Thursday 29.6.2017 in Latest Developments in Peru Country Page
On 5th May 2017, a peaceful march in defence of the legalisation of medicinal marijuana was forcefully dispersed by security forces in Lima. Police fired tear gas at protesters, including at children and people with disabilities in the crowd. The protest ended with the arrest of eight activists, including the son of the president of Buscando Esperanza (Looking for Hope) as well as the president of Legaliza Perú (Legalise Peru), two civil society organisations advocating for better policies on marijuana use. All detained activists were later released. Security forces justified the use of tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, claiming that it was an unauthorised protest obstructing public space.
A member of Buscando Esperanza testified to the police repression, stating that:
“We were just marching peacefully when the police started attacking us with tear gas, hitting even our children, regardless [of] the fact that some of them were in a wheelchair”.
In May 2017, an international mission from the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) visited Peru. During the visit, the IAPA remarked that there are several commitments at the highest level of government related to freedom of expression that “could mark a new era in Peru”.
As an example of these commitments, Peruvian Attorney General, Pablo Sánchez Velarde, agreed to establish a working group to follow up on investigations of more than 50 cases of journalists who were murdered and where the perpetrators remain unpunished. In addition, Peru´s President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, has recently signed the IAPA’s Declaration of Chapultepec aimed at guaranteeing freedom of the press and speech. This declaration contains ten fundamental principles necessary for a free press to fulfill its essential role in a democracy.
During the 162nd Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in May 2017, Peruvian human rights organisations participated in the “Human Rights and Extractive Industries” hearing. Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordination of Human Rights), Earth Rights International, Instituto de Defensa Legal (Institute of Legal Defence), and the Plataforma Interinstitucional de Celendín (Inter-institutional Platform of Celedín) condemned the worrisome human rights situation in Peru in regards to state polices on extractive industries.
The organisations' representatives noted with concern how environmental and land rights activists, as well as indigenous people and women are particularly at risk of human rights violations. In addition, the IACHR expressed concern over the fact that the Peruvian government does not have a protection mechanism in place for human rights defenders.
Ana María Vidal from Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos stated that “there is a need for a public policy to protect human rights defenders” and recalled that in April 2016, the Peruvian government had committed to publicising a protocol for security forces to abide by during protests, but it has yet to be released.