The Advocates for Human Rights began using human rights monitoring methods to contribute to the success of transitional justice in 2002. The Advocates first sent a team of 10 volunteers to Peru in November 2002 to participate as international observers in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process . The Advocates returned with a 5 person delegation in August 2004 at the one-year anniversary of the public release of the TRC's Final Report.
Between 1980 and 2000, Peru experienced violent internal conflict that resulted in the death or disappearance of an estimated 69,000 persons, as well as 600,000 internally displaced persons. Thousands more were imprisoned and tortured, while economic losses numbered in the thousands of millions. The Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement terrorist groups, as well as the Peruvian government were directly responsible for human rights abuses during this period of violence, which ended in 2000 when Alberto Fujimori lost power. The TRC was created in 2001 to help the country address these issues by investigating human rights violations and making recommendations for reform and reconciliation.
The Advocates began working in Peru after Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), one of the main Peruvian non-governmental human rights organizations that worked with the TRC, requested that The Advocates monitor the transitional justice process. In November 2002, the The Advocates team conducted fact-finding in both Lima and Ayacucho (the region where the most human rights abuses occurred. Team members conducted individual interviews with victims, witnesses, legal advocates, human rights organizations, Commissioners, judges, prosecutors and the police. The team also interviewed Peruvian government representatives from the Executive Branch, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Ombudsman's office, as well as U.S. embassy staff. The delegation also visited two prisons and a torture treatment center. Two team members went on to observe the TRC-sponsored exhumation of two mass grave sites in Lucanamarca. (The exhumations were conducted following the guidelines set forth in the "Minnesota Protocol", which was created by The Advocates for Human Rights and later adopted by the United Nations.)
The goal of the second trip was to monitor the Peruvian government's implementation of the TRC’s recommendations for reparations and institutional reforms. During the August 2004 trip, team members conducted more than 50 follow-up fact-finding interviews in Lima, Ayacucho and affected rural communities in the Ayacucho region. Interviewees included human rights organizations and other civil society groups, former Commissioners, judges, prosecutors and police, as well as with members of Congress and the Executive Branch's Multi-Sectoral Commission charged with carrying out the TRC's recommendations. The delegation also met with the Peruvian Minister of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In addition, team members inspected the documentation center that houses the TRC records and the TRC-sponsored photo exhibit that chronicles the political violence in Peru.
The Advocates for Human Rights has also presented written statements on the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission process at the 2003, 2004 and 2005 meetings of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. In 2004 and 2005, The Advocates also presented an oral statement on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission processes in both Peru and Sierra Leone.
The presence of international observers, such as the The Advocates delegation, can contribute to the success of the TRC process. International observers uphold the integrity of the process by monitoring the work of the TRC and publishing their observations. International observers also provide moral and emotional support to the victims who have made the difficult decision to come forward with their testimonies. The Advocates human rights monitoring team received significant media attention while in Peru. International observers legitimize the Truth and Reconciliation Process by bringing it to the attention not only of Peruvians themselves, but also to other nations. In the end, an international observer presence also puts pressure on the Peruvian government to comply with the commission's recommendations.
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