A Peruvian court has found Vladimiro Montesinos, the former head of Peru’s intelligence services, guilty of a crime against humanity in the case of the forced disappearance and murder of two students and a teacher in 1993.
The court sentenced Montesinos, a close confidant of former dictator Alberto Fujimori, to 22 years for the crime, in which the three victims were kidnapped and then tortured by the country’s military intelligence service. The students and teacher were killed and their bodies burned in an oven set up specially for the purpose, the court ruled.
Relatives said they now hoped a search for the remains of their loved ones would get the go ahead
Alongside Montesinos – already serving a lengthy sentence for crimes including corruption and arms and drug trafficking – the court also convicted Nicolás Hermoza Ríos, the then-Commander General of the Peruvian Armed Forces to 15 years in prison. Former military security chief Jorge Nadal Paiva was found guilty in absentia.
In August of 1993, with Fujimori at the height of his powers, a unit of marines stormed the home of student Martín Roca in a bid to recover video footage of protest march. When they failed to turned up the footage, they tortured him and made death threats. In October, Roca disappeared.
Two months later, Keneth Anzualdo, a friend of Roca and also a student, went to provide testimony about the disappearance of his friend. However, the vehicle he was traveling on was intercepted by men claiming to be police. He was never seen again either.
In the case of the teacher Justiniano Najarro, he was detained after his landlord told police, with no evidence to back up the claim, that he was a member of the Shining Path terrorist group. Najarro then spent three years in prison before being found not guilty of any wrongdoing. After the murder of a former army officer near a bakery managed by the teacher, two soldiers raided his house. They found nothing, but dragged him into a car and drove him to an unknown destination.
The families of the victims had been seeking justice since 1993 and waited through a four-year-trial before finally hearing the verdict.
The victims were killed and their bodies burned in an oven in the basement of the security service headquarters
The court’s ruling restored their confidence in the justice system, relatives told journalists on Tuesday, but added they still hoped to find the remains of their loved ones.
“The sentence doesn’t refer to the search for the remains, but when a human body is placed in an oven, it isn’t completely destroyed. The remains must be buried somewhere close to the military intelligence offices. We will use a new law relating to the search for missing persons to ask for these proceedings to go ahead,” said Gloria Cano, the lawyer for the victim’s families
Montesinos was set to be released in 2026, by which time he would be 81. However, Tuesday’s ruling means he won’t be a free man for some time after that.
English version by George Mills.