Perú Ends Criminal Investigation into Mass Forced Sterilizations

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Center for Reproductive Rights calls out state for failing to comply with its obligations before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
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(PRESS RELEASE) Peruvian prosecutors have closed their investigation of former president Alberto Fujimori and his administration’s health officials’ involvement in a mass forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of women—claiming the case lacked sufficient evidence.

According to the Health Ministry of Perú, nearly 350,000 women and 25,000 men were sterilized from 1990-2000—under the guise of a population control policy to address poverty in the country—implemented by the Fujimori government.

Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“By failing to prosecute the individuals responsible for this grave human rights violation, the Peruvian government has turned its back on the thousands of women forcibly sterilized during Alberto Fujimori’s regime under the false pretense of family planning.

“Forced sterilization in Peru has robbed these individuals of their fundamental right to decide if and when to have children, and has disproportionately harmed indigenous and marginalized communities in Perú. For these women, the dream of building a family has been crushed.

“These policies were plainly human rights violations and nothing short of cruel and inhumane treatment. The women of Peru deserve justice for what has been done to them.”

In 1999, the Center with DEMUS, CLADEM, APRODEH AND CEJIL brought the María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez v. Perú case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). Health workers threatened to turn María Mamérita in to the police if she did not consent to being sterilized. Due to complications from the procedure, her health rapidly deteriorated and she died just days later. The petition alleged that the case of Ms. Mestanza is one of thousands of women affected by a massive, compulsory, and systematic government policy that stressed sterilization as a means to rapidly decrease the fertility rate, especially among poor, indigenous, and rural women.

The IACHR approved a friendly settlement agreement in the case of Ms. Mestanza on October 10, 2003 (Report No. 71/03).  Under this Settlement the State agreed, among others, “to undertake a thorough investigation of the facts and apply legal punishments to any person determined to have participated in them, as either planner, perpetrator, accessory, or in other capacity, even if they be civilian or military officials or employees of the government.”

In 2009, the IACHR Commissioner and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women sent a letter to the Peruvian State in which she expressed “her deep concern over noncompliance with the third clause of the agreement, which establishes the State’s commitment to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the facts and apply the penalties that the law requires to any person who had a hand in these events…” The Peruvian State affirmed that on October 21, 2011 the Office of the Public Prosecutor ordered the reopening of the investigation regarding the forced sterilization of Ms. Mestanza and thousands of other women during the second half of the 1990s.

However, in breach of the aforementioned Friendly Settlement, the Peruvian State closed the investigations alleging the lack of evidence to support claims that hundreds of mostly poor and indigenous women were sterilized against their will.  The Center express concerns that with this decision the Peruvian State will leave in impunity serious human rights violations.