Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Another human rights trial concludes for the Center for Justice and Accountability:
Dear Friends of CJA,
[On Tuesday], we completed a trial on damages in Miami against former Peruvian Major Telmo Hurtado for his role in the infamous Accomarca Massacre. Twenty three years after the events of that terrible day, Teófila Ochoa Lizarbe and Cirila Pulida Baldéon had an opportunity to confront one of the perpetrators and tell their story in a U.S. court.
Ms. Ochoa Lizarbe and Ms. Pulida Baldéon, who were both twelve at the time, survived by hiding while 69 members of their village, including their family members, were tortured and murdered. Major Hurtado, who commanded one of the army units responsible for the massacre, came to the U.S in 2002 after the amnesty law in Peru preventing his prosecution was repealed.
Hurtado is currently in immigration detention and defaulted in the case. Nonetheless, we successfully sought leave of court to require Hurtado to appear so our clients would be able to confront him. U.S. Marshals brought Hurtado to court in prison garb and shackles. While Hurtado ultimately refused to participate in the proceeding, the clients felt that a measure of accountability was accomplished by his presence.
Please join me in congratulating our clients, expert witnesses former Peruvian Senator Javier Diez Canseco and Eduardo Gonzalez of the International Center for Transitional Justice, Ana Deutsch of the Program for Victims of Torture, and all the others who came together to make the trial an important step forward in the movement for justice and accountability. We expect Judge Adalberto Jordan to issue a decision awarding damages in the near future.
Below are highlights from the trial.
For our friends in the Miami area, CJA is co-hosting a panel discussion on the case and accountability efforts in Peru on Wednesday, February 13th, 7:30 p.m. at the University of Miami School of Law, 1311 Miller Drive, Coral Gables. Almudena Bernabeu, Hon. Javier Diez Canseco and Eduardo Gonzalez will be panelists. More information available here.
For more information on these important cases, please see the press release in English and Spanish or visit our website, www.cja.org.
All the best,
P.S.: CJA relies on contributions from individuals like you to continue our work. Thanks to the generosity of the JEHT Foundation, each new dollar donated to CJA will be matched. Please consider making a donation today. http://www.cja.org/donate/donate.shtml
Highlights from the Trial
After the trial, Teófila Ochoa Lizarbe said, "When the man who murdered my family was sitting in the courtroom, I felt anger. But mostly, I wanted him to look at me so that I could ask him, 'Why? Why?' Yes, I feel proud of what we have done here today. I feel like being here was really worth it. This experience has given me strength and courage to continue the struggle for justice back home in Peru. I feel loved by all the supporters here with us today, our lawyers, the other witnesses and friends."
Cirila Pulido Baldéon said, "Traveling all this way and testifying in court has been like a dream. We could never have done this without such a great group of lawyers. We are so happy to have had this opportunity for justice."
On the stand, Ms. Ochoa Lizarbe testified about the family members that she lost, "With my mother we were like friends, like sisters. She was a beautiful mother. My little brother Gerardo, who was 10, and I used to go pick fruit, he would always save the best piece of fruit for my mother. Victor, who was 8, he was a precious and good boy. Ernestina, 7, was very chubby but had a strong voice and was always happy. She was a beautiful, marvelous girl. Celestino, who was 3, already had a lot of character, but he was very good at sharing. Edwin was less than one year old. He was very beautiful. The last time I saw him he was on my mother's back and she was waving to me."
Ms. Pulido Baldéon testified, "Your honor, everything that we have said here is the truth. We have lived with this pain. I want to see Hurtado deported back to Peru so that he has to answer for the crimes that he committed. We have spent our whole lives traumatized in this nightmare since it happened. That's why I am here. I want the world to know the truth."
Eduardo Gonzalez, one of the authors of the Truth Commission Report, and an expert in transitional justice, testified, "I believe that this defendant, Mr. Hurtado, represents not just this one person, but a terrible strategy that the government used to terrorize a population. The massacre was a result of a plan from the highest levels of the military command in the Ayacucho region with the objective being to 'search and destroy' the enemy. When asked if every civilian should be considered a terrorist criminal, Mr. Hurtado answered 'yes.' Hurtado represents the arrogance of the military who thought that they could operate in complete impunity."
Former Senator Javier Diez Canseco, who interrogated Hurtado in the months after the massacre as a part of the Senate Investigation Commission, testified, "Hurtado assumed responsibility for the killings. He said he had proceeded with his orders to 'capture and destroy' the enemy. When I asked him about the women, children and elderly that were killed, he said that 'the children were all indoctrinated and that women were the cruelest members of the Shining Path.' He said that they were all so full of ideology that there was no use in trying to change their minds, and if they did not have information useful to the military, it was within his discretion to 'eliminate' them. I was shocked by these admissions. Hurtado showed no remorse."
Center for Justice and Accountability