IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression condemn the violence that took place in recent demonstrations in Peru. Both institutions call on the State and on various social actors to engage in serious, broad, and inclusive dialogue, with an intercultural perspective that is crucial for governance, for the preservation of democratic institutions, and for the protection of human rights.
Violence has been escalating throughout Peru since December 9, in demonstrations that seek to shut down Congress and call for a new general election, ensure reform of the country's constitution, and protest against the arrest of former president Pedro Castillo. The violence has claimed the lives of David Atequipa Quispe (15), Beckhan R. Quispe Garfias (18), and a third individual whose identity is yet to be verified. According to data provided by the Ombudsperson's Office, a further 30 people—including demonstrators, police officers, and journalists—have been injured, and 11 individuals have been arrested (five of whom reportedly remain deprived of liberty). Civil society notes that Lima, Andahuaylas, and Huacho are the cities where the conflict is at its worst, and denounce that law enforcement agencies have resorted to an indiscriminate use of tear gas and even metal pellets against demonstrators.
Attacks on media workers while they were covering the protests have also been documented. There have been at least 11 instances of attacks including verbal and physical assault, harassment, and hurdles for coverage, and a total of 21 journalists have been victims of stigmatizing discourse against the media. While most of the available reports indicate that most of these attacks have been perpetrated by demonstrators, at least two journalists have reportedly been attacked by police officers.
The Commission has also been informed of road blockades in at least two places, where non-protesters have only been allowed through intermittently. According to public reports, the violence has also affected public infrastructure, particularly facilities housing the Public Prosecutor's Office in several municipalities. There has also been an impact on public services, and Andahuaylas airport had to be shut down after its facilities were attacked. For similar reasons, Andahuaylas authorities suspended in-person customer service in the city's institutional facilities, and also shut down schools.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression remind the State of its duty to ensure compliance with international standards concerning the use of force, based on the principles of legality, proportionality, and absolute necessity, with a view to reducing the number of police killings. Both institutions further stress that the authorities should never restrict the right to protest based on demonstrations' allegedly non-peaceful nature and should instead specifically focus on individuals who engage in violence. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship call for comprehensive, diligent investigations of all the violence committed in protest contexts.
The two institutions urge the State to protect the work of journalists. Failing to provide safeguards for the media harms the chances for broad social dialogue, because it prevents citizens in general from having access to information and opinions concerning demonstrators' demands and to facts about State action to preserve the rule of law, and restricts citizens' ability to file complaints about alleged human rights violations.
Concerning the situation of former president Pedro Castillo, his arrest, and preliminary investigations conducted by the Public Prosecutor's Office, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship call on the State to ensure, in a timely manner, due process and all necessary expert assistance. The Commission and its Special Rapporteurship further note the comments made by President Dina Boluarte, calling for peace, calm, and social restraint, as well as her initiative to seek an agreement with Congress to hold early elections in April 2024.
Finally, the Inter-American Commission and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression call on officials in public positions, journalists, and political leaders (including those who called for these protests in the first place) to engage in democratic debate based on verifiable facts, reasonably checking those facts and ensuring that their own comments do not incite violence, intolerance, or discrimination. Both institutions call on the State to foster broad, serious, and inclusive dialogue aimed at building consensus and at strengthening democracy, institutions, justice, and respect for human rights. In this context, the Commission offers to cooperate with the State and to provide technical support.
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.