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Peru: Investigate Threats Against Rights Defender

Ex-Head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports Threatening Calls, Poisoned Dogs

(Washington, DC) - Peruvian law enforcement authorities should take immediate action to investigate threats against the former president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, and ensure his safety, Human Rights Watch said today.

Lerner has reported that on September 5, 2009, unknown persons poisoned his dogs on his property, killing them. This week, he received anonymous phone calls both at his house and at his office at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the Catholic University of Peru. The caller left a message warning, "What we did to your dogs, we will do to you," he said.

"These threats appear very serious, and the Peruvian authorities need to find those responsible quickly," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "Such threats against a prominent human rights defender like Dr. Lerner could have an intimidating effect on the country's entire human rights community."

Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its report in 2003, Lerner has been a victim of several incidents of harassment and has received repeated threats by phone and email.

Lerner is a distinguished academic and an important figure in the field of human rights in Peru. In addition to presiding over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lerner is the president of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights and rector emeritus of the Catholic University of Peru. He is vice president of a commission charged with creating a Museum of Memory, which will focus on human rights abuses in Peru.

"This is still a delicate time for human rights defenders in Peru, given the longstanding lack of action to stem abuse," Vivanco said. "The conviction of former President Alberto Fujimori was a significant step forward, but it is a fragile gain. The government needs to show clearly that harassment and threats against human rights defenders are not permissible."

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