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Conference by Doctor Salomón Lerner Febres, President of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at the submission of a complaint
on the death of four peasants in the locality of Totos,
province of Cangallo, department of Ayacucho in April, 1983.

Journalist ladies and gentlemen,

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, the commissioners expressed their firm conviction concerning the need to make justice, find the truth and redress victims as indispensable steps to lay the foundations for national reconciliation. We thought it was particularly important, and we still think so, that jurisdictional organs act promptly and fairly in cases involving serious crimes and human rights abuses.

The Commission’s mandate implies, in fact, contributing to clearing up, on the side of jurisdictional organs, the crimes and human rights abuses committed both by subversive organizations and State agents between May 1980 and November 2000. However, it must be clear that the Commission does not replace the Public Prosecutor’s office and the judiciary nor is it in charge of their functions. Nevertheless, the Commission must help those institutions to have sufficient elements to lead impartial investigations concerning the serious facts the Commission points out and on which it has become fully convinced.

The case we present today is part of this task of cooperating with the jurisdictional function. The Commission is not determining any criminal responsibility, because that is not part of its tasks. What we state is that there is sufficient evidence to establish a sound and grounded presumption that acts that are within its mandate were committed. The Public Prosecutor’s office must develop its own investigations and, be it the case, formalize the corresponding complaint before the judiciary.

We must remember that in December last year, the Commission filed a complaint against the same person who must have committed the facts described in this complaint. In said opportunity, the Commission requested the Public Prosecutor’s office the corresponding investigations and requested guarantees concerning the security of witnesses whose identity was kept under reserve. Finally, the Commission requested the necessary precautionary measures to prevent presumed perpetrators from evading justice. That complaint was derived to the Cangallo provincial Prosecutor’s office and we trust it will be soon formalized before the competent judge. We reiterate our request ,madam Public Prosecutor, for you to act rapidly concerning the measures requested.

Today, the Commission disseminates a third report on a specific case to the country. Our former public reports refer to the massacre of Peruvian citizens in Chuschi and to the assassination of 69 people in the locality of Lucanamarca in the hands of PCP-Sendero Luminoso.

This time, the commissioners plenary, using the attributions bestowed upon them by Executive Order 065-2001-PCM, declares that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has gathered sufficient evidence to request the Public Prosecutor to formalize a criminal complaint against Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes for homicide, as foreseen in Article 152° of the 1924 Criminal Code, as presumed author of the out-of-law execution of Julio Godoy Bellido, Roberto López León, Primitivo Tucno Medina and Marceliano Zamora Vivanco, killed on April 17th, 1983.

Likewise, it requests an extension of investigation to captain Picón Pesantes’s superiors so as to establish their eventual participation in the actions committed by the Totos Military Base personnel, the perpetration or omission behaviors in which they may have incurred, in order to define the presumed criminal responsibility of said superiors as coauthors.

The Commission also requests the application of protection measures for the two witnesses whose identity is kept under reserve, considering the nature of facts investigated and involved authors.

This mechanism must protect the reserve of their identity, their appearance in the trial to present their declaration and so they can participate in other investigation procedures such as for example, recognizing the presumed author of the crime. The protection mechanism requested must include:

The adoption of a key or a mechanism to replace their personal information in their declarations.

Methods to guarantee their security without affecting due process and which, therefore, may permit their participation in the procedure.

The Commission requests the Public Prosecutor’s office to issue the corresponding precautionary measures to ensure the appearance of the defendant in the trial, taking into account the seriousness of facts investigated and the sanction foreseen by the law, as well as the existence of a clear circumstance of procedural danger, which makes it reasonable to foresee that the defendant will attempt to avoid justice.

Finally, the Commission reiterates the Ministry of Defense its request of facilitating information and the identity of the Totosmilitary base personnel (officers, non commissioned officers and troop) under the order of Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes, Peruvian Army officer, so as to establish the corresponding responsibilities in the case that is the subject matter of this report.

Having carried out the mentioned recommendations and requests, the Commission now wishes to summarize the facts motivating this request in the following points:

1. During the first week of April, 1983, combined forces of the Totos Military Base and the Civil Guard, under the order of Peruvian captain Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes arrested, without apparent cause and without preexistent judicial order, the following persons: Julio Godoy Bellido, Roberto López León, Primitivo Tucno Medina, Marceliano Zamora Vivanco and a person whose identity is kept under reserve, in the district of Totos, province of Cangallo, Department of Ayacucho.

