Peru: Order to indict Fujimori is a milestone in search for justice for victims of forced sterilization

Amnesty International welcomes the decision of Peru’s senior prosecutor to order the indictment of former president Alberto Fujimori and members of his cabinet for their alleged responsibility for crimes committed against women who were forcibly sterilized as part of a public policy applied during his term. 

“This historic milestone in the search for justice came about thanks to the bravery of the victims, who have denounced these human rights violations for more than fifteen years, and the organizations that have accompanied them,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

This historic milestone in the search for justice came about thanks to the bravery of the victims, who have denounced these human rights violations for more than fifteen years, and the organizations that have accompanied them

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“This is the first time that the Peruvian state has ordered the indictment of high-ranking officials for these crimes, and recognized that they are crimes under international law. Now the state must move forward by guaranteeing without further delay the rights to truth, justice and reparation of the thousands of victims of forced sterilization.”

During the 1990s, approximately 200,000 Peruvian women – mostly indigenous, low-income campesinas and Quechua speakers – were sterilized in a family planning programme.

There is strong evidence that medical personnel were pressured to reach sterilization quotas and that, in most cases, the women did not give their free and informed consent. Many did not receive adequate post-operative care, as a result of which they suffered health problems and 18 of them died.

The senior prosecutor has ordered the indictment of Fujimori and three former health ministers in the cases of five victims of serious injuries that resulted in death, and 2,074 victims of serious injuries.

“We note with pleasure that the prosecutor has finally recognized that these forced sterilizations constitute serious violations of human rights and as such are not subject to a statute of limitations. These crimes under international law cannot go unpunished,” declared Marina Navarro, Executive Director of Amnesty International Peru. 

“We want those responsible to be identified before many more years go by. We are pleased that our request for justice has been heard. We want to meet president Vizcarra to discuss reparations for this wicked thing that was done to us,” added Inés Condori, President of the Chumbivilcas Association of Women Affected by Forced Sterilization.

Additional information

In 2002, the congressional commission in charge of investigating complaints of forced sterilization determined “that sterilizations were performed without patients’ consent, using psychological pressure or in exchange for food and/or economic incentives.”

The commission also found that there was government interference at the time in the compulsory application of sterilizations. Criminal investigations were initiated against Alberto Fujimori and several health officials for the first time in 2004, but they were closed in 2009.

The investigation was reopened in 2011 but again closed in 2014, when the public prosecutor’s office decided to file charges relating to only one of the more than 2,000 cases investigated and shelve the rest. After national and international pressure, the prosecutor’s office reopened investigations in 2015, but closed them again at the end of 2016.

At the end of 2015, Amnesty International launched the “Against their Will” campaign, which called for the creation of a register of victims of forced sterilization. The Peruvian government responded by creating the register, although the victims have not yet received full reparations and the perpetrators of these grave violations of human rights have still not been brought to justice.

In accordance with international norms, to which Peru is obliged to comply, forced sterilization violates the rights to physical integrity, health, privacy and family life (including the right to decide the number and spacing of children), as well as the right to non-discrimination. In some cases, this may constitute torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and may even constitute a crime against humanity.