Security reform condemned as 'license to kill'

27 January 2014

A legal reform that exempts security forces from criminal responsibility for causing injury or death violates international standards, human rights defenders have warned.

Since 2007, state security forces have been granted an exemption if they cause harm by the ‘proper’ use (uso reglamentario) of their weapons. The new wording does not require ‘proper’ use. The law, number 30151, was passed on 13 January and amends article 11 of the Penal Code.

The president of the congressional committee on public security, Fernando Andrade, defended the change by saying that “criminals knew the limits that police officers faced in using their weapons to defend themselves or other members of society, now they know that those limits have ended and they will face each other under equal conditions.”

The regional representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amerigo Incalcaterra, said that the law “does not meet international human rights standards” and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has called for it to be amended. International law permits the use of force only if necessary and proportionate, and requires an independent investigation where injury or death results from the use of force by police. Amnesty International warned that “states must ensure that the arbitrary or abusive use of force and weapons by police and military officers is punished as a crime.”

The change was also condemned by the head of the Lima Court of Justice, Iván Sequeiros, who said that the law already allows for action in self-defence.

The reform could mean impunity for the police officers who caused deaths and injuries in the confrontation with indigenous peoples in Bagua, in 2009, according to the lawyer of some of the victims, Juan José Quispe, who is a member of the Instituto de Defensa Legal. Rights group Aprodeh expressed concern that the reform could lead to more deaths in social conflicts.

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