2. The people arrested were taken to the military base installed in the Totos school, where they stayed until the night of April 17th, 1983. During that period, those arrested were denied access to fundamental guarantees protecting their constitutional rights and information to their families concerning their whereabouts was denied. We must point out that during the mentioned period, those arrested were deprived of food.

3. In the night of April 17th, 1983, the arrested people were led by foot by an army officer and a military patrol towards a place called Ccarpaccasa, located outside the village of Totos. In said place, they were interrogated, during which time one of the arrested was able to escape. After this happened, Peru’s army members killed Julio Godoy Bellido, Roberto López León, Primitivo Tucno Medina and Marceliano Zamora Vivanco by gunshots.

4. The death of these victims occurred when they were under the custody of Peru’s army members, in circumstances in which it was impossible for them to defend themselves or resist and in a situation in which they were no threat to the life or integrity of said military agents.

5. The investigations carried out by the Ombudsman’s office, the Public Prosecutor’s office and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have permitted to determine that citizen Teófilo Julio Godoy Bellido died due to multiple lesions in the head and a lesion in the thorax; Roberto López León died due to multiple lesions in the thorax and a lesion in the pelvis; Primitivo Tucno Medina died due to multiple lesions in the head and a lesion in the thorax and Marceliano Zamora Vivanco died due to multiple lesions in the thorax and a lesion in the head that caused the destruction of his face.

6. According to necropsy protocols and the forensic anthropologic report, the victims died due to gunshots. These shots came from a burst of machine-gun fire —war rifles— by several marksmen who were probably at the same position vis-à-vis the victims who presented an average of five to seven shots each one.

7. The positions and trajectories of the shots in all the victims permit to state that these were probably lying on the floor on their stomachs with their hands tied at the back, that is, in a defenseless situation.

8. There is sufficient evidence to reasonably presume that the person responsible for the death of the victims is Peruvian (retired) Army Captain Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes, who was at that time known by the name of “Jackal”. There is also sufficient evidence to reasonably presume the direct responsibility of other military personnel who executed the victims, whose identity must be defined during judicial investigation.

9. The acts committed under the order of Peruvian Army captain Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes and all the Totos military base members who participated in these acts are a violation of the right to life, the right to personal integrity and the right to personal freedom and security.

10.From the perspective of internal law, the behaviors imputed to Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes, the officer who led the execution, and the other members of his military patrol, imply the perpetration of the crimes of aggravated kidnapping and homicide as foreseen by articles 223 and 152 of the 1924 Criminal Code, respectively.

11. There are strong indications that the facts refering to this report were not isolated acts, but that they were a regular behavior among Peruvian Army members in the Totos military base during 1983. Therefore, it is necessary that the judicial investigations determine the responsibility that could correspond to Captain Santiago Alberto Picón Pesantes’s superiors due to action or omission.

12. According to article 77° of the Criminal Procedural Code, a criminal complaint is possible when the fact reported is a crime, its presumed author has been individualized and if the fact has not prescribed, according to the Criminal Code regulations. In this case, all the conditions established by law for the exercise of the criminal complaint, against those presumptive responsible for homicide as foreseen in article 152° of the 1924 Criminal Code, coincide.

13. Given the nature and gravity of the facts investigated and considering the violated juridical goods, we are in this case before crimes foreseen by the common criminal law and the human rights protection international instruments. Hence, they cannot be considered in any way as function crimes. Therefore, the competent authorities of common justice, such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary must investigate and judge the presumed author and other persons who may be found responsible of these facts according to their constitutional and legal attributions and imposing, be it the case, the sanctions foreseen in our criminal juridical order.

Journalist ladies and gentlemen, the Commission submitted this complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s Office yesterday, through the Attorney General. Likewise, the Commission announces that it shall continue presenting cases concerning grave facts on which the commissioners have become fully convinced.

We thank you for your attention and are at your disposal for any questions you may want to ask

Salomón Lerner Febres
President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission