The Fujimori Case and the Peruvian State's Non-compliance with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights resolutions
Alfredo Naim Navarrete Piter
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
After the release of Alberto Fujimori on December 5 for "humanitarian reasons," the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a resolution on December 19, declaring that the Peruvian state was in contempt regarding the compliance with the sentences in the Barrios Altos and Cantuta vs. Peru cases. This measure was taken after repeated warnings to Peruvian authorities to refrain from releasing the former president for humanitarian reasons related to his health, given the impact such an act could have on the state's obligation to investigate, prosecute, and sanction those responsible for serious human rights violations in these cases.
In 2009, Peruvian authorities sentenced Alberto Fujimori to 25 years in prison, considering him an indirect perpetrator of qualified homicide and serious injuries in connection with the massacre of 15 people in Barrios Altos, the forced disappearance and execution of 10 students from La Cantuta University, and the kidnapping of two individuals—offenses classified as "crimes against humanity." These convictions stemmed from resolutions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2001 and 2006 with the same names, ordering the state to investigate, prosecute, and sanction those responsible for serious violations of the rights to life, personal integrity, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection. The Peruvian state was declared internationally responsible for these violations. These violations originated from a self-amnesty law that exempted military, police, and civilians from responsibility for fundamental rights violations between 1980 and 1995.
In the compliance monitoring resolutions of 2009 and 2012, the Inter-American Court positively assessed Alberto Fujimori's conviction regarding the obligation to investigate, prosecute, and sanction attributed to the Peruvian state. However, despite this, in 2017, then-President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, granted a presidential pardon to Fujimori for humanitarian reasons due to his health. The Inter-American Court, in a resolution in May 2018, opposed the pardon, stating that the fulfillment of the sentence is part of the state's obligation to sanction. The pardon should not be granted arbitrarily but should consider factors such as the time served, payment of civil reparations to victims, among other international standards, as the legal concept of a pardon is not exempt from judicial control according to Peruvian court jurisprudence.
In compliance with the Inter-American Court's directives, judicial proceedings were conducted before the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tribunal, culminating in a resolution ordering Fujimori's release in March 2022. In an April 2022 resolution, the Inter-American Court indicated that the standards of proportionality established in its May 2018 resolution were not met, potentially causing serious harm to the right of access to justice for victims and their families if a proportionality assessment adhering to international standards invoked by the Inter-American Court was not conducted. Consequently, the Peruvian state was urged not to execute the sentence. This urging was reiterated in December 2023, one day before Fujimori's release, through a resolution that ordered urgent measures to prevent the release of the former president until a proper weighing of the involved rights with the specific circumstances of the ex-president's confinement was carried out.
Despite repeated communications urging the state not to execute the March 2023 sentence, Fujimori was released by Peruvian authorities on December 6, 2023. The Constitutional Tribunal argued that the orders of the Court were not binding in the specific case, as the Inter-American Court could not instruct a tribunal not to execute a sentence. Instead, its competencies were limited to informing the OAS General Assembly about situations it considered inconsistent with its resolutions. In response, the Inter-American Court, in a resolution on December 19, 2023, asserted that it was not for the Peruvian state to pronounce on the powers and competencies of the international tribunal regarding the supervision of compliance with its sentences. Instead, this authority rests with the Inter-American Court itself. Moreover, failure to monitor compliance with its own sentences would render the content of the American Convention on Human Rights and the rights of victims and their families null and void. The Inter-American Court determined that the resolutions of the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal constituted non-compliance with the monitoring resolution of the Inter-American Court and that Fujimori's release constituted non-compliance with the urgent measures decreed by the Inter-American Court. Thus, the Peruvian state was declared in contempt, and the incident will reported to the OAS General Assembly for potential diplomatic pressure.
Sources and further reading:
Benavides, S. (2023, December 9). La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) rechaza la decisión que liberó al expresidente peruano Alberto Fujimori. CNN. https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2023/12/09/cidh-rechaza-libero-alberto-fujimori-orix/
CIDH rechaza decisión del Tribunal Constitucional de Perú que implementó el indulto de Alberto Fujimori. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 January 2024, from https://www.oas.org/es/CIDH/jsForm/Default.asp?File=/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2023/281.asp
IACtHR. (n.d.). Ficha técnica Barrios Altos Vs Perú. Retrieved 5 January 2024, from https://corteidh.or.cr/CF/jurisprudencia2/ficha_tecnica.cfm?nId_Ficha=267
Liberación de Alberto Fujimori en Perú constituye un abierto desacato a orden de la Corte Interamericana | CEJIL. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 January 2024, from https://cejil.org/comunicado-de-prensa/liberacion-de-alberto-fujimori-en-peru-constituye-un-abierto-desacato-a-orden-de-la-corte-interamericana/
Perú: La liberación de Fujimori viola el derecho internacional | Human Rights Watch. (2023, December 6). https://www.hrw.org/es/news/2023/12/06/peru-la-liberacion-de-fujimori-viola-el-derecho-internacional
Resolución de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos de 19 de diciembre de 2023 Solicitud de Medidas Provisionales y Supervisión de Cumplimiento de Sentencias, (IACtHR 19 December 2023).
Resolución de La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos de 30 de mayo de 2018 Caso Barrios Altos y Caso la Cantuta Vs. Perú Supervisión de Cumplimiento de Sentencia Obligación de Investigar, Juzgar y, de ser el Caso, Sancionar, (IACthr 30 May 2018).
Vega, R. G. (2023, December 22). La Corte IDH determina que el Estado peruano “incurrió en desacato” al liberar a Alberto Fujimori. El País América. https://elpais.com/america/2023-12-22/la-corte-idh-determina-que-el-estado-peruano-incurrio-en-desacato-al-liberar-a-alberto-fujimori.html