Peru: President Castillo must ensure proportionate use of force in response to social protests and prevent human rights violations

Following a rise in the cost of food, fuel, and fertilizers, sectors of society linked to transport and agriculture have organized demonstrations in several regions of the country since 28 March. In many cases, these protests have consisted of roadblocks.

On 5 April, the President suspended certain constitutional rights by means of a decree applicable in Lima and Callao and, in response, other sectors of the population organized new demonstrations. In addition, looting and acts of violence were reported in various parts of the country.

“We are highlighting the risk of possible unnecessary or disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials against demonstrators in a context of heightened tension. Amnesty International has documented serious human rights violations in the past in the context of social protests in Peru,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

We are highlighting the risk of possible unnecessary or disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials against demonstrators in a context of heightened tension. Amnesty International has documented serious human rights violations in the past in the context of social protests in Peru.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“We call on President Castillo to guarantee strict adherence to the law by the security forces, as well as full respect for the norms of international law in all regions of the country, in order to avoid further loss of human life, harm to people’s physical integrity and possible escalation of this crisis.”

The media has reported that, in the context of the protests, at least two people have been fatally shot, four others have died in circumstances yet to be clarified and dozens more have been injured. According to official reports, at least 18 people have been detained in Lima in this context. Authorities have also reported that dozens of police officers have been injured and that several public buildings have been damaged. However, up-to-date official figures on the number of people killed, injured, and detained during the protests remain unclear.

Human rights organizations are reporting the disproportionate use of force by the National Police.

“We demand that the Peruvian State conduct thorough, immediate, and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations that may have been committed by the security forces, including fatal shootings in the context of the protests. Although the security forces have a duty to maintain public order, and for this purpose, they have the power to use force, if necessary, as a last resort and always in a proportionate manner, this function must be carried out with strict adherence to human rights. Using firearms to disperse demonstrations is unlawful; they should only be resorted to if the life of the officer concerned or a third party is at serious imminent risk,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Today, the government published a new decree declaring a state of emergency on the National Road Network, suspending the rights to freedom of movement and assembly and security of the person for 30 days and giving the Armed Forces responsibility for maintaining internal order, in conjunction with the National Police.

“Attempts to unblock roads cannot be an excuse for excessive use of force. Our region has seen too many disastrous examples in this regard, including with the deployment of Armed Forces who have not been created or trained to police demonstrations,” said Guevara-Rosas.

Attempts to unblock roads cannot be an excuse for excessive use of force. Our region has seen too many disastrous examples in this regard, including with the deployment of Armed Forces who have not been created or trained to police demonstrations.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

Amnesty International notes that human rights standards protect peaceful protest and states that the fact that some groups or individuals use violence during a demonstration does not, per se, make the entire protest violent or authorize the security forces to disperse it with the use of force.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has established that there is a presumption in favour of considering protests to be peaceful and if acts of violence do occur, law enforcement officials have an obligation to use as far as possible non-violent means before opting for the use of force, where absolutely necessary, as a last resort. Any use of force must be in accordance with the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, precaution, and non-discrimination and those who use it must be held accountable. The excessive or disproportionate use of force breaches international human rights obligations and, in the event of a death, may constitute a violation of the right to life.

CONTEXT

On the night of 4 April, President Pedro Castillo announced that the suspension of constitutional rights under a state of emergency declared on 20 March had been extended in the provinces of Lima and Callao – where protests and looting had not taken place – including “the inviolability of the home, freedom of movement in the national territory, freedom of assembly and liberty and security of the person”, and the imposition of the “mandatory social immobilization of the entire population in their homes” from 2:00 am until 11:59 pm on 5 April. In the early hours of 5 April, the Ombudsperson’s Office demanded that the Executive Branch call an “immediately end to the social immobilization because it is unconstitutional” and did not comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality. This was based on the fact that the measure lacked “due motivation” and the failure to give “any reason to justify such a strict social immobilization” or state “in what way it will contribute to maintaining public order”.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Carlos Mendoza (Amnesty International Americas): +52 55 4145 7003, [email protected]

Cecilia Niezen (Amnesty International, Peru): [email protected]

Read more:

Perú: Autoridades deben garantizar reparaciones integrales para víctimas de represión policial, [Peru: Authorities must ensure comprehensive reparations for victims of police repression], Research, 25 November 2020 (Spanish only)

Peru: Amnesty International documents excessive use of force by National Police, News 13 November 2020

Peru: Human rights cannot be sacrificed in the political crisis, Research, 10 November 2020