§ 2. Mr. McFall
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Peruvian Government regarding the presidential decision on the La Cantuta case and its implications for Peru in the international community.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)
On 23 February, ambassadors from the European Union expressed concern to the Peruvian Government about the handling of that case. They also emphasised the need for human rights violations to be speedily investigated and appropriately punished.
§ Mr. McFall
Despite international pressure on Peru, President Fujimori decided to refer that case to a military rather than civilian court. The issue is causing a great deal of international concern. The Minister will know that I led a parliamentary human rights delegation on the issue in September and have given him a copy of our report. Will he read the report regarding the opinions of judges and prosecutors, and join his counterparts in Europe and the United States in putting pressure on Peru to introduce a transparent and international system of justice that can be examined?
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
The hon. Gentleman is not quite right. It was the Peruvian Congress which altered the law to permit that case to be tried by a military court. Although the judicial process was not altogether satisfactory, nine of the soldiers have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 20 years. The hon. Gentleman has sent me a copy of the report that he mentioned. I shall read it and endeavour to discuss it with him in due course.
§ Mr. Jacques Arnold
Should not we bear it in mind that the Peruvian constitutional assembly passed the legislation that allowed the transfer of jurisdiction and should not we consider the reasons why it did that? Is not the least of the reasons that the elected president and 913 constitutional assembly of Peru have to cope with the barbaric terrorism perpetrated in that country by the Sendero Luminoso?
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
As I said, it was not an executive act that permitted the case to be heard by a military court; it was an act of the Peruvian Congress. Peru faces a particularly violent and ruthless terrorist threat from the Sendero Luminoso, but that does not excuse breaches of respect for human rights by the security forces.