Prosecutors in Peru are working hard to seek justice for the tens of thousands of Indigenous women who were forced to undergo surgical sterilizations in the 1990s, during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori.
As part of their work, prosecutors have asked that a judge permit the trial against the former president to move forward and just this week they were granted that request. The 82-year-old former president, who is already serving a 25-year prison sentence for other human rights abuses and corruption, says he shouldn’t be charged in the case because of a technicality.
Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori will stand trial for his campaign to sterilize Indigenous women.
A judge in Peru opened proceedings on Monday against disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori and other officials accused of the “forced sterilizations” of thousands of poor, mostly Indigenous, women.
The judicial process led by Judge Rafael Martínez began following years of demands by human rights activists as well as numerous obstacles, including prosecutors who shelved investigations of Fujimori in the past.
He and his five fellow defendants are accused of being “indirect perpetrators of damage to life and health, serious injuries and serious human rights abuses” against women who were surgically sterilized between 1996 and 2000.
Fujimori and his fellow defendants, including three ex-health ministers, “did a lot of harm with their policies,” said public prosecutor Pablo Espinoza as he read out the charges against the 82-year-old former president. Espinoza said the accused “played with the lives and reproductive health of people, without caring about the damage” it would do to them.
Thousands of Indigenous women underwent forced sterilizations as part of a campaign to lower their birth rate.
During the 1990s, an estimated 270,000 Peruvians were subjected to surgery to have their fallopian tubes tied as part of a family planning program instigated during Fujimori’s final four years in power. Most of the victims were indigenous people including a woman who was 19 when in 1997 she took her baby to a clinic to be vaccinated, only to be tied up by soldiers.
Another woman died in March 1998 after she was subjected to the procedure.
As president, Fujimori announced at a congress in China in 1995 that his government would undertake a program to help poor Peruvian women decide the number of children they wanted to have. Later, there were growing complaints from women in poor communities in the Andes who said they had been sterilized without their knowledge.
Officials of Fujimori’s government claimed any excesses were the fault of overzealous local medical authorities. But the program was so controversial that the U.S. Congress cut aid payments to Peru that had been used to fund the program.
If the defendants are found guilty, the state could be liable for damages as Peru has recognized the right of victims of forced sterilization to receive reparations from the government.
The former president is already serving prison time for other crimes committed while in office.
Fujimori was arrested, tried, and convicted for a number of crimes related to corruption and human rights abuses that occurred during his government. Fujimori was president from 1990 to 2000. His presidency ended when he fled the country in the midst of a scandal involving corruption and human rights violations.
He was living in a self-imposed exile until his arrest while visiting Chile in November 2005. He was extradited to face criminal charges in Peru in September 2007 and has been in custody ever since. Though in December 2017, the country’s then President Pedro Kuczynski pardoned him on health grounds, however, that decision was overturned by the Peruvian Supreme Court in October 2018.
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