ND Law School team wins landmark international human rights decision

Author: Michael O. Garvey


A team of Notre Dame law professors and students have successfully argued a landmark case regarding human rights violations inPerubefore the Inter-American Court of Human Rights inSan Jose,Costa Rica.

The team included Douglass Cassel and Sean OBrien, director and assistant director of theNotre DameLawSchools Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR), and Carlos Pelayo Moller, a Mexican human rights lawyer and former CCHR student who received a master of laws degree from Notre Dame last year.They represented hundreds of Peruvian victims of aMay 6, 1992, raid by Peruvian military forces on the Miguel Castro Castro prison inLima.

We are gratified that theInter-American Courthas seen through the smokescreen concocted by the Fujimori regime to conceal its crimes,Casselsaid.At long last, 15 years after this premeditated mass murder, hundreds of victims will receive a measure of justice, including financial reparation and moral satisfaction.

The raid, launched on the pretext of suppressing a prison riot, took place a month afterPerus then-President Alberto Fujimori had closed the nations congress and assumed dictatorial powers in an attempt to crush the guerrillas of the left-wing Shining Path insurgency.For four days, the Peruvian military used aerial bombardment, artillery, grenades, dynamite, white phosphorous gas, machine guns and high-powered rifles to kill dozens and injure hundreds of unarmed inmates.

Prisoners who attempted to surrender during the attack were shot dead by sharpshooters.Some survivors were tortured, raped and executed.Many of the 600 men,women and children held in the prison at the time of the raid were being held without any charges; some had been sentenced byfacelesscourts without access to legal counsel after trials that lasted a matter of minutes.Many were being held simply because their affiliations, such as being university students, were thought to imply opposition to the Fujimori regime.

Fujimori has since fledPeruand now lives inChile.

In a 156-page judgment issued last month, theInter-American CourtfoundPeruresponsible for multiple violations of the right to life, physical integrity, due process and judicial protection of the victims and their family members.The legally binding judgment orders Peru to pay substantial damages to victims and family members; to provide free physical and mental health care for those who still suffer from their injuries; to train police and military forces in international human rights standards; and publicly to accept responsibility for the attack and apologize to the victims, among other symbolic acts of reparation.It also ordersPeruto investigate, prosecute and punish those individuals found to be criminally responsible for thecrimes against humanitycommitted during the attack.

The Notre Dame team continues to press for Fujimoris extradition fromChileto face criminal prosecution for planning and directing the raid.

Established in 1979, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an organ of the Organization of American States.

* Contact: * _DougCasselat 574 631 7895 or Cassel@nd.edu , or Sean O’Brien at 574-631-8544 or sobrien2@nd.edu

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