On 2 February, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) convened a session in San José (Costa Rica) to consider the legality (or otherwise) of the pardon (indulto) extended by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski last December to former president Alberto Fujimori. The proceedings were attended by lawyers for both the Peruvian government and those representing the victims of the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos killings. Representatives of the victims were also present.

The indulto has been widely questioned as to its international legality since crimes against humanity cannot be amnestied or pardoned. The Inter-American Commission, which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS), has argued that the pardon should be revoked.

If the IACHR upholds the illegality of the indulto it will pose a new and major problem for Kuczynski.

To accept it and send Fujimori back to jail would constitute a further humiliation for a president whose authority has been widely subverted for apparently using the indulto to save his own political skin from impeachment. It would also put at risk future support from Kenji Fujimori and his group in Congress – see PSG article.

To reject it would place Peru on a collision course with the IACHR and the system of region-wide Latin American jurisprudence. When Fujimori himself did this at the end of the 1990s, threatening to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Court, it alienated international opinion, hastening his own political demise.

On the eve of the IACHR hearing, Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement describing the indulto as “a serious blow for human rights in the region and, in particular, to the victims and their families”. For its part, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) defined it as “arbitrary and contrary to Peru’s international legal obligations” https://www.cejil.org/es/familiares-victimas-fujimori-consideran-una-traicion-su-indulto

Justice Minister Enrique Mendoza said, following the hearing, that he could not imagine a scenario in which Fujimori would be returned to jail. “I would like to reiterate that the pressure [in the case] is emotional, personal and not based on argument. The arguments are weak, inexact or based on half-truths” he is quoted as saying.

The Court announced that it will consider the case during the current period of sessions (which ends on 9 February) and issue its verdict “eventually”. Those familiar with Court proceedings say that this could mean a month or less.