The Miami Herald
April 8, 1999

Peruvian system of justice called corrupt, inefficient

             By LUCIEN O. CHAUVIN
             Special to The Herald

             LIMA, Peru -- Peru's justice system is in trouble. So say opposition politicians,
             human rights groups, the U.S. State Department and even President Alberto

             At the inauguration of a recent meeting of the hemisphere's attorneys general and
             justice ministers in Lima, Fujimori said reforms to the justice systems in Latin
             America lag well behind other political and economic reforms.

             ``This is certain in the case of Peru, and we are not going to deny it,'' Fujimori

             Although Fujimori admits to lagging reforms, critics are much harsher in their
             analysis of Peru's administration of justice.

             The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report on Peru is particularly
             harsh this year.

             ``Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, in practice the
             judicial system is inefficient, often corrupt, and has appeared to be easily
             manipulated by the executive branch,'' the report said.

             Station owner targeted

             In 1997, the government bypassed judicial procedure to rescind the citizenship of
             Baruch Ivcher, an Israeli-born owner of a local television station, who was then
             stripped of his ownership of the station. Last December, Congress extended the
             reorganization of the judicial system for an additional two years, effectively giving
             Fujimori allies control over the hiring and firing of judges and prosecutors.

             Nearly two-thirds of Peru's 1,531 judges, including 19 of the 33 Supreme Court
             justices, have only provisional or temporary status. Instead of being appointed by
             the National Judiciary Council, the temporary judges are appointed from within the
             judicial system or by the Public Ministry, both of which are controlled by Fujimori
             allies. Temporary judges carry full case loads and many have been in charge of
             some of the most controversial cases before the courts.

             ``What we have seen over the past few years has been the progressive erosion of
             bodies organized to protect rule of law in Peru,'' said Sebastian Brett, a researcher
             for Human Rights Watch/Americas. ``It isn't just us, but the Organization of
             American States, the U.S. State Department, press freedom groups. It's
             unanimous. Everyone is saying the same thing -- administration of justice does not
             work in Peru.''

             World Bank loan

             The government's meddling in the justice system cost it a $22.5 million loan for
             judicial reform from the World Bank in 1998, and there are cases pending against
             the country in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the
             Inter-American Court, both part of the Organization of American States.

             The Human Rights Commission has ruled that the government should reinstate
             three members of the Constitutional Tribunal who were fired by Congress in 1997
             after they voted that it was unconstitutional for Fujimori to run for a third term in
             2000. Congress is dominated by members of Fujimori's Change 90/New Majority

             On Feb. 26, the commission gave the government 60 days to reinstate the judges.
             If it fails to do so, the case goes to the Inter-American Court, where the
             government will most likely lose.

             `Administrative coups'

             Delia Revoredo, one of the three magistrates fired, said Fujimori's government has
             ``carried out a series of `administrative coups' '' against the justice system.

             ``The government knows it cannot use the tanks to remain in power, as it did in
             1992. Instead, it has a series of laws to manipulate the justice system and electoral
             systems to ensure continuance in power,'' Revoredo said.

             In the case of Ivcher, the Human Rights Commission decided to send the case to
             the court March 31, after negotiations between lawyers for the Peruvian
             government and Ivcher failed. The government offered to restore Ivcher's
             citizenship, but refused to drop criminal charges and arrest warrants against him
             and members of his family.

             Ivcher rejected the offer.

             Two additional cases set to be heard by the Inter-American Court later this year
             will be particularly difficult for the government, and legal experts give Peru little
             chance of winning both cases.

             One case involves Lori Berenson, a U.S. citizen arrested in late 1995 and accused
             of helping rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) plan a
             foiled attack on the Peruvian Congress. She was tried by a military court under
             Peru's anti-terrorism laws, found guilty of treason and sentenced to life without
             parole. MRTA jumped to international fame a year later with the four-month
             hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

             The other case involves Jaime Castillo Petruzzi and three other defendants, all
             Chileans who were arrested, tried by a military court for treason and sentenced to
             life in prison for ties to the MRTA rebels.

             In both cases, the Peruvian government is accused of violating due process, with
             lawyers arguing against a military court trying civilians and saying a sentence for
             treason cannot be applied to non-Peruvians. The court has been asked to nullify
             the trials.