Peruvian authorities have reopened the forced sterilizations case involving over 300,000 mostly indigenous women, and will investigate further the testimony of former President Alberto Fujimori and three of his Health Ministers.
Fujimori was convicted of murder, kidnapping and crimes against humanity in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. In that same investigation Fujimori was also charged with knowing about the forced sterilization program, known as the National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Program that resulted in at least 18 deaths and involved deception and threats against hundreds of thousands of mainly indigenous women and 22,000 men.
However, in 2014 the Ministry of Justice issued a resolution stating that the government would not file charges against Fujimori or against former Health Ministers Salud Costa, Alejandro Aguinaga and Eduardo Yong. That resolution claimed there was no proof that the officials knew about the abuses or intended for the program to be implemented in that illegal manner.
On May 10 Public Prosecutor Luis Burgos announced the reopening of the case and that he would be seeking new evidence as well as testimony from the victims and the accused perpetrators. Burgos said the new investigation would last three months.
Among the human rights groups that praised the recent reopening of the case was DEMUS, a women’s rights organization that had been working with victims of the forced sterilization program and had advocated for the reopening of the case. DEMUS was also one of the sponsors of the documentary from 2014, “Scars of Deception” that told the stories of 15 sterilization victims who had not received reparations for the suffering caused by their ordeals.
DEMUS staff member Romy Garcia asserted that, in regards to the case against Fujimori, he was “being constantly informed by his ministers of the goals met by the sterilization of women during his tenure, and due to this fact, we think there is sufficient evidence to show his authorship of this violation of the women’s human rights.”
One of the other agencies involved in pursuing justice for the victims of the program is the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) In 1999 CRR and four other human rights groups brought the case of sterilization victim Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). By 2003 the IACHR had ordered the Peruvian Government to pay $100,000 to the family of Mestanza Chavez who had died after being forced to undergo the surgery.
“The Peruvian government robbed thousands of women of their dignity and rights to build a family. Now, more than a decade later, we are nowhere near justice being served,” asserted Mónica Arango, regional director for CRR’s Latin America and the Caribbean Center.
“Prosecutor Burgos must hold Peruvian officials accountable and ensure a thorough criminal investigation to right these injustices so women and families like the Mestanza family get the compensation they deserve.”