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US State Report points out the Truth Commission’s work during 2002

Each year, the US Office for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor issues reports on human rights practices in different countries. In its 2002 report on Peru, issued on March 31, 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is mentioned in two sections: Section 1, dedicated to the “Respect of personal integrity, including freedom” and Section 4, entitled “Government attitude with respect to international and non-government investigation of alleged human rights violations”.

Below, some paragraphs of both texts describing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work during 2002.

Section 1: Respect of personal integrity, including freedom

b. Disappearances / Missing persons

In November 2001, the Ombudsman’s Office delivered evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on human remains found in 51 common graves, more than half of them in the department of Ayacucho. As part of its investigation on political violence from 1980 to 2000, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission participated during 2002 as an observer at the disinterment of two common graves near Ayacucho, carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The disinterment served to identify the victims, hand over their remains to their relatives and search for evidence in order to identify the culprits of these murders. On December 7, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered a report to the Public Prosecutor on the Chuschi case, providing details of a massacre during which Army personnel allegedly tortured and killed eight peasants in Chuschi, Cangallo province, department of Ayacucho, on May 17, 1980.

In May 2002, the Ombudsman’s Office reported that there are 6089 cases of forced disappearances among the human rights violations between 1980 and 2000, investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Ombudsman’s Office pointed out that the majority of victims, mostly Andean peasants, were attributable to the Shining Path or MRTA.

Section 4: Government attitude with respect to international and non-government investigation of alleged human rights violations

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created by former President Paniagua and ratified by President Toledo, started its work in November 2001. Its mandate is to analyze the political, social and cultural conditions that fostered the violent period suffered by Peru between May 1980 and November 2000, during which more than 25000 people were murdered and – according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – 6089 persons disappeared. The Commission’s objectives are to clarify human rights violations committed by terrorist groups as well as by government forces, to locate the victims or their remains, to assign individual or institutional responsibilities for said violations, to propose a compensation system for the victims’ relatives, to recommend institutional, legal and educational reforms, and to propose initiatives designed to promote peace, the state of law, national reconciliation and democracy. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has no authorization to start legal actions against alleged perpetrators.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has heard the testimonies of 14000 victims, victims’ relatives and other witnesses. Furthermore, during 2002 it has organized moving and overpowering public audiences, during which the relatives of murder victims and the survivors of other crimes or forced disappearances reported the crimes committed against them by terrorists, former governments and paramilitary forces. On July 1, 2002, the government announced a 5-month extension of the Commission’s mandate, which will continue working until July 2003.