Photos by Marcos Sierras.
Lima, Peru. The International Mission of Solidarity and Human Rights, an international organization that constantly observes government practices regarding its handling of social conflicts, arrived in Peru in early February 2023 to investigate the Peruvian state after local organizations witnessed several human rights violations during the months of protests against the sudden presidency of Dina Boluarte, when Pedro Castillo, former president of Peru, was forced to leave the chair.
“The suffering of the Peruvian people demands our maximum effort, commitment and rigor in making visible, denouncing and denaturalizing the repressive practices of the current government”, states the international mission.
According to the Mission, in Lima and some other cities, there is a strong police presence in the streets, fencing off side exits and intimidating the population. In some regions, the use of cartridges loaded with lead shot and fired at close range has been observed, a practice expressly prohibited by the UN.
In the different regions, the Mission States, that it was “possible to verify” that the Peruvian National Police, in general, and the Army, in particular, engaged in countless acts of repression, “abusive and disproportionate use” of lethal weapons with a “permanent scenario” of gunfire, smoke, gas and stampede is reported.
In addition to the hundreds of arbitrary arrests and numerous acts of violence against students and faculty at the University of San Marcos, tanks were used during the operation. Student organizations condemned the sexual assaults committed by security forces against women on January 21.
The pacific nature of the protests is regularly changed by groups of undercover police in civilian clothes who infiltrate the demonstrations to provoke disturbances and activate the repressive reaction of the police.
The Mission concludes that arbitrary detention periods and cruel treatment of detainees are evident. The duration of detention is arbitrary and there is no information or cooperation with family members and lawyers, which indicates a flagrant violation of the right to defense.
Additionally, social leaders and members of the indigenous communities interviewed by the Mission have denounced the existence of disappeared persons, but have not been able to verify or confirm them.
The Mission warns about seven leaders from Ayacucho that have been detained for political reasons, with intimidation, harassment, and threats, as evidenced by the use of legal trickery and false accusations of crimes such as “disturbing the peace, sedition, resistance to authority, and terrorism”.
The International Mission of Solidarity and Human Rights identifies six population sectors —women and men, as the most vulnerable against government forces: social leaders, “rondas” —mediators of farming communities, young people, farmers and indigenous people.
The Mission also identified communities were government forces were the most active:
In Ayacucho, the Mission talked with the victims of the Peruvian Army and National Police massacre of December 15, 2022. The events occurred at the end of a peaceful march that began at the city centre and proceeded to the airport. At about 6 p.m., the military started shooting, nine people died, another one died on December 21 after being hospitalized for several days with a serious illness. Three of the victims were absent at the march.
In Juliaca, Mission members interviewed relatives of 15 of those killed in the January 9 massacre, most of whom were killed by firearms bullets, indicating the presence of snipers. In addition to the 18 people killed that day, 204 others were injured, at least 61 of whom were shot with firearms, and others suffered serious permanent injuries from tear gas canisters thrown into their chests. During a memorial mass in honor of those killed, testimonies indicate that 23 people were injured, three by bullets and seven by tear gas intoxication. One of the injured was an eleven-year-old boy.
In Ica, the violent and disproportionate use of police and military forces in the surrounding popular neighborhoods was mentioned. Police forces entered the neighborhoods in large numbers and carried out unauthorized raids, shooting at the population and arbitrarily detaining many residents, including one person who was recording the demonstration. Those illegally detained were beaten and tortured in police stations in Barrio Chino, one of the cities most affected by police violence. Mission was able to speak with witnesses and victims of state repression in this neighborhood. Many of the residents told that security forces stormed the streets of the neighborhood “in large numbers, shooting, raiding homes, and arresting people” indiscriminately.
Another delegation in Cusco, the Mission reported threats by the government forces. The alternative media was used to make violent events visible, and this was used as a motive to censor and persecute spontaneous social communicators. Communicators who spoke their minds were threatened with death.
In Lima, in the middle of the demonstration, there was a disproportionate deployment of police officers stationed in different parts of the city, mainly blocking the side streets through which the march was moving. It is worth mentioning the use of tanks and fences to block these side exits.
Peruvian civilians have suffered, threatened, abused, persecuted, harassed and intimidated by the regular armed and security forces in connection with the social and political crisis that began on December 7, 2002, as noted by the Mission.
This has prevented, restricted, and conditioned their political participation, the right of assembly, the right to petition the authorities, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to protest in Peru. Therefore, the Mission urges that the Peruvian State be investigated for the use of abusive, disproportionate and illegal means to attack defenseless individuals, using advanced and lethal weapons.