Washington D.C., July 8, 2014. In the wake of the President of the Republic of Peru’s, Ollanta Humala, recent appointment of retired General Daniel Urresti as Minister of the Interior, the signing organizations express their deep concern about the new Minister as he is a subject of a criminal investigation by the commission for grave human rights violations that occurred during Peru’s internal armed conflict.
As stated by the Institute for Legal Defense (Instituto de Defensa Legal, IDL) last week, Urresti is under investigation as the alleged mastermind of the murder of Hugo Bustíos, journalist and correspondent for the magazine, “Carretas,” on November 24, 1988. Bustíos, along with his colleague Eduardo Rojas Arce, were investigating the murder of two civilians in the outskirts of the city of Huanta, after having asked the Chief of the Castropampa Military Base, Víctor La Vera Hernández, for permission to access the area. On the way to Huanta, Bustíos and Rojas Arce were attacked with gun fire. Bustíos was hit with a bullet, lost control of the motorcycle he was driving and fell. Rojas Arce was able to save himself. The attackers placed a detonating explosive over Bustíos’s injured body, causing his death. Urrestí, an Army captain at that time, worked as Head of the S-2 Military Intelligence Branch (Sección de Inteligencia S-2) at the Castropampa base in Ayacucho.
The initial investigation was initiated by the military court, but subsequently closed. In light of this, CEJIL and other organizations, including the national headquarters of COMISEDH, brought the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in 1997 found the Peruvian State responsible for the murder of Hugo Bustíos and the attack on Eduardo Rojas Arce.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission resumed the investigation on the case, and in 2007, the National Criminal Court condemned officers Víctor La Vera Hernández and Amador Vidal Sanbertoa, 17 and 15 years old, respectively, for the murder and attempted murder of Bustíos and Rojas Arce. The investigation continued in order to establish the identity of others responsible, and on June 17, 2013, the judiciary ordered to open an investigation against Urresti. It stated that on November 24, 1988, both journalists were, “ambushed and attacked by members of the Peruvian military from the Castropampa Military Base under the orders of Officer Daniel Belisario Urresti Elera known as “Arturo,” along with the participation of Sergeant Johny José Zapata Acuña known as “Centurión” and other unidentified members of the Military.”
Along with other pieces of evidence, the existence of the order to open an investigation of Urresti has been supported by statements made by members of the Peruvian military at the Castropampa Base in November 1988. Based on these statements, Urresti is being investigated for his role as the mastermind of the murder of Bustíos and the attempted murder of Rojas Arce, both classified as crimes against humanity.
As noted by Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director, “the IACHR determined that Peru was responsible for the murder of Bustíos and for violating the personal integrity of Rojas Arce, as well as violating the freedom of expression of both victims because they were journalists. The Peruvian President’s decision to offer a public position to a person under investigation for grave acts sends a message of disrespect for the work of the judicial power in combating impunity, as well as being a direct affront to the victims of grave human rights violations in Peru.”
For Katya Salazar, Executive Director of DPLF, “this case is emblematic because it was investigated by the Peruvian Truth Commission, which recommended the investigation and prosecution of all those responsible. President Humala’s decision to “evaluate the case” and to conclude that there is not sufficient evidence is an attack on judicial independence and implies “rewarding” a person accused of these grave violations.”
Joe-Marie, a Senior Fellow at WOLA, considers that, “the President should rectify this decision because it is detrimental to the process followed in Peru to find truth, justice and reparation for victims of the internal armed conflict in Peru, and it gravely affects the consolidation of democratic institutions. Urresti should be removed from his position and brought to justice for this case. Additionally, the Ollanta Humala government should reaffirm its promise to protect the physical integrity of relatives and witnesses in this case as well as in others under investigation.”
Based on the above, the organizations respectfully ask the Peruvian authorities to respect the actions of the Judicial Power and to guarantee the independence of the investigations and procedures that are followed to determine the responsibilities of all the perpetrators of the murder of Hugo Bustíos. Additionally, the organizations urge the Judicial Power to suspend General Urresti from his post as Minister of the Interior until his criminal role in the Bustíos case is clarified.
Links of interest:
- Order to open the investigation against Daniel Urresti (auto de apertura de instrucción), June 17, 2013, (Spanish only)