March 25, 2001

Peru arrests two ex-generals in death squad probe

                  LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- In what rights groups say is a landmark case, Peruvian
                  police have arrested two ex-armed forces generals allegedly linked to a
                  paramilitary death squad that killed 15 revelers in a 1991 attack on suspected
                  leftist rebels, the official government gazette said on Sunday.

                  El Peruano said Julio Salazar and Juan Rivera were detained on Saturday in the
                  first arrests since Latin America's top human rights court last week called on
                  Peru to declare void a 1995 amnesty law granting the military immunity in cases
                  involving rights abuses.

                  Peruvian rights groups including the leading Human Rights Association
                  (APRODEH) have hailed the March 20 ruling by the Inter-American Court of
                  Human Rights.

                  They say the court's first move against an amnesty measure could have an effect
                  across a continent where many countries including Argentina have such laws.

                  The court called on Peru to punish members of the La Colina death squad, which
                  rights groups say was formed by former President Alberto Fujimori's ex-spy
                  chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, to combat rising attacks by Shining Path guerrillas
                  in the 1990s.

                  The court, the legal arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), said the
                  amnesty law was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.

                  Party revelers killed with silencers

                  In the November 1991 attack, at least six masked gunman burst into a small
                  apartment in the Barrios Altos district, a poor Lima neighborhood close to the
                  presidential palace, and made a group of party-goers lie face-down on the floor.

                  Using pistols and automatic weapons fitted with silencers, they fired into the
                  group, killing 15 people and injuring four. Police said they found 111 bullet shells
                  in the apartment after the attack.

                  Local media reported that the death squad mistook the party for a secret meeting
                  of Shining Path rebels.

                  Peru formally returned to the binding jurisdiction of the OAS rights court on Jan.
                  31, some two years after Fujimori pulled out in a dispute over summary trials for
                  alleged guerrillas.

                  Fujimori fled to Japan in November amid escalating corruption scandals and was
                  fired in disgrace. Under Fujimori, Peru gained one of Latin America's worst
                  rights records.

                  Interim President Valentin Paniagua, who replaced Fujimori, has said his
                  government would accept the OAS court ruling. The new government had
                  admitted the Peruvian state's responsibility in the massacre.

                  Guerrilla wars fought against the government by Shining Path and the smaller
                  Revolutionary Tupac Amaru Movement (MRTA) caused about 30,000 deaths
                  and $25 billion in infrastructure damage since 1980.

                  Peru's armed forces killed thousands of people, mainly peasants in isolated
                  mountain villages, during the war with the rebels, according to human rights

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.