How to bring a dictator to justice – or not?

My good friends at CIP are participating in a presentation on the successful extradition of Alberto Fujimori.

“The recent conviction and sentencing of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori have been widely applauded as a remarkable achievement in transitional justice. Thorough, transparent, and impartial, this historic trial marks the first instance of a national court bringing an elected head of state to justice. Much of the success of the trial proceedings relied on groundwork and actions initiated by the Ad Hoc Solicitor’s Office, established in 2000 by the Peruvian government to build criminal cases against Fujimori and his associates. In his role as Ad Hoc Solicitor, Mr. Antonio Maldonado capitalized on Fujimori’s ill-considered decision to travel to Chile in 2005 and led efforts to marshal evidence and extradite the former president. Critical to the success of the extradition was the use of the precedent-setting “autor mediato” (indirect-author) theory, a legal instrument which held Fujimori criminally liable for human rights violations committed by his network. In his presentation, Mr. Maldonado will explain the extradition process and examine the significance of this paradigmatic example of international cooperation in the pursuit of justice. His presentation will be followed by comments by Dr. Cynthia McClintock and Dr. Jo-Marie Burt and will be moderated by Dr. Diego Abente Brun.”

I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone who suffered from abuses under the Fujimori regime, but I have to disagree with the folks at CIP on this:

The Fujimori verdict and the “autor-mediato” principle give everyone in Peru who was complicit in the abuses of his regime a way to escape responsibility, and that is bad for Peru.

After the bloodbath in Bagua last week, you have to ask how the country is any better now than a decade ago, and how can a government that kills its own citizens and manipulates the media possibly have any credibility bringing their predecessors to justice?

Look, I love Peru but I’m not naive, there are a lot of issues. I worry that saying “justice has been done”, now that Fujimori is in jail, puts a false stamp of approval on the Peru of today. But the problems in Peru don’t begin or end with Alberto Fujimori or even Alan Garcia, just changing the puppet master at the top without changing the culture only gives us a false sense of improvement and a convenient excuse to escape accountability.

I’ve seen nothing but apathy here in Cusco around the Fujimori verdict, perhaps because many people remember how Peru was before Fujimori.

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