Monday, February 3, 2014

Operation Chavin de Huantar

Inter-American Court
of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is currently hearing the case of Eduardo Nicolas Cruz Sanchez and others v. Peru, also known as the Operation Chavin de Huantar case.  The case is being heard and transmitted live by internet on the Court's website, regrettably only in Spanish.  The case involves the alleged extrajudicial execution by Peruvian State agents of three members of the insurgent group known as MRTA (Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru) that seized the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru on 17 December 1997.

Operation  Chavin de Huantar was a military operation carried out by 142 commandos of the Peruvian Armed Forces on April 22, 1997 to end the four month hostage crisis.  Chavin de Huantar is an archeological site in the central highlands of Peru famous for its underground passageways and the name was applied to this military operation because the assault was to be carried out by means of tunnels from adjacent buildings leading to the residence. During the assault, two commandos, one hostage and all fourteen of the rebels died.  It was claimed that once the residence was under control of the State authorities that three of the rebels had been summarily executed after surrendering to the commandos.

The Peruvian Supreme Court ruled that military courts had jurisdiction over the case since the commandos acted "in compliance with their functions."  The military courts acquitted the commandos of responsibility for the deaths of the rebels.  The Inter-American Commission, however, has repeatedly stated that human rights crimes cannot be heard by military courts but must be heard by civilian courts.  The relatives of the victims consequently brought the case to the Inter-American Commission, where the Commission found violations of human rights by the commandos and the case, as mentioned, is currently being heard by the Court. Tomorrow the Court will hear the final arguments of the parties.

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