Freedom of Expression

Press Release 34/00


On November 20 and 21, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica, held a hearing in the case of
businessman Baruch Ivcher Bronstein versus the Peruvian State. Baruch Ivcher, a naturalized Peruvian citizen and journalist, lost his nationality and administrative control over the broadcasting company Frecuencia Latina – Canal 2 de Televisión in May 1997 under a resolution issued by Peru’s then-president Alberto Fujimori.

The television station Canal 2 transmitted reports that criticized the Peruvian government, the armed forces, and the National Intelligence Service. Frecuencia Latina covered atrocities committed by the National Intelligence Service. The station’s Contrapunto program reported the murder and dismembering of former intelligence agent, Mariela Barreto; it informed the public about how another former intelligence agent, Leonor La Rosa Bustamante, was tortured by army officers; and it published the tax return indicating the millions of dollars earned by the former chief of the National Intelligence Service, Vladimiro Montesinos. After these incidents were reported, the Peruvian State arbitrarily stripped Mr. Ivcher Bronstein of his citizenship. Peru’s laws require that owners of television channels must be Peruvian nationals. After his nationality was taken away, the journalist lost administrative control over Frecuencia Latina – Canal 2 de Televisión, and he was deprived of all his rights as the majority shareholder. For three years, Ivcher, his family, and a number of his employees were victims of a campaign of persecution and harassment orchestrated by Peru’s national intelligence services and the nation’s judiciary. Mr. Ivcher took his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which subsequently referred it to the Court. Mr. Ivcher was finally able to give testimony in this matter before an independent tribunal: the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. His right of access to an independent tribunal was repeatedly denied by Peru’s justice system. Accompanied by his wife, four daughters, and brother, Ivcher expressed his enormous satisfaction at having been able to provide the Inter-American Court with evidence about the abuses he and his family had suffered at the hands of the Fujimori–Montesinos regime. "Happily, the campaigns to discredit and harass me, my family, and those individuals who stood by me over these three long years are coming to an end," he told the Court. He then added: "Finally the grave human rights violations–including murder, torture, threats, and persecutions–carried out by the corrupt regime of Fujimori and Montesinos over an entire decade will be made public."

During the closing arguments, the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago A. Canton, stated that: "In Peru there has been a systematic effort to curtail free expression. The persecution and harassment of the Peruvian press knew no limits. In recent years, the Office of the Rapporteur has received reports of murders, threats, persecutions, and other practices specifically intended to silence those voices that bravely strove to tell the world about the grave human rights violations being committed by the government of President Fujimori and his advisor Vladimiro Montesinos." The Special Rapporteur said it was vitally important that the Court take all the steps necessary to guarantee broad freedom of expression in Peru’s upcoming elections: "Peruvian democracy can wait no longer. The return to a democratic system in Peru can only be guaranteed through full enjoyment of and respect toward freedom of expression." Also in the closing arguments, Dr. Claudio Grossman, Vice-Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said that: "The evidence submitted shows that a criminal enterprise unquestionably existed in Peru over recent years, controlling important aspects of the Peruvian State and using that state and its symbols for personal benefit." He continued: "What happened in Peru also underscores the burning need for an independent judiciary to ensure that the provisions of law are not applied arbitrarily, as happened to Mr. Ivcher and to hundreds of other Peruvians during the past decade."

At the hearing, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the Court to adopt immediate provisional measures to allow Ivcher, his wife Noemí Even de Ivcher, and his daughters Dafna, Michal, Tal, and Hadaz to return to Peru forthwith and to transit there with absolute liberty, free of fear of any arrest or harassment from that country’s security forces. The Court granted the Commission’s request with respect to Ivcher and his family and resolved to order the Peruvian State to "adopt, without delay, such measures as may be necessary to protect their physical, mental, and moral integrity and their right to judicial guarantees." The Court also adopted provisional measures in favor of Rosario Lam Torres, Julio Sotelo Casanova, José Arrieta Matos, Emilio Rodríguez Larraín, and Fernando Viaña Villa, all of whom are journalists or other professionals with ties to Baruch Ivcher. The Court granted the Peruvian State until December 5, 2000, to submit a report on its compliance with those measures. At the end of the hearing, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Dr. Canton expressed his satisfaction with the results obtained. "The problem of freedom of expression in Peru and the Ivcher case have been one of the hemisphere’s greatest concerns in the field of free expression since the work of the Rapporteur’s Office began two years ago. Thanks to the progress in favor of freedom of expression that Peru has made over these past months, the path toward the definitive return to democracy has finally been cleared," he said as he left the Court building.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will issue a judgment in this case in the coming months. The following individuals attended the hearing as representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Commission Chairman Dr. Hélio Bicudo, Vice-Chairman Dr. Claudio Grossman, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Dr. Santiago A. Canton, and other lawyers attached to that agency of the OAS.

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
November 22, 2000 San José, Costa Rica