- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

LIMA, Peru Vincente Janampa was 18 when Marxist rebels shot his uncle at the rural schoolhouse where he taught in the Ayacucho region high in the Andes.
Eighteen years later, Mr. Janampa worries that recent legal reforms induced by international pressure could free hundreds of the rebels, who were imprisoned in a crackdown that helped quash a civil war that left 30,000 dead in the 1980s and early 1990s.
"There are still followers out there in the countryside, and the terrorists could go back out preaching their doctrine," said Mr. Janampa, a city groundskeeper who now lives in the capital, Lima. "They should stay in prison."
Peru is having to deal with the legal legacy of the crackdown after a constitutional court last week struck down parts of the anti-terror laws used by then-President Alberto Fujimori to crush the insurgency.
The Constitutional Tribunal ruled against the use of secret military courts with hooded judges, and harsh sentences for terrorists and collaborators. The ruling came in response to recommendations from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the legal arm of the Organization of American States.
The ruling could open the way for new trials for some 900 people sentenced by the military courts, including rebel group Shining Path's founder Abimael Guzman. Nearly 2,000 people have been imprisoned on terrorism charges.
Legal experts say the ruling is unlikely to affect the case of New York native Lori Berenson, who was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in 1996 for a failed plot to attack Peru's Congress, but was later retried in a civilian court and given a 20-year sentence on the lesser charge of collaboration. She says both trials denied her due process.
In a nationally televised address on Tuesday, President Alejandro Toledo tried to allay Peruvians' concerns that the rebels would walk free and asked Congress for powers to draft new anti-terrorism laws. Lawmakers granted his request on Wednesday.
"The only thing the constitutional court has done is comply with an international legal ruling it in no way opens the doors to free terrorists," Mr. Toledo said.
But former anti-terrorism judge Marcos Ibazeta disagreed, saying that if there is not sufficient evidence to stand up in a civilian court, judges will be forced to free imprisoned rebels.
Peru's bogged-down, inefficient legal system also may have trouble bringing 900 people to trial in the 18 to 36 months mandated by law. If it fails to do so, many guerrillas could walk out.
Judge Pablo Talavera, president of the National Anti-terrorism Court, said about 400 detainees had asked for new trials even before the decision Jan 3. He expects the number to double in the coming months.
The draconian anti-terrorism laws decreed by Mr. Fujimori beginning in 1992 were initially popular with Peruvians weary of war, but later drew criticism for purportedly denying defendants fair trials.
By the early 1990s, the Maoist Shining Path had virtually driven the Peruvian government to its knees with a campaign of car bombings, political assassinations, and massacres of peasant communities that refused to support them.
Guzman's capture in 1992 and the anti-terrorism measures helped quash the guerrillas.
In 1999, the Inter-American court ruled that four Chileans jailed on terrorism charges should receive a new trial in an open civilian court. In response, Mr. Fujimori withdrew Peru from the court.
After the Fujimori government collapsed in 2000, Peru returned to the court's jurisdiction, and the Chileans were granted a new trial.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide