December 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Peru: Politics: Houston Chronicle: President Toledo Bowing to Pressure on Military Human Rights Violations

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Friend of the Peace Corps: Alejandro Toledo : Special Report: President Alejandro Toledo: December 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Peru: Politics: Houston Chronicle: President Toledo Bowing to Pressure on Military Human Rights Violations

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President Toledo Bowing to Pressure on Military Human Rights Violations

President Toledo Bowing to Pressure on Military Human Rights Violations

As Toledo wraps up the final seven months of his term, human rights groups complain he has done an about-face, bowing to military pressure to sidestep the prosecution of abuses. He recently said military suspects have not received due process, and he backed the creation of a judicial panel dominated by military appointees to review those cases. President Alejandro Toledo of Peru was a language instructor for the Peace Corps in the 1960's. In 2002, Toledo invited the Peace Corps to return to Peru after a 27 year absence.

President Toledo Bowing to Pressure on Military Human Rights Violations

Groups: Peru President Bowing to Pressure

By RICK VECCHIO Associated Press Writer

© 2005 The Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — After taking office nearly five years ago, President Alejandro Toledo condemned military human rights violations during Peru's battle with Shining Path guerrillas and sought broad reforms to put the armed forces under civilian control.

But now, as Toledo wraps up the final seven months of his term, human rights groups complain he has done an about-face, bowing to military pressure to sidestep the prosecution of abuses. He recently said military suspects have not received due process, and he backed the creation of a judicial panel dominated by military appointees to review those cases.

This week, Toledo rejected a hawkish congressman's call to offer amnesty to some of the 618 current and former military members now facing charges for massacres, torture and murder during the height of rebel violence.

But he also suggested that the accused military men have not received fair treatment, saying Peru was working to correct "persecution" in a "discredited" civilian court system.

"We must push for speedier justice," Toledo told CPN radio Thursday. "We cannot have people in hiding who 20 years ago were young lieutenants and captains, sergeants, who fought against terrorism, and today have to be hunted or hidden. Their cases must be resolved."

Alejandro Silva, of the National Coordinator for Human Rights in Peru, an umbrella group representing 63 human rights organizations, said the remarks were "alarming" but hardly surprising.

There has been "an about-face by this government, which began in an auspicious manner talking about human rights," he said.

For months, human rights groups complained that police have refused to make court-ordered arrests of military personnel, many now retired, accused of human rights violations. They say that reflects the armed forces' influence on the government.

The groups also complain about a campaign of intimidation, threats and violence directed at their organizations and witnesses.

Toledo tried to tame Peru's military when he took office in 2001, taking advantage of the armed force's loss of prestige after its top commanders were implicated in a web of corruption under former President Alberto Fujimori.

Toledo appointed the nation's first two civilian defense ministers and backed a truth commission, which determined that Shining Path guerrillas were responsible for more than half of nearly 70,000 deaths during their campaign of car bombings, sabotage and assassinations to overthrow the government and install a communist state.

But the commission also blamed Peru's security forces, implicating the military in massacres, torture and disappearances.

Peru's Constitutional Tribunal last year declared the military justice system unconstitutional and ordered Congress to write legislation bringing the military courts under civilian jurisdiction.

For the first time, scores of military men were charged in civilian courts.

But lawmakers voted Dec. 15 to create a new panel of three military magistrates and two civilian judges that would decide by simple majority which military abuse cases should be handled in civilian court and which should go to closed military tribunals.

Toledo expressed hope Wednesday that Congress would ratify the measure with a second vote this week to "speed up the cases of military personnel who are facing charges."

Ronald Gamarra, a human rights attorney and former government anti-corruption prosecutor, called the new panel further proof that Toledo has failed to deliver "the bulk" of military reforms he promised.

"There is no civilian control of the armed forces," he said.

Toledo also angered human rights groups last week by naming Army Gen. Jose Williams the new commander of his Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Many Peruvians consider Williams a hero for helping lead a daring commando operation that freed 72 captives after a four-month hostage siege at the Japanese ambassador's residence in 1997.

But earlier this year, he was charged with 28 other military men for the 1985 massacre of 72 peasants in the village of Accomarca, 240 miles southeast of Lima.

The victims were Indian women, children and village elders. The women were raped before being killed.

Williams, then a major and company leader in the Andean zone, denies any wrongdoing, saying a rogue army patrol under his command carried out the massacre without his knowledge.

He used his induction ceremony last week to blast the human rights charges facing Peru's military, telling troops their comrades who fought to pacify the country "are now being persecuted, slandered and mistreated."

When this story was posted in January 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Houston Chronicle

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