International Law Restricts Pardons for Grave Violations
October 11, 2012
It would be a grave mistake for Humala to give Fujimori special treatment, especially given the magnitude of his crimes. An early custodial release for the former president should be considered only if based on a thoroughly credible and conclusive medical evaluation of the seriousness of his illness, and on the same standards and procedures that apply to any other convicted criminal in Peru.
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director

Arbitrarily releasing former President Alberto Fujimori from serving his full prison sentence for human rights crimes would be incompatible with Peru’s obligations under international law, Human Rights Watch said today. Fujimori has been receiving medical treatment for cancer of the tongue, and his family presented a request for pardon to President Ollanta Humala on October 10, 2012.

Although early release of a seriously ill prisoner on humanitarian grounds is a legitimate practice, it should only be granted on the basis of an independent, thorough, and conclusive medical determination of the gravity of the prisoner’s condition and the seriousness of the risk continued detention might pose. The former president should not be granted special treatment not afforded to other convicted criminals who are serving prison time for serious crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

“It would be a grave mistake for Humala to give Fujimori special treatment, especially given the magnitude of his crimes,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “An early custodial release for the former president should be considered only if based on a thoroughly credible and conclusive medical evaluation of the seriousness of his illness, and on the same standards and procedures that apply to any other convicted criminal in Peru.”

The former president was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for human rights violations, including the extrajudicial execution of 15 people in the Barrios Altos district of Lima, the enforced disappearance and murder of nine students and a teacher from La Cantuta University, and two abductions.

The Peruvian Constitution grants the president the power to issue pardons. However, it also states that the rights recognized in the constitution should be interpreted in accordance with international treaties ratified by Peru. Under international law, states must investigate and punish perpetrators of serious human rights abuses. That duty cannot be undermined by pardons, amnesties, or other domestic legal provisions that effectively bestow immunity on those responsible for such abuses.

Peru is a party to the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights, whose judgments are binding on Peru, has ruled that, “All amnesty provisions, and the establishment of measures designed to eliminate responsibility are inadmissible under the convention, because they are intended to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture, extra-legal, summary or arbitrary execution and forced disappearance, all of them prohibited because they violate non-derogable rights recognized by international human rights law.”