On Wednesday evening, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was released from prison following the reinstatement of his pardon by a court. Fujimori, aged 85, had been serving a 25-year sentence since 2009 for his involvement in the deaths of 25 Peruvians by death squads during the 1990s.
Despite a request from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for a delay in Fujimori’s release to review the ruling, this request was denied.
Fujimori governed Peru between 1990 and 2000 and was convicted on charges of human rights abuses.
He was accused of being responsible for the slayings of 25 Peruvians in operations targeted against the Shining Path guerilla group between 1991 and 1992 amid a crackdown.
The first of two massacres Fujimori was said to have plotted happened in 1991 in a deprived Lima neighborhood.
Hooded soldiers shot and killed 15 residents, including an 8-year-old child, who were attending a party. The operatives had gone to the wrong floor, with the rebels gathered elsewhere in the building.
This was followed in 1992 by a covert military squad kidnapping and killing nine students and a professor from the Enrique Guzman y Valle University also in Lima.
Forensic experts said the victims had been tortured and shot in the back of the head. The squad pretended to be an architecture firm and it was financed by Fujimori’s government.
Why was Fujimori’s previous humanitarian pardon overturned?
Fujimori served around 16 years in jail after being extradited from Chile in 2007, having fled to the neighboring country in 2005 after he resigned as President at the start of his third term leading Peru.
He received a pardon for his conviction on Christmas Eve in 2017 from former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Peru’s Supreme Courtintervened in 2018, overturning the pardon following pressure from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and victims’ families.
However, on Tuesday, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled once more in favor of the humanitarian pardon that has been granted by Kuczynski.
The president of the Inter-American Court had asked Peru to stop the pardon in order to “guarantee the right of access to justice” of the 25 people who were murdered in two massacres but this was rejected.
What has the reaction to Fujimori’s release been?
Fujimori remains a polarizing figure in Peru, as dozens of his supporters swarmed the former president on his release from prison.
His policies during his time in charged improved the country’s economy and pulled it out of a cycle of hyperinflation.
However, he also used the military to dissolve Congress and rewrite the constitution as well as to crack down on guerrilla violence.
“We live in an orphanhood because we do not have institutions of any kind capable of defending us,” Gisela Ortiz, sister of one of the victims for whom Fujimori was convicted, told The Associated Press.
“Peru gives the image of a country where the rights of victims are not guaranteed and where human rights issues have no importance.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said the Constitutional Court’s order to release Fujimori “is a worrying setback,” adding that “any humanitarian release of those responsible for serious human rights violations must be in accordance with international law.”