Fu­ji­mori’s par­don re­opens wounds for victims of Peru’s state ter­ror­ism

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Lima di­ary Dan Col­lyns

In the dark­est days of Peru’s in­ter­nal con­flict, Melissa Al­faro hoped to trans­form her coun­try through jour­nal­ism. At 23, she got her first full-time job at the left-lean­ing weekly Cam­bio, but her dreams were cut short as the Peru­vian state un­der the then pres­i­dent, Al­berto Fu­ji­mori, fought ter­ror with ter­ror.

Al­faro was re­turn­ing to the mag­a­zine’s of­fice af­ter a morn­ing cov­er­ing con­gress on Thurs­day 10 Oc­to­ber 1991 when she stopped off to pick up the mail from the porter. Mo­ments later her col­leagues heard an ex­plo­sion.

“They found her dead. She had opened a let­ter bomb which had blown up in her face. It de­stroyed her,” re­called her mother Norma Mén­dez, 71, weep­ing at the mem­ory.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that the ex­plo­sive gel in the bomb was used ex­clu­sively by the Peru­vian mil­i­tary and matched the ma­te­rial used in a string of at­tacks on left­wing fig­ures whom they ac­cused of sym­pa­this­ing with rebels. But Mén­dez holds one man re­spon­si­ble for her daugh­ter’s mur­der: Fu­ji­mori.

Like many oth­ers in Peru, she was forced to re­live her trauma when the coun­try’s cur­rent pres­i­dent, Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski, granted a hu­man­i­tar­ian par­don to the for­mer strong­man. The 24 De­cem­ber an­nounce­ment prompted a wave of out­rage: tens of thousands marched in Lima against the par­don un­der which Fu­ji­mori, 79, was re­leased less than half­way through a 25year sen­tence for cor­rup­tion and au­tho­ris­ing death squads. He was freed from hospi­tal last Fri­day.

Many Peru­vians be­lieve that Fu­ji­mori should never have been par­doned, not just be­cause of the grav­ity of the crimes for which he was con­victed but be­cause of the many more al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions for which he never faced trial – and prob­a­bly never will.

“There are many cases linked to Fu­ji­mori’s anti-sub­ver­sive pol­icy which have not been con­sid­ered – and for which Fu­ji­mori would have re­spon­si­bil­ity as an in­di­rect per­pe­tra­tor,” said hu­man rights lawyer Glo­ria Cano.

Fu­ji­mori fled to Ja­pan in 2000 amid grow­ing ev­i­dence of rigged elec­tions and ram­pant graft, but he was ar­rested dur­ing a trip to Chile in 2005, and ex­tra­dited two years later to face trial.

Fi­nally, Mén­dez be­lieved she would get jus­tice for her daugh­ter’s mur­der.

But Fu­ji­mori could only be tried for the cases linked to his ex­tra­di­tion, in­clud­ing the two most no­to­ri­ous death squad killings: the 1991 Bar­rios Al­tos mas­sacre in which 15 peo­ple, in­clud­ing an eight-yearold, were shot, and the 1992 kid­nap and mur­der of nine univer­sity stu­dents and their pro­fes­sor.

Fu­ji­mori’s par­don – seen by many as a back­room deal struck to pro­tect Kuczyn­ski from im­peach­ment on cor­rup­tion charges – con­sisted of a hu­man­i­tar­ian par­don on health grounds and a pres­i­den­tial par­don that, in the­ory, re­moves all pos­si­bil­i­ties for fu­ture prose­cu­tion. Fu­ji­mori could, how­ever, face a fur­ther hu­man rights case due to a tech­ni­cal­ity, said Cano, who rep­re­sents the fam­i­lies of six farm­ers who were tor­tured and killed in the vil­lage of Pa­tivilca in 1992.

The Pa­tivilca case was opened in Fe­bru­ary 2017 af­ter Chile’s supreme court added the case to its ex­tra­di­tion file. It must stay open for 24 months, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that a judge could re­quire Fu­ji­mori to at­tend a hear­ing – and thus re­voke the pres­i­den­tial par­don.

Fu­ji­mori’s par­don has no prece­dent for the in­ter­na­tional court of hu­man rights, said Diego Gar­cíaSayán, a for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter.

“It is the first time some­one con­victed of grave hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions has been granted a hu­man­i­tar­ian par­don in the more than 30 years of the court’s ex­is­tence,” he said.

For Mén­dez, Kuczyn­ski’s par­don was an “act of trea­son”. The only per­son charged over her daugh­ter’s mur­der was an army cap­tain who ad­mit­ted in 2004 to pre­par­ing the let­ter bombs, but was later re­leased when the case did not come to trial.

So although Fu­ji­mori was never tried for her daugh­ter’s mur­der, his sen­tenc­ing in 2009 brought her “some com­fort”, she said.

“Now this new year feels like 1992 all over again.”

“We lived those 10 years [of Fu­ji­mori’s govern­ment] in ter­ror. If you were against the govern­ment you were a ter­ror­ist,” said Mén­dez.

Af­ter her daugh­ter’s mur­der, troops would park out­side her fam­ily home and ask neigh­bours where they lived, she said. To make mat­ters worse, as more ev­i­dence of death squad killings un­der his com­mand emerged, Fu­ji­mori pushed through an amnesty law in 1995 that ex­empted mil­i­tary per­son­nel from im­pris­on­ment or prose­cu­tion over hu­man rights crimes dur­ing the pre­ced­ing 15 years.

Now Mén­dez cra­dles a plac­ard that she car­ried at the protest last month, bear­ing a black and white photo of her daugh­ter.

“Be­fore she left the house that day she told me: ‘Mamá, I will al­ways be with you.’”

‘They found her dead. She had opened up a let­ter bomb which had blown up in her face. It de­stroyed her’

Dan Col­lyns

‘Act of trea­son’ … Norma Mén­dez holds a poster of her daugh­ter, who was killed by a bomb

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