The Cantuta Massacre / Peru

Acto en memoria de las víctimas de La Cantuta. (Foto de Aprodeh)Peruvian military members, masked and armed, broke through the dawn on July 18, 1992, and entered the rooms of students and professors at the National University “Enrique Guzmán y Valle” (La Cantuta). There, they kidnapped nine students and a professor, and carried them to an isolated camp outside the city where they were tortured, assassinated and buried in unmarked graves.

The bodies were found in 1993, after a magazine published where they had been buried.

The judicial system started an investigation that was later transferred to the military’s jurisdiction. In 1994, the military court sentenced 10 members of the military who participated in the massacre to between one and 20 years in prison. After this sentence, a general claimed that the crime’s masterminds hadn’t been brought to justice, and he indicated that Vladimir Montesinos and various military generals were the primary parties responsible.

After this sentence, on June 14, 1995, Congress approved a law that granted amnesty to military, police and civil officials involved in human rights violations committed from 1980 through that date. Those sentenced for the Cantuta massacre were freed.

The families of three of the victims presented a complaint before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which was later brought before representatives of the CEJIL, the Association for Human Rights, and the Center for Studies and Action for Peace (CEAPAZ).

In 2006, the International Human Rights Court condemned Peru for the systematic practice of arbitrary executions in the framework of the counter-insurgency strategy of government officials, especially in the most intense moments of the conflict. The Court also reaffirmed that the military was not the proper institution to investigate and to sanction those responsible for the crimes. It also said the amnesty given by the law was invalid.

The Court held that the crime was committed by the Colina Group, a body appointed to the National Intelligence Service (SIN), which executed the massacre with the knowledge of the then-president of the republic and which was responsible to military commanders.

The investigation initiated after the court’s decision resulted in the attribution of the crimes to ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who fled the country in 2002. CEJIL, along with many human rights organizations, firmly supported the extradition. In September 2007, the Supreme Court of Chile authorized the extradition of Fujimori.

In 2009, after a year and half of court hearings, the Peruvian Court sentenced Fujimori to 25 years of prison to affirm his responsibility for the disappearance and death of 27 people at the massacres of La Cantuta, Barrios Altos and the Underground Military Intelligence Services.