Pativilca case calls Fujimori pardon into question

27 January 2018

In a long-awaited judicial meeting on 26 January, it was debated whether or not Alberto Fujimori should stand trial for the 1992 torture and assassination of six men in Pativilca, a town to the north of Lima. Members of the so-called Colina Group, who gave evidence in return for lighter sentences, have confessed that they acted on Fujimori’s instructions.

In June 2017 the Chilean Supreme Court extended the remit of Fujimori’s extradition to this case and ruled that he should be tried for it. It is important to note that Fujimori could only been tried for cases for which he was expressly extradited from Chile, so all of the charges against him have effectively been examined by the two countries’ justice systems.

Given that Fujimori was not only released from jail for allegedly humanitarian reasons but given a presidential pardon (gracia presidencial), it is now in question whether he will have to stand trial for the Pativilca case, the subject of discussion on 26 January.

The night before the hearing, the government’s anti-corruption solicitor (procurador anti-corrupción), Amado Enco, involved in the case, was hastily changed by Justice Minister Enrique Mendoza. This was clearly done because he had declared two days before that he thought Fujimori should stand trial. His replacement, César Augusto Romero Valdés was quick to uphold the contrary.

Given that the procurador’s role is to present the prosecution on behalf of the state in cases of corruption (Fujimori was held guilty of corruption as well as human rights violation), his removal perhaps comes as no surprise.

At the session on 26 January, the family members of the victims from Pativilca were represented by Gloria Cano and Aprodeh (the Asociación Pro-Derechos Humanos) and Fujimori by Miguel Pérez.

The prosecutor, Luis Landa, appointed by the judiciary and not the executive, made a lengthy address in which he argued that Fujimori had been responsible for the actions of the Colina as he was the president at the time and, along with Vladimiro Montesinos, controlled the death squad. Landa maintained that the presidential pardon given to Fujimori was unconstitutional and had not followed proper procedure; it was therefore legally vitiated. 

The hearing took place at the National Criminal Court (Sala Penal Nacional), which the Judiciary President Duberlí Rodríguez has already said will have the final say. It was presided over by Judge Miluska Cano who, with two other judges, will give a final ruling on the case. According to Cano, this will be decided by vote. She and the other two judges now have 15 days (extendable for another 15) to decide on whether Fujimori will have to stand trial for the Pativilca case or whether the pardon will stand. See La Republica for more details.

The timing is important. It leaves enough time to wait for the results from the hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica scheduled for February 2. Much now hangs on what its response will be, and whether it judges the pardon to have been political rather than humanitarian. Some observers consider that there is a real risk of Fujimori seeking to escape Peru to somewhere from which he cannot be extradited if he considers the pardon might be rescinded.

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