No, it’s not April Fool’s Day, and so it’s not a joke in rather bad taste. As you might have guessed, we aren’t talking about Guatemala, but Peru, where earlier this week former President Alberto Fujimori was found guilty of ordering killings and kidnappings by the security forces. The verdict has been hailed by human rights groups, such as Amnesty International. Others take the view that Fujimori should be praised for saving Peru from the
Shining Path who were seen as having a credible chance at overthrowing the democratic regime. His daughter, who may run for the presidency, says she will pardon him if she comes to power.
For me it is an exciting verdict: it shows once again that no-one is above
the law, that even in a state or dire emergency any expedient cannot be used
and that it is possible to try the crimes of the past in the country where
they occur without having recourse to international or external courts. I
cannot claim a geat deal expertise on Peru: I travelled there quite
extensively when Sendero made some areas no go regions and was well aware
of their terror tactics and the fear induced in everyone. I would say that it is arguable that the thing which
stopped them in their tracks was the careful detective work which led to the
capture of Abimael Guzman alive – an effort which the police chief
was very careful to keep the "shoot ’em up" boys out of. Another illustration that the way to defeat those who break the law is not to break the law yourself – a lesson that seems to have been lost in quite a few other places recently. John Simpson’s book "In
the Forests of the Night" contains an interesting account of the investigation if you want to learn more.
Of course, when reading about this trial one cannot be but struck by the
comparisons and contrasts with the cases we are following in Guatemala, which hardly need repeating here. We have to believe, though it is often difficult, that if it can be done in Peru, in Cambodia, in Spain, in Rwanda, that it can be done there too.
I would love to
write one day the same headline about Guatemala. Nevertheless, I was interested
to see this week that the CICIG says it has enough evidence to indict former
president Alfonso Portillo for embezzling public funds and that they intend to press
a prosecution. "Former President found guilty of financial abuses" hasn’t quite the same ring to it.