Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern and Questions the Presidential Pardon granted to Alberto Fujimori

December 29, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the decision of the Peruvian government to grant a humanitarian pardon to the former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, sentenced to 25 years in prison for serious human rights violations. The Inter-American Court and the IACHR have ruled on several alarming cases of human rights violations in which Alberto Fujimori had command responsibility, including the slaughter of fifteen people in Barrios Altos and the forced disappearance and execution of ten students of the University La Cantuta.

According to a statement issued by the Presidency of the Republic of Peru, Alberto Fujimori filed a petition for a humanitarian pardon on the grounds that he suffers serious non-terminal illnesses which endanger his life. The official medical board determined that Alberto Fujimori suffers from a progressive, degenerative, and incurable disease, and that prison conditions implicate a serious risk to his life, health, and integrity. This report was endorsed by the Presidential Pardon Commission and served as the basis for the President of Peru to grant the humanitarian pardon to Fujimori on December 24, 2017, who was immediately released.

The presidential pardon is a discretionary constitutional power of the President of the Republic, but must be guided by constitutional principles and international human rights standards. In this sense, the Commission expresses its concern over the fact that the pardon granted to Alberto Fujimori does not comply with fundamental legal requirements. The pardon is also not in conformity with elements of due process of law and the independence and transparency of the technical evaluation board.

The personal doctor of Alberto Fujimori participated in the medical board that issued the advisory report recommending the grant of the pardon, which flagrantly violates the independence and objectivity requirement. In addition, the existence of serious non-terminal illnesses demands the transfer of Alberto Fujimori to hospital dependencies for as long as his health requires; a measure less restrictive towards the right to justice for the victims. Granting a pardon results in forgiving the penalties, which is something different from the medical attention that Fujimori may require and receive. The decision also ignores the principle of proportionality between granting a pardon which results in the absolution of convictions and the gravity of crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity are those that offend the general principles of law and are of profound concern to the international community, constituting a very serious offense to human dignity and a flagrant denial of the fundamental principles enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, they should not go unpunished.

The Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have recognized that the unjustified grant of benefits throughout the execution of a penalty may eventually result in a form of impunity, especially when it involves serious human rights violations. The Commission emphasizes that international human rights law prohibits the application of amnesties, pardons and measures exempting from liability persons who have been found guilty of crimes against humanity.

The IACHR recalls that in 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the crimes perpetrated in the La Cantuta case constitute crimes against humanity. In the same vein, in 2001, in the Barrios Altos case, the Court classified the acts committed by the former president as serious violations of human rights. The IACHR expresses its deep concern that by eliminating the effects of convictions related to crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations for the benefit of Alberto Fujimori, the Peruvian State failed to comply with the rulings of the Inter-American Court and disregarded its international obligations.  Granting a pardon to Alberto Fujimori does not take into account the particularities of crimes against humanity, or the right to justice for the victims and their families.

The IACHR will act jointly with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hold a follow-up public hearing on the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos cases.  It is also under consideration to hold ex officio a thematic hearing during the next period of sessions of the IACHR in February.  Peru has always been considered an international reference in the fight against impunity for grave crimes against human rights and the present circumstances require a new assessment.

On the other hand, along with the pardon for the crimes imposed on Fujimori, the President also granted him a presidential grace, which entails his exclusion in any criminal proceedings against him, thereby violating the international obligations assumed by the State of Peru.  These obligations have been underlined in the judgments of the Inter-American Court, highlighting the duty to investigate human rights violations, punish those responsible, and mandating the grant of reparations for the victims. Therefore, by arbitrarily impeding the continuation of criminal proceedings against Fujimori for the crimes committed in Pativilca (a trial authorized by the Supreme Court of Chile in the respective extradition proceedings), this hinders the search for truth, the identification and sanction of those responsible, and the grant of justice and reparation for the victims. This is all regardless that an eventual conviction of Fujimori does not lead to a future incarceration, in response to the humanitarian pardon granted.

The pardon took place amidst a political crisis in Peru that has been the subject of consternation; in particular because of its serious effects on the protection of human rights in the country. Such context hinders the decision from being transparent and unquestionable. The consequences of such a measure are particularly serious for persons, groups and historically excluded collectivities, as well as for the victims of such serious human rights violations and their family members.

Finally, in the context of the violent reaction from State security forces to peaceful demonstrations in protest against the presidential pardon granted to Fujimori, the IACHR rejects any form of violence and underscores that repression towards social protest and mobilization is incompatible with a democratic society in which people have the right to peacefully express their opinions.

The IACHR rejects the pardon granted to Alberto Fujimori because it is a decision contrary to the international obligations of the State of Peru, and calls for the adoption of the necessary measures to restore the rights of the victims affected by this decision.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 218/17