On July 18, 1992, members of the “Grupo Colina”, an affiliated body of the National Intelligence Service of Peru, burst into the dormitories of the National University “Enrique Guzman y Valle” (La Cantuta) while its residents were sleeping. When the sweep was over, nine students and a professor were kidnaped and taken to an isolated location outside of Lima, and were subsequently killed and buried in unmarked graves.
Despite the accusations and investigations undertaken by Peruvian judicial bodies, and due to the Amnesty Law, those convicted of the disappearances and executions of La Cantuta were released. This caused the families of the three victims to present their case to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), who were later joined by CEJIL, the Association Pro Human Rights (APRODEH), and the Center for Studies and Action for Peace (CEAPAZ) as representatives who litigated the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court).
The case reflects a modus operandi of crimes committed by the State through covert operations and the relevance of the conviction extends to other countries in the region. The ruling of the Court shows that the amnesty laws issued were contrary to the American Convention on Human Rights and as a result were not valid. This point has contributed to the nullification of amnesties as instruments to guarantee impunity to those responsible for human rights violations.
In 2000, as the case was being presented before the Inter-American System, it was re-opened within Peru’s judicial system. In 2003, trials were initiated against the accused presumed to be co-authors of the crimes of kidnapping, forced disappearance and homicide. Additionally, in 2001 the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation was created in order to investigate and bring to justice individuals responsible for committing serious violations of human rights and to propose reconciliations initiatives in Perú. The extrajudicial executions that took place during the La Cantuta case were among the first investigated by the CVR and presented in its 2003 Final Report.
Finally, the investigations undertaken as a result of the Court’s sentence allowed ex-president Fujimori who had fled the country in 2002 and other high ranking members of the Peruvian Army to be charged for the crimes. These convictions have contributed to a decisive means to fight against impunity in Peru. Moreover, the conviction of high-ranking military officials as authors of serious human rights violations set a precedent for Latin America.
- The convictions of Fujimori, Montesinos, and other four former members of the Grupo Colina contribute to a decisive means to fight against impunity in Peru.
The case establishes the events as crimes against humanity that contributes to the nullification of amnesties as instruments to guarantee impunity to those responsible for human rights violations.