Nataly Herrera (independent researcher) and Dr Tom Pegram (University College, London)

This in-depth study of prevalence and prevention of torture in Peru offers a factually rich account of torture incidence (frequency, severity and geographical distribution) over the period 1985-2014.  It examines a number of core dimensions of analysis, including the law and practice of detention, prosecution of torture accusations, and torture complaint mechanisms and monitoring practices.  Drawing on a wide range of primary source materials, the study demonstrates that the practice of torture was and continues to be widely employed throughout Peru over this 30-year period. Torture today represents the most serious and most widespread violation of human rights violation in the country.  

The study documents several different stages evident in Peru's recent history that are pertinent to explaining the evolution of torture practices.  Particular attention is paid to the impact of the brutal internal armed conflict that afflicted the country from 1980 to 2000. However, careful attention is also paid to analytically distinguishing the violation of torture as a historically rooted practice distinct to the massive human rights violations experienced in the context of conflict. The return to democracy in 2000 foregrounded a process of significant institutional and rule of law renovation. However, as this study examines, this did not mean the end of abuses of torture; but rather a change in the profile of victims, the methods used and the circumstances in which they occurred. The police emerge as a nerve centre for prevention failures. Similarly, a deeply dysfunctional judicial, prosecutorial and penal system constituted serious structural failures which continue to place in jeopardy prevention of torture and the rigts of victims in Peru.  

One bright spot of functionality within Peru's flawed domestic human rights framework is the office of the human rights ombudsman which has been recently officially designated the national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. However, as this study makes clear, it is important to calibrate expectations placed on torture prevention mechanisms in light of operational conditions.