November 11, 2005

Fujimori’s arrest in Chile gives rights victims hope

By Robin Emmott

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - With quiet sorrow, Carmen Oyague
recalls how the blistered remains of her daughter's torso were
found in a mass grave 12 years ago with nine others, killed by
a death squad on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Oyague, one of hundreds of families fighting for justice
for the human rights abuses under the 1990-2000 rule of Peru's
ex-President Alberto Fujimori, now believes she may finally see
the former leader punished.

Fujimori's surprise visit to Chile on Sunday ended his
self-exile in his ancestral homeland Japan, where he fled when
a huge corruption scandal felled his hardline government in
2000, has brought new hope to victims' families.

Many do not seek compensation but rather that the
ex-president should be forced to accept responsibility for one
of the darkest points in the Andean nation's recent history
that saw abuses from the assassination of suspected rebels to
the torture of journalists.

"We never quite lost hope, but when I heard the news on
Sunday I got so excited and I thought that at last we will
bring him to justice," said Oyague, visibly moved and with a
black-and-white photo of her daughter hung from her neck.

Fujimori, who says he will return to Peru to run in next
April's elections despite being barred from public office until
2011, is under arrest in Chile pending an extradition hearing.

Rights lawyers and families are confident that Chile's
transparent justice system will extradite Fujimori -- if Peru
files the request in the required 60 days. But they are
concerned that Peru's often corrupt judiciary might not produce
a guilty verdict.

Fujimori denies any wrongdoing and Japan refused to
extradite him from Tokyo, considering him a Japanese national.

But he faces more than 20 charges against him, the most
serious that he sanctioned the use of death squads to kill 15
people, including a child, at the Barrios Altos district in
Lima on November 3, 1991, along with nine students and a
professor at Lima's La Cantuta University on July 18, 1992.

The killings were part of a government-backed attempt to
crush brutal Maoist Shining Path rebels who attempted to impose
communism in Peru from 1980 until the capture of their leader,
Abimael Guzman in 1992.

Some 70,000 people were killed between 1980 and the
mid-1990s as two parallel wars between state security forces
and the Shining Path and Marxist MRTA guerrillas ripped this
poor Andean nation apart.

"How can they say my brother was a terrorist?" asked Carmen
Amaro, whose brother Armando disappeared at La Cantuta. "He was
an electronics student. It is just a way to justify his
assassination," she added.


Fujimori, a former university rector who came from nowhere
to win the 1990 elections, is credited with vanquishing the
rebel groups, and is remembered by millions of poor Peruvians
for bringing water, schools and electricity to remote regions
neglected for decades by previous governments.

But human rights lawyers say his methods were too brutal.

They hope to have him stand trial in Peru's high security
Callao Naval Base, where Fujimori's former spymaster and
right-hand man, Vladimiro Montesinos, is imprisoned and on
trial for graft and gun-running to Colombia's FARC guerrillas.

"We don't have a video of him giving the orders but there
are many testimonies. He who gives the order commits the same
crime as he who carries it out," said Miguel Jugo, director of
Peruvian rights nongovernmental organization, Aprodeh.

Peruvian rights groups have sent lawyers and victims
families to Chile to ensure that charges of human rights
violations are included in the extradition request and to lobby
the Chilean government to transfer Fujimori to prison.

"We want to participate in the extradition. It's an act of
national justice," said Alejandro Silva, deputy director for
Peru's National Human Rights Coordinator.

(Additional reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima)