Press Release

IACHR Ends Working Visit to Peru

December 7, 2020

   Related links

   Contact info

IACHR Press Office
[email protected]

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Peru from November 29 to December 2, 2020, to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground, specifically in connection with the current social protests around the recent political and institutional crisis.

The IACHR delegation was led by President Joel Hernández and included Commissioner Stuardo Ralón, Rapporteur for Peru, the Interim Executive Secretary, María Claudia Pulido, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Pedro Vaca, and members of the Executive Secretariat technical team.

As part of the visit, the IACHR met with the President of the Republic, Francisco Sagasti, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Astete, and the Minister of Justice, Eduardo Vega. It also met with the Minister of the Interior, the Director General of the Police, and with the Congress of the Republic, the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Ombud’s Office. It also held meetings to gather testimonies from victims of human rights violations during the protests, as well as relatives, representatives of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, young people, students, volunteers, journalists, and police officers.

The IACHR wishes to thank the Peruvian government for its invitation and for all the assistance it provided during this working visit. Specifically, it wishes to acknowledge how committed all State authorities are to respecting and guaranteeing human rights, as evidenced by their openness to international monitoring, the frank and constructive dialogues that took place, the open provision of information, and their willingness to establish channels of technical cooperation.

The IACHR also wishes to express its appreciation for the support provided by the representative of the office of the OAS General Secretariat in Peru. Specifically, it valued information provided by civil society organizations and highlights the support provided by the National Human Rights Coordinator in organizing this visit. It valued the efforts made by the families of Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez, people who sustained injuries and their families, journalists, young people who were on the frontline of the protests, volunteer brigade members, and human rights defenders to meet with the delegation and present their testimonies and information.

The IACHR focused its mission on the city of Lima and visited the Alfonso Ugarte Police Station. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression toured the center of the Peruvian capital to learn more about how the protest developed and visit the areas where the most serious attacks on demonstrators and journalists occurred.

During the visit, the IACHR interviewed more than 120 people and recorded 83 testimonies, most of which were provided by victims of human rights violations and other people who were affected by the protests. According to the Ombud’s Office, at least 47 people were detained between November 10 and 14, 2020. As part of these protests, at least two people have lost their lives to date and at least 200 were injured, including 21 members of the Peruvian National Police Force. However, the IACHR warned that the number of people who were actually injured could be higher if people who were assisted at private health centers are included in the count, as these records are not accessible, in addition to the various injuries that were not treated at health centers.

Context of the institutional crisis in Peru

Through its different mechanisms, the IACHR has been monitoring the political instability in Peru and its impact on respect for and guarantees of human rights. It did so against a backdrop of tensions between the Office of the President and the legislative branch that have been mounting for years, and amid the effects of the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, which led to the declaration of a national State of Emergency through Supreme Decree 006-2020-IN, which has been in force since March 16, 2020.

The IACHR noted that the Congress of the Republic has invoked article 113 of the Constitution on several occasions, which provides for the creation of a presidential vacancy on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity.” Specifically, it learned that in December 2017 and March 2018, two vacancy processes were initiated against the president at the time, Pedro Paulo Kuczynski, who chose to resign from office on March 21, 2018, and against his successor, Martín Vizcarra. After the congressional elections in January 2020 that followed the constitutional dissolution of the legislative body decreed by the Office of the President on September 30, 2019, Congress again resorted to leaving the presidency vacant on two occasions in less than three months. The first of these attempts took place in September 2020, and was rejected, while the second was approved via Resolution 001-2020-2021-CR, dated November 9, 2020, with 105 votes in favor, 19 against, and 4 abstentions.

As a result, Manuel Merino, the president of Congress at the time, took office as interim president of Peru on November 10, 2020.

In this regard, the IACHR observed that former president Vizcarra was subjected to two vacancy proceedings on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity” due to his allegedly having committed criminal acts that might constitute acts of corruption. According to the available information, these events are being investigated by the competent authorities at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The IACHR noted that article 117 of the Peruvian Constitution sets out the specific cases in which the President of the Republic may be accused during his or her term of office.

Without entering into a constitutional assessment or interpretation of what taken place in Peru, the IACHR observed that this controversial concept of presidential vacancy has been the topic of a prolonged constitutional debate that has included a ruling from the Constitutional Tribunal in 2004, which added the requirement of a majority of 87 votes in favor for it to be approved. The IACHR also noted that the concept in question does not include an objective definition, which allows for significant discretion which could undermine the principle of democratic institutionality. In this regard, the IACHR learned that in a ruling on November 19, 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal stated that it was not its place to issue an opinion on this matter, given that the first attempt at creating a vacancy have been unsuccessful and that the motion to implement it had prompted the constitutional lawsuit.

The concept of presidential vacancy should be understood within the framework of protecting democratic institutions, and in this sense, the IACHR is concerned by the fact that it has been invoked repeatedly, which affects governance and jeopardizes democratic and social stability. This is especially the case given the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the proximity of the general elections, which will be held in April 2021.

The IACHR recalled that constitutional democracy is based on the essential principles of the division and control of powers to guarantee the full exercise of the fundamental rights of all people. It also recalled that, in the inter-American sphere, access to and the exercise of power subject to the rule of law are essential components of representative democracy. In this context, the IACHR has maintained that the removal of a democratically and constitutionally elected individual should not be left to the discretionary political decision of Congress or Parliament but should rather require the crimes and infractions contemplated in the Constitution to have been verified.

The minimum guarantees of due process must be observed in procedural instances of any kind to ensure that individuals can defend themselves appropriately against any action initiated by the State that may affect their rights and obligations. Similarly, it recalls that the principal of legality determines the actions of all State agencies in their respective jurisdictions, particularly when it comes to the exercise of punitive power. In this regard, the IACHR has emphasized that in a democratic system, extreme precautions need to be taken to ensure that any punitive procedures that are adopted strictly respect the basic rights of individuals and are only implemented after it has been carefully verified that illegal conduct did indeed take place.

Social protests

According to publicly available information, following November 9, after Congress declared the Office of the President to be vacant, a series of social protests were held throughout the country, despite the ongoing State of Emergency that was declared on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and due to which the constitutional rights of assembly and free transit are restricted to protect the population’s life and health.

The IACHR has observed that the social protests have mostly involved young people and students who have taken to the streets in large numbers to spontaneously express their discontent with Congress’s decision. According to publicly available information and that provided by the authorities, the social protests that took place in different cities in the country were peaceful expressions of deeply rooted democratic values that the IACHR recognizes and welcomes. However, it also noted with concern that in Lima, where isolated acts of violence took place, according to the information it received, demonstrations were met with particularly harsh police repression entailing the excessive use of force. This led to the death of two young people, Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez, and to at least 200 people sustaining injuries, including some members of the National Police Force.

The delegation was informed that from November 10 and 11 onward, there were reports of the arrest of demonstrators in acts of violence against them. On November 12, a “mass citizen march” was organized, which brought together around 20,000 people in Plaza San Martín, Lima. Testimonies indicate that acts of harassment and violence occurred at police barriers, including insults and pushing between demonstrators and the police, demonstrators throwing objects at the police, and the use of teargas by the police to disperse crowds. According to testimonies gathered by the IACHR and documented by the Ombud’s Office, as the protesters advanced on the police blockades and tensions between them and police officers mounted, the use of teargas increased, and pellet guns began to be used against the demonstrators.

A second large-scale demonstration was convened by various social groups on November 14 at more than 12 locations in Lima. According to information received by the IACHR, high levels of violence and repression were reported, which ended with at least 107 people having been injured by projectiles, the inhalation of toxic gases, and multiple trauma, according to reports from the Ministry of Health and EsSalud; and with the death of two young people, Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez.

According to information provided by the Ombud’s Office, at least 60 people were reported missing on the night of November 14–15. According to inter-American human rights standards, in missing person cases, States have the obligation to conduct a search on the assumption that the missing person is alive, and to make every effort to promptly determine their whereabouts. The whereabouts of all these individuals were subsequently confirmed, including those of Luis Fernando Aráujo Enriquez, who stated that he had been held against his will for three days in an unknown location, allegedly by plainclothes police officers.

As a result of this violent day of protests, on November 15, the interim president publicly resigned from office. After a new Board of Directors was established in Congress, Francisco Sagasti took over as interim president of Peru on November 17.

With regard to the protests, the IACHR received visual material that was made public on November 13 that provided evidence of police officers being congratulated for their actions in the protests against the presidential vacancy. According to information received by the IACHR, these declarations were made by high-ranking government officials despite various instances of excessive use of force having already been made public. The IACHR reiterated that it is the duty of all State officials to prevent human rights violations and thus noted that any discourse downplaying violence could send a message of tolerance toward it and generate a climate of permissiveness toward its excessive use.

The IACHR also became aware of events in which some groups of people used violence in the form of insults, the throwing of stones and other blunt objects, or the use of handmade weapons against police officers. According to information provided by the National Police Force, this resulted in at least 21 police officers being injured, including 11 NCOs who sustained contusions caused by blunt objects and burns while repelling the acts of violence caused by the demonstrators. According to information received by police authorities, groups of “violent infiltrators” were identified who allegedly caused damage to urban infrastructure and public and private property, including streetlights, historic monuments, public transit stations, financial establishments, political party premises, and fast food outlets, as well as material damage to 13 police vehicles and 2 motorcycles.

The IACHR strongly condemned all acts of violence, regardless of who it was perpetrated by, and recalled that social protest is legitimate as long as it is peaceful. On this point, it noted that the term “peaceful” should be understood in the sense that people who commit acts of violence during protests may suffer individual, temporary restrictions to their right to demonstrate. Given the State’s obligation to protect human rights during protests, including demonstrators’ life and integrity, the State may restrict people who commit acts of violence or carry weapons from participating in public demonstrations and protests. The IACHR acknowledges that it is States’ duty to adopt the necessary measures to prevent acts of violence, guarantee people’s safety (including that of demonstrators), and maintain public order.

However, States must act based on the understanding that public protests and demonstrations are legal and that even if some people or individuals exercise violence during a demonstration, it does not necessarily mean that the whole demonstration is violent, nor does it authorize security forces to dissolve the protest through the use of force or to arrest protesters en masse. The IACHR recalls that when public forces intervene to stop acts of violence, they must do so in accordance with the respective protocols, in line with the standards of necessity, proportionality, and legality and other related inter-American standards.

The IACHR has pointed out that the fact that inter-American instruments stipulate that the right to assembly is predicated on peaceful, unarmed gatherings, this does not imply that a demonstration can be declared not to be peaceful based on the actions of isolated individuals. It therefore noted that when some individuals commit acts of violence during a protest, they must be isolated from it, but other demonstrators retain their right to peaceful assembly. As a consequence, no gathering should be deemed unprotected.

Despite this, the IACHR observed that the demonstrators at these protests were mostly young people and students and underlined that they were organized peacefully and spontaneously by multiple groups or individuals, with demands being made using banners, flags, songs, and artistic expressions.

The IACHR recalled that social protest is essential to the existence and consolidation of democratic societies and that it is protected by a variety of rights and freedoms within the inter-American system of human rights. Indeed, article 2, paragraph 12, of the Peruvian Constitution includes the right to peaceful assembly without weapons. It should be noted that each and every one of the authorities interviewed by the delegation viewed these demonstrations as the free exercise of a constitutional right.

As the IACHR has observed, demonstrators are free to choose the form, location, and message they wish to use to protest peacefully. Likewise, States are obliged to manage social conflict through dialogue, and it is their duty to take the measures needed to prevent acts of violence, guarantee people’s safety, and maintain public order. The IACHR also notes that protest is closely linked to the promotion and defense of democratic rule.

State response

Use of force

During this working visit, the State reported that the actions of the Peruvian National Police Force and the use of force during operations to maintain and restore public order were in accordance with the powers conferred by the country’s regulatory framework, including Legislative Decree 1267—Peruvian National Police Force Act; Legislative Decree 1186, which regulates the use of force by the Peruvian National Police Force; as well as police human rights manuals and DPNP Directive no. 03-17-2015-DIRGEN-PNP/EMG-PNP-B, which establishes the rules and procedures for the use of nonlethal and lethal weapons by the police during police operations.

The IACHR warns that although Legislative Decree no. 1186 regulates the use of force by the National Police Force, this decree was amended through article 4 of Act 31012 (known as the Police Protection Law), which was passed on March 20, 2020, to repeal the principle of proportionality in national legislation. According to the available information, the purpose of this could be to establish a presumption that police officers are making reasonable use of force, which could thus favor their impunity. The IACHR is seriously concerned about this repeal and calls upon the Peruvian State to review Law No. 31012 with a view to making the necessary adjustments to bring it into line with inter-American standards regarding compliance with the obligations that derive from Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

According to information provided to the IACHR, the National Police Force drew up two operational plans to handle social protests in Lima, in coordination with the Ombud’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to information provided by police authorities to the IACHR, the strategy used during these operations was designed based on the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality in the progressive, differentiated use of force, making rational use of the different means available to the police, including batons, shields, helmets, teargas, and rubber bullets, according to the seriousness of the violence in question.

Based on the information it received and the numerous testimonies gathered during its visit, the IACHR noted with concern that the State’s response to the demonstrations entailed repression involving the excessive, disproportionate use of force. For example, testimonies report that police officers fired tear gas canisters from rooftops. The deployment of motorized police officers on motorcycles within crowds was also recorded, involving blows to the demonstrators, with the purpose of overpowering demonstrators to subsequently arrest them. Likewise, various testimonies reported the presence of unidentified plainclothes police agents among the demonstrators, whom they claimed belonged to the so-called Terna Group. The IACHR also received consistent reports of the use of low-flying helicopters over the demonstrations, which gave the impression that the demonstrators were being chased and created a climate of intimidation and fear.

From the onset of the protests, the IACHR was informed of the continued, indiscriminate use of teargas or asphyxiating gases, and the effects that this had on the dynamics of the protests and on the health and physical and mental integrity of those taking part in them. According to the testimonies the IACHR gathered, although these gases were initially used to disperse crowds, their use quickly became indiscriminate, uninterrupted, and they were sometimes aimed directly at demonstrators’ bodies and spaces used as shelters and refuges. According to these accounts, the gases reached nearby homes and affected people who were not participating in the protests, including elderly people and children. Furthermore, the continual use of teargas and other asphyxiants created a climate of confusion and panic, generating stampedes and putting people who were participating in the protests at serious risk. According to testimonies provided by injured people, police officers allegedly aimed straight at demonstrators when using these gases, while many people were injured by the impact of cartridges falling among and on them. The delegation was also informed that teargas was even used against volunteer brigade members when they intervened to help the injured.

Likewise, the IACHR noted that a large number of media workers were present covering events on the days of the protests. It was informed of at least 40 cases of aggression against journalists, the most serious of which included the cases of Alonso Chero, a photographer with El Comercio newspaper, and Alonso Balbuena, a reporter from Ojo Público. In the first case, the IACHR was informed that Alonso Chero was shot in the back and had to undergo surgery, during which a glass marble was removed from his body. In the case of Alonso Balbuena, the IACHR was informed that police officers shot a teargas canister at close range directly into his leg, destroying a considerable amount of muscle tissue.

The IACHR notes with concern that numerous testimonies have reported that as the days went by and protests continued, the State’s response to protests allegedly became more violent, involving the growing use of less-lethal weapons such as tear gas bombs, which were allegedly aimed at the heads, thoraxes, or lower extremities of protesters. The IACHR received information and testimonies from people who were seriously injured by impacts to their knees and legs while fleeing or moving away from the confrontations between demonstrators and security forces. Furthermore, testimonies gathered by the IACHR that National Police Force officers allegedly shot at close or extremely close range at people who did not represent a threat of any kind, such as members of volunteer brigades who were attempting to assist demonstrators who were wounded or had surrendered, and journalists, who were going about a job that is legitimate and essential to guaranteeing human rights during protests. In this regard, the IACHR learned that at least seven people suffered eye injuries of varying severity. According to information the IACHR received during its meetings with representatives of civil society, 77% of the people treated at hospitals had wounds or bruises on the upper body.

The IACHR received numerous testimonies regarding the use of rubber bullets against demonstrators and also received information on injuries caused by the use of metal pellets. For example, according to reports from the Ombud’s Office, medical records show that at least two people were injured by metal projectiles to the abdomen and the spine, respectively. The families of Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez were also interviewed and informed the IACHR that the two young men were killed by a single lead pellet and ten lead pellets, respectively, as was confirmed by medical records and expert opinions. In response, the IACHR called on the competent authorities to duly investigate the origin and use of metal pellets during social protests, in accordance with inter-American standards on the matter.

The IACHR noted that given the irreversible consequences that the use of force can lead to, it deems that they should only be used as a qualitatively and quantitatively limited last resort to prevent events that would be more serious than the State’s reaction itself. In this sense, the use of force should be exceptional, and the IACHR notes that it is only justified when it complies with the principles of legality, absolute necessity, and proportionality.

Furthermore, the IACHR emphasized that States must implement mechanisms to effectively prohibit the use of lethal force during public demonstrations and noted that it has been proved that the best way to prevent lethal violence and deaths during such events is to prohibit officers from carrying firearms and lead ammunition. As a consequence, firearms and ammunition should not be used in operations to manage or subdue social protests.

Similarly, the IACHR has drawn attention to the often indiscriminate use of less-lethal weapons during social protests, including teargas and repetitive firing devices that are sometimes used to fire rubber, rubber-coated, or plastic projectiles. It is also stated that the use of weapons of this sort should be discouraged as it is impossible to control their impact. If the regulation weapons available at security institutions include shotguns that can be loaded with lead, rubber, or other types of cartridge, then the controls required to prohibit firearms should also extend to ammunition.

With regard to the various human rights violations it recorded during its visit, the IACHR noted with concern the reports concerning the arrest of demonstrators, the use of intimidating police techniques to surround and fence off demonstrators; the reckless use of weapons by uniformed police officers; the indiscriminate use of asphyxiating gases; the use of pellet guns; shootings and arrests by people identified as members of the National Police Force’s Terna Group; and attacks against journalists covering the protests, staff at the Ombud’s Office who were going about their work, and volunteer brigade members. Arrests, threats, and attempts to hamper the work of human rights defenders were also recorded, as were serious acts of violence against journalists.

In this regard, the IACHR was concerned to receive information concerning acts of intimidation, verbal aggression, and pushing perpetrated by National Police Force agents against clearly identified personnel from the Ombud’s Office with the aim of to preventing them from carrying out their duties. The Ombud’s Office reported that at least 19 of its staff members were assaulted from the very first days of the protests onward, including by senior police officers. On various occasions, they were forced to leave the area as a result of this aggression. The delegation was also informed of acts of harassment and intimidation against members of volunteer brigades during the protests.

The IACHR also received information concerning people who were arbitrarily searched or detained during the protests; and it is concerned about reports of irregular arrests made by agents from the Terna Group who were wearing civilian clothes and were not identified as police officers, given that their mandate is limited to cases of flagrante delicto and does not include interventions relating to public order. On this matter, the IACHR took note of and welcomed the announcement made by the Minister of the Interior on November 24 that assured that no Terna Group agents would be allowed to play a part in the demonstrations.

The IACHR noted that although the intervention procedure is based on an identity check that may eventually lead to administrative sanctions, in practice those affected during the protests were held in police custody. Specifically, the IACHR was concerned to receive reports of interventions based on the regulatory framework for the State of Emergency that has been adopted to contain the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in that protesters were stopped for having not complied with the provisions of these regulations, such as failure to observe social distancing. It also received information on numerous obstacles or impediments encountered by lawyers and human rights defenders in accessing police stations in the early days of demonstrations, as well as delays or absences of prosecutors.

In this regard, the IACHR recalled that the measures adopted to respond to and contain the pandemic must center on full respect for human rights. It specifically reiterated that, States must guarantee that no arbitrary detentions are made during states of emergency or while restrictions on human movement are in place, and that all arrests must be subject to due judicial oversight, in accordance with inter-American standards on the issue.

In this regard, it stresses that States are obliged to immediately inform the person under arrest and their family and representatives of the motives and reasons for this. They must also provide information regarding they place where they are being held. This duty is a mechanism to avoid arbitrary or illegal detention from the very moment that people are deprived of their freedom and guarantees the right to defense. Similarly, Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention requires that any person who is detained be brought promptly before the appropriate legal authorities to protect their integrity.

Specifically, the IACHR was made aware of the particular effects on some women protesters, including a 14-year-old girl. She claimed to have been beaten on her head and back, to have had her hair pulled, and have been insulted and threatened when detained and later, at the police station, to have not been properly treated as a minor. According to her testimony, even when her mother reached the police station, she was not immediately released. The IACHR also heard with concern the testimony of the girl’s sister, who as well as having been stopped in a violent fashion, was held in police custody in conditions that affected her personal dignity. The IACHR verified that she was held in a dark, unventilated space in extremely unsanitary conditions, which included the presence of urine, feces, and rats. While in police custody, she reported having been the victim of various forms of sexual violence, including mockery and humiliation based on the fact that she is a woman, as well as insults, looks, and threatening comments with sexual connotations. She also claimed to have been subjected to forced nudity and an allegedly abusive vaginal inspection.

The IACHR was also informed of the case of another woman who was subjected to sexual violence after being arrested and while in police custody, including forced stripping and touching and humiliating and degrading treatment with clear racist connotations due to her being a woman and of Andean origin. The IACHR was able to ascertain that the physical and mental health of these women and their families have been affected in all these cases, which was particularly reflected in feelings of fear and distrust toward authorities.

In this regard, the IACHR reminded States that all people who are deprived of their freedom under their jurisdiction have the right to be treated humanely, with unrestricted respect for their inherent dignity, their fundamental rights—especially the right to life and personal integrity—and fundamental guarantees, such as access to the judicial guarantees that are essential to protecting their rights and freedoms. The IACHR recalled that States are obliged to ensure that their agents and institutions adhere to the strict prohibition of violence and discrimination against women and girls. The inter-American system has spoken out regarding sexual violence against women during demonstrations and maintains that this is used by State agents as a tactic to control, dominate, and impose power in a way that seeks to convey a message of repression and disapproval of protests. Such acts may constitute a form of gender-based violence against women, a form of discrimination against them, and may also constitute acts of torture.

Furthermore, the IACHR received information in multiple testimonies showing the serious effects that violence, intimidation, and repression during social protests can have on the mental health and emotional well-being of young people, students, and those who reported violations of their human rights. In this regard, it emphasized that the short- and long-term effects of situations that threaten human life and personal integrity entail traumatic experiences that are often manifested in the form of intense stress, extreme suffering, anxiety, humiliation, and radical changes in the lives of survivors and their families. This also has a wider impact on society and the community due to the collective, widespread nature of the human rights violations and traumas in question. In this sense, the IACHR expressed its appreciation of the fact that some universities have offered their students psychological care and support. All the same, it calls on the States take the necessary measures to implement psychological healthcare mechanisms for those affected and to do so from a multidisciplinary perspective using targeted, differentiated approaches.


