Press Release

IACHR Condemns Human Rights Violations in the Context of Social Protests in Peru, Calls for the Ongoing Institutional Crisis to Be Solved Democratically, and Remains Available to Conduct a Working Visit When the Peruvian State Deems it Appropriate

November 16, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killings of young men Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez on the fifth day of protests following the impeachment by Congress of Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra. The IACHR further rejects excessive use of force by Peru’s National Police and calls for respect for the country’s democratic institutions, as well as for the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all Peruvians.

The IACHR is concerned about public reports of repression by the National Police on November 14–15, in the context of social protests in the country. These allegations include a disproportionate use of force, in the form of suffocating gases that affected both demonstrators and non-demonstrators; the use of pellet guns; the use of intimidating techniques when police officers approached demonstrators; attacks against the personal integrity of journalists covering the protests and against the on-duty staff of the Ombudsperson’s Office; the reckless use of weapons by police officers in uniform; and shots fired by individuals in plain clothes who reportedly belonged to the National Police’s Terna Squad. Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez were killed and at least 92 people were injured in this context.

Given that the consequences that might stem from the use of force are irreversible, it is a measure of last resort that, within qualitative and quantitative limits, seeks to prevent a more serious event than the one that triggered the State’s reaction. The Commission warns of the serious consequences that the widespread use of so-called non-lethal weapons in social protests might have for life and personal integrity. Use of these weapons must always be exceptional and respect the legality, absolute necessity, and proportionality principles.

According to the Peruvian Ombudsperson’s Office, several individuals—including some adolescents—were arbitrarily arrested during demonstrations. The IACHR was also notified of allegations of sexual violence against a female detainee. The Commission stresses that sexual violence against an individual who is in State custody could amount to torture according to inter-American standards. The IACHR urges the State to investigate these allegations with due diligence and a gender perspective.

The Commission is particularly concerned about the fact that the whereabouts of three people who allegedly took part in demonstrations on November 14 remains unknown since then, according to civil society organizations. The Peruvian Ombudsperson’s Office called on the National Police to release the list of detainees, with their names and the police stations where they are being held. The IACHR notes that, based on inter-American standards, the State has an obligation to hold up-to-date arrest records, to quickly provide information concerning specific individuals’ whereabouts and their health condition, and, when an individual is in State custody, to take that person before the relevant judicial authorities, as required by law and in compliance with the applicable judicial safeguards. The Commission reminds the State of its obligation to conduct a search in the assumption that a missing person is alive, and to make every possible effort to establish their whereabouts as swiftly as possible.

The IACHR demands an adequate investigation of all the allegations, with due diligence, so their perpetrators can be brought to justice. The IACHR notes recent comments made by Peru’s Attorney General concerning the launch of investigations in cases of intentional homicide, abuse of power, and bodily harm; the launch of preliminary investigations for forced disappearance; and measures taken to search for missing persons.

The Commission is concerned that, during the first few days of demonstrations, State authorities made public comments that sought to delegitimize social protest. The IACHR notes that protests play a crucial role to develop and strengthen democratic systems and that they are protected by inter-American human rights instruments.

The IACHR is aware of ongoing litigation concerning the authority to impeach President Vizcarra for permanent moral incompetence, which Peru’s Constitutional Court is expected to resolve soon. Considering the political and institutional crisis that Peru is currently immersed in, the Commission highlights how important it is that all decisions reflect constitutionally enshrined authority and respect due process to preserve the rule of law.

The IACHR reminds the Peruvian State of the need to ensure the separation of powers by enforcing the country’s checks and balances to enable effective control among the various branches of government, in compliance with inter-American standards. The Commission remains available to conduct a working visit to verify the situation of human rights in the country whenever the Peruvian State deems it appropriate. The IACHR will continue to monitor the situation through its Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit for the Peruvian crisis.

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. 275/20