PERU: LATIN AMERICAN TRUTH COMMISSION HEAR STORIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FROM PEASANT WITNESSES
- Title: PERU: LATIN AMERICAN TRUTH COMMISSION HEAR STORIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FROM PEASANT WITNESSES
- Date: 10th April 2002
- Summary: HUAMANGA, PERU (APRIL 08, 2002) (REUTERS) LAS TILT DOWN/MV MEMBERS OF APRISTA PARTY PROTESTING AGAINST THE TRUTH COMMISSION (4 SHOTS)
- Reuters ID: LVABI87CQ7KD20NGDMCKNBJJMGEX
- Location: LIMA AND AYACUCHO, PERU
- Country: Peru
- Duration: 00:00:25
- Topics: Crime,General,Politics
- Story Text: Grim-faced, fighting back tears, Peruvian peasants on have told told horror stories from years of violence by the military, police and leftist rebels that killed 30,000 as the nation's truth commission held its first public hearings.
The emotional accounts were delivered in a university auditorium in Huamanga on Monday (April 8), near Ayacucho, the southern city where Peru's bloodiest rebel group, Shining Path, was born.
The Witness testimony opens the investigation into more than 2,000 cases of atrocities the commission has so far compiled.
It is the first time a Latin American truth commission has held public hearings. Peru is seeking to shed light on human rights atrocities committed between 1980 and 2000.
For much of that time, Peru was wracked by parallel wars by Shining Path and the smaller Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, both seeking to impose a communist state.
The rebel violence prompted take-no-prisoners tactics by the military.
Dozens of peasant women turned out for the first day of the hearing, many clutching red balloons to symbolize drops of blood and photographs of relatives who died or disappeared.
"I had a son, Arquimedes Mendoza, he was taken by the militaries. One day they (militaries) detained him at the door of his car and just took him away. I didn't come here to this meeting to lie", said Angelica Mendoza a peasant whose son has been missing from 1981.
Peru estimates that in addition to those killed by leftist rebels or the military, some 6,000 people simply vanished. The commission estimates that there are more than 150 mass graves scattered around the Andes.
Unlike South Africa's truth commission, the Peruvian body will not offer amnesties to those who confess crimes.
The first 16 cases will be heard Monday and Tuesday (April 9) in the city of Huamanga, Ayacucho. This first location is symbolic because it's the place where the conflict began in May 17, 1980 when terrorist forces entered the town of Chuschi and thwarted that year's presidential elections.
The next hearings will be held Thursday (April 11) and Friday (April 12) in the city of Huanta. Included in those cases is the January 26, 1983 assassination of eight journalists and their guide committed by local peasants, who were members of one of the first rounds of defence organised by militaries.
The most recent precedent similar to these public audiences is that of South Africa's between 1995 and 1998.
The Truth Commission that took place in that country after the fall of the racist South African regime, had an enormous social impact.
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