2 May 2008

Mass Graves Found In Peru Army Barracks

A Peruvian daily, La Republica, reports that about a thousand people were imprisoned, tortured and killed in the ‘Los Cabitos’ military barracks in the Ayacucho region during the armed conflict between 1980 and 2000 with the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas and the Revolutionary Túpac Amaru Movement (MRTA). Their remains are being found in mass graves being dug up by forensic experts.

This period coincided with the presidencies of Fernando Belaúnde, Alan García (the currently re-elected President and Washington favourite) and Alberto Fujimori (facing trial in Lima and already handed out one prison sentence). The chief of Peru’s Legal Medicine Institute (IML), Luis Bromley, said 500 families were reclaiming their loved ones, and not just one, but two or three who were interned in the ‘Los Cabitos’ by the military and then disappeared.

From the first diggings in January 2005, the team of 20 forensic anthropologists has found 81 bodies and human remains in a small plot of land. Another 15 places remain to be investigated. The common cause of death was a shot in the head or in the back of the neck and many of the victims showed signs of torture and had their hands tied behind their back.

Among the victims were at least 50 children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 16 who were detained with their parents between 1983 and 1994. Among the remains was that of a five-year-old girl found in the same grave with two adults who would have been her parents.

The IML was trying to identify victims from DNA traces and build up a list of the victims. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission says ‘Los Cabitos’ was a key point in the counter-insurgency operations. It thinks at least 136 people were executed, a figure much lower than what the forensic investigators consider more likely. At least 70,000 people died in the conflict in Peru.

The Peruvian army, meanwhile, has donated the land where the remains are being dug up to a housing organisation of army officers despite protests from human rights groups which say this is an attempt at literally covering up the crimes. The families of the victims have started a vigil to prevent this from happening.

La Republica, El Mundo

No comments: