Peru military upset with study on violence

Friday, August 29, 2003

LIMA, Peru -- A final report on Peru's brutal 20-year war against the Shining Path insurgency concluded that nearly 70,000 people were killed, and military officers responsible for many of those deaths committed massive human rights abuses, an official said Thursday.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's nine-volume report, delivered to the government Thursday, said the conflict was exacerbated by deep racism and a fundamental misunderstanding of the highland Indians who comprised most of the victims.

"We have proven with sorrow that members of the armed forces and police implemented a systematic or generalized practice of human rights violations and consequently there exist grounds for indicating crimes against humanity," commission president Salomon Lerner said.

Only pieces of the report were released to the public Thursday, but officials discussed it widely during the two years it was compiled.

Commissioner Gasten Garatea said the report contains evidence incriminating more than 100 officers. But that information will not be included in the study made available to the public, he said.

Peru's powerful armed forces had awaited the report with trepidation. Retired officers warned the military was unhappy with the commission's plans to name individual officers.

Political parties in power during the violence also criticized the commission for digging into the past. The commission has "managed to put into the defendant's chair nothing less than those who won the war against terrorism," conservative congressman Jose Barba Caballero said Thursday.

Despite the discontent within military ranks, experts on the military forces said they expected the findings to be accepted.

The 12-member Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in June 2001 to shed light on the atrocities that occurred from May 1980 to November 2000 during the fighting between government security forces, leftist rebels and civilians. Most of the battles happened in remote Andean areas.

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