GENEVA (6 March 2023) – UN experts* today expressed deep concern about ongoing allegations of repression, arbitrary killings, arrests, detention, and enforced disappearances of demonstrators in Peru and urged authorities to establish a genuine dialogue with the people to end the country’s political crisis.
“Serious allegations of excessive use of force by security forces and the Government’s inability to create a conducive environment for dialogue are a matter of great concern,” the experts said.
On 7 December 2022, the Peruvian Congress voted to remove from office the then president, Pedro Castillo, after he was accused of having attempted to dissolve Congress. Mr. Castillo was arrested that same afternoon and remains in pre-trial detention on charges of rebellion and conspiracy. He was replaced by Mrs. Dina Boluarte, previously vice-president, who was sworn in as the president of Peru, in accordance with the Constitution.
Protests erupted across the country to demand the closure of Congress, organisation of general elections, constitutional reform, and the release of Mr. Castillo. In reaction to the protests, the Government declared a state of emergency for one month that has been renewed twice. New general elections have not been scheduled and demands for constitutional reform have not been addressed.
“In any democratic society, people have the right to protest and raise their concerns about political changes that affect their lives and livelihoods. Peru’s democracy is facing a credibility crisis which can only be resolved through genuine dialogue, involving the population and taking into account their aspirations for reform,” the UN experts said.
According to the latest report published by the Ombudsperson’s Office, since the protests began in December 2022, 48 protestors and one law enforcement agent have been killed, while 1301 persons have been injured. Hundreds have been arrested. Allegations of at least one case of enforced disappearance of demonstrators have been received.
The experts explained that an initially lawful detention can lead to enforced disappearance if the detaining authorities do not acknowledge that a person is detained or do not provide information about his or her fate or whereabouts, regardless of the duration of the deprivation of liberty or concealment of information. “It is important to provide information to the victims and their families about advances in the investigations”, they said.
The experts expressed concerns about reports of violence against journalists and media workers covering the protests, including deliberate targeting by police forces, and urged the Government to take all measures necessary to ensure that journalists covering the events can operate safely.
The experts reiterated the obligation of the State to conduct thorough, prompt, effective, impartial and independent investigations into alleged human rights violations. They recalled that accountability for human rights violations committed during the protests must be guaranteed.
The experts underlined the important role played by the Ombudsperson’s Office in monitoring and collecting evidence of violations and called on the authorities to support the institution, to guarantee its independence and ensure the safety of its staff.
The experts called on the State to remember that the use of force – especially lethal armed force – must respond to the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. Any loss of life resulting from the excessive use of force without strict compliance with these principles is an arbitrary deprivation of life and therefore unlawful. Alleged unlawful deaths should be investigated in compliance with the Revised Version of the UN Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths, 2016).
“While the State must ensure accountability for reported acts of violence committed by some protestors, a distinction must be made between those who exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and those who commit acts of violence in the context of demonstrations,” the experts said.
The experts expressed concern about the stigmatisation of people exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly as terrorists, and the consequent judicial prosecution of people on terrorism-related charges. They said the repression had disproportionally affected human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and peasant communities. The experts reiterated the obligation of the State to ensure that people exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly were not subjected to intimidation and reprisals.
The experts called for a swift political solution, taking into account the need for accountability, and an end to violence and repression in the context of the protests.
The human rights experts have also raised their concerns with the Government in a communication.
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Mr. Clément N. Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms.Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms.Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Ms.Angkhana Neelapaijit, Ms.Grażyna Baranowska, Mr. Luciano Hazan, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Chair Rapporteur), Mr. Mumba Malila (Vice-chairperson), Ms. Ganna Yudkiviska, Ms. Priya Golapan, and Mr. Matthew Gillett, Working Group on arbitrary detention;Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression