Forced sterilisation case against Fujimori closed

30 January 2014

A judicial inquiry into the role played by former president Fujimori and his ministers in a programme of forced sterilisation has been closed. Women’s rights advocates condemned the public prosecutor’s decision that women had not been systematically coerced and no crimes against humanity had been committed.

Over 270,000 women underwent sterilisation in the 1990s in an effort to bring down birth rates in poor, rural areas. But many did not give consent as medics worked towards centrally-set targets, often with little respect for the indigenous women they treated. An official commission concluded in 2002 that members of the government bore some responsibility. Rights groups had hoped to see a trial covering 2,000 victims but charges will only be brought against medics involved in operating on Mamérita Mestanza, who died after undergoing surgery In 2010 the IACHR ruled that Peru must ensure accountability for her death.

The case was closed in 2009 but reopened in 2011 after a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The investigation could have led to charges against not only Fujimori, but also the high profile congressman Alejandro Aguinaga, a spokesman for the fujimorista Fuerza Popular party. The possibility of charges against health care workers for individual cases remains.

Feminist activists and human rights defenders protested against the decision outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office, demanding justice for the victims. Representatives have lodged a formal complaint against the decision and said they would go to the Inter-American system if necessary. Rossy Salazar, a lawyer for women’s rights organisation Demus, argued that the prosecutor had overstepped his powers.

Victoria Vigo, who underwent sterilisation without consent and won a case against the doctor who carried out the operation, said the decision was “shameful”.

Read about a participatory documentary enabling women who underwent forced sterilisation to tell their stories, which was discussed at the PSG’s 2013 conference on transitional justice.

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