As part of its visit to Peru, the IACHR was informed that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had begun various investigations into and procedures regarding the events that occurred during the protests.

According to the information it received, during the demonstrations, numerous public prosecutors were on active duty, paying 132 visits to 89 police stations and 43 hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities between November 14 and 19. The IACHR was also informed that as part of these investigations, the Attorney General’s Office gathered visual material; the medical records of those who were injured and died during the protests; police operations plans; weapon use records; and the list of agents who were involved in handling the protests. It also seized shotguns, ammunition, and other weapons, and is conducting expert analyses of police armories. The Attorney General’s Office informed the IACHR that it is currently in the process of taking statements from police officers and people who are affected during the protests, and that it has implemented an evidence collection system (SiRE) to enable citizens to submit photos, videos, and other information that will help to clarify events. Despite these steps, the Attorney General informed the IACHR of the serious challenges that her team is facing due to the scale of the investigation, including the limitations of remote work as part of the measures adopted to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of resources and physical space for collecting testimonies. She also discussed the importance of the Attorney General’s Office having its own investigative police force and underlined the need to strengthen the human rights approach among staff.

The Ministry of Justice informed the IACHR that between November 12 and 15, 2020, teams of public defenders were deployed at police stations and hospitals, assisting eight detainees, one of whom accepted its offer to provide legal defense services in Lima. Assistance was also provided at 15 hospitals on November 15, 2020, including for a person who was seriously injured. Likewise, a 24-hour telephone line was implemented to enable people who could not locate their relatives to communicate with a lawyer. On the matter of missing people, the IACHR was informed that various proceedings were requested of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences and the Office of Expert Witnesses at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. These included a request to geolocate the cellphones of missing people, which involved contacting their families. The Attorney General also ordered teams of prosecutors to visit police stations and headquarters to determine whether the people reported missing were being detained.

With regard to the human rights violations that allegedly took place during the social protests, according to publicly available information, on November 16, 2020, the Attorney General announced that given the severity of these events and the context in which they took place, a preliminary investigation was being opened concerning those responsible for the crime of aggravated homicide in the cases of Inti Sotelo and Jack Pintado, and for the crime of forced disappearance. The IACHR also took note of the statements issued by the Ministry of the Interior regarding its commitment to provide support for victims; guarantee the transparency of the investigation; and ensure the safety of all those involved in them including the families of the young men who lost their lives, who reported having been targeted by hostile acts.

On the matter of the actions of the police during the demonstrations, the IACHR was informed that administrative investigations are underway within the Peruvian National Police Force with a view to identifying any disciplinary action that may be necessary. Likewise, the IACHR acknowledged the announcement made by the President of the Republic regarding the National Police Force, which included changes to the senior leadership of the institution and the creation of a committee to modernize and strengthen police capacities in matters regarding the defense of citizen rights, domestic order, and citizen security.

With regard to the eventual responsibilities of high-ranking authorities, it was announced on November 16, 2020, that a preliminary investigation had been opened into those holding the positions of President of the Republic, Prime Minister, and Minister of the Interior during the protests due to their allegedly having committed the crimes of abuse of authority, intentional homicide in the case of the death of the two young men, serious and mild injury, and forced disappearance, all of which were allegedly committed in a context of human rights violations.

In this regard, the IACHR called on the State to comply with its duty to perform due diligence in the matters of investigating events and identifying, sanctioning, and punishing those responsible for them, in accordance with inter-American standards on the matter.


According to publicly available information, at his inauguration ceremony, President Sagasti asked for a public pardon on behalf of the State over the deaths of Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo and Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez during the protests. He also apologized to demonstrators who were injured, their families, and “all the young people who marched to defend democracy.” The IACHR acknowledged that the President and the Prime Minister have met with the relatives of the two young men who died during the protests and with young people who were injured during them and their families. The IACHR welcomed these public apologies and appreciated the current government’s commitment to guaranteeing that the events in question do not go unpunished and to provide all possible assistance to the Attorney General’s Office to enable it to act independently as it goes about its duty.

