On April 7th, 2009, a three-judge panel of the Peruvian Supreme Court convicted former Peruvian president- Alberto Fujimori of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.During his tenure as president, Fujimori presided over extrajudicial killings and kidnappings, among other crimes, committed by military death squads in a crackdown against leftist insurgencies. The historic verdict marked the first extradition and conviction of an elected head of state by a national court in his home country for human rights crimes. CJA worked closely with Peruvian NGOs and prosecutors to help prepare witness testimony and brief numerous legal issues.
Peru – a country still recovering from a 20-year internal conflict that claimed some 70,000 lives – has proved to the world that even a young, vulnerable democracy can uphold the rule of law in a time of crisis.
After fleeing the country in scandal and faxing in his resignation from Japan in November of 2000, Fujimori returned from exile in 2005 with hopes of regaining the presidency. His return was a miscalculation: Fujimori was arrested in Chile, extradited to Peru and ultimately tried and convicted for the murder of 25 innocent civilians by a military death squad. Fujimori did not reckon with the ‘justice cascade’ that has swept across Latin America. Despite enduring some of the worst human rights abuses of the last fifty years, Latin America now leads the world in accountability.
Riding the crest of this wave, the Fujimori trial was the product of a transnational collaboration between Peruvian NGOs, the Peruvian prosecutors and foreign experts. CJA assisted in the prosecution of Fujimori by partnering with the Peruvian non-governmental organization, APRODEH (The Association for Human Rights in Peru) and entering into a formal co-counsel relationship with the Peruvian prosecution team.
CJA’s Role in the Prosecution
CJA International Attorney Almudena Bernabeu traveled to Lima to prepare two expert witnesses who testified for the prosecution. Jose Antonio Martin Pallin, an emeritus justice of the Spanish Supreme court, testified on state terrorism and state crimes. Kate Doyle, from the National Security Archive, testified on declassified U.S. documents on human rights abuses carried out under the Fujimori government. In addition, CJA briefed numerous legal issues for the prosecution including procedural rules on the admissibility of declassified documents in Spanish and U.S. law. The legal standards set forth in CJA’s brief were extensively quoted in Fujimori’s verdict by the Justices.
With this victory, the transnational approach to justice in Latin America has come into its own. Even in Central America – where many judicial systems have been plagued by the endemic corruption and violence of narco-trafficking – a new generation of national and international judges, lawyers and activists are leading the way towards restoring the rule of law in the face of past abuses.
Alberto Fujimori appealed the Supreme Court’s verdict on April 23, 2009 and has vowed to take his appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights if necessary.
» Read a full account of the rise and fall of Alberto Fujimori.