This past Wednesday marked twenty years since the La Cantuta Massacre during Peru’s civil war. Today, the justice for that case, as well as Barrios Altos Massacre and other violations of human rights, took a major step back, as Peru’s Supreme Court reduced the sentences of high-ranking officials and members of death squads for their roles in the massacres. In its ruling, the court argued that the massacres constituted murder rather than human rights violations. Among other reductions, Vladimiro Montesinos, the former head of the Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (National Intelligence Service; SIN) and the man ultimately responsible for the paramilitary death squads of Grupo Colina, had his sentence reduced from 25 to 20 years, while other members of Grupo Colina saw their sentences reduced from 20 to 17 years, and former military chief Alberto Pinto, who had been sentenced to 15 years, was immediately freed. There is no way to appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling, meaning that the reductions will stand and men involved with direct human rights violations will be set free sooner. Not only is this “an embarrassment” for Peru, as President Ollanta Humala put it, but it is also a significant step backwards in addressing justice and state-sponsored human rights violations during Peru’s civil war. Perhaps most importantly, this also likely opens up old wounds for the victims’ families, who have already suffered from the government’s actions for decades. Disgraceful.
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