'We are not neutral': National Human Rights Coordinator releases its Annual Report

30 August 2015

The National Human Rights Coordinator (Coordinadora Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) has published its annual report for 2014-15 and it makes for sober reading.

Peru may now be well over a decade beyond regime transition from authoritarianism, yet the massive and systematic human rights violations associated with the Fujimori years continue to cast a long shadow. Notwithstanding the reassurances offered by government officials and the complacency of many international agencies, the report shows that Peru remains a country beset by human rights violations spanning the quotidian pettiness of an arbitrary state bureaucracy to the excessive use of force, including the killing of unarmed citizens, by security personnel in a context of rising social protest.

The report opens with the line "we are not neutral", indicating the absurdity of seeking to strike a neutral stance in the face of human rights abuses. And the Coordinadora has had a busy year. The report documents, with a dose of irony, the surging tensions produced by a Humala government "which has sought to democratise Peruvian society by radicalising it". The fact that Peru no longer captures international headlines or the attention of international agencies for human rights abuses masks a situation of deep concern for human rights monitors regarding the country's notoriously weak rule of law and protection systems.

Reflecting a fragile, but democratic, state apparatus, the Coordinadora acknowledges that there have been opportunities for constructive dialogue with government ministries and senior officials. However, the rapid rotation of ministers under the Humala administration has provided little in the way of continuity. One constant has been the continuing important work of an embattled Human Rights Ombudsman which, with the support of massive popular mobilisation and the Coordinadora, saw off an attempt by Congress in July 2013 to capture this well-respected institution. Growing alarm surrounds official policy on human rights as the 2016 presidential elections approach, with Keiko Fujimori on the ticket and currently the front-runner in opinion polls.

Perhaps the most challenging issue identified in the report concern rights abuses and the criminalisation of protest in the context of often violent social conflict connected to the extractive and energy sector. The report also places particular emphasis on the following rights concerns:

  1. protecting the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with particular regard to identifying disappeared persons;

  2. indigenous communities and upholding environmental rights;

  3. the fight against impunity for human rights crimes;

  4. citizen equality in an intercultural democracy;

  5. economic and labour rights, with emphasis on women in work; and

  6. institutional strengthening of Peru's rule of law.

The report poses a formidable list of pending rights challenges and is essential reading for any interested observers and those ostensibly engaged in supporting and strengthening social stability and democracy in Peru. Notwithstanding the challenges identified, it also bears testament to the impact of a vibrant and effective civil society sector, which compares favourably to the embattled situation of many of their peers around the region. Without a doubt, actors such as the Coordinadora, APRODEH, FEDEPAZ and COMISEDH need recognition and international support. But as Eduardo Dargent observes, writing in La República, the report, while sobering, also makes clear that "without the actions of [organisation such as the Coordinadora] things would be substantially worse."

For the text of the report:
For Eduardo Dargent’s article:

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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