Topic: Human Rights in the Fight Against Terror
Highland Park Highschool
Camila Marcone and Shir Miretzky
On May 17, 1980 Peru was set to hold its first democratic elections after twelve years of military dictatorship. It was on that day that Sendero Luminosos (Shining Path) launched their first terrorist attack; they burned ballot boxes in a small rural town called Chuschi, about thirty miles away from the city Ayacucho. Six months later Sendero Luminoso struck again, hanging dog carcasses from lampposts along the main streets of Lima, the capital of Peru; dogs which were representative of, “the running dogs of capitalism,” (Bonner). These actions were reminiscent of Maoist China, and that was just what Sendero Luminoso, commonly referred to as SL, wanted. Sendero Luminoso, is a Maoist Leftist group born in Ayacucho, Peru, in the late 1960’s at the National University at San Cristobal of Huamanga in the same city. César Rodriguez Cabanal, a past director of the Center for Psychoanalysis and Society (an NGO based in Lima), remarked that although it is only forty minutes by plane from Lima to Ayacucho, “from Lima to Ayacucho you pass though a hundred years of evolution,” meaning that Ayacucho has always been far away enough from the capital to escape the eye of the government, a fact which facilitated the growth and development of Sendero Luminoso (Bonner). Sendero Luminoso, whose mission is to destroy the existing government in Peru and replace it with a new regime lead by the party itseld, is a faction of the Peruvian Communist Party which was originally founded in the 1920’s by Jose Carlos Mariategui. Sendero even borrows its name from Mariategui, who often wrote about communism as the “shinning path that would lead Peru to equality” (“Sendero Luminoso”). Sendero Luminoso also represented a final complaint, and a violent complaint about being denied access to modernization due to their geographical location. Like many terrorist groups, SL is made up of two distinct branches: one political and one military, where the political branch makes the decisions and the military branch carries them out. It is also highly hierarchical. Until his capture by undercover police in 1992, the leader of the political branch was Abimael Guzmán, who went by the nom de guerre Comrade Gonzalo (Gregory). Much like Lenin used the workers and Mao used the peasants to propel socialism and communism in Russia and China, Guzman used the university. By 1968 Guzman and other Senderistas had gained control of the university in Ayacucho and took advantage of that control to teach Marxism to all first year students, who post-graduation would carry this Senderista mindset back to the country-side which they hailed from. However, as the National University at San Cristobal of Huamanga gained fame for being radically leftist, other leftist groups began to encroach upon Sendero Luminoso’s territory, eventually leading up to Guzmán going into hiding in 1978, at this point most inhabitants of Ayacucho considered Sendero to be a joke, however, in 1980 Sendero came out from hiding fully formed and ready to finish the work it had begun (“Sendero Luminoso”).
In the aftermath of their revival in 1980 the human rights violations by both Sendero Luminoso and the Peruvian government escalated to an unbearable high. In true Maoist fashion, the Senderistas sought to bring the revolution from the countryside to the city, essentially waging a rural war (Wurgaft). They began by entering peasant villages and towns and killing political leaders, either democratically elected or appointed by the government in Lima, as well as merchants and large property owners. Faced with pressure from non-ruling parties the government in Lima, with Alberto Fujimori as president, decided to involve the military in the fight against terror, unbound by the rules and regulations of common law enforcement, and the Peruvian constitution, the military counters Sendero’s dirty war in the 1980’s resulting in numerous human rights violations. People are arrested without evidence, convicted without trial, families never see each members ever again, and the war on terror evolves into leverage for the non-ruling political parties of Peru to gain votes for the next elections. Eventually, Sendero left its back exposed, by relocating to Lima, and suffered a catastrophic blow in 1992 when their leader Abimael Guzmán is captured by undercover police who had infiltrated Sendero’s ranks (Gregory). At this time in history Alberto Fujimori is still president, and throughout the rest of his presidency Sendero disappeared and retreated back into the jungle.
Why as a representative of the state of Peru would I so openly admit the human rights violations of the Peruvian government? Because the Peruvian government admits them as well. You cannot heal a mortal wound by simply putting a bandage over it, in this case the bandage of time, and never looking back, you have to medicate it. Peru’s medication, created by the provisional government in the aftermath of Fujimori’s impeachment, is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a non-governmental organization, although it is government sponsored, is dedicated to, “clarifying the process and facts occurred [from 1980 to 2000], as well as the corresponding responsibilities, not only of those who executed them but also who ordered or tolerated them, while, at the same, time proposing initiatives to strengthen peace and reconciliation among all Peruvians,” (“Background”). This commission, similar to those in Chile, El Salvador, and Panama, investigates the government as well as terrorist groups. What is special about the Peruvian commission is that regardless of what the findings say about the government during the period of political unrest from the 1980’s to 2000, the Peruvian government continues to fund it. The very name of the organization speaks of Peru’s commitment to redressing the wrongdoings of the lost decades, it’s not just the “truth committee” it is the truth and reconciliation committee (“Background”). The Commission presented its final report, composed of twelve volumes and twelve annexes, to the then president of Peru, Alejandro Toldedo on August 23, 2003, it found, “that during the two decades of internal armed conflict thousands of serious abuses of fundamental rights had been committed by armed opposition groups, mainly Shining Path and, to a lesser extent, the MRTA, and that gross violations of human rights, which, at certain times and in certain places, were systematic and widespread and amounted to crimes against humanity, had been committed by State officials, especially the Armed Forces,” since this time the Peruvian government has transformed its counter terrorism strategy in a way that only the police, not the military, can get involved in fighting terror (“Peru: The Truth”). In committee Peru would call for the development of more Truth Commissions and would suggest that they be government funded because of the apology and positive message of commitment which that sends to the global community about the government of the country in question. One of the results of the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation has been the creation of a photographic exhibit titled Yuyanapaq, a Quechua word meaning “to forget,” which visually chronicles the violence in Peru during the 1980’s and 1990’s, currently it is on display in Peru’s national museum in Lima (“The Commission”).
