Justice opens criminal proceedings against Alberto Fujimori for forced sterilizations in the 1990s | International

Some of the victims of forced sterilization procedures in the Fujimori government.
Some of the victims of forced sterilization procedures in the Fujimori government.Courtesy

A judge has opened a new criminal proceeding this Saturday against the former Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori, admitted since October to a clinic in Lima, and four former high-ranking officials of his second government, in the 1990s, for the scandal of forced sterilizations . During this period, more than 340,000 tubal ligation and 24,000 vasectomies were performed as a poverty reduction policy. Specialists consider that at least 180,000 of these, practiced in two years, were in violation of human rights. The case, which has taken 12 years to reach the criminal phase, aims to bring justice to 1,307 complainants, most of them poor and indigenous women and men. This is the first time that the scandal has overcome judicial barriers, as similar cases were filed.

The complaint was presented to the Public Ministry in 2009. Judge Rafael Martínez heard in March the arguments of the prosecutor, Pablo Espinoza, of the accusation against the 83-year-old autocrat, the former health ministers Antonio Aguinaga, Marino Costa and Eduardo Yong, in addition of other officials. In September, the magistrate initiated the resolution. On the morning of this Saturday, the opening of a judicial investigation against the aforementioned politicians, in addition to the former health adviser, Ulises Jorge, was announced as “perpetrators (of crimes) due to dominance in the organized apparatus of power, in a context of serious violations of human rights”.

The judge supported in previous hearings the theory of the “man in the back” in hundreds of archival documents of public entities and testimonies of victims and defendants obtained by the Public Ministry. He explained that each health employee who recruited men and women by force or deceit to undergo surgery knew that “surgical contraception” was a priority for Fujimori and the former ministers. They ran the risk of being fired if they did not reach a monthly quota of sterilized people or could not obtain benefits such as bonuses or trips, offered if a goal was reached. In order to persuade the women, the workers threatened that they would lose social or food benefits, or with not giving them the documents of their newborn babies. Or directly report them to the police if they did not accept the procedure.

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Prosecutor Espinoza presented 187 documents and statements to accuse Fujimori and the former officials of the injuries that caused the death of several women, including Mamerita Mestanza and Celia Ramos, whose files reached the inter-American human rights system. Judge Martínez has set a period of 120 days for the investigation phase, in which the evidence of the crime must be gathered. Later the oral trial could come.

A new trial against the autocrat

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Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 in Peru to 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases, massacres committed in 1991 and 1992 by the Colina Group, an Army detachment created during his government. The Supreme Court of Chile granted in 2007 the extradition to his country to be tried for two crimes of human rights violations and five of corruption. Since then, various Peruvian administrations have requested the Chilean Supreme Court an extension of the extradition process to be able to prosecute him for new crimes.

This will start the judicial investigation without Fujimori for now. The Supreme Court of Chile must give its approval in a new extension of the extradition, which was requested by the Prosecutor’s Office in May. The judge has announced this Saturday that he will form a folder that must be sent to the Peruvian Supreme Court for review. If applicable, officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will prepare a report that must then be approved by the Council of Ministers. When this happens, the Executive will send the request to the Chilean judges.

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One of the former health ministers charged, Aguinaga, is currently a congressman from the opposition Popular Force party and Fujimori’s personal doctor. The autocrat and father of the leader of the opposition, Keiko Fujimori, left his place of confinement in October for surgery for coronary obstruction and has remained in a private clinic ever since.

The first organization of women victims of forced sterilizations was founded in Anta, Cusco region. Rute Zúñiga is one of the former complainants and heads the Association of Peruvian Women Affected by Forced Sterilizations in the district. This morning the members of the group followed the sessions of the judicial hearing on their mobile phones, which had an interpretation into Quechua. The activist María Esther Mogollón, who since the 90s has collected testimonies from the victims, reported that this Saturday there was no electricity in Anta so they could connect to the transmission on the Internet.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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