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Peruvian Government to Stand Trial for Prison Massacres

On June 19, 1986, political prisoners of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) held at three prisons revolted demanding government compliance with agreements previously reached governing the prisoners' conditions of confinement. The Peruvian government of then President Alan Garcia refused to negotiate with the prisoners, who had seized the prisons, and sent in the armed forces who blasted their way into the prisons using artillery, helicopter gunships and rockets. Several hundred PCP prisoners were murdered by government forces, many after they had surrendered and were in government custody again.

On June 16, 1994, the Inter-American Court of Justice announced it would try Peru for the disappearance and murder of 127 PCP Prisoners of War (POWs) during the prison sieges. Juan Abugattas of Amnesty International stated "The ruling will include the government of current President Alberto Fujirnori for failing to investigate and punish those responsible and pay compensation costs to families of the victims."

A trial now pending in the Inter-American Court will rule on the murders committed by government troops at the prison on Fronton Island in 1986. Several members of the Republican Guard were punished for killing 240 prisoners at Lurigancho prison in Lima, many after they had already surrendered. But the Fujimori and Garcia governments have taken no measures against the marines who directed cannon fire into the prison wings where prisoners were barricaded. The marines later murdered the majority of the prisoners who had surrendered.

According to Abugattas, a favorable decision by the court would mean the Peruvian government would have to pay high compensation costs to the relatives of the murdered prisoners. He pointed out that in 1988 the Honduran government was ordered to pay $700,000 for the disappearance and murder of two citizens by security forces. If the Peruvian government refuses to pay it can be held in contempt by the court and reported to the Organization of American States.

To commemorate the 1986 prison massacres, referred to by the PCP as the "Day of Heroism" PCP commandos blew up a bank in Lima on June 18,1994. Readers desiring more information on the 1986 prison revolts in Peru and the ensuing massacre should contact: CSPP, 30-08 Broadway, # 159, Queens, NY 11106 and inquire about the availability of the booklet Glory to the Day of Heroism which gives first hand accounts by the prisoners of the revolt as well as its background.

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