The New Amnesty Law in Perú

NACLA Report on the Americas (Sept/Oct 1995)

When President Alberto Fujimori signed a controversial amnesty bill on 14 June 1995, the simmering battle that has marked his relationship with human rights groups during his first term in office erupted again. The bill, passed by a 47-11 vote in the Fujimori-controlled legislature, absolves military, police, and civilians for any human rights abuses or other criminal acts committed from May 1982 to 14 June 1995 if they were related to the counterinsurgency war.

Throughout Fujimori's first term, which ended in July, the president received stinging criticism for tacitly allowing serious human rights abuses by military and law-enforcement personnel during their efforts to contain the Shining Path guerrilla organization. Fujimori dismissed such charges and accused his critics of being "useful dupes" (tontos utiles) who knowingly or unknowingly aided and abetted terrorism.

The amnesty law, quickly signed by Fujimori the day after it was passed, promptly resulted in the release of those convicted for the 1992 kidnapping and murder of a professor and nine students from the Enrique Guzman y Valle University outside Lima, known locally as La Cantuta. According to the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee (CONADEH), the law will also absolve those guilty of eight other massacres in which hundreds of people were killed.

While backers of the amnesty law justified the measure as necessary for "national reconciliation," opposition political groups, human rights organizations, families of victims, and church leaders were all quick to denounce the legislation. University students organized protests, and opposition groups formed the "Civic Movement Against Impunity." Critics of the legislation warn that it will encourage more human rights violations and institutionalize impunity. Legal experts also questioned the law's constitutionality.