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IACHR to consider petition by families of Uchuraccay massacre victims

(OLA/IFEX) - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has declared itself "competent to consider a petition" filed by the families of eight journalists - Jorge Sedano Falcón, Jorge Luís Mendivil Trelles, Willy Retto Torres, Pedro Sánchez Gavidia, Eduardo de la Piniela Palao, Amador García Yanque, Félix Gavilán Huamán and Octavio Infante García, as well as their guide Juan Argumedo García - who were killed on 26 January 1983 in the community of Uchuraccay, Huamanga province, Ayacucho department. The petition was filed on 8 February 2003.

According to the IACHR report Nº 62/10, of 24 March 2010, on the admissibility of the petition, the journalists' family members "allege that the Republic of Peru was in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. They maintain that the state is responsible for the journalists' deaths by virtue of the military's direct involvement in the events . . . The petitioners also alleged irregularities in the criminal case instituted and claimed that the judicial authorities failed to conduct a diligent investigation into the supposed involvement of members of the security forces in the deaths."

In its defense, the state said that the judicial process had occurred with the full participation of family members, placing blame for the murders on the residents of Uchuraccay, rather than on state agents. It said that the events of 26 January 1983 took place in an atmosphere of violence created by the internal conflict and rebellion within the local community. The state investigation led to the arrests of two Uchuraccay residents.

"The State, for its part, claimed that the next of kin of the deceased journalists had ample participation in the criminal case, which laid sole blame on the comuneros of Uchuraccay and not agents of the State." It asserted that the events of 26 January 1983 occurred amid the political violence brought on by the internal conflict and the subversive activities of the Sendero Luminoso group. Two of the Uchuraccay peasants (comuneros) were convicted of the events. In addition, "the Peruvian Government had taken legislative and other measures to honor the memory of the fallen journalists."

According to the IACHR's report, "Given the fact that more than 27 years have passed since the alleged victims were killed and the corresponding criminal case has still not been closed, by this stage in the process the Commission considers that sufficient time has passed to conclude that there has been an unwarranted delay of the kind provided for Article 46(2)c) of the American Convention on Human Rights."

(Please note this is an abridged translation)

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