Human rights defenders under attack

In an intervention jointly addressed to the President and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Peru, the ICJ condemned the recently reported attack and threats made by supporters of ex-President Fujimori against human rights lawyer Gloria Cano and the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos.

13 February 2003

Dr. Alejandro Toledo
Presidente de la República
Calle Palacio de Govierno-Plaza Mayor s/n-
Cercado de Lima-Lima
Fax: 011511 311 3917 / 4266770

Dr. Fausto Alvarado Dodero
Ministro de Justicia
Ministerio de Justicia
Scipion Llona 350
Lima 18, Perú
Fax: 011511 422 3577

Dear Sirs,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) consists of jurists who represent all the regions and legal systems in the world working to uphold the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights. The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers is dedicated to promoting the independence of judges and lawyers throughout the world.

We are writing to you to express our concern regarding the alleged attack on 27 January against Licenciada Gloria Cano, a prominent human rights lawyer in Peru who has represented many victims of human rights abuses committed under the regime of ex-President Alberto Fujimori. Additionally, the ICJ is alarmed at the threats reportedly made against the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), a well-established and active human rights organisation in Lima, Peru.

It has come to our attention that Ms. Cano was allegedly attacked outside the offices of the APRODEH by a group of approximately 20 people believed to be Fujimori supporters. While Licenciada Cano’s colleagues were ultimately able to protect her and prevent the crowd from forcing their way inside the building, the group reportedly threatened further attacks against the organisation and its staff. It has been alleged that this attack was in retaliation for the recent APRODEH launch of the “Campaña contra la Impunidad y la Corrupción, which calls for the extradition of Fujimori from Japan.

Such attacks severely undermine the ability of APRODEH and other human rights defenders such as Licenciada Cano, to advocate for accountability for human rights violations committed under the Fujimori government. Moreover, impunity for such acts sends a message to both victims and society at large that justice cannot be served, thereby threatening victim rehabilitation and social reconciliation. For these reasons international human rights standards, including Resolution 1999/34 by the Commission on Human Rights, emphasise the need to combat impunity for human rights abuses.

In addition, we remind you of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990. In order to guarantee the effective functioning of lawyers, the Principles hold, in part, that:

Article 16
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.

Article 17
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

With specific regard to international protection for human rights defenders, we would like to draw your attention to the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1999. The Declaration states, in relevant part, that:

Article 12
1. Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

2. The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

3. In this connection, everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be protected effectively under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

As the alleged attack and threats against Licenciada Cano and members of the APRODEH are inconsistent with these human rights standards, we ask that there be a full and impartial investigation into these reported acts of intimidation, whereby those responsible are held accountable for their actions. Furthermore, we urge your government to take the necessary measures to ensure the safe and unfettered operations of all human rights defenders in Peru.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Doswald-Beck

cc: S.E. M. Jorge Voto-Bernales
Permanent Mission of Peru to the UN
And Other Organisations in Geneva
Avenue Louis Casaï 71
Case postale 160
1216 Cointrin
Fax: 022 791 7728 / 022 791 7729

cc: Ambassador Allan Wagner
Embassy of Peru
1700 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: 1 202 659 8124

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