Investigators at the U.N. Human Rights Office are accusing police in Peru of having used excessive force to quell anti-government mass protests last November, killing two people and injuring hundreds of others.
The investigators view the crackdown by Peru’s security forces as unnecessarily harsh and in violation of international human rights norms and standards. Protesters took to the streets between November 9 and November 15 to challenge the legitimacy of the interim president, Manuel Merino, as well as in anger over general social conditions.
The protests came to a head during violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the capital, Lima, on November 15. U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said police officers did not distinguish between the largely peaceful protesters and the minority who allegedly were violent.
She said investigators concluded that human rights violations were committed based on interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as audio and video recordings, and medical records.
“The report says that police fired pellets from 12-gauge shotguns and tear gas canisters directly at people’s heads and upper bodies, indiscriminately and from close range,” Throssell said. “Two protesters were killed by shotgun pellets fired at their torso, and more than 200 people, including passers-by, were injured.”
Throssell said U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet noted that people have the right to peaceful assembly, and potentially lethal force can be used only if there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
“The High Commissioner underlines that all allegations of human rights violations should be promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated, noting that some preliminary investigations had begun,” Throssell said, adding, “She also stressed how important it was for the government to publicly acknowledge that violations had been committed.”
The report said many people have been arbitrarily arrested and denied access to legal assistance, and that some people allegedly were physically and psychologically abused. The report also documented threats and attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.
Throssell said the Peruvian authorities have cooperated with the U.N. investigation and have seen the report. She added that the High Commissioner hoped the recommendations in the report will help the Peruvian government going forward, especially when it comes to holding perpetrators of crimes accountable.
Voice of America – English