The Peruvian government yesterday announced that there will be no official negotiations over the fate of 36 hostages, who were kidnapped on Monday by a branch of the Maoist rebel group Sendero Luminoso in a rural area of the south-central department of Cuzco. The rebel group in a communique earlier this week demanded a $10 million ransom in exchange for the hostages’ release. According to local reports, 29 of the 26 victims are Peruvian employees of Swedish construction giant Skanska.
The Peruvian government has deployed 1,500 soldiers in the affected zone with the intention of cordoning off the area and has set up a joint command with national police in the area. In a statement Thursday, Minister of Justice Juan Jiménez said, “The government does not negotiate with terrorists, the government acts according to the law…There is a security operation in the affected area to rescue these victims alive.” Skanska officials contacted in Lima on Thursday refused to comment on whether the company was prepared to negotiate for the hostages.
The ongoing hostage crisis is the worst episode of violence connected to Sendero Luminoso since the February capture of rebel leader alias Comrade Artemio, who was wounded after clashing with Peruvian troops. President Ollanta Humala said after the capture that it marked the near defeat of Sendero. This week’s events could have political implications for Humala, who may be hesitant to authorize aggressive action until a formal complaint filed by human rights groups with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is resolved.
A new change in British law last year extends the retroactive reach of United Kingdom authorities to prosecute for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Crimes can now be prosecuted for acts committed all the way back to 1991—10 years earlier than the previous cut-off point.
Given this development, a Peruvian man was recently arrested in Yorkshire, England, for allegedly participating in death squads during the Shining Path era. The charge was suspicion of involvement in state-backed death squads that targeted guerrilla movements, mainly the Shining Path. He is being accused of participating in the murder of up to 100 individuals during the period of 1989-1993 and is the first to be arrested under the new law.
The purpose of the law was to cover the actions of individuals who had become UK residents after the genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is suspected that hundreds of suspected war criminals from around the world are living in the UK with apparent impunity.
But the UK is not alone in its ability to prosecute such criminals. The United States has the Alien Tort Claims Act, which asserts that “the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Although the law remained dormant for nearly 200 years, with the increased awareness about and concern for human rights, litigants have recently begun to seek redress more frequently under the Alien Tort Claims Act—including by Paraguayans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Libyans and Filipinos.
Teodoro Penadillo Carmen, the man suspected of being a former high-level Shining Path guerilla known as “Comrade Rayo,” was arrested Monday while allegedly recruiting new members for the group in Lima. Penadillo is suspected of being the former Huallaga Regional Committee chief for the Shining Path according to Minister of the Interior Fernando Barrios. Peruvian counterterrorism police arrested Penadillo in the San Juan de Miraflores neighborhood of the capital after receiving intelligence that Penadillo was leaving the city to return to the Huallaga region, an area where the Shining Path guerillas are still active.
Penadillo’s return to the Huallaga region was anticipated as the Peruvian military captured Edgar Mejia Asencio, known as “Comrade Izula” last Wednesday. That operation left two other rebels dead in an area near the Huallaga River. Penadillo had been ordered to return to the region to assume command of the security squad for the Shining Path’s leader, Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, known as “Comrade Artemio,” who remains at large.
In its continuing campaigns against the Shining Path guerillas the Peruvian government has offered 1 million soles (US$385,000), while the United States has offered US$5 million each for information leading to the capture of the rebel group’s remaining leaders at-large—Comrade Artemio and Victor Quispe Palomino, known as “Comrade Jose.”
Members of the insurgent group Sendero Luminoso launched an attack on an army post yesterday in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers (VRAE) region of central Peru that left at least one police officer wounded. Earlier this week, in the first deadly attack of 2010, rebels also ambushed and killed a police officer and two civilians who were destroying coca plantations in the area.
Insurgent-related violence in the VRAE region has claimed the lives of 43 soldiers since 2003 and has continued to pose challenges for the Peruvian government. A single attack last year in the region killed 13 soldiers and provoked a scaling-up of military operations in the region.
The Peruvian government has mobilized an intense manhunt for those responsible for the attacks. During a visit to the site of the violence, Minister of the Interior Octavio Salazar pledged to capture the rebels.