Peru: general arrested for exposing death squad

December 11, 1996

On November 26, agents of Peru's intelligence service violently seized General Rodolfo Robles Espinoza in Lima, beating him and spraying him in the face with tear gas before forcing him into a vehicle with darkened windows. Robles was then taken to the Real Felipe military base in the neighbouring port city of El Callao, where he remains in custody.

Robles' lawyer, Heriberto Benitez, said on November 27 that a military court had charged Robles with disobedience, offending the armed forces, offences against his superiors and lies.

After Benitez complained of the "abusive attack and demonstration of force" against his client, a previous three-month suspension against the lawyer was extended to five months. The War Chamber of the Supreme Council of Military Justice also brought criminal charges against Benitez for contempt, punishable with prison.

Robles had charged that the Colina Group death squad, made up of military officers, was responsible for the July 1992 abduction and murder of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University. Robles also charged that the same Colina Group shot to death 16 people at a family barbecue in Lima on November 3, 1991, an attack police first blamed on the Maoist rebel group Sendero Luminoso.

Robles was expelled from the army because of his accusations. The Colina Group was headed by Vladimiro Montesinos, a close ally of President Alberto Fujimori and the unofficial head of the National Intelligence Service. The Colina Group has also been blamed for the death of 15 street vendors.

According to the National Coordinating Committee on Human Rights, Robles is not legally subject to military jurisdiction because he is no longer in the army.

The Peruvian Human Rights Association has presented a complaint before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission charging the Peruvian government with the violation of Robles' human rights. Opposition members of the congress have brought a petition of habeas corpus before the courts, demanding that Robles be immediately released. Amnesty International has declared Robles a prisoner of conscience.
[From Weekly News Update on the Americas, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY, 10012, USA; email]

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