This year, in May to be precise, it will be 40 years since the outbreak of armed actions by Sendero Luminoso. It will be 17 years since the publication of the ground-breaking report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CRV) on the atrocities that took place in the intervening 23 years. The shadow cast by this long episode of violence still hangs over Peru today.
A reminder is the case against retired general Luis Pérez Documet, former chief of the military political command in the Mantaro region. Pérez stands accused of the forced disappearance of César Isaias Hilario Trucios. Trucios was last heard of in 1991, when he was dragged from his home in a dawn raid by hooded men with military-style boots and allegedly ended up in the military base in the town of Concepción (Junín region). The last person to see him alive was a fellow inmate, Gumercindo Fernández, whose testimony forms a key element in the case against General Pérez.
Pérez stands accused of being the authority responsible for this abduction. He also faces other cases, such as the disappearance of various students of the Universidad del Centro in 1991 and the abduction of the journalist Gustavo Gorriti during the April 5 self-coup of then president Alberto Fujimori.
The Peruvian military have made no bones about their resistance to judicial measures taken against officers held guilty of human rights violations during the war against Sendero. This opposition has led to the drawing out of legal cases over years if not decades. Often such cases have been dropped.
A recent article, published by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), provides some useful information on how much has been achieved since the CVR report publication, especially with regard to identification of the disappeared. As it says, disappeared people continue to exist “whilst their relatives continue to look for them”.
The process of identifying decomposed remains carries on and the attempt to put names to those who otherwise ‘disappeared’. A programme of reparations has also been initiated, either individual, collective (communal) or just symbolic to those whose families suffered as a result of deaths and disappearance. However, the way this has been administered has been far from perfect.
A database has been established of disappeared people. It contains more than 20,000 names.