Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Peru Court to Review Fujimori’s Sentence

Despite the best efforts of Peruvian human rights groups to challenge the petition, a potentially impartial Supreme Court judge is poised to review the sentence against imprisoned former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

As noted in a briefing back in April, Fujimori’s defense team has challenged the ex-leader’s 25-year sentence for ordering the Grupo Colina death squad to carry out killings and kidnappings. Although the sentence was upheld following a similar challenge in 2010, lawyers say the court has contradicted itself by naming both Fujimori and former top advisor Vladimiro Montesinos as the masterminds of two mass killings (the 1991 Barrios Altos and 1992 La Cantuta massacres).

While the legal arguments behind the challenge are dubious, human rights advocates are concerned by the choice of judge who will be hearing the case: Javier Villa Stein of the Supreme Court’s Permanent Criminal Chamber. Villa Stein is controversial primarily for issuing a 2012 ruling in favor of Grupo Colina members, in which he reduced their sentences. The decision was later reversed by a higher court, but Villa Stein has continued to make a name for himself as an adversary of human rights activists in Peru.

Both the Legal Defense Institute (IDL) and the Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH) have challenged Villa Stein’s impartiality in the case, arguing that he has made public statements in favor of Fujimori in the past and has openly questioned previous Supreme Court rulings against the former president. Despite the evidence against the judge, earlier this month the Permanent Criminal Chamber ruled that the concerns over Villa Stein’s impartiality were unfounded.  As Gestion reports, the court announced yesterday that Villa Stein would proceed with Fujimori’s hearing next Monday, November 24.

APRODEH Director Gloria Cano has told local press she fears that, in a worst case scenario, Fujimori could be absolved -- or at least facing a new trial while out from behind bars -- by the end of the year. Fortunately, there is reason to believe this is unlikely. As state prosecutor Jose Pelaez Bardales told El Comercio last week, altering the sentence would require the emergence new evidence regarding the accused, which he said Fujimori’s lawyers have failed to do.

News Briefs
  • Yesterday, the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP) published its annual report (.pdf) on crime and insecurity in the country, and its findings have continued to make a major media splash. On top of the alarming police violence statistics, local (see Globo’s report, or Exame’s ranking of the country’s states by homicide rate) and international (AFP and El Pais) press have picked up on the FBSP report’s 2013 homicide data, which shows that roughly one murder was committed every ten minutes last year.
  • The Mexican government is slated to send the ashes and other remains recently discovered in a Guerrero dump, which authorities believe belong to the missing 43 students, to an Austrian laboratory for testing today, Animal Politico reports. Meanwhile the independent group that is shadowing the government’s investigation, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), has announced that none of the remains of 24 individuals located in other recently discovered mass graves match the DNA of the missing 43, confirming official findings.
  • Media consultant James Breiner has an interesting analysis on what he believes is a lack of innovation in Latin America’s news sites, citing a recent study presented in Mexico which indicated that 32 leading digital media outlets in the hemisphere lack an interactive, responsive social media strategy.
  • Following a meeting with Alan Gross in Cuba, two U.S. Senators have told the AP that they are optimistic that Cuban officials will free the imprisoned USAID contractor, citing the USAID’s consideration of changing its rules regarding secret work and comments from Gross himself. However, both lawmakers cautioned that the Cuban government has given no indication that any breakthrough is imminent in the case.
  • Leading Dominican paper El Listin Diario reports that a group of 36 civil society organizations in the country have signed a statement objecting to the Constitutional Tribunal’s rejection of the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction, with representatives telling reporters that the decision leaves them “unprotected” from potential abuses.
  • Today’s New York Times features an editorial on the security situation Mexico, noting that the Iguala disappearances are part of a trend and taking the government to task for failing to repair corruption or fix the criminal justice system.
  • In an op-ed in the  NY Times, James Goldston profiles the Iguala disappearances and the current political crisis faced by President Enrique Peña Nieto, noting that the moment provides an opportunity for the government to fully reform the country’s rickety justice system. The president has called for a revival of the “Pact for Mexico” on security issues, but Reforma reports that opposition legislators have shown some initial resistance to the proposal.
  • Human Rights Watch’s Jose Miguel Vivanco and Max Schoening have another NYT column, in which they sound alarm bells over a series of bill supported by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos which, if passed, would transfer “false positive” cases from the civilian to the military justice system.
  • La Silla Vacia has an analysis of a recent resolution adopted by Colombia’s Marcha Patriotica movement to work towards building an alliance of all left-leaning political factions in the country, a move the news site characterizes as a potential first step in “building a Broad Front that could be key to the success of the agreements with the FARC.”
  • In Guyana, the prime minister of the South American country has made headlines for suspending parliament to avoid a no confidence vote, a move the opposition has compared to a coup. Analyst James Bosworth has a solid two- part write-up on the incident, describing the reaction from OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza while noting the lack of a response from the hemisphere’s main powers.