Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori listens to the judge's verdict about his sentence in prison, in Lima October 29, 2013. The Supreme Court of Justice denied  Fujimori's request to serve his sentence under house arrest. Fujimori was sentenced in April 2009 to 25 years in prison, in part, for his role in two massacres.

© 2013 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – Peru’s government should neither pardon former President Alberto Fujimori nor afford him any other opportunity for an early release from prison that is not broadly available to incarcerated criminals in Peru, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 22, 2017, the Economist reported that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said that the time to secure Fujimori’s release from prison was “about now.” He later clarified to the Peruvian media that his administration was only evaluating the idea.

“Any pardon or other politically motivated release of Fujimori would be a slap in the face to victims of atrocities in Peru and a major setback for the rule of law in the country,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “If there are legitimate health or humanitarian grounds for an early release, that option could be considered, but only through the same standards and procedures applicable to anyone else serving a prison sentence in Peru.”

Any pardon or other politically motivated release of Fujimori would be a slap in the face to victims of atrocities in Peru and a major setback for the rule of law in the country.

José Miguel Vivanco

Americas Director

Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for human rights violations, including his role in 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.

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights, whose judgments based on the American Convention on Human Rights are binding on Peru, has repeatedly ruled that “all amnesty provisions, and the establishment of measures designed to eliminate responsibility [for serious human rights violations] 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.” Victims should be entitled to an effective remedy under domestic law, including sanctions adequate to ensure meaningful accountability for serious human rights violations.

Short of a pardon, the most widely discussed avenue the government might use to secure Fujimori’s release would be procedures that allow for the release on humanitarian grounds of prisoners who are seriously ill. A 2013 effort to use these procedures to push for Fujimori’s release did not move forward because a medical team required to evaluate the prisoner’s medical conditions under Peruvian law ruled that Fujimori’s health conditions did not warrant his release. There are many situations in which countries can and even should allow for the possible early release of prisoners serving lengthy prison terms. However, the procedures for such releases should not be subject to political manipulation for the benefit of powerful or well-connected prisoners.

Kuczynski had, in the past, repeatedly said he would not pardon Fujimori. Although the president denies it, his apparent change of heart seems to be a reaction to growing pressure from Fujimori supporters who control the country’s Congress under the lead of Keiko Fujimori, Alberto Fujimori’s daughter and the runner-up in the 2016 tight presidential elections that Kuczynski won.

“The government should not just trade away the justice victims are entitled to as part of some political bargain,” Vivanco said. “We hope President Kuczynski will not yield to the pressure to pardon Fujimori.”