Peru risks being ranked alongside authoritarian states like Venezuela and Nicaragua, lawyers have warned, if it flouts international law by releasing former President Alberto Fujimori from prison after its highest court ordered his “immediate release”.
In the latest chapter of a long legal saga, the Peruvian Constitutional Court decided Tuesday to free the former authoritarian leader who, since 2009, has been serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and ordering massacres committed by a squadron of the death of the army in Peru. early 1990s.
In response, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights asked the Peruvian state to “refrain from carrying out the order.” The international tribunal, to which Peru is a signatory, has repeatedly told the country that Fujimori, 85, cannot be pardoned because of his conviction for human rights crimes.
Alberto Fujimori remains a very controversial figure in Peru. His autocratic leadership in the 1990s left a lasting legacy. His supporters credit him with eradicating the Maoist Shining Path movement and putting the economy back on track after rampant hyperinflation. Many others believe he ruled like an iron-fisted dictator during his decade in power, marked by widespread human rights abuses and endemic corruption.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling upholds its own 2022 appeal to reinstate a controversial humanitarian pardon granted to Fujimori on Christmas Eve in 2017, which was later overturned under pressure from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
“As relatives of the victims, we are… between anguish, anger and the feeling of being second-class citizens. » tweeted Gisela Ortiz, whose brother, a university student, was killed in a 1992 death squad massacre for which Fujimori was convicted.
“Our rights have been (subordinated) to the undeserved freedom of a criminal,” she added.
The UN human rights office called the court’s decision “a worrying setback for accountability“, adding: “Any humanitarian release of those responsible for serious human rights violations must be in accordance with international law. »
The decision on what happens next rests with the government of President Dina Boluarte, which faces accusations of human rights violations and “excessive and deadly use of force” following its deadly response to more than two months of anti-government protests in December and January. , which cost the lives of at least 60 people.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a report on Peru following an official visit in May.
“Boluarte, Otárola (his prime minister) and several former ministers of state are directly involved in human rights violations,” said Carlos Rivera, a human rights lawyer at the Legal Defense Institute.
He said the government’s efforts to show the world that it indeed respects human rights and international treaties will be tested by how it handles the court ruling in the Fujimori case.
“They do not want to appear, alongside Venezuela and Nicaragua, as countries that disregard international standards,” Rivera said.
At the same time, he added, the weak government will be under intense political pressure from the powerful Peruvian Congress coalition that favors Fujimori’s release.
His daughter Keiko Fujimori, a three-time presidential candidate, remains a right-wing figure on the political scene.