Conflicts & War

Peru protesters’ deaths likely resulted from official policy, Amnesty says

Lima, May 25 (EFE).- The deaths of 49 civilians during months of anti-government protests in Peru were a consequence of decisions by the people in authority, Amnesty International says in a report presented here Thursday.

“Far from being isolated incidents due to rogue officers acting of their own accord, the number of deaths on multiple dates and in different locations suggests a deliberate and coordinated state response,” AI Secretary General Agnes Callamard said during a press conference in Lima.

“The Peruvian authorities must investigate the possibility that officials ordered or at least tolerated these killings, no matter how high up the chain of command it takes them,” she said.

“Using lethal firearms against protesters shows a blatant disregard for human life,” Callamard said.

AI’s report, Peru: Lethal racism: Extrajudicial executions and unlawful use of force by Peru’s security forces, includes detailed documentation of 52 instances of human rights violations between Dec. 7, 2022, and Feb. 9, 2023.

Twenty of the 25 deaths analyzed “may constitute extrajudicial executions,” Amnesty says. “In those 20 cases law enforcement fired live ammunition into highly vulnerable areas of the body (the head, neck, thorax and abdomen).”

The research also uncovered discrepancies between official accounts and facts on the ground.

“In the case of Juliaca, just two officers from the Special Operations Directorate reported the firing of four 7.62 caliber bullets with their AKM rifles on 9 January. Yet on that day at least 15 people were killed by lethal ammunition and dozens more were wounded with firearms,” the report says.

The authors point out that while the first protest death took place on Dec. 11, security forces stuck to the same approach over the succeeding weeks.

“The fact that day after day, serious injuries and deaths were reported caused by lethal ammunition and that the authorities did nothing to prevent this, would suggest a certain degree of intent or acceptance that the possible outcome of such actions would be deaths,” the report says.

Regarding the question of racial animus, AI notes that police and soldiers did not use lethal force in the Lima region, where indigenous and Afro-Peruvian people make up only 20 percent of the population.

Though there were 104 protests in the capital compared with 37 in the southern region of Ayacucho, “there was just one death in Lima … whereas 10 people were killed in Ayacucho, where 82 percent of the population is Indigenous or Afro-descendant,” the documents says.

Amnesty also criticizes Peru’s government, led by provisional President Dina Boluarte, for having “intentionally stigmatized protesters as violent and radical” while praising the conduct of the security forces.

The unrest was sparked by the Dec. 7 ouster of elected President Pedro Castillo following his attempt to dissolve Peru’s extremely unpopular Congress and call early elections.

Castillo, a schoolteacher of peasant background, announced the move hours before lawmakers were set to take up a motion to impeach him.

The legislature voted the same day to remove Castillo and elevate Boluarte to the presidency, and the ousted head of state remains behind bars pending trial on a raft of charges.

EFE pbc/dr

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