In 2001, after 20 years marked ﬁrst by armed confrontation and then by dictatorship, Peru experienced a peaceful democratic transition when the regime headed by Alberto Fujimori fell under accusations of corruption.
The Peruvian Congress installed a provisional government, which was committed to fundamental human rights standards that had been ignored by the former government. Some of the critical measures implemented were the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); a return to the jurisdiction of the Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR); the annulment of amnesty laws for human rights abuses committed by members of the security forces; the revision of anti-terrorist laws that violated due process guarantees for persons belonging to illegal armed groups; the ratiﬁcation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; and the initiation of extradition proceedings against former dictator Fujimori, who sought asylum in Japan.
The TRC worked for two years in open proceedings and produced a comprehensive report including extensive information on 47 cases against members of the security forces; the report was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Ofﬁce.
The provisional government acted with a sense of urgency on all these fronts to overcome Peru’s international isolation resulting from its failure to meet basic human rights standards. The new government was supported by a broad civil society platform established by the national human rights organisations.
Importance of addressing past crimes — After the demise of the dictatorship, the high-ranking military ofﬁcers, members of the business community and media representatives allied with Alberto Fujimori were exposed as members of corruption networks. Many were arrested and others ﬂed the country. Pro-democracy representatives, in particular the TRC, took positions of responsibility in the military and media, and supported enactment of new human rights policies.
Role of international human rights institutions — At the time of Fujimori’s fall, Peru had lost several critical cases before the IACHR, and a signiﬁ cant number of cases were pending with little prospect of success for the state. The new government sought a friendly settlement with the court and quickly implemented a number of critical measures — including the cancellation of amnesty laws and the reform of anti-terrorism laws — and initiated retrials for imprisoned members of illegal
Civil society engagement — Key civil society leaders took positions in government and established effective alliances between the state and civil society to channel expertise, conduct joint assessments, and mobilise social support.
The TRC had a decisive effect on the national political agenda of Peru. A comprehensive reparations programme for victims of human rights abuses was put in place and numerous civil society groups adopted the TRC’s ﬁnal report as a guide for action. Several criminal cases were opened against members of the security forces, but resistance against the “democratic spring” by authoritarian elements weakened the resolve of the judiciary and slowed these proceedings. To date no member of the military has been tried and Alberto Fujimori remains in Chile awaiting the result of extradition proceedings.