At our International Media & Conflict Conference in March, Professor Lisa Laplante discussed the use of blogs in tracking transitional justice efforts and, in particular, her blog on the Fujimori trial in Peru. The blog is a unique bilingual effort to keep the world apprised of this trial.
Yesterday, the Peruvian court announced their guilty verdict–the first time that a head-of-state has been convicted by its own domestic court of crimes against humanity. Lisa further explains the verdict at her blog posting here. In terms of international law and conflict resolution, this verdict is truly historic.
An historic sentence, this ruling represents one of the few times that a wholly domestic court has tried a former president for international crimes. In particular, the Peruvian state convicted Fujimori for ordering the massacres at Barrios Altos (the extrajudicial execution of twelve people at a local party in 1991) and La Cantuta (the extrajudicial execution of eight students and a professor in 1992), as well as the kidnapping of journalist Gustavo Gorriti and businessman Samuel Dyer.
Relying on the criminal liability theory of “command responsibility,” the prosecutor provided evidence that the hierarchal chain of command led directly to Fujimori. Notably, the court found that the systematic and general policy of violent and repressive means of fighting a “war against terror” made these crimes rise to the level of “crimes against humanity.” Lawyers for the victims later pointed out to reporters that international law currently recognizes that perpetrators of this category of crime can never receive an amnesty or pardon.
Lisa’s outstanding article (linked above) outlines the emerging theory that amnesties can no longer be provided to heads-of-state for their crimes. I have also written about the linkages between the field of transitional justice and dispute resolution and I think that this is very much the future we will see. Countries struggling with emerging democracy, human rights issues, and transitional justice will be implementing dispute resolution processes to help their countries progress. Fujimori’s conviction yesterday is a great step forward.