Human rights groups accuse Peru’s president of crimes against humanity in submission to ICC

Damond Isiaka
7 Min Read


Two human rights groups have made a submission to the International Criminal Court accusing Peru’s President Dina Boluarte and members of her government of crimes against humanity in connection with the deaths of 49 people during the Andean country’s weeks-long protest movement in 2022 and 2023.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Peru’s Association for Human Rights (APRODEH) submitted a communication to the ICC Tuesday, asking it to open a preliminary examination against Boluarte and members of her government regarding the allegations.

According to the ICC, submitting a communication is the first step for it to establish if, based on available information, it appears that crimes within its jurisdiction have been committed. If it decides this is so, the court can proceed to open a full preliminary examination.

Lawyers Jimena Reyes, director of the Americas desk at FIDH, and Gloria Cano, director of APRODEH, met members of the Prosecutor’s office on Tuesday and submitted documentation alleging crimes against humanity took place between December 7, 2022 and February 9, 2023, a statement released by the FIDH says.

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“The persons implicated in the commission of the crimes of murder and attempted murder were state authorities, including members of the Peruvian Army and the Peruvian National Police, who acted in accordance with a state policy planned or, at a minimum, approved by omission, by the highest national authorities of Peru,” a report issued by FIDH and Aprodeh concludes.

The victims “were part of a civilian population of protesters or persons perceived as such, mainly young, poor men from indigenous areas of the country” the report added.

CNN has reached out to the Peruvian government and the attorney representing Boluarte for comment. President Boluarte has denied any personal responsibility since the protests started while former Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said the government defended “Peruvians’ right to peace and calm”.

Apart from the victims, there were also hundreds of people injured “as a result of the indiscriminate use of lethal force by the military and by the police who were in charge of patrolling the demonstrations after the declaration of a state of emergency,” Cano told CNN.

“The majority were killed while exercising their legitimate right to protest,” Cano said.

The victim profiles submitted to the ICC include 32-year-old Leonardo Hancco and 18-year-old Beckhan Quispe, whose cases have been previously reported by CNN.

Citizens walk through the streets before burying 34-year-old Jhon Mendoza, who was killed during protests sparked by the ousting of former President Pedro Castillo, in Ayacucho, Peru on December 17, 2022.

Allegations of ‘extrajudicial executions’

The Andean country’s weeks-long protest movement was sparked by the impeachment and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in December 2022, fuelled by deep dissatisfaction over living conditions and inequality in the country. While protests occurred throughout the nation, the worst violence was in the rural and indigenous south.

An Amnesty International report in May 2023 found that Peruvian security forces carried out widespread attacks against protesters including young men and children.

The report alleges the security forces took part in “extrajudicial executions “and “widespread use of lethal ammunition” while trying to contain the protests. Forty-nine civilians were killed, and Amnesty International says that several of those killed were bystanders.

“In none of the cases was evidence found that the deceased person posed a risk to the life or integrity of the officials,” the Amnesty International report says.

Peru’s Prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation in January 2023 against Boluarte, Otarola, and other ministers at the time for alleged genocide, homicide and serious injuries committed during the protests. Boluarte testified at a closed-door meeting last year CNN en Espanol reported. This investigation remains open.

Peru’s defense and interior ministries had also been contacted for comment. Both ministries told CNN in February 2023 they could not comment until an ongoing investigation carried out by the Prosecutor’s office is finished.

Peruvian authorities have said that the country’s security forces acted in self-defense.

Last year Boluarte said that she and her ministers do not decide protocols for the Armed Forces or the Police.

“They have their own law and protocols. Who do they comply with? Their commanders. We don’t have any power over them. I can be the Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces, but I have no command (over them) and the protocols are decided by them,” she said.

Yovana Mendoza, president of the victim’s association in Ayacucho and who lost her 34-year-old brother Jhon Mendoza, told CNN this request to the ICC’s is a cry for help from the families in Peru. She says they have been forgotten and ignored by the authorities there.

“Here we don’t trust the government, as they only introduce laws to protect themselves,” she said.

Ruth Barcena told CNN she is hopeful for justice with this request after the death of her husband Leonardo Hancco.

Additional reporting by Jimena de la Quintana, CNNE.

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