World News

Rights Lawyers Dispute Medical Pardon in Peru

Posted December 25, 2017 7:03 p.m. EST
Updated December 25, 2017 7:06 p.m. EST

LIMA, Peru — A day after granting a medical pardon to former President Alberto Fujimori, who has been imprisoned for human-rights abuses, Peru’s current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, came under attack from both lawmakers in Peru’s Congress and from human-rights experts.

Human-rights lawyers in Lima, the capital, say pardons and sentence reductions are not permitted for people tried for human-rights violations under the rules of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, which adjudicates some human-rights cases in Peru and other countries that are members of the Organization of American States. Two of the cases brought against Fujimori were tried by the court.

“The pardon does not conform with the Inter-American Human Rights Court ruling,” said Francisco Soberón, director of the Pro-Human Rights Association, in Lima, which represents surviving family members of the cases.

Soberón said his group was preparing to file a report with the court seeking to have the pardon reversed.

He also said his group would file a formal complaint to Peru’s Ministry of Justice, seeking an audit of a medical report that Kuczynski’s office had cited in its statement announcing the pardon on Sunday. The report said Fujimori “suffers from a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease, and the prison conditions pose a serious risk to his life, health and integrity.”

Fujimori, who is 79, suffers from arrhythmia and tongue cancer, among other medical problems, and was taken from prison to a hospital on Friday after his blood pressure dropped, doctors said.

The pardon is the latest development in Peru’s continuing political crisis.

Kuczynski granted the pardon just after he had narrowly escaped being impeached by Congress over accusations connecting him to a graft scandal in Latin America. The impeachment vote failed because a faction of Fujimori’s party, led by his son Kenji, abstained from the vote, denying Kuczynski’s opponents the supermajority required to remove him from office. The pardon was seen by some as a political reward to the son.

“I think that those of us who are committed to governance need an explanation,” said Congressman Richard Acuña, who abstained from the impeachment vote.

After the vote, Carlos Basombrío, the interior minister, announced his resignation. Now at least three lawmakers have come forward to say they will resign after the holiday because they oppose the president’s decision to pardon Fujimori.

“I do not agree with the decision,” Congressman Vicente Zeballos said. “It does not fit with my political convictions.”

As the democratically elected president of Peru in the 1990s, Fujimori led the country through a period of economic revival. But he was removed from office in a corruption scandal and later convicted of human-rights abuses that the military carried out in his name. If he serves his sentence to the end, he will be in prison for 14 more years, or until he is 93.

Even from prison, Fujimori has exerted influence on politics, and his supporters, so-called Fujimoristas, dominate the legislature. He also has supporters among Peru’s citizens.

On Sunday, people congregated on the street in Lima in front of the hospital where Fujimori is being treated. Dozens shouted their support for him as Fujimori’s daughter Keiko, who leads another faction in his party and is Kuczynski’s chief rival, arrived to visit her father, and stated her gratitude to Kuczynski.

But at the same time, anti-Fuijimoristas rallied near the Presidential Palace at Lima’s main San Martin Plaza holding signs that read “dictatorship, never again” and “illegal pardon equals impunity.”

Family members of victims in the human-rights case say they are upset about the pardon.

“It hurts, I’m angry,” said Gisella Ortiz, whose brother Luis Enrique Ortiz, who was dragged out of a dormitory at La Cantuta University, outside Lima, with eight others and killed by a death squad. “I didn’t think he’d barter impeachment for this pardon.”

Political analysts say the country is at a crossroad.

“The likely upshot is yet more severe cynicism — already at dangerously record levels — and more intense political polarization,” said Cynthia McClintock, a professor of political science at George Washington University.