Information on who is at risk from political violence [PER14377]

Attached please find documents that provide information on which groups and persons are frequent victims and targets of politically-motivated violence in Peru.

The attached report from Americas Watch, produced with assistance from the Andean Commission of Jurists and other Peruvian human rights organizations, is the most detailed recent report on the human rights situation in Peru currently available to the DIRB. The document states that Sendero Luminoso's "principal targets since 1988 have been representatives of the state, leaders of campesino and labour organizations, and peasant communities in areas where it has sought to establish or maintain control" (Americas Watch 1992, 64). The report adds that "Sendero Luminoso systematically undermines the presence of the state in its areas of action, targeting especially mayors, governors, and the personnel of development programs," and states that "persons not holding public office but known to be active in their political party are also victimized" (Ibid., 64-65). Americas Watch cites at least one case in which members of Sendero took over a day care centre and threatened to kill the children of local members of the APRA party and politicians (Ibid.).

Americas Watch reports that Sendero's campaign against representatives of the state peaked in the period leading up to the November 1989 municipal elections, stating that
Sendero assassinated mayors, mayoral candidates and their immediate relatives, and local electoral officials. Although candidates of all major parties were victimized, Sendero appeared to concentrate on representatives of the United Left coalition, which it considers a rival for the loyalties of organized labour and campesinos (Ibid.).

The Americas Watch report also describes how Sendero Luminoso "has offered justice of a moralistic kind, such as its punishments of drunkards and adulterers" (Ibid., 59). The report adds that during 1989 Sendero "increased its attacks on the campesino population in areas where villagers resisted" its presence, and adds that "as civil-defense patrols expanded during 1990, Sendero concentrated attacks on their members as representatives of the state's military policies" (Ibid., 61). Americas Watch also states that Sendero has executed leaders of peasant organizations and other popular "sectors" such as unions that have resisted Sendero penetration, as well as people in rural areas who did not comply with Sendero's orders (Ibid., 62, 66).

In addition to its numerous attacks on policemen and military personnel, both on- and off-duty, the group has reportedly murdered captured and disarmed policemen and journalists (Ibid., pp. 67-68). Sendero has also attacked and threatened candidates and voters at various elections, killed persons who remained at home in villages where much of the population had left to vote at another location, and attacked owners of agricultural businesses (Ibid., p. 68). Sendero has also directed "some of its hostility at foreigners and church workers," and "Japanese have become particular targets, no doubt because of [president] Fujimori's extraction" (Ibid., 71).

The attached section from Sendero Luminoso and the Threat of Narcoterrorism also provides information on the subject. A chart shows the proportion of police, civil servants, military personnel and civilians among the dead and wounded in terrorist incidents from 1980 to 1988 (Tarazona-Sevillano 1990, 40). The document also states that Sendero Luminoso has targeted those to whom Abimael Guzm n refers as bourgeois "elites": "wealthy merchants, landowners, high government officials, and others who cooperate with these people" (Ibid., 41). The source also states that the group's targets can be separated into two categories: personal and collective, with the former including specific assassination attempts and personal "warnings" (Ibid.). High-ranking members of the armed forces reportedly constitute "especially attractive targets for Sendero" (Ibid.).

The same report states that "attacks on people who are associated with a particular economic, social, or political group are a common Sendero tactic," adding that "retribution is also levied against members of the Peruvian subclasses that ally themselves with those Sendero considers enemies" (Ibid., 46-47). Furthermore,
elected officials who refuse to resign or turn over power to Sendero upon request are routinely executed, often in front of the towns that elected them. The insurgency has been known to attack entire communities, committing brutal murders and destroying property, because the townspeople obeyed Peruvian law by participating in government anti-Sendero programs. Others have been raided simply for expressing reticence about supporting the insurgency, if only for economic reasons (Ibid., 47).

The attached report from Latin America Weekly Report discusses the protection available to "a large number of people who have become Sendero's targets in Lima," adding that "businessmen and politicians seek the protection officialdom cannot offer" through private security businesses (5 Mar. 1992). The report adds that some of the big unions have been "forced to set up their self-defence units to protect themselves from senderista attacks" and states that many of the mayors and deputy mayors of municipalities around Lima have recently become targets (Ibid.).

The Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) has reportedly focused on "high-profile assassinations, kidnappings, and indiscriminate bombings that endanger civilian life" (Americas Watch 1992, 63). This group has also had "a moralistic streak" attributed to its murdering for example homosexuals in Tarapoto and other persons "whom they considered to be bad social influences" (Ibid., 63, 72). The group has reportedly circulated flyers in Tarapoto and Pucallpa "condemning to death all homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes" (Ibid.). The MRTA has also threatened popular leaders, native villagers, a retired army general, a Lima judge and kidnapped businessmen (Ibid.). It has also "placed bombs in places with heavy civilian traffic" and has targeted certain foreign entities, such as the local franchises of Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, several Mormon churches, the Italian and United States embassies and the U.S.-Peruvian Institute (Ibid., 72-73).

Government forces, despite having varied their counterinsurgency tactics, have continued to victimize the civilian population (Ibid., 77). Americas Watch states that "the bulk of human rights violations by official and officially tolerated forces have occurred in the emergency zones, but there have also been serious abuses in other areas," adding that "the victims, though still predominantly campesinos [peasants], included labour leaders, students, and professionals" (Ibid., 78).

The same source states that massive detentions by army, police and combined forces often lead to disappearances, and "particularly vulnerable are refugees from areas of conflict, who attract the suspicion of the authorities by virtue of their origin" (Ibid., 82). Americas Watch adds that "these families commonly flee their homes without identity documents, as Sendero destroys local registries; or the armed forces tear or break or fail to return identity documents when a displaced person is held and questioned." They further point out that "the lack of documents makes them obvious criminal suspects" and that "anyone coming from a zone of conflict is immediately suspected of sympathizing with Sendero" (Ibid.). Finally, Americas Watch states that "labour activists, professionals, and students have been victims of disappearance," and that "most of the disappeared in 1989 ... were adult male campesinos, and disappearances took place in the context of army sweeps or military operations in rural areas" (Ibid., 91). Treatment of the civilian population in many areas reportedly depends "on the character and personal philosophy of the zone commander, as well as on the role that his area plays in any current crisis" (Ibid., 97).

Americas Watch also discusses paramilitary groups, and indicates that in 1989 the Comando Rodrigo Franco was responsible for at least eleven killings and "bombings and innumerable threats against persons it considered sympathizers of Sendero or the MRTA" (Americas Watch 1992, 101). The source also states that according to a Peruvian congressional commission monitoring violence, 164 murders were carried out by paramilitary groups in 1989, and of these 153 were attributed to unidentified groups. The same commission attributed 284 deaths in 1990 to unidentified groups, and in 1991 a group operating in Ayacucho was held responsible for threats against local journalists and for the murder of another (Ibid., 102-103).

For details on the above, please refer to the attachments to this Response. Additional information on the requested subject can be found in the various reports on human rights in Peru which are available at your Regional Documentation Centre: these include the annual reports of Amnesty International, the United States Department of State and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Critique, among others.


Americas Watch. 1992. Peru Under Fire: Human Rights Since the Return to Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Latin American Weekly Report [Lima]. 12 March 1992. "Fujimori to `Privatise' War by Arming Urban Self-Defence Groups." London: Latin American Newsletters. (NEXIS)

Tarazona-Sevillano, Gabriela and John B. Reuter. 1990. Sendero Luminoso and the Threat of Narcoterrorism. New York: Praeger Publishers.


Americas Watch. 1992. Peru Under Fire: Human Rights Since the Return to Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 57-103, 148-151.

Latin American Weekly Report [Lima]. 12 March 1992. "Fujimori to `Privatise' War by Arming Urban Self-Defence Groups." London: Latin American Newsletters. (NEXIS)

Tarazona-Sevillano, Gabriela and John B. Reuter. 1990. Sendero Luminoso and the Threat of Narcoterrorism. New York: Praeger Publishers, pp. 32-49.