Presumption of Guilt

Human Rights Violations and the Faceless Courts in Peru

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The incarceration of hundreds of innocent prisoners charged or convicted of terrorist crimes they did not commit is now an open secret in Peru. While there may be disagreement about the numbers unjustly prosecuted by Peru's "faceless courts," no one in Peru, including the architect of the court system, President Alberto Fujimori, denies that the problem exists. Those caught up in the system are presumed guilty and have minimal opportunities to demonstrate their innocence. In recent years, the Minister of Justice, the former prosecutor for terrorism, Fujimori himself, and many lawmakers have proposed the creation of special mechanisms such as a review commission to remedy defects in the trials, at least in those cases where there are compelling reasons to believe in the defendant's innocence. Yet nothing has been done to establish any such mechanism. In the meantime, faceless military and civilian courts, conducting secret trials behind prison walls, continue to sentence Peruvians to decades of imprisonment in life-threatening conditions without offering them the basic judicial process guarantees required by international human rights law.

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