Fujimori gets life term

Published : May 08, 2009 00:00 IST

Alberto Fujimori at the court, on April 7.-REUTERS

Alberto Fujimori at the court, on April 7.-REUTERS

ALBERTO FUJIMORI, former President of Peru, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a special Bench of the countrys Supreme Court on charges of human rights abuse, including murder and kidnapping. The 70-year-old Fujimori will now conceivably spend the rest of his life in prison.

The progress of the case against Fujimori, who ruled Peru with an iron hand for more than 10 years, was followed with great interest throughout Latin America. This is the first time that a democratically elected head of state has been convicted for abuse of power in the region. The Switzerland-based International Commission of Jurists said the courts decision constitutes a new step for justice in Latin America and in the world: a former head of state, democratically elected, has been found guilty of crimes against humanity by a national court.

Other heads of state in Latin America, such as General Augusto Pinochet, the former President of Chile, who may have been guilty of far more grievous crimes were allowed to retire, go into exile or die peacefully in bed. Fujimori too had fled to Japan (he is the son of Japanese immigrants) after his administration started unravelling in 2000 following revelations of his governments involvement in the bribing of parliamentarians. Graphic evidence of the involvement of Vladimir Montesinos, his spy chief, trying to buy off legislators was aired on the national television. Montesinos, who was given a free hand by Fujimori to conduct anti-insurgency and covert activities, is also serving a life sentence in Peru.

The charges, which the three-member Bench upheld, included Fujimoris involvement in two massacres of civilians carried out by a military death squad called Grupo Colina. The judges, in their 711-page ruling, described Fujimori as the intellectual author of the massacres in a working class district of the capital, Lima, and in the University of La Cantuta. The court also held Fujimori responsible for the kidnapping of two journalists in 1992. The former President was sentenced last year for six years in another case pertaining to misuse of power. Ninety witnesses and experts testified in 160 sessions during the proceedings against Fujimori.

A defiant Fujimori vehemently proclaimed his innocence throughout the 15-month-long trial. He tried to portray the trial as politically motivated and described himself as the man who rescued his countrymen from the twin threats of hyperinflation and terrorism. His supporters, led by his 33-year-old daughter and political heir Keiko Fujimori, staged demonstrations outside the court premises and elsewhere in Lima protesting against the verdict.

A recent opinion poll showed that around 30 per cent of Peruvians support the former Presidents policies. Fujimoris daughter, who has signalled her intention to run for the presidency, described the Supreme Courts verdict as a victory for terrorist groups.

During the trial, Fujimori told the judges that the current President, Alan Garcia, should also have been called to account for the massacre of peasants during his first term of office in the late 1980s. In 1986, when Garcia was President, 300 guerillas of the Shining Path, a Maoist group, were murdered in two separate prison complexes.

A key segment of the populace continues to remain diehard supporters of the former President. They credit Fujimori with having brought in economic and political stability to the country. Their numbers may only increase, mainly owing to the political and economic mismanagement by Garcia, who is serving a second term in office after a gap of more than 16 years. By the mid-1990s, Fujimori had liquidated the top leadership of the Shining Path. Their leader, Abimael Guzman, was arrested in 1992 and is serving a life sentence.

The trial and conviction of Fujimori has already had a global ripple effect. There are calls for the same legal yardstick to be applied to George W. Bush and Tony Blair for their crimes against humanity, which are more brutal and larger in scope than the crimes of Fujimori.

The Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who first shot into fame by trying to get Pinochet tried in Europe for crimes against humanity, has now opened criminal investigations against five senior Bush administration officials. They include Alberto Gonzales, a Bush administration Attorney General and Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defence and a neoconservative ideologue. The investigations relate to allegations of torture against detainees in the United States military base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

John Cherian
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment