The death penalty returns to the political agenda

24 March 2014

Former president Alan García has once again called for the introduction of the death penalty in Peru for homicides connected to organised crime. This follows the highly publicised murder of the son of Carlos Burgos Horna, the mayor of San Juan de Lurigancho in Lima.

During his second government (2006-2011), García attempted to introduce a controversial constitutional amendment to establish the death penalty for child sex offenders.  However, the proposal was defeated following robust public interventions against the proposed reform by diverse actors including civil society, the police and the Defensoría del Pueblo and from a judicial system that García accused of ‘turning a blind eye to the topic.’

The current constitution does not provide for the death penalty, except in cases of treason and during times of war.  Any legal modification would contravene Peru’s international obligations under the Pact of San José which explicitly prohibits capital punishment and would place Peru’s continuing membership in the inter-american human rights system in jeopardy.

Notwithstanding robust evidence suggesting that the death penalty fails to act as a deterrent to murder or organised crime, the latest public opinion poll surveys suggest that 70 percent of Peruvians support the instatement of the death penalty as proposed by García.  His intervention on the subject is widely viewed as a populist gesture to secure votes in a (premature) campaign for the presidency in 2016. 

However, observers also view it as the latest in a series of increasingly vocal offensives against Peru’s fragile human rights regime by some of the country’s most powerful political figures – including García – all of whom were implicated in gross human rights abuses committed during the 20 year period of internal conflict from 1980 to 2000.

All news

  • PSG Aims

    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.

  • Historical Overview

    Over the past century Peru has suffered a series of autocratic governments and a civil war in which nearly 70,000 people died. Many of the country's ongoing political and social problems are a legacy of its somewhat turbulent past. 

  • Human Rights

    Human rights violations were widespread during the twenty years after the initiation of armed conflict in 1980. Efforts to convict perpetrators since the war's end have made only limited progress. Today, concerns remain over the treatment of those engaged in social protest, particularly against strategically important investment projects.

  • Why join the PSG?

    • Keep up to date with latest news and developments in Peru
    • Learn about key issues of poverty, development and human rights in Peru
    • Support the work of the Peru Support Group

    Become a member