Peru is a constitutional, multiparty republic. Pursuant to the constitution, in March First Vice President Martin Vizcarra assumed the presidency following the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Kuczynski, leader of the Peruanos Por el Kambio (Peruvians for Change) party, had won the 2016 national elections in a vote widely considered free and fair.
Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included isolated cases of torture; government corruption, including in the judiciary; violence against women and girls; and forced labor (human trafficking) at illegal gold mining sites.
The government took steps to investigate and in some cases prosecute or otherwise punish public officials accused of abuses.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no significant developments in the investigation into allegations members of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) committed the extrajudicial killings of more than 27 criminal suspects during at least nine separate police operations from 2012 to 2015 as part of a scheme to obscure police corruption as well as a means to receive awards and promotions. Fourteen PNP regular police officers remained in preventive detention, eight in prison and six under house arrest, awaiting trial for their roles in one of the operations.
The Shining Path domestic terrorist group conducted several terrorist acts during the year that caused the injury and death of security force members and civilians, including the August 21 killing of a husband, wife, and adult son in a small town located in the remote region of Junin. Shining Path terrorists conducted two separate attacks on police and military contingents in June, killing four police officers and wounding several others.
On September 11, the National Criminal Court sentenced 10 former leaders of the Shining Path to life in prison for committing the 1992 Tarata Street bombing that killed 25 persons in Lima. The court postponed sentencing an 11th leader, Moises Limaco, who fled the country in 2014, and cleared a 12th, Elizabeth Cardenas.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system generally promoted freedom of expression, including for the press.
Violence and Harassment: Journalists alleged police, protesters, and company personnel assaulted and threatened them while covering various protests and incidents of social unrest. The Press and Society Institute reported the most common type of threat was made against local radio and television broadcast journalists who investigated local government authorities for corruption. The institute alleged the aggressors were often local and regional government officials, such as mayors and regional governors.
Police continued to investigate the 2016 killing of radio journalist Hernan Choquepata Ordonez in the coastal province of Camana, Arequipa Region. Reports suggested Choquepata was killed after he criticized mayors of the municipalities of Camana and Mariscal Caceres.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: NGOs continued to report that some media, most notably in the provinces outside of Lima, practiced self-censorship due to fear of local government reprisal.
Nongovernmental Impact: Some media reported narcotics traffickers and persons engaged in illegal mining activities threatened press freedom by intimidating journalists who reported information that undermined their operations.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
The International Telecommunication Union reported that 49 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The law does not require a permit for public demonstrations, but organizers must report the type of demonstration planned and coordinate its intended location to the appropriate regional representative. The government continued to suspend freedom of assembly in the VRAEM emergency zone, where armed elements of the Shining Path and drug traffickers operated, as well as in regions suffering from crime and public health crises.
The government may restrict or prohibit demonstrations in specific times and places to assure public safety or health. Police used tear gas and occasional force to disperse protesters in various demonstrations. Although most demonstrations were peaceful, protests in some areas turned violent, resulting in two deaths and multiple injuries in February (see section 6, Other Societal Violence and Discrimination).
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Pursuant to the constitution, in March First Vice President Martin Vizcarra assumed the presidency following the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Kuczynski had assumed the presidency in July 2016 after a second round of presidential elections. Domestic and international observers declared the nationwide elections–held in April (for president, the National Congress, and the Andean Parliament) and in June (a second round for the presidential race only)–to be fair and transparent, despite controversy over the exclusion of two presidential candidates for administrative violations of election-related laws. President Kuczynski resigned in March, a few days before his impeachment hearing on corruption allegations.
The first round of regional elections for governorships and municipal offices was held on October 7. Domestic and international observers declared the peaceful elections free and fair. The second round of run-off elections for 16 gubernatorial races took place on December 9.
Political Parties and Political Participation: By law, groups that advocate the violent overthrow of the government and express ideologies incompatible with democracy cannot register as political parties.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of corruption by government officials during the year. Citizens continued to view corruption as a pervasive problem in all branches of national, regional, and local governments.
Corruption: Several high-profile political figures were under investigation for corruption. Released from pretrial detention in April, former president Ollanta Humala and first lady Nadine Heredia remained under investigation on money-laundering and corruption charges. The government requested the extradition of former president Toledo from the United States for allegedly accepting bribes during his administration. The Public Ministry opened an investigation into former president Kuczynski’s alleged involvement in buying votes to avoid impeachment as well as his ties to bribery by Brazilian construction firms seeking local public works contracts. A judge ordered former presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori to pretrial detention in October for allegedly managing the laundering of illegal campaign contributions.
There were allegations of widespread corruption in the judicial system. The government launched an investigation following July media reports of a judicial scandal involving allegations of influence peddling and graft by various judges at all levels. The president of the judiciary resigned in July because he failed to identify and respond to the corruption. President Vizcarra proposed new constitutional and legislative reforms to combat corruption, including a new system for selecting judges. In October Congress approved Vizcarra’s corruption reform agenda. The electorate overwhelmingly supported the president’s agenda in a December 9 referendum, voting in favor of reform of the National Council of Magistrates to select judges in a public process based on merit, more transparent political party financing, and ending immediate re-election of legislators, and against a question on a return to a bicameral Congress. Although the new criminal procedure code was not fully implemented in Lima, the government applied the code to corruption cases in all the judicial districts.
PNP officials at all levels were implicated in corruption scandals during the year. In September authorities arrested PNP General Jose Antonio Figueroa, who was accused of receiving bribes in exchange for the protection of an organized criminal group in Lima. Four other PNP generals were suspected of supporting the same group in exchange for monthly bribes.
In August a superior criminal court sentenced a former National Penitentiary Institute vice president and two other high-level officials to 13 years in prison for bribing judges on behalf of a criminal gang and providing favors to imprisoned gang members, including early releases.
Financial Disclosure: Most public officials must submit personal financial information to the Office of the Comptroller General prior to taking office and periodically thereafter. The comptroller monitors and verifies disclosures, but the law was not strongly enforced. Administrative sanctions for noncompliance range from 30-day to one-year suspensions, include bans on signing government contracts, and culminate with a ban from holding government office. The comptroller makes disclosures available to the public. A 2016 law enabled the Superintendency of Banks’ Financial Intelligence Unit to access individual or corporate tax records and bank accounts for public officials under investigation for money laundering and other crimes. As of October the government, however, had not implemented this law. The comptroller reported only 22 audits were conducted for the 50,000 public official disclosures in 2017.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.
Human rights activists continued to express concern for their safety while working in areas with social unrest, including in the regions of Cajamarca, Cusco, Madre de Dios, and Arequipa, where social conflicts existed, particularly over natural resource extractive activities. They also alleged locally elected government authorities harassed activists, especially in areas where officials faced corruption charges and links to criminal activities. The activists claimed the slow, ineffective process for sanctioning harassers essentially supported accusations of impunity.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and in particular the Vice Ministry of Human Rights and Access to Justice, oversees human rights issues at the national level. The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations also have significant human rights roles. These government bodies were generally considered independent and effective.
The independent Office of the Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo) operated without government or party interference, and NGOs, civil society organizations, and the public considered it effective.
Congressional committees overseeing human rights included Justice and Human Rights; Women and the Family; Labor and Social Security; Andean, Amazonian, Afro-Peruvian Peoples and Environment and Ecology; Health and Population; and Social Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.