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Human Rights: Fujimori sentenced to 25 years in prison

fujimoricarcelThe fact that Fujimori has been tried in a public trial, with all of the guarantees of the law, should be cause for Peruvians to be proud.

(Madrid) APRIL 7, 2009 IS A DATE that will be remembered in the history of Peru and Latin America. As has been pointed out by the media in many different countries, for the first time, a democratically elected Latin American president has been tried and sentenced by his country’s legal system for human rights violations. Alberto Fujimori Fujimori, a Peruvian and Japanese (Kenya Fujimori) citizen, and the President of Peru from 1990 to 2000, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, which means he would complete his term in February 2032, at the age of 95 years.

Close to seventeen years after his self-coup, the Special Criminal Chamber of Peru’s Supreme Court has determined that the former president is guilty of crimes against humanity for the Barrios Altos [1] and La Cantuta massacres [2] and the kidnappings of the journalist Gustavo Gorriti and the businessman Samuel Dyer. The aforementioned court proceedings began in December 2007 and lasted 484 days, and was a model trial.

ASYLUM IN JAPAN

As will be remembered, Fujimori resigned as president after videos proving the well-established corruption in the upper echelons of the State –in the form of bribes to congressmen, politicians, important members of the media, etc– were made public. He took refuge in Japan, from which it was practically impossible to extradite him so that he could be tried. But then Fujimori left Japan and was captured in Chile. They subsequently managed to extradite him to Peru.

Of the crimes for which he could have be tried –given the conditions of the extradition– the most important was without a doubt his responsibility for the massacre of students (La Cantuta) and a group of Barrios Altos neighborhood residents, who were executed during a barbecue by the Colina Group death squad, the existence of which it was demonstrated that Fujimori was aware of.

Throughout the proceedings, as was expected, Fujimori argued that the actions were carried out within the broader context of the anti-subversive fight to achieve the pacification of the country (eventually even stating that he “governed from hell”), and that he had no relationship with the group and no knowledge of its illegal activity. Nonetheless, the court declared that the charges were proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, Fujimori was kept informed and involved in the operations carried out by the special military group that took the lives of 25 people. It is clear that Fujimori was in control of the military as well as politics.

THE VICTIMS’ FAMILY MEMBERS

The sentencing marks a key point in Peruvian politics. It provides some closure for the victims’ family members, who never lost hope that there would be justice for their relatives. It is a clear demonstration to future high-ranking Peruvian politicians that human rights violations will not go unpunished. The death of innocents cannot be justified in the name of any concept; the ends don’t justify the means.

The fact that Fujimori was tried in a public trial, with all of the guarantees of the law, should be cause for Peruvians to be proud. It is some good news, and it serves to strengthen such a young and unstable democracy. The judiciary has demonstrated that it can carry out an impartial and technical task.

NEVER AGAIN

But there is a percentage of the population that still sympathizes with the former president, and considers the trial to have been political revenge. Keiko Fujimori, a congresswoman, daughter of the former president and very likely a presidential candidate herself in 2011, has announced pro-Fujimori marches against the sentence, while Fujimori’s defense has stated that it will appeal the decision, meaning that the sentence is still not set in stone. The upcoming months could bring a rather complicated political climate with them.

The Peruvian legal system has given its verdict. It will be very difficult for the Supreme Court to reverse the sentence in the future. Fujimori and those close to him often used the State for their own benefit. They neither respected people’s dignity nor had respect for the lives of innocent people. During his rule, relatives of victims, journalists, university students and politicians fought the authoritarian regime. Today, many years later, they have seen that there can indeed be justice in Peru.

Let’s hope that in this case, history doesn’t repeat itself.