Weekly Review (September 20-26)

This week, Alan Garcia announced that the State would assume the costs from the legal defense of the members of the Armed Forces accused of violating human rights during the internal war against subversion. On the other hand, just as it was commented last week, the third project regarding the extension of the death penalty for rapists of minors was presented. Finally, the never ending story: “otorongo no come otorongo” and the topic of immunity (or impunity?).

On September 22, during a ceremony honoring the Armed Forces, President Garcia explained the details regarding the decree he had just signed the previous day stipulating that the State would pay for the defense of those accused of violating human rights during the internal war against subversion. He assured that the financing would come from assigned budgets for the Defense and Interior Departments. Besides, the recovery of the Armed Forces’ dignity would include an initial inversion of 650 million dollars to restore their operative capacity and the warranty for their pensions.

Nevertheless, a very important explanation: the State-financed defense wouldn’t apply for all the cases of members of the Armed Forces accused of violating human rights. There will be a commission of lawyers that will review each case and decide whether this financing applies or not. The Defense minister, Allan Wagner, explained that, for example, the members of the Grupo Colina (a counter-terrorist group accused for the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos murders, among others) won’t receive this benefit. He assured that the spirit of the law was to support the poor who can’t pay for their own legal defense, and that the recognition of the Armed Forces heroism was opportune.

According to Jose Robles, an expert on military issues, the context of this announcement shouldn’t be forgotten: it was Armed Forces Day, and it was a response to the demands expressed by Minister Wagner some time before. But an important question remains behind: What’s going on with the victims of the internal conflict? Justice should arrive for all.

On the other hand, speed and will don’t appear to be a problem. With the presentation in Congress of the last project regarding the expansion of the death penalty to include rapists of minors, there are three of these projects about the same (popular among the voters) subject. The last project, presented by the Celula Parlamentaria Aprista (CPA), is less severe that the one presented by Unidad Nacional, and apparently it wouldn’t include leaving the Pact of San Jose and maintaining our country within the American Convention on Human Rights. That’s how the debate began this week, and it promises to be a useful smoke curtain for the government.

Congressman Carlos Raffo shielded himself with whatever he decided to listen to from what was said in the Constitution’s Commission of Congress. The commission was for the immunity of arrest but not of process for the members of Congress, which means that they can’t be arrested, but the processes taking place in the Judicial Power should continue. That’s why no judge can orden the arrest of Congressman Raffo without the authorization of Congress. But Raffo heard something else: he didn’t show up for the second hearing of the process against him for revealing State secrets and attempting against national security.

According to the Judicial Power’s president, Walter Vasquez Bejarano, Raffo is shielding himself with a political subtlety, in order to escape from justice. The Constitution’s Commission of Congress has also had its share in helping Congressman Raffo roam around freely.

The issue has raised the supposed unconstitutionality of article 16 of Congress’ regulations. This article, modified by the previous Congress, states that the legal processes that members of Congress face from a period before they were elected are neither suspended nor paralyzed. However, article 93 of the Peruvian Constitution from 1993, states that members of Congress can’t be processed or imprisoned without a previous authorization from Congress or the Permanent Commission, since the time they are elected until a month after they leave Congress, except for a crime detected in the act.

Ombudsman Beatriz Merino presented a legislative initiative to Congress in order to reduce the immunity attributed to the President and members of Congress. It would also affect the members of the Constitucional Court and even the ombudsman herself. This initiative includes that the legal investigations regarding those mentioned above that began before they were elected or chosen should continue. That’s how we would see each day less cases like the one in which Congressman Raffo is now the main star. Meanwhile, Raffo has said that the court should ask Congress for the authorization to judge him. Everything he can do to get away with it.

Mariana Olcese