The April 7, 2009 conviction of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for human rights violations is a clear sign that Americans (north or south of the boarders) will not tolerate criminal activity from their elected leaders.
Fujimori, was sentenced to 25-years in prison for his role in killings and kidnappings by the Grupo Colina death squad during his government’s battle against leftist guerrillas in the 1990’s.
In addition, he faces another six years, for a December 11, 2007 conviction for illegal search and seizure of documents and videotapes in the possession of the wife of his former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. Fujimori appealed the verdict, but on April 15, 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and 6-year sentence.
The convictions mark the first time that an elected head of a Democratic state has been tried, and convicted of human rights violations. Fujimori was specifically found guilty of murder, bodily harm, and two cases of kidnapping.
Fujimori, who spent 10-years as Peru’s president, battled both the Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movementgroups by subverting his own democracy, mounted an autogolpe, closed Congress, usurped the judiciary, implemented military tribunals and used death squads, all in the name of fighting terrorism.
Within five years, the country was essentially pacified, but innocent people were imprisoned, a lot of human rights abuses had been committed and certainly democracy was completely subverted. By 2000, Fujimori attempted to run for a third term as president, which was unconstitutional. Ultimately, because of his actions, he was chased out of Peru, and has been in exile for five years. Recently he tried to travel back to Peru via Chile and was arrested.
Fujimori is currently in a Chilean prison where he will likely spend the rest of his life since he is plagued by ill-health from hypertension, cancer and other medical problems.
The convictions challenge the assumptions held by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and others that the end justifies the means when it comes to dealing with terrorists. And while Peruvians have every right to hope that the Court’s verdict marks a lasting triumph for the rule of law, the question remains open in the United States. It certainly seems odd that a country like Peru that has suffered from the patchy application of the rule of law, has trumped the United States which, in theory, was founded on the principle that no man is above the law.
It is again time to remind our leaders that all government officers of the United States, including the President, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and all members of Congress, pledge first and foremost to uphold the Constitution. These oaths affirm that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any human leader.
Vile, John. A Companion to the United States ConThese oaths affirm stitution and its Amendments, page 80 (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006).
Wikipedia, “Alberto Fujimori,” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Fujimori#Accusations_of_human_rights_abuses
Wikipedia, “Autogolpe,” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogolpe
Wikipedia, “Shining Path,” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_Path
Wikipedia, “Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement,” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%BApac_Amaru_Revolutionary_Movement