Washington, D.C. and Lima, November 13, 2015.- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has declared that the Peruvian government is responsible for the disappearance and subsequent murder of 15 people –half of them children– from the rural Andean Quechua-speaking community of Santa Bárbara, Huancavelica, by members of the army.
The Court issued the ruling Friday in the case of Santa Barbara Campesino Community vs. Peru –litigated by CEJIL and Asociación Paz y Esperanza– which established Peru’s international responsibility for the forced disappearance of: Yesenia Osnayo Hilario (age 6); Miriam Osnayo Hilario (age 4); Edith Osnayo Hilario (age 8 months); Wilmer Hilario Carhuapoma (age 3); Alex Jorge Hilario (age 7); Raúl Hilario Guillén (age 18 months); Héctor Hilario Guillén (age 6); Francisco Hilario Torres (age 60); Dionisia Quispe Mallqui (age 57); Antonia Hilario Quispe (age 31) Magdalena Hilario Quispe (age 26); Mercedes Carhuapoma De la Cruz (age 20); Ramón Hilario Morán (age 26); Dionicia Guillén Riveros (age 21) y Elihoref Huamaní Vergara (age 22), who were arrested by members of the Peruvian Army on July 4, 1991, as part of the military operation "Apolonia". Upon their arrest, the 15 people were taken to the Varallon Mine (nicknamed by the community "The Mysterious Mine") where they were executed and their bodies dynamited.
"Seven of the victims were children between the ages of 8 months and 6 years old," said Francisco Quintana, Program Director for the Andean, North America and Caribbean Region at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). "We hope that the Court ruling presents an opportunity for the Peruvian State to develop its domestic jurisprudence on the special protection of the rights of children in the context of internal armed conflicts in accordance with international standards, thus guaranteeing that such a crime will not be repeated."
“The victims, who came from a fragile economic situation and were inhabitants of one of the poorest regions of Peru, Huancavelica, are still today considered to be “disappeared," as noted by the Inter-American Court. Due to the actions taken by the military to destroy the bodies of the victims and subsequent denials to try to hide the facts, the case is one of forced disappearance and not, as the Peruvian Government had argued, one of extrajudicial execution,” said Milton Campos, head of Paz y Esperanza's Legal Department. In contrast to extrajudicial execution, a forced disappearance means that the persons are deprived of some form of freedom by state agents or those acting on behalf of the State who then refuse to reveal the fate or whereabouts of these individuals or to recognize that they are deprived of their liberty. Forced disappearance is also defined as a continuing and imprescriptible offense, which makes it easier for families to continue to bring complaints before the justice system at any time.
The Inter-American Court also requested the prompt investigation, prosecution and punishment of all those responsible for the disappearance of the victims. To date, of the seven soldiers involved in the massacre, two were excluded because of their age; two others, Dennis Wilfredo Pacheco Zambrano and Javier Bendezú Vargas, have existing arrest warrants through INTERPOL and - in the case of Dennis Wilfredo - an order of extradition by the State; just one (Oscar Alberto Carrera Gonzales) was convicted, and the remaining two were released from all responsibility.
The Inter-American Court ordered the State, as reparation for the damage suffered, to deliver ten alpacas or their equivalent value to the family as well as to provide them with homes to make up for those that were lost during the military operation. At the same time, in a decision of great importance for the current Peruvian context, a bill is being drafted that would facilitate the search and identification of remains and the return of disappeared persons without resorting to long judicial proceedings. The ruling of the Inter-American Court orders the State to recover, identify and deliver to the family, the remains of the victims.