in press conferences
January 21st 2003
TRC work, findings and messages
For the Truth and Reconciliation Commission it is extremely
pleasing to have your attendance in this morning in which we
wish to provide the country, through you, important information
on the course of work during the last eighteen months. Along
this year and a half of effective work, the press has always
accompanied us and has become an echo of our concerns. We thank
them much for this effort and express them our desire of keeping
their company until the end of this process already in its
As we know, the makeup of this commission, created by the
government of President Agustín Paniagua and ratified
and expanded during the current administration of President
Alejandro Toledo, was a response to the demand from broad social
and political sectors of the country. Organizations and collectivities
of many different kinds pointed out, when we were restarting
democracy after the recent authoritarian experience, that this
new attempt would not have too much success opportunities if
it did not coincide with a search for deep responses to the
country’s problems, in which the recent history of violence
and transgression against the human rights by subversive organizations
and state agents have a central position.
This is how the executive order that they gave to the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission charged it with “clarifying
the processes, facts and responsibilities of terrorist violence
and violation of human rights” produced between May 1980
and November 2000 and immediately after ordered it to “propose
initiatives aimed at establishing peace and concord among Peruvians”.
By accepting this task, the members of this commission assumed
the commitment of giving way to truth, no matter how painful
it may be and of exposing it publicly, regardless of any secondary
consideration, so that truth and only truth becomes the starting
point of the new way of organizing our lives in common, of
building a country reconciled with itself and reconciled with
the aching victims who are still wait for justice.
During this time you have asked us many times and even with
a disapproval spirit why we should open the way to such a hard
truth. There are many answers to this question. The first one
has to do with the strict consideration of justice. The person
who has suffered an abuse, who has been victim of a transgression,
who has been unfairly deprived of his or her freedom, of his
or her dignity and even of his or her life, has a first and
foremost: “to inform others what happened to him or her,
that the rest of citizens learn that one among them, that one
equal to them, has been deprived from something to which all
of us have a right”
And besides that consideration of elementary justice, we must
say that truth is also necessary so history does not repeat
itself, so death, grief, hopelessness and fear lived through
by our society and specially intensely by our countrymen from
the most forgotten areas never happen again.
When we assumed the position trusted to us and we started
our work, we knew that the history that had to be exposed was
tragic, hard and so cruel that it could even be difficult to
believe. However, I must now say that our imagination, our
capacity to foretell the future did not prepare us for what
we in fact found. In the work carried out during these eighteen
months, the Commission has found acts of cruelty and painful
facts that largely exceed our forecast. We believe now more
than ever that the whole country must know about this and that
the history we shall expose when submitting our Final Report
be remembered as our history.
Thus, we must accept that the bloodiest conflict since our
country became a Republic was precisely this one, a confrontation
between Peruvians that reached the dimension of a truth national
tragedy. Such confrontation, it is impossible to ignore it,
has marked contemporary life in our country, has printed its
seal in more than one generation and, hence, it would not only
be unfair but also irrational to turn the page over without
daring to look at it in the face and extract indispensable
lessons from that examination.
In 1980, the Shining Path started an internal war against
the whole state. They did so from the poor and distant world
of the Ayacucho and south central highlands fields.
Democracy, broad but fragile, was challenged by this surprising
war that had been declared, besides, from a social reality
that the modern part of the country still ignores, forgets
or discriminates. In this context, the dilemma was between
respecting the law and the supposed efficacy of a rapid repressive
action, but prone to break essential rules.
The self called “people’s war” by the Shining
Path, which disavowed the elementary rules of democratic life
lingered for more than one decade and was often answered with
human rights abuse by state agents. These were years in which
fear became the master, in which generalized fright seized
the country, a heart beat still alive in the victims’ stories
and whose memory still startles even those Peruvians who, like
in the case of Lima middle classes, were fortunate enough of
not living between two fires, as it happened to the homeless
peasants in the Andes.
On the other hand, it is truth that as we have seen the pain,
the cruelty and the useless costs of this war, we have also
learnt about thousands of examples of responsible civic behavior,
of generosity, solidarity and selflessness, as well as about
the active resistance to violence, collective action movements
which, first, limited the expansion of subversion and, then,
prevented violence to go unfettered. The people of Puno and
other places in the country have left us that teaching we want
to include in our final report for all Peruvians.
