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.