COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE BEGINS EXAMINATION OF REPORT OF PERU
30 October 2012
The Committee against Torture this morning began its consideration of the sixth periodic report submitted by Peru on how it implements the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Introducing the report, José Avila Herrera, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Access to Justice of Peru, said that Peru had been making major efforts in its fight against torture. Torture was an issue of national sensitivity as the country had been affected by it in a particularly grave manner over a decade of violence. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had received reports of thousands of acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment between 1980 and 2000. But it was important that the Committee bore in mind where Peru was coming from in analysing its current situation. The country’s democratic transition had allowed the prosecution of key perpetrators of human rights violations, enabled institutional reforms in military justice, and allowed the incorporation of international standards into national legislation.
Nora Sveaass, Rapporteur for the report of Peru, noted that the country had been through many important changes over the last three decades. The two decades between 1980 and 2000 had been particularly difficult, and the impacts of this period on the Peruvian society were far from over. Ms. Sveaass noted that many army officers, police officers and prison staff were allegedly involved in torture and the number of allegations arising from the context of the army was alarming.
Xuexian Wang, Co-Rapporteur for the report of Peru, noted that the situation in penitentiary institutions still seemed to be problematic, underlining that according to reports almost 60 per cent of detainees had not been sentenced. Several instances whereby security forces used significant force had also been brought to the attention of the Committee, prompting the question whether there were any studies on the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials.
Other Committee Experts asked in-depth questions about the law on the use of force by the police, particularly the provision exonerating police responsibility in some cases of injuries to citizens. Other questions concerned Peru’s use of the Istanbul Protocol and how it could be activated, as well as the situation in detention facilities, especially regarding overcrowding and medical care.
In an initial response, Mr. Avila Herrera said that while Peru had a registry of criminal offences, it would be looking into the possibility of having a specific registry for cases of torture. He further said that managing disappearances was a complex process, but Peru was undertaking major efforts to locate disappeared persons and to ensure sufficient funds for the necessary forensic research. As far as compensation was concerned, there was a new criminal process which enabled victims to better request compensation.
The Peruvian delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Public Prosecutor, the Ministry of External Relations, the Ministry of Defence, the Interior Ministry, the Health Ministry and the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 31 October when it will consider the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Mexico. The Committee will then hear the replies of Peru at 3 p.m. on 31 October.
Report of Peru
The sixth periodic report of Peru can be read via the following link: CAT/C/PER/6.
Presentation of the Report of Peru
JOSE AVILA HERRERA, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Access to Justice of Peru, introducing the report, said that Peru had been making major efforts in the fight against torture for several years now. Torture was an issue of national sensitivity as the country had been affected by it in a particularly grave manner over a decade of violence. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had received reports of thousands of acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment between 1980 and 2000. Out of a total of 6,443 acts, 75 per cent had been committed by State officials or persons acting under their authorisation and/or with their acquiescence. Subversive groups including the Shining Path accounted for the second most important percentage of cases, while in 2 per cent of cases the perpetrators could not be identified.
It was important that the Committee bore in mind where Peru was coming from in analysing its current situation, said Mr. Avila Herrera. The country’s democratic transition had allowed the prosecution of key perpetrators of human rights violations, enabled institutional reforms in military justice, and allowed the incorporation of international standards into national legislation. In isolated cases those responsible for acts of torture could not be identified but the State was committed to tackling such instances, notably in collaboration with civil society. Now that Peru had overcome political violence, it had been reflecting on the causes of degrading practices and concluded that these were linked to the psychopathology of torturers, issues of impunity, the distortion of the role of law enforcement official, as well as political violence and inadequate training.
Explaining the Peruvian legislation, Mr. Avila Herrera underlined that the ordinary punishment for torture was of no less than five years of imprisonment, and for aggravated cases between six and twenty years. Military courts never processed cases of torture; crimes against humanity were dealt with by civilian courts, even when involving members of the military and police.
Peru had adopted several measures to prevent and investigate acts of torture. For instance, the recommendations of the ombudsman were assessed by the Government on a regular basis, based on relevance and timeliness; there was a general registry of crimes, albeit the public prosecution had no specific registry for complaints of torture; and the Institute of Forensic Medicines had drafted a protocol of forensic medical recognition to detect injury or death resulting from torture, as well as having specialized teams in detecting and identifying such cases. In addition, several relevant groups of professionals were being trained and the Vice-Minister for Human Rights would enact legislation on training related to torture. The Public Prosecutor had also approved resolution on experts assessing the psychological damage caused by torture, and this protocol was in force at the national level.
Peru had a regulatory framework for exceptional situations, Mr. Avila Herrera went on to say, but this was limited to a particular timeline and subject to approval by the Council of Ministers. The use of force by the armed forces in such times was governed by strict legal provisions including the necessity, proportionality and justifiably of violence.
Questions from Rapporteurs on Peru
NORA SVEAASS, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Peru, noted that the country had been through many important changes over the last three decades. The two decades between 1980 and 2000 had been particularly difficult, and the impact of this period on the Peruvian society was far from over. On the contrary, these effects were very much in the centre of many events in the country.
Many army officers, police officers and prison staff were allegedly involved in torture, noted Ms. Sveaass, wondering what happened to those found guilty of such crimes? How many persons had been sentenced to how much punishment following the investigations that the State party had referred to in its correspondence? She would be grateful if the delegation could explain the low number of such persons sentenced after torture.
The number of allegations arising from the context of the army was also alarming. Peru’s openness to share these tragic statistics was of course appreciated, but what was being done to stop torture from happening and to reduce these numbers? In this regard, the Committee would also welcome more information on the draft law on cruel and degrading treatment and when it would be adopted and implemented.