Therefore, our purpose is to expose this process and its real
complexity. An important part of this complexity are the indubitable
responsibilities of different people, organizations or collectivities
that played some role in the public affairs of those years.
The Truth Commission wants its leaders, its public personalities
to rise to this national challenge that is to recognize ourselves
in our truth history and that, by doing so, they also contribute
with elements to rebuild this process with courage and sincerity.
By saying so we are sure we interpret a claim from all the
This public presentation of the Commission is, then, a way
of responding the country for the trust in us. At the same
time is a renewed invitation to the concerned people and institutions
to become involved in this process in a candid and open fashion.
This schematic account of what we did as a Commission confirms
and reiterates an idea we have not stopped repeating, we did
not face only past facts, firstly because the victims’ pain
is still there silently waiting for redress and justice, and,
additionally, because many of the deep problems that cause
violence are still present in our national life, dividing Peruvians
and darkening their future.
Among the victims we have listened to, those belonging to
the impoverished stratum that is usually the peasant population
are clearly highlighted. This is a population that also suffered
the insensitivity or indifference of the rest of society when
their towns were devastated, their children recruited by force
or their beloved ones were killed or abducted by subversive
organizations or state agents, besides the secular oblivion
they had always suffered.
All of this poses a question to us. What can we do to produce
a true change in our way of being and cohabitating as Peruvians?
At the TRC we think that our final report, which shall be submitted
on July 13th this year, must be part of the process involving
all with some basic objectives that collectively commit us
as citizens and country.
Our first task is to do way to truth regarding little known
events and about responsibilities that had been left unpunished
to facilitate a correct application of justice by all competent
organisms. The TRC has this first commitment and will do our
best to prevent oblivion of criminal acts and illicit omission
that must receive a sanction.
Secondly, we shall go on with dialogues already started with
the most important institutional actors during this internal
war period, such as parties that governed, state powers, military
institutions, large press media, etc. We want to invite these
players publicly to accompany us in an open reflection where
they can expose before society, the society they wish to lead,
their points of view and to make a balance that would allow
to better understand the reasons for their actions and, eventually,
for their error.
In fact, much of the usefulness of this national revision
of our recent history depends on everybody’s participation
and attitude, especially of those who played a relevant role
at that time. This is the moment to listen to each other outside
any political intention and to pay attention only to the responsibility
we all have regarding the victims of violence and towards the
future generations of Peruvians.
This is the time to recognize the public commitment of state
institutions to help us in the task of obtaining the truth
and starting an authentic reconciliation process. That is the
intention we discovered and valued in those who, assuming the
authority they exercise responsibly, pointed out the need of
differentiating between the usual confrontations of war from
assassination and barbarity.
In this effort for reconciliating the country with itself,
the TRC is also talking, and shall continue doing so, with
subversive groups leaders and commandos, a fact about which
the country will be kept informed.
Thirdly, we shall promote some basic commitments about institutional
reforms and legal proposals as the ones already mentioned,
because they are indispensables to make peace and democracy
viable and durable.
I want to specifically refer to the National Redressment Plan.
We believe the country has a moral and social debt with the
innocent victims and that we all have to contribute so they
are treated with justice.
Certainly all of this will only be possible if the citizens,
the political and social leaders, the parties, the state institutions
and the society as a whole accompany us through a sound ethic
commitment in the effort of making of these moments of our
history, although painful, to pull out the best of ourselves
to turn over, this time responsibly and fairly, one of the
most deplorable pages of our national life.
We must say that these tasks and this mandate charged to the
Commission I chaired are part of the process through which
Peru seeks to build a new foundation for a life in common,
affirming a truth Rule of Law and expelling not only violence
but also corruption and authoritarianism.
And this is a great historical opportunity whose realization
depends only on us, on all of us.
We are convinced that a future of peace and democracy is possible
and it is in our hands to make it come truth if we identify
everything that must never happen in our country again, never
more subversive violence, never more a war among Peruvians,
never more human rights abuse, never more indifference or silence
before our countrymen’s misfortune.
There are occasions in which saying no is also a way to affirm.
Saying no to injustice is, above all, a way to open the doors
of reconciliation, and that is the message we want you to helps
us convey to the country.
Thank you very much.
Salomon Lerner Febres
Truth and Reconciliation Commission