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Civil War Claimed 69,000 Lives, Peru Panel Says

August 29, 2003|From Times Wire Services

LIMA, Peru — In a chilling final report, Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Thursday that 69,000 people may have died in two decades of rebel and state-sponsored violence.

"The last two decades of the 20th century were marked by horror and dishonor," said the commission's weeping president, Salomon Lerner, as he handed over the nine-volume report at Government Palace.

Peru was racked by parallel wars waged by Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement guerrillas seeking to impose communist rule. In response, the military and police committed widespread human rights abuses.

Commissioner Gaston Garatea said the names of more than 100 officers incriminated in abuses and the evidence against them would be given to prosecutors. He said that information had not been put in the report being made available to the public.

A commission official said the report estimated that 69,280 people had died or disappeared. For years, the government had put the number at about 30,000. The commission identified 23,900 dead -- 54% of them killed by the Shining Path and 30% by security forces.

The remainder were presumed to have died at the hands of civilian defense groups or Tupac Amaru guerrillas. The missing are also presumed dead.

Three-quarters of the victims were native speakers of the Quechua language and most died in the region of Ayacucho, which translates as "corner of death."

The Shining Path took up arms in 1980 and, with machetes and car bombs, waged one of Latin America's bloodiest insurgencies. The Shining Path is still on Washington's list of terrorist groups, but its attacks faded after the 1992 capture of its leader, Abimael Guzman.

The commission's report was based on two years of investigations into human rights violations from 1980 to 2000 and nearly 17,000 testimonies. The panel examined 73 cases, had unprecedented access to internal military documents and interviewed jailed rebel leaders, ex-presidents and other public figures.

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