As early as 1997, Peru was making amends it human rights violations during the war against terror. In November of that year Peruvian officials pardoned more then eighty people wrongfully convicted on terrorism (‘Peru Pardons”). Another proactive measure Peru has taken to address the human rights violations by the government during Fujimori’s term and president and then as dictator is to arrest and try him. Recently, on September 30th he was convicted of illegal wire tapping and bribes. The Supreme Court of Lima sentenced Fijimori to six years in prison in addition to the $8 million fine to the state of Peru, and a $30,000 fine to each wire-tapping victim (“Fujimori Gets”). The Peruvian Supreme court has also sentenced Fujimori to 6 years (each) in prison for the Barrios Altos and Cantuta killings (“Fujimori Gets”), in the Barrios Altos killing, Fujimori ordered a death squad to raid Barrios Altos, a poor suburb of Lima without concrete evidence of terrorist activity, 15 civilians were killed. In the Cantuta Massacre, Fujimori ordered a group of para-militaries to enter the Cantuta’s university, known for producing many leftist thinkers, and shoot a group of students, 10 people were killed (“Fujimori trial”). Peru has also supported the General Assembly’s resolution for the “Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism,” passed this year, which, “Deeply deplores the suffering caused by terrorism to the victims and their families, expresses its profound solidarity with them, and stresses the importance of providing them with assistance,” (“Protection”) which Peru has demonstrated willingness to do with the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. Peru also supported, “The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” and would encourage countries to develop their own counter terrorism strategies with assistance from SocHum, when desired (“The United Nations”). With these actions and convictions Peru hopes to raise the bar for diplomacy in other states afflicted by terrorism as well as make evident that Peru learns from the mistakes it makes.
Bearing the weight of this history in mind, Peru faces a new set of issues in dealing with terrorism. Although Sendero Luminoso’s shine has been all but eradicated since the capture of Abimael Guzmán, Shining Path may be on the rise again. A man known as “Artemio”is the last of the remaining heads of the political branch of Sendero Luminoso, he was almost captured in July of this past year, but evaded police by the skin of his teeth (Yaranga 2). Additionally, on the 27 of August of this past year an army platoon was ambushed by Sendero Luminoso in Ayacucho, killing two soldiers (Yaranga 3). Why the sudden increase in guerilla warfare and terrorist action? Narcotics and drug trafficking. After the capture of Abimael Guzman SL retreated into the rainforestucho, staying close to rivers, one of these the Vrae River, which has been sustaining the Asháninka people since before the Incas came to Peru (Yaranga 1). Despite the fact that Peru has been relatively stable for nearly a decade the Asháninkas continue to have their human rights violated by Sendero Luminoso and The Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru, another leftist terrorist group. For profit and for pleasure both of these terrorist groups, weakened due to lack do leadership,have become forerunner’s in Peru’s drug trade. They fabricate cocaine in the rainforests near Ayachucho, and transport the drug via waterways. However, all of this drug trafficking has severely polluted rivers, such as the Vrae River the Asháninkas depend on so much. Furthermore, since the 1980’s over 6000 Asháninkas were massacred when Sendero Luminoso invaded there valley, countless others have been forced into slavery working for the drug traffickers (Yaranga 1).
Despite all of this Peru remains optimistic in the belief that terrorism will be eradicated. After the success of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru advocates the creation of commissions in other countries plagued by terrorism because it has been an effective way to rebuild the bridges burned linking the government to its people in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Peru suggests that these commissions be sponsored by the government, as the governments way of showing commitment to its people, but that interaction between the commission and the government should be limited to that (“The Commission”). Furthermore, Peru would look favorably on a resolution which discourages military involvement in the fight against terror, and encourages only police force and police investigations. Or military involvement, but on the a “war mission” level. In other words, the military would work with the police force to combat terrorism, but would not be granted the same powers granted during times of war.(“Commission”). Furthermore, Peru stresses the importance of intelligence operations, rather than military operations as a strategy for combating terrorism. In conjunction with this Peru believes that countries should require the members of their police force to be fluent in at least one of the country’s indigenous languages, if applicable. Peru realizes that SocHum could facilitate this learning of languages by working with countries, upon invitation to create special language learning software geared towards the police force. Peru also calls for a streamlining of terrorist trials to reduce the time they take, thus enabling terrorist victims to receive compensation sooner. Peru believes in the necessity of a Declaration of Human Rights for the Terrorist, outlining a supposed terrorist’s rights while waiting for a trial, when on trial, and after whether convicted or not. Peru would like to see SocHum create incentives for developing countries to allocate more of their funds for fighting terror to compensating victims. Peru would also like to see a resolution which frowns heavily upon racial profiling, and calls for airports to submit plans to their government on their random search processes. With international cooperation and by keeping history of terrorism in mind, Peru has no doubt that a future can be created without it.
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