On October 1, 2010, the Special Criminal Chamber of the Peruvian Supreme Court convicted Vladimiro Montesinos, adviser to former President Alberto Fujimori, as well as members of the military death squad known as the Colina group. The Chamber found them responsible for the extrajudicial killing of 15 people, including a nine year old child, and for seriously injuring four others during an attack at a community gathering in Lima on November 3, 1991, facts litigated in the Inter-American Court case of Barrios Altos. The Chamber also found them responsible for the forced disappearance of nine villagers from the Ancash region in 1992 and the forced disappearance of journalist Pedro Yauri, also in 1992.
The Special Criminal Chamber ruled, as it had against former President Fujimori, that the crimes committed by the accused constitute crimes against humanity. It also held that they had abused their power by leading and participating in the Colina group, a death squad whose purpose was to eliminate the leaders of the Shining Path guerrilla group, as well as all those suspected of being members. The Chamber found a direct relation between the death squad and the National Intelligence Service, which was under the direct orders of Vladimiro Montesinos and Julio Salazar Monroe, its nominal leader.
The judgment, which incorporates relevant jurisprudence from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the international criminal courts, confirms that the victims were not associated with the Shining Path or with any other subversive group. It further emphasizes the State’s obligation to continue investigating the Santa and Pedro Yauri disappearances, until those disappeared have been found and if applicable, their remains returned to their families.
In addition, for the first time in the history of the Peruvian judicial system, the Criminal Chamber ordered a series of reparations in the Santa and Yauri cases based on the 2001 ruling by the Inter-American Court in the Barrios Altos case. The reparations ordered include financial compensation for the family of the victims, similar to that ordered by the Inter-American Court for the victims of the Barrios Altos massacre, and free education and health benefits.
CEJIL represented the families of the victims in the Barrios Altos case, alongside APRODEH and other Peruvian organizations. The judgment issued by the Inter-American Court represented a turning point in efforts to reverse amnesty laws, not only in Peru but across the region. The Inter-American Court ruled that “all amnesty provisions, provisions on prescription and the establishment of measures designed to eliminate responsibility are inadmissible, because they are intended to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations.”
According to Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of CEJIL: “The judgment issued by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court is a great achievement for the victims, civil society and the Peruvian judicial system in the struggle against impunity for severe violations of human rights, particularly as the Peruvian Government is still issuing norms that seek to perpetuate impunity. This step reaffirms Peru’s leadership in investigating and punishing those linked to severe violations of human dignity.”
Vladimiro Montesinos and the members of the Colina group sentenced by the Special Criminal Chamber have appealed their conviction. Krsticevic highlights the importance that the Appeals Court confirm the Chamber’s judgment and that it be used as an example for other courts ordering reparations for victims of grave human rights violations, both in Peru and internationally.