As part of its campaign against torture, Amnesty International has released a global survey on attitudes to torture. The survey canvasses the opinions of more than 21,000 people in 21 countries across all continents, including five from Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru. Posing three questions, there are some striking general findings including that nearly half of all respondents (44%) fear being tortured if taken into custody. However, the comparative findings also reveal some stark realities for individual countries, not least Peru.
Asked whether upon being taken into custody by the authorities, respondents would be confident in being safe from torture, 54% of Peruvians replied that they would not. This result pales in comparison with that in Brazil which tops the list with 80% of respondents replying in the negative. In fact, it is notable that all Latin American countries polled, with the exception of Chile (30%), reveal very high levels of mistrust towards the police in particular. In Peru, as elsewhere, the relative absence of the rule of law and histories of authoritarian government and armed conflicts cast long shadows over contemporary interactions between the citizenry and security apparatus.
Alarmingly, Peru comes out worst of 21 countries surveyed on whether they agreed with the second question: clear rules against torture are crucial because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights. Only 71% of Peruvians are in agreement with this statement, the lowest in the world according to this survey. Notably, support for international rules against torture is also very weak in Argentina, with 72% in agreement. But perhaps most alarmingly, when combined with the first question above, is the result concerning question number three, on whether respondents agreed that torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public. 40% of Peruvians are in agreement that torture can sometimes be justified, the highest in Latin America, with Mexico trailing behind with 29% in agreement.
Taken together, deeply ambiguous public attitudes towards torture in Peru paint a picture of deep-seated insecurity pervading both relations with state officials and across society at large. This speaks to the relative absence of the rule of law and to the success of a campaign by powerful right wing actors to toxify the discourse of human rights protections and associate it with terrorism. The survey findings are a reminder of the serious challenges which confront domestic human rights protection in Peru, contrasting with official assurances offered by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in the recently launched National Action Plan on Human Rights.
The survey can be accessed here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/GlobalSurveyAttitudesToTorture2014.pdf