In a harsh new report released Wednesday, the American organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Peruvian army and police of the deaths of dozens of people and that they could «constitute extrajudicial or arbitrary executions.»

Likewise, of «brutal abuses» against demonstrators and bystanders during the protests that took place between December 2022 and February 2023.

Incidentally, the organization maintains, the government’s apparent efforts to minimize abuses and deaths raise strong questions that point to «negligence or complicity» and are presented in a context of deterioration of democratic institutions, corruption, and impunity for abuses committed in the past and persistent inequalities.

The report, which has more than 120 pagesis the product of some 140 interviews with witnesses, injured demonstrators and bystanders, relatives of the deceased, police officers, prosecutors and journalists as well as with the Ministers of Defense and the Interior, the then Commander General of the Peruvian National Police, the Inspector General of the Police, the Prosecutor of the Nation and the Ombudsman.

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They also say they have reviewed more than 37 hours of video, 663 photographs of the demonstrationsautopsies and ballistics reports, medical records and criminal records, among other things.

“Although some protesters were responsible for acts of violence, security forces responded with disproportionate force, including assault rifles and small arms. Forty-nine protesters and bystanders, including eight children under the age of 18, turned up during the protests,” the report says.

The protesters are calling for the elections to be held in April 2023.

According to César Muñoz, associate director of the Americas Division at HRW, «for weeks, while security forces killed protesters and bystanders, the government of Dina Boluarte seems to have looked the other way. There were serious acts of violence by protesters, which must be investigated, but that does not justify the brutal, indiscriminate and disproportionate response from the security forces.”

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HRW says that at least 39 people have died from gunshot wounds and more than 1,300 have been injured, including many members of the police.

«Investigations into these homicides -says the NGO- must be exhaustive, and must reach all those responsible for the abuses, including the highest levels of government.»

Former President of Peru, Pedro Castillo

The report also argues that Peru has seen an erosion of the rule of law and democratic institutions in recent years, in part due to widespread corruption and a Congress dominated by vested interests and bent on removing checks on its power. .

The current crisis was triggered on December 7 of last year when then-President Pedro Castillo, who was being investigated for corruption, tried to dissolve Congress and intervene in the judiciary, “in what amounted to a failed coup. Congress established Castillo and Vice President Dina Boluarte assumed the presidency, as established by the Constitution of Peru.

HRW also used harsh terms to refer to the role that President Gustavo Petro has been playing in this crisis.

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“President Petro has painted Castillo as a victim, ignoring his actions to try to take control of the other powers of the State. His statements do nothing to promote democratic principles and the rule of law in Peru. Democratic leaders must condemn violations of basic rights regardless of the color of the government that violates them. Only criticizing those who have an opposite ideology and being blind to the violations of those with a similar ideology harms the defense of human rights,” Muñoz told this newspaper.

Dina Boluarte, President of Peru.

According to HRW, in addition, sectors of the Peruvian Congress would be willing to eliminate controls on their power, including attempts to undermine the independence of electoral authorities and the Ombudsman’s Office.

Affirm, in turn, that new suspicions of corruption have arisen against President Boluarte, and dozens of members of Congress are being investigated.
In the report, HRW offers some recommendations to face the current crisis. Among them «invite an independent commission of international experts, granting it access to government information and abuse case files to support ongoing criminal investigations and document the current crisis and human rights violations.»

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Also to “adopt concrete steps to restore public trust and pave the way for dialogue with protesters and affected communities, as well as work with Congress to secure long-needed police reform to make it a more efficient and law-abiding force.”


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