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Peru Truth Panel Raises Estimate of Deaths in Civil War

June 18, 2003|From Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 Peruvians -- far more than previously thought -- died or disappeared in the two decades in which government forces battled a brutal insurgency by Shining Path guerrillas, the president of a Peruvian truth commission said Tuesday.

Previous estimates held that 30,000 were killed and 6,000 disappeared during the violence, which lasted from 1980 to 2000.

The new figures emerged as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission -- an autonomous, government-appointed group -- neared the end of its two-year investigation, which included interviews with nearly 18,000 victims.

As a result of cross-referencing data and consulting international experts, commission President Salomon Lerner Febres said, "we have felt that there is a minimum of 40,000 deaths and it might be ... 60,000 -- that's the ceiling." This includes 7,000 to 8,000 people who disappeared, the majority at the hands of the "forces of order," he said.

Lerner told a news conference at U.N. headquarters that the exact total will not be known because there are "many variables that we're not in control of."

According to witness testimony, the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group that sought to overthrow Peru's government, killed about half the victims, said Carlos Ivan Deregori, a commission member.

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