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Hundreds of Peruvian women were protesting the possible pardon of former President Alberto Fujimori last week, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence for human rights crimes and corruption during his term in office from 1990 to 2001. The protest highlighted Fujimori’s dark history of mass sterilizations committed by the National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Program, an alleged health program used to control the population in rural communities. The Health Ministry of Peru claims approximately 350,000 women and 25,000 men were forced to undergo sterilization, of which over 2,000 women experienced health complications following the procedure according to TeleSUR.
The protest took place outside the Special Operations Directorate of the Peruvian National Police where Fujimori is currently being held. One protester, Maria Ysabel Cedano, said “the president has to listen to the victims, there can be no reconciliation without justice, there can be no pardon without a resolution denouncing forced sterilizations and we can reach a fair trial,” according to TeleSUR. Further protests and marches are currently being planned by human rights organizations in hopes of raising international awareness and ultimately stopping President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski from pardoning Fujimori.
President Kuczynski proposed the possible pardon back in May of this year based on Fujimori’s declining health. The doctors had informed the President that Fujimori was in a fragile state after undergoing several surgeries for a recurrent growth on his tongue and experiencing an abnormally fast heartbeat, according to Reuters. During Kuczynski’s presidential campaign against Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, last year, he promised not to pardon Fujimori. However, Kuczynski is now considering going back on his word by pardoning Fujimori only if that is what is deemed appropriate by a team of doctors, according to Reuters. The argument is that as Fujimori’s health continues to diminish, he should be able to get adequate medical treatment, something he may only receive if he is pardoned.
An important point to consider regarding the potential pardon is that there were previous agreements made by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of San Jose which clearly state that there cannot be a pardon for those sentenced to thousands of human rights crimes. Human rights organizations have denounced the possibility of Fujimori’s release and are demanding answers as to why this is even a topic for debate in the first place considering the agreements in place. Carlos Rivera Paz, an attorney for the Legal Defense Institution, said the following regarding the potential breach of the agreement: “the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, IACHR, would intervene because it is transgressing a provision that they imposed for those convicted against humanity. In criminal law, the aggravated kidnapping for which Fujimori was convicted does not qualify either. If the Kuczynski government gives Fujimori grace, the political support they received last year would be lost forever,” TeleSUR reports.
Fujimori, who is now 78 years old, left office in 2000 and fled to Japan following a series of corruption and human rights abuse allegations, but was later extradited to face criminal charges in Peru in September 2007. In April 2009, Fujimori was found guilty of murder, bodily harm, two cases of kidnappings, embezzlement and bribery and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The verdict marked the first time a head of state has ever been extradited to their home country and convicted of human rights violations according to Bloomberg.
A pardon from the president would spark anger amongst leftist groups who helped elect him back in 2016. Kuczynski may be considering the pardon as a way to increase popularity among Congress, whose majority seats are held by Fujimori supporters. According to PanamPost, Kuczynski stated that “there are always political things happening in Peru everyday. This is a medical issue, nothing more. It’s not a legal or judicial issue.” Considering the agreements in place regarding non-pardon for those who commit human rights violations, Kuczynski could be entering dangerous waters if he decides to go down that route. Kuczynski made a promise during his election not to pardon Fujimori, so to go back on his word now does injustice to all victims of sterilization and to all that installed trust in him to uphold his commitment to the law.