The release of recordings of a meeting between top Peruvian cabinet and judicial officials has brought new attention to a high-profile human rights case, and fueled allegations of politicization in Peru’s judiciary branch.
On August 1, an anonymous user posted a series of audio recordings to YouTube which claimed to be from a May 2012 meeting of high level government officials. Present were former Supreme Court head Cesar San Martin, then Justice Minister and current Prime Minister Juan Jimenez Mayor, and current Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano. According to transcripts of the recording published by La Republica, the officials were discussing the Chavin de Huantar case, involving allegations that former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos and other military ordered the extrajudicial execution of several Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) rebels following a hostage rescue operation in the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in 1997.
At the time, the case was being heard in a Peruvian criminal court by Judge Carmen Rojjasi, who was also present at the meeting. The officials proceeded to “unify their criteria,” as San Martin put it, effectively consolidating the government’s case against prosecutors. They also expressed concern that if Montesinos and others were found guilty, it would hurt the government’s chances of defending itself before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In October 2012, Rojjasi found the defendants not guilty, and last month the Supreme Court upheld the ruling.
Human rights groups, most notably the Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH), have pounced on the recordings, questioning the Chavin de Huantar rulings and accusing the administration of President Ollanta Humala of exerting undue influence on the judiciary branch.
On Tuesday, APRODEH Director Gloria Cano told La Republica that her organization would present the recordings to the Inter-American Court, which is still mulling the case and is expected to reach a verdict in December. Legal experts consulted by La Industria, however, say the Court could not use them as evidence as they were illegally obtained.
Meanwhile, government prosecutors have announced they will look into the content of the audio recordings, and a judicial review board has said it is investigating San Martin for misconduct.
While the Humala administration has denied any wrongdoing, it comes as the latest proof of politicization of government institutions, following last month’s protests of a controversial nomination process in which the main parties divvied up several top positions.
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