According to information the IACHR received, on November 22, 2020, the president of the Council of Ministers publicly stated that an interministerial group had been established, which included relatives of the two young men who were killed and civil society, represented by the National Human Rights Coordinator. The purpose of this group is to establish responsibilities, adopt concrete measures to prevent such events from being repeated, and create a protection system for the families of victims and members of volunteer brigades. In this regard, the IACHR urged the State to take the necessary measures to formalize this announcement through a legal framework that defines the scope of its work, how it will be organized, its responsibilities, and the resources it will be assigned.

The IACHR recalled that as part of the State’s duty to provide comprehensive reparation for victims of human rights violations, such reparations must be implemented as swiftly as possible after the violations in question have taken place. Reparations must be adapted to the particular nature of the human rights violations in question and be proportional to their severity and to the damage they seek to remedy. Furthermore, any process of reparation for human rights violations must fully guarantee that victims are involved in the process and are given a major role in it, in accordance with their specific perspectives and needs.

As part of its mandate to provide States with technical cooperation, the IACHR has stated that it is willing and ready to provide both States and the victims of human rights with assistance regarding the implementation of comprehensive reparation measures with the intention of these having a transformative effect on the underlying causes of human rights violations, and with a view to generating a symbolic effect that contributes to satisfying the need for reparation and preventing these events from being repeated. The IACHR valued the fact that the highest-ranking Peruvian authorities have expressed interest in receiving the technical cooperation it has offered.

In light of the above, the IACHR has made the following recommendations:

1. Take steps to diligently investigate events with a view to identifying, prosecuting, and sanctioning those who are criminally and administratively responsible for all acts of violence that were committed during the recent protests;

2. Take the necessary measures to ensure that the Peruvian National Police Force cease making excessive, disproportionate use of force during demonstrations. The IACHR reminded the State that the National Police Force’s actions to maintain public order must comply strictly with international human rights standards on these issues. To achieve this, reforms must be implemented to adapt the regulatory framework for the police force to inter-American standards and norms and its protocols for action;

3. Ensure that security forces acting to protect and manage demonstrations and protests prioritize the defense of human life and integrity, refraining from arbitrarily detaining demonstrators or violating their rights in any other way, in accordance with the protocols in force. To achieve this, security forces must receive continual training on human rights. Given its special position as guarantor of those in its custody, the State must ensure that detention conditions at police stations are consistent with respect for the dignity, health, and hygiene of people who are deprived of their freedom;

4. Take the necessary measures to establish specialized, independent controls concerning the type of weapons and ammunition used to protect and manage demonstrations, with a view to ensuring that these comply fully with existing protocols and international standards in this area;

5. Take the necessary measures to implement the inter-ministerial mechanism that has been announced in order to implement measures of nonrepetition, protection, and reparation for those who were killed or injured during the protests and their families, including a full legal framework for this. This mechanism must have clearly defined remits; resources to ensure it can function appropriately; mechanisms for coordination and monitoring; and it must ensure that the representatives of those who were injured or killed during the protests participate in it, along with civil society representatives;

6. Strengthen the human, financial, and logistical resources at the disposal of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to allow it to diligently and effectively carry out investigations and procedures relating to the events that occurred during the protests, from a human rights perspective. In particular, the State should reinforce its investigative capacity and establish a technical police investigation corps;

7. Provide effective guarantees to protect people who have reported being affected in various ways during the protests, and to protect those who have given testimony before the IACHR;

8. Ensure the provision of physical and mental health care for all people who have been injured or affected during the protests, particularly those who have been left with some form of disability as a result;

9. The IACHR encourages authorities to promote constructive dialogue between the different branches of government, in accordance with democratic values and with a view to contributing to strengthening the rule of law;

10. Make use of the technical assistance offered by the IACHR to follow up on these recommendations through a joint mechanism that is agreed on for this purpose.

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. 290/20