Turning to reparation for victims of torture, Ms. Sveaass asked what had happened to victims of torture after the conflict. How was the Forensic Institute dealing with such cases – were forensic reports taken, were psychological and somatic aspects of torture looked into? And what were the possibilities for redress, including compensation, and medical and psychological treatment?
The definition of torture was also an issue. Did Peru’s definition of torture include suffering inflected for any reason, based on discrimination of any kind, as the Convention stipulated, Ms. Sveaass wondered. And was there a statute of limitation regarding torture, given that statutes of limitation shall not apply for crimes against humanity? Related to this was a question on how the Supreme Court defined the standard of crimes against humanity. This question was asked because the court had overturned the original sentence that the Barrios Altos massacre and the forced disappearances of Pedro Yauri constituted crimes against humanity.
The duty of the State to do everything possible to prevent torture and ill-treatment from happening was highly important, said Ms. Sveaass, and the lack of action to prevent such violence would constitute a violation of the Convention. Yet reports showed a picture of violence against women, sexual violence and other forms of violence, and that this usually happened with impunity. This included the prohibition for women to seek abortions for medical or psychological reasons, such as after rape. The Committee needed to be clearly informed about existing plans to deal with this violence and to criminalize, investigate, punish and redress acts of violence. This should deal with the situation of women, both in their own home and in the public sphere. Women in detention with children faced a particularly difficult situation as a newly published book described. What would be done to prevent direct and indirect violations of these children’s rights?
Regarding the state of emergency, Ms. Sveaass wondered how it could be defended that a number of civil liberties were suspended in such times and how could human rights be monitored during such times. Also, legislation permitted the military to use force in cases involving political or social protests and the army could enter in situations which were not necessarily endorsed or authorized by the State. In such instances complaints of excessive force may be tried in military courts rather than in the independent judiciary, which raised the question whether the military was really the best one to use in such cases. What did the State do to manage this, and could members of the military be held accountable for torture that may occur in these situations?
XUEXIAN WANG, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Report of Peru, noted that, according to the delegation, training for officials and other professionals was being conducted on a continuous basis, which he welcomed. However, ongoing monitoring and evaluation was also needed to make training effective – was this being done?
The situation in penitentiary institutions still seemed to be problematic, said Mr. Wang, pointing to allegations that almost 60 per cent of detainees in penitentiary institutions had not been sentenced. Could the delegation comment on this and whether it could result in prolonged detention in its view?
Turning to the painful post-conflict period, Mr. Wang noted that according to reports the National Criminal Court had only handed down 20 sentences by December 2010. The only other convictions concerned some military personnel. Was this figure correct and what measures had Peru taken to make sure that the military was cooperating with State efforts? It would also seem that there had been more than 3,000 disappearances during the period of conflict. What had the State party undertaken in this regard?
Several instances whereby security forces used significant force had been brought to the attention of the Committee, including one whereby some 20 protesters had been killed through firing from a police helicopter. Compensations had been paid in this case, which he welcomed, but there had been two similar instances in recent years. In one of these, four civilians had been killed and many more wounded, suggesting that excessive force may have been used. Were there any studies on the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, and was sufficient training in place, wondered Mr. Wang.
Violence against women and children seemed to be problematic and the Committee had received quite shocking information in this regard. In particular, there were reports of some 2,000 cases of abortion being done without the consent of the concerned women, along with allegations of forced abortion. Had steps been taken to ensure services for legal abortion? As for children, there seemed to be a Bill in the pipeline to prevent corporate punishment – at what stage was this?
Questions by Committee Members
A Committee Expert noted that a need for judicial training had been expressed. Had this been planned for judges, magistrates and other professions who dealt with cases of torture?
A law had been passed on the use of force by police. But it would appear that there was a provision therein which exonerated police responsibility in some cases of injuries to citizens. Was this really the case and, if so, why? And was there a law intended to charge companies involved in cases of torture, rather than individuals, in the sense of corporate responsibility, the Expert wondered.
Another Expert wondered how the Istanbul Protocol could be activated and whether victims had a role to play in this process. As far as youth were concerned, did relatives have the power to activate this procedure or not?
The Expert noted that it was the regular courts, and not the military courts, which were responsible for examining acts of torture. But it would seem that in one specific case in June 2009 there had been a dual jurisdiction, involving both regular courts and military courts. Was this indeed the case?
Another Committee member said torture was still a serious issue in Peru, as reported numerous times by the national ombudsman. One concern was the unjustified use of lethal force. There had been several killings, including of police officers, due to their involvement in disputes. Could the delegation provide the Committee with updated statistics in this regard?
It looked like prisons were overcrowded and there were too little doctors, a Committee member noted. Peru had shared some information about its intention to address these issues, but more details were needed. Similarly, were there any plans to avoid practices of institutionalization?
Response of the Delegation
JOSE AVILA HERRERA, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Access to Justice of Peru, said that while Peru had a registry of criminal offences, it would be looking into the possibility of having a specific registry for cases of torture.
Turning to disappearances, Mr. Avila Herrera underlined that this was a complex process, particularly when it came to locating corpses. Nonetheless, Peru was undertaking major efforts to locate disappeared persons and to ensure sufficient funds for the necessary forensic research.
As far as compensation was concerned, it was true that not many resources had been allotted to this end, which was due to the model of criminal prosecution. Today, however, there was a new criminal process, set up across 23 judicial districts. In the framework of that new model, the victims would be better enabled to request compensation.
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