(Washington, DC) — The ruling by Chilean Judge Orlando Alvarez denying Peru’s request for the extradition of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is fundamentally flawed, Human Rights Watch said today.

The decision made on July 11, 2007 cannot be reconciled with the opinion of Chief Supreme Court Prosecutor Monica Maldonado, issued in recent weeks, which recommended Fujimori’s extradition.

“The Chilean judge’s decision not to extradite Fujimori to Peru makes little sense,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The judge completely ignored key pieces of evidence against Fujimori identified by the prosecutor, while giving extraordinary weight to information that’s barely relevant.”

The judge’s decision does not question the fact that most of the human rights abuses and corruption attributed to Fujimori did in fact take place. However, he concludes that there is insufficient evidence of Fujimori’s participation in the crimes.

Human Rights Watch noted that the evidentiary standard for extradition under Chilean law is only that evidence must be sufficient to establish probable cause to file charges against the defendant.

“Whether or not there is sufficient evidence to convict Fujimori should be determined in Peru at a much later stage, after extradition, prosecution, and trial,” said Vivanco. “Yet Judge Alvarez seems not to have understood his limited role, instead making himself the final decider of fact in the case.”

Human Rights Watch said that the judge’s ruling was inconsistent with the evidence in the case files, and believed the ruling would be overturned on appeal.

“We trust that when the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court looks at all the evidence, it will reach a dramatically different conclusion,” said Vivanco.

Human Rights Watch cited several examples of Alvarez's failure to even mention the key evidence in several important cases, which Human Rights Watch had previously described in its 2005 report, "Probable Cause: Evidence Against Fujimori."

Barrios Altos/La Cantuta

Alvarez mistakenly asserts that there is no evidence directly linking Fujimori to the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres in 1991 and 1992. But he fails to mention the extensive videotaped statements of Santiago Martin Rivas, the operational head of the Colina Group death squad, a transcript of which was in the file. As noted by Maldonado, the statements are strong evidence that Fujimori knew of the existence and operations of the Colina Group, which was established to conduct illegal operations, including extrajudicial executions of suspects.

The judge also fails to mention the extensive evidence of Fujimori’s complete control over the armed forces at the time of the Cantuta massacre, given his coup earlier that year. Instead, he chooses to give tremendous weight to the statements of some military officers who say that Fujimori gave them orders to respect human rights, concluding that “there is an absence of political decisions tending to promote a repressive regime that carried with it a violation of human rights.”

Human Rights Watch said that this conclusion was thoroughly inconsistent with the fact that Fujimori established a whole legal structure allowing violations of human rights such as widespread arbitrary detention and denial of due process.

Diverting State Funds

One of the other serious charges against Fujimori is having diverted, throughout much of his presidency, millions of dollars in public funds for his own and his relatives’ benefit. The bulk of the funds were diverted through a complex scheme by which funds were secretly transferred from various government entities to secret accounts of the National Intelligence Service (SIN) managed by his close advisor Vladimiro Montesinos. In this manner, Fujimori allegedly was able to obtain large sums of money, which he used to increase his monthly personal income and to fund the bribery, extortion, and concentration of power that so damaged Peru’s democratic institutions during his government.

Judge Alvarez concluded that, while there is evidence that the funds were transferred to the SIN, there is no evidence of Fujimori’s direct participation in irregular transfers.

He reaches this conclusion by failing to mention the extensive testimony by Montesinos stating that the diverted funds were used for a variety of illegal purposes, including bribes, following Fujimori’s orders. Alvarez also fails to mention the testimony by Montesinos, by his former secretary Maria Angelica Arce, and by his former accountant Matilde Pinchi, stating that every month Fujimori had Montesinos deliver a sum of money, drawn from SIN accounts, for Fujimori’s and his family’s personal use.

Alvarez mentions, but then dismisses for unclear reasons, testimony from an Army General about Fujimori’s direct orders to secure the transfers.

Payment of US$15 Million to Montesinos

The judge’s analysis of these charges is particularly bizarre. He recognizes that Montesinos and former Minister of Economy Carlos Boloña both testified that Fujimori gave orders to have US$15 million illegally taken from the public treasury and given to Montesinos. He also recognizes that there is corroborating testimony from other witnesses as to the transfer.

However, despite this evidence, the judge concludes that because the testimony is inconsistent as to the purpose of the transfer (i.e. whether it was to be used for a future presidential run by Fujimori, or as a payment to Montesinos — either of which would have been an illegal use of the funds), there is insufficient evidence of Fujimori’s participation in the crime.

Phone Tapping

The judge asserts that there is “no witness who has testified as to having received an order personally from [Fujimori] or having witnessed” an order by Fujimori to conduct phone tapping.

But the judge, for unclear reasons, dismisses the testimony of Montesinos, who said Fujimori ordered the phone-tapping scheme. He also ignores the testimony of Army Brigade General Gerardo Luis Pérez del Águila, who testified that when he discovered phone-tapping equipment operating in the palace, he ordered that it be disconnected, but then received specific orders from Fujimori to reinstall the equipment.

The judge’s decision contains similar factual oversights and puzzling analysis with respect to various other charges.