Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Third Attempt on Life of Key Torture Witness

Several shots were fired at Luis Alberto Ramírez Hinostroza, a key witness in an upcoming torture trial against military officers, from a moving car on Wednesday evening, June 1, as he was crossing the Mariscal Castillo park in Lima accompanied by a police bodyguard. The park is close to the office of a Peruvian human rights group, the Legal Defense Institute (Instituto de Defensa Legal, IDL), where Ramírez had just held a meeting with his lawyer. The police guard covered Ramírez with his body to protect him and both luckily escaped injury.

This was the third attempt on Ramírez' life and human rights workers claim that it highlights the government's failure to take adequate action to protect those preparing to testify against the military officers.

“The Peruvian government must fully investigate the attack on Luis Alberto Ramírez and bring to justice whoever is responsible,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “This attack might have been prevented had earlier ones been properly investigated.”

Ramírez is due to testify in the trial of retired General Luis Pérez Documet, who was military chief of Junín province in the early 1990s, during Peru’s armed conflict. At least nine university students were forcibly disappeared during this period after being held at the “December 9” military base in Huancayo, under the command of Pérez Documet. In March 2004 the Fourth Criminal Court of Huancayo charged the former general with kidnapping.

Ramírez testified before Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the brutal torture he suffered at the base. He also witnessed the torture of others who subsequently “disappeared.” He is expected to provide crucial evidence of their detention in the trial, which is expected to begin in six weeks’ time in Huancayo.


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