IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns restrictions of fundamental rights linked to protests in Peru, as well as the violence that took place in that context. The IACHR urges the State to respect and protect the human rights of all people, whether or not they take part in rallies. The Commission also urges the Peruvian State to step up its efforts to foster dialogue with all social sectors, in order to address the causes of these protests.
The National Union of Freight Transport Workers called a national strike on March 28, to complain about economic problems including the rising price of gas and tolls, and taxes on fuel and mileage. According to the available reports, four people had died in strike contexts by April 4 (two individuals who were involved in traffic accidents, one boy who fell into a river while fleeing clashes between law enforcement officers and demonstrators, and one elderly person who failed to make it to her dialysis appointment due to roadblocks).
In response to this situation, the Peruvian government issued a Supreme Decree on April 4, to impose a state of emergency in the cities of Lima and El Callao, and also temporally suspended rights including the rights to the inviolability of the home, freedom of movement, personal freedom, and freedom of assembly. Peru's Ombudsperson's Office said the measures taken were rushed, ill-founded, and disproportionate, because they affected areas with no major public order issues. The IACHR notes that the state of emergency was lifted in the afternoon of April 5.
In its report Protest and Human Rights, the Commission stressed how inappropriate and dangerous it may be to impose states of emergency to address highly volatile social conflicts. The IACHR also warned of the risks of human rights violations in these contexts and stressed that imposing a state of emergency is not a sustainable or effective measure to address and overcome democratic challenges.
The IACHR stresses that the right to social protest is essential for the existence and consolidation of democratic societies, so States must tolerate a certain level of disruption to everyday life caused by demonstrations. The State has a duty to respect, protect, facilitate, and enable social protest, considering that the fact that some people engage in acts of violence during a protest does not in itself make the whole protest illegitimate. Similarly, the State must grant reporters the utmost guarantees, so they can freely and safely cover events of public interest like social rallies.
The Commission admits that, when potential disruptions to everyday life in protest contexts extend over time and escalate in ways that seriously compromise the preservation of other rights—like the rights to life and health, and the supply of food—the State's obligation to provide all necessary mechanisms for dialogue and to ensure the coexistence of all the rights that come in conflict becomes particularly important. The use of force must remain a last resort.
This is particularly relevant given that several people (including police officers) have been injured in these demonstration contexts, which have also reportedly included violence, tollbooth arson, and plundering of stores that have allegedly led to 22 arrests. The Commission's Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression has been informed of physical assault and intimidation committed against at least eight reporters covering the protests, as well as other efforts to prevent them from doing their job and attempts to steal or destroy their equipment, allegedly by unidentified attackers in areas close to the protests. The IACHR urges the State to exercise due diligence to enable journalists to do their work safely, as well as to investigate these alleged attacks on reporters.
The IACHR stresses that States must prioritize dialogue and democratic pathways to address and resolve social conflicts. The Commission calls on the Peruvian State to step up its efforts to enable platforms where the causes of these protests can be addressed. The IACHR further calls on demonstrators to not endanger the lives and rights of people who are not involved in the protests, by enabling the movement of patients, essential supplies, and service providers.
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.