timetable. The management negotiating team cannot exceed the size of the workers' team; both sides may have attorneys and professional experts in attendance as advisers. A majority of all workers in a company, whether union members or not, must approve a strike by a secret ballot. A second vote must be taken upon petition of 20 percent or more of the workers. The labor movement criticized provisions of the new Labor Code that facilitate an employer's ability to dismiss employees as impeding workers' right to bargain collectively. However, there are apparently no restrictions that would prohibit unions from negotiating a higher standard than the base line of protection provided for workers by the law. To become an official collective bargaining representative, a union must represent 20 workers.

In response to a complaint regarding the right to organize and bargain collectively, an ILO committee noted that the 1995 Labor Code fails to ensure the protection of workers against acts of antiunion discrimination and to protect workers' organizations against acts of interference by employers. In addition, the ILO found obstacles to voluntary negotiation resulting from the requirement of a majority not only of a number of workers, but also of enterprises, in order to conclude a collective agreement for a branch of activity or occupation.

Labor regulations also permit companies unilaterally to propose temporary changes of work schedules, conditions, and wages and to suspend for up to 90 days collective bargaining agreements if obliged to do so by an unexpected event or economic conditions, provided that they give 15 days' notice to employees. If workers dispute the proposed changes, the Labor Ministry must resolve the dispute based upon criteria of "reasonableness" and "economic necessity." In such cases, employers must authorize vacation time and in general adopt measures that avoid aggravating the employment situation.

A conciliation and arbitration system resolves disputes, but union officials complain that their proportionate share of the cost of arbitration can exceed their resources. (In the past, business and government entities had covered these costs.) Union officials also state that a growing number of companies utilize a policy of hiring workers on temporary, personal services contracts to prevent union affiliation. The new law restricts such hiring to 20 percent of a company's work force. The Labor Ministry is still formulating regulations on this point. This is a subject of continuing contention between organized labor and employers and is one of the concerns that labor continues to raise in international forums. Employers deny the accusation of antiunion bias and assert that labor stability provisions of the law have made long-term commitments to workers too expensive.

Special regulations permitting greater flexibility in application of the Labor Code in export and duty free zones provide for the use of temporary labor as needed, flexibility in labor contracts, and a wage system based upon supply and demand. As a result, workers in duty free zones are unable to unionize. Duty free zone employers do not engage in illegal activities to prevent unionization.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor. However, there are periodic reports of the practice of forced labor in remote Andean mountain and Amazonian jungle regions of the country. In response to a complaint filed with the ILO, the Government in 1994 acknowledged the existence of such practices and asserted that it had taken measures to end these abuses. However, reports of forced labor, including that of children in gold mines in the remote Madre de Dios department, continued to emerge. Forced labor is not a problem in urban areas.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Education through primary school is compulsory and free. A high percentage of school-age children nevertheless work rather than attend daytime classes, with only a small number of such children attending classes at night. Given widespread poverty, children work in the informal economy without government supervision of wages or conditions from a very early age to help support their families. A recent government labor study found that 8 percent of the work force was between the ages of 6 and 14. The Government's National Institute of Family Welfare cooperates with the United Nations Children's Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank to assist street children and other child laborers.

The minimum legal age for employment is 16. The new Labor Code raised the age from 21 to 25 years for the special youth labor provisions, which allow employers to pay lower salaries as part of a program to provide new workers with specialized training. The new code also increased the period of apprenticeship from 18 to 36 months. In addition, workers covered by these provisions now may make up 30 percent (increased from 15 percent) of a company's work force.

Child labor is heavily used in the agricultural sector and in informal gold mining, but not in other major export industries, such as petroleum and fisheries. Recent studies by NGO's found that approximately 4,500 workers younger than 18 years of age work in harsh conditions in the informal Madre de Dios gold mines. Many of these workers are under the age of 15, and some are as young as 11. These child laborers were recruited from their families through a system known as "enganche" in Puno, Juliaca, Sicuani, Abancay, and Cuzco, through which they are provided free transportation to the mine and reportedly agree to work for at least 90 days before being paid. The Government has not exercised control over these employment agencies, and employers do not comply with labor code provisions relating to juveniles. Children who work in the informal gold mines lack proper medical care, must work long hours, and are often subjected to beatings, mistreatment, and rape. There are also reports of these mine workers not being paid.

More than 20 children between the ages of 4 and 14 work in harsh conditions at Cerro de Belen caves near Arequipa collecting pumice stones, which are used in the manufacture of stonewashed jeans. These children work alongside their parents and other family members and suffer from various illnesses including tuberculosis and atrophy of the respiratory tract.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Constitution provides that the State promote social and economic progress and occupational education. It states that workers should receive a "just and sufficient" wage, to be determined by the Government in consultation with labor and business representatives and "adequate protection against arbitrary dismissal." The current minimum wage is about $87 (S/217) per month and is generally considered inadequate to support a worker and family. A considerable portion--one-half according to some estimates--of the country's work force makes only the minimum wage.

The Constitution also provides for a 48-hour workweek, a weekly day of rest, and a yearly vacation. It prohibits discrimination in the workplace. In December President Fujimori vetoed legislation passed by Congress in September that would have improved benefits and working hours for household maids. While occupational health and safety standards exist, the Government lacks the resources to monitor or enforce compliance. Employers and workers generally agree upon compensation for industrial accidents on an individual basis. The Government introduced reforms in 1993 eliminating the need to prove culpability in order to obtain worker's compensation for injuries. There are no provisions for workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.