Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
In contrast with 2020, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
On May 23, between three and five unidentified individuals shot and killed 16 persons, including two minors, in the town of San Miguel del Ene, in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM). The Joint Command of the Armed Forces attributed the killings to the self-named Militarized Communist Party of Peru, led by remnants of the Shining Path domestic terrorist group, which was active in the VRAEM and heavily engaged in drug-trafficking activities. Press reported surviving witnesses’ testimonies that cast doubt on that official account, noting that the appearance, modus operandi, and retreat direction of the shooters did not match the usual behavior of the Militarized Communist Party of Peru. The incident, which took place two weeks before the June 6 second round of presidential elections, was under investigation by the Public Ministry as of November.
As of November the Public Ministry was investigating the killings allegedly committed by security forces of Inti Sotelo and Brian Pintado in November 2020, during protests following the congressional impeachment of former president Vizcarra. The Public Ministry was also investigating the December 2020 death of demonstrator Jorge Munoz, allegedly killed by members of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) during an agricultural workers’ strike in Chao, La Libertad.
The prosecution continued of former midlevel PNP officer Raul Prado Ravines, accused of leading an extrajudicial killing squad from 2012 to 2015. The case involved the alleged killing of more than 27 criminal suspects during at least nine separate police operations to cover up police corruption and to generate awards and promotions. As of October there were 14 police officers in preventive detention, eight in prison and six under house arrest, awaiting trial for their alleged roles in the operations. In September 2020 a judge issued a pretrial detention order against Prado Ravines, but as of November his location was unknown.
Human rights and environmental activists expressed concern for their own safety while working in areas with drug trafficking or widespread natural resource extraction, such as illegal logging and mining. Activists accused actors engaging in these activities and local authorities of harassing them, especially in areas where officials faced corruption charges and suspicion of criminal links. As of October at least four environmental rights defenders in the Peruvian Amazon, mostly indigenous leaders, had been killed defending their land. In February criminals who were reportedly engaged in drug trafficking and illegal logging allegedly killed two indigenous Kakataibo environmental activists, Herasmo Garcia and Yenes Rios, in Puerto Nuevo, Ucayali. In March suspected land traffickers killed indigenous Ashaninka leader and environmental activist Estela Casanto in Shankivironi, Junin. In July unidentified individuals shot and killed indigenous leader Mario Lopez in Puerto Bermudez, Pasco. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), fellow activists, the United Nations, and various government actors expressed concern for the increase in killings of environmental activists (four environmental activists were killed during the year and five in 2020, compared with one in 2019). Activists claimed the slow, ineffective justice process supported continued impunity.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that government officials employed them. Local and international NGOs stated the government did not effectively prevent these abuses or punish those who committed them. According to NGO representatives, many victims did not file formal complaints against their alleged abusers, and those who did so purportedly had difficulty obtaining judicial redress and adequate compensation.
Prosecutors continued investigations of widespread allegations that police committed abuses against protesters during the five-day presidency of Manuel Merino in November 2020. In October the attorney general requested Congress to allow a criminal accusation against Merino, his prime minister Antero Florez Araoz, and his minister of interior Gaston Rodriguez as responsible for the abuses, including two confirmed killings. On November 12, Congresswoman Susel Paredes filed a request for Congress to discuss allowing the criminal accusation against Merino, Florez, and Rodriguez.
Impunity remained a significant problem in the security forces. The lack of sanctions regarding the November 2020 alleged abuses by security forces heightened public concern regarding accountability. There is an autonomous legal system that governs the conduct of active-duty PNP and military personnel. Prosecuting high-level officials, including ministers of interior and ministers of defense, requires a formal request from prosecutors to Congress to lift officials’ immunity and congressional approval to proceed.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were generally harsh due to overcrowding, improper sanitation, inadequate nutrition, poor health care, and corruption among guards, who allegedly smuggled weapons and drugs into the prisons.
Physical Conditions: As of May the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) reported the prison system held 86,812 prisoners in 69 facilities designed for a total of 40,137 prisoners. Of inmates, 36 percent were in pretrial detention. The population at the largest prison in the country, the Lurigancho penitentiary, was 3.7 times its prescribed capacity.
Assaults on inmates by prison guards and fellow inmates occurred. Many inmates had only intermittent access to potable water. Bathing facilities were often inadequate, kitchen facilities were unhygienic, and prisoners often slept in hallways and common areas due to a lack of cell space.
Prisoners with money, influence, or other resources had access to privileges including cell phones, illegal drugs, and better meals prepared outside the prison. In June leaked audio recordings revealed that inmate Vladimiro Montesinos, an advisor to former president Alberto Fujimori serving a sentence for human right abuses and corruption, engaged in political activities during the 2021 presidential campaign by telephone from inside a high-security prison run by the navy. In August the government transferred Montesinos to another high-security prison.
Most prisons provided limited access to medical care, which resulted in delayed diagnoses of illnesses. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated this situation. Visitation restrictions due to COVID-19 further limited inmate access to resources, since visits by relatives were previously a frequent source of food, medicine, and clothing. Inmates complained of having to pay for medical care. A study by researchers from Pedro Ruiz Gallo University found tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS remained at levels high enough to constitute a potential threat to the broader public health. The Ombudsman’s Office continued to report insufficient accessibility and inadequate facilities for prisoners with disabilities. Prisoners with mental disabilities usually lacked access to adequate psychological care.
Administration: Independent and government authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights and international humanitarian law observers. COVID-19 distancing restrictions halted unannounced visits to inmates by International Committee of the Red Cross officials and representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office, but the government coordinated with and received written feedback from them. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations and UNICEF monitored and advised on policies for juvenile detention centers.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system generally promoted freedom of expression, including for members of the media.
Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Several organizations, including the Institute of Press and Society (IPYS), EU Electoral Observation Mission, Ombudsman’s Office, and Ethics Tribunal of the Peruvian Press, noted biased coverage of the second-round electoral campaign by most Lima-based national press outlets. The EU report described the role of “most private media coverage” as “clearly biased in favor of Fujimori and against Castillo, without distinction between facts and opinion, undermining the right to truthful information.” The Ethics Tribunal of the Peruvian Press expressed concern for “headlines […] that did not match the facts, interested opinions disguised as impartial analysis, and an unequal coverage of presidential campaign events in time and substance,” further warning that “this behavior seriously damaged citizens’ trust in the Peruvian press.” Controversial actions included the May dismissal of leading television channel America Television’s journalism director and the resignation of the hosts and reporters who worked in its premier political weekly show. The resigning staff accused the channel of demanding they provide biased coverage in favor of candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Violence and Harassment: IPYS, the Association of Foreign Press of Peru (APEP), and the Ombudsman’s Office denounced aggression and intimidation towards journalists who covered second-round campaign events in May and June as well as postelection political rallies in June and July.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: In August IPYS and APEP criticized the Castillo administration for limiting press access to official government events such as the swearing in of cabinet ministers. The Sagasti and Castillo governments limited press access to high-level events based on COVID-19 restrictions. In early December President Castillo reopened press access to the government palace.
Nongovernmental Impact: NGO representatives reported local figures linked to a wide array of political and economic interests threatened press freedom by intimidating local journalists who reported on those activities. This was particularly acute in areas with a strong presence of illegal activities.
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
More than one million foreign-born persons, including immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, lived in the country as of November. Venezuelans were by far the largest nationality, numbering 1.29 million, according to government officials. On July 4, the Council of Ministers approved the implementing regulations for providing temporary status (carnet de permiso temporal, or CPP) to more than 350,000 irregular migrants of any nationality who registered with the National Migration Superintendency. The superintendency was reviewing these applications and issuing a one-year temporary migration status to the irregular migrants who applied for a CPP. Beneficiaries then had up to one year to adjust to another migration status.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for protecting refugees. The government cooperated with UNHCR and recognized the Peruvian Catholic Migration Commission as the official provider of technical assistance to refugees. The commission also advised persons who sought asylum based on a fear of persecution. The government protected refugees on a renewable, year-to-year basis in accordance with commission recommendations.
Durable Solutions: The government does not have a formalized integration program for refugees, but it received persons recognized as refugees by other nations, granted refugee status to persons who applied from within the country, and provided some administrative support toward their integration. UNHCR provided these refugees with humanitarian and emergency aid, legal assistance, documentation, and, in exceptional cases, voluntary return and family reunification.
Temporary Protection: As of June, the government had provided temporary protection to 560,000 individuals since 2017 while they awaited a decision on their refugee status. Nearly all were Venezuelans. On July 7, the government published a ministerial resolution to allow Venezuelan asylum seekers to apply for a humanitarian residency status while their asylum applications remained active with the foreign ministry. Humanitarian residency status holders may be employed or work independently. The migratory status, different from the CPP temporary residence permit, authorizes a residence of 183 days and is renewable if the conditions of vulnerability for which this residency was granted persist.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of corruption by government officials during the year. Citizens continued to view corruption as a pervasive problem in all branches of national, regional, and local governments.
Corruption: Several high-profile political figures remained under investigation for corruption, particularly in relation to the well publicized Odebrecht corruption scandal. There were widespread allegations of corruption in public procurement and in public-private partnerships. Large transportation and energy infrastructure contracts frequently generated high-ranking political interference and corruption, including by former presidents and regional governors. Companies also reported midlevel government officials skewed tender specifications to favor bidders who paid bribes. The COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent public procurement of medical supplies exacerbated the incidence of corruption.
There was evidence of widespread corruption in the judicial system. Prosecutors continued an investigation launched following 2018 media reports of a judicial scandal involving allegations of influence peddling and graft by judges at multiple levels. Corruption was frequent at all levels of the PNP. Observers said the 2019 creation of the National Justice Commission, an independent body in charge of hiring and disciplining prosecutors and judges, was a step toward increased transparency and accountability. The commission had removed more than 100 officials for corruption as of September, including judges and prosecutors.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide for freedom of association, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The