Peruvian justice has ordered the release of the country’s former president, Alberto Fujimori, who held the position of head of state in the 1990s. The former president was serving a 25-year prison sentence for usurpation of functions, premeditated murder and kidnapping, embezzlement and ideological falsehood, corruption, and espionage.
The release of the 85-year-old former leader, who is suffering from tongue cancer, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension, had been denied by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) last year. However, in a close vote, Peru’s Constitutional Court decreed the former president’s release with 3 out of 6 members voting in favor, using the president’s casting vote, making the decision final and unappealable.
In this way, the judges reinstated the pardon granted to the former president in 2017. The government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018) had granted the grace remedy to Fujimori for humanitarian reasons, but the Peruvian justice revoked it following a CIDH request in favor of the victims of the former leader who ruled the country dictatorially for 10 years.
Release on health grounds
The court justified its decision in a ruling, citing Fujimori’s “broken” health. At the same time, it emphasized that the former president has “served approximately two-thirds of his sentence,” making him eligible for the pardon.
Fujimori has been serving a sentence since 2009 for crimes against humanity at the Barbadillo prison, a small facility for former presidents east of Lima, for the deaths of 25 people in two massacres carried out in 1991-1992 by an army squadron that accused them of being alleged guerrillas of the Shining Path.
The release of the former president divides the country, 23 years after his departure from power. While his supporters gathered at the prison to cheer for him, relatives of his victims lamented the judicial decision. About thirty people, with flowers and photos of university students killed by the military squadron, gathered in front of the courthouse chanting “the pardon is an insult.”
Among those advocating for the release of the former president is his eldest daughter, Keiko Fujimori, the leader of the Popular Force party, who came close to winning the presidential elections in 2011, 2016, and 2021. However, she was ultimately defeated by a narrow margin on all those occasions. On the other hand, the politician faces her own legal problems, accused of money laundering, obstruction of justice, organized crime, procedural fraud, generic falsehood, and false statement in administrative proceedings.
Two decades of judicial strife
In 2000, Alberto Fujimori, the former Peruvian president, fled to Japan amid a corruption scandal and human rights violations. Accused of authoritarianism and corruption during his tenure, he faced various charges, including the misappropriation of public funds and the establishment of death squads to combat rebel groups.
In 2005, after his arrest in Chile, Fujimori was extradited to Peru, where he was tried for human rights violations. In 2007, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in extrajudicial executions carried out by the paramilitary group Colina during his government.
However, in 2009, the Supreme Court annulled part of the sentence, reducing his sentence to 7 years. In 2017, Fujimori was released for health reasons, causing controversy and protests in Peru, and in 2019, the pardon was revoked by the Supreme Court, only to be reinstated in March 2022 by the Constitutional Court.
The cost of power
Fujimori’s case remains emblematic of the judicial and ethical challenges faced by political leaders. His legacy is marked by polarization, with some praising his economic achievements while criticizing his authoritarian methods, while others condemn his human rights violations and corruption.
His administration stood out for efficient economic measures that stabilized inflation and promoted growth, leading Peru into a period of economic stability. However, his regime also faced accusations of human rights violations, including forced sterilizations and political violence.
Fujimori effectively fought against the guerrilla insurgency of the Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, successfully reducing violence in the country. However, his authoritarianism and the 1992 self-coup, which dissolved Congress and limited civil liberties, drew international criticism.
Despite his economic successes and efforts against terrorism, the shadow of human rights abuses and corruption tarnishes Fujimori’s presidency, leaving a complex legacy in Peru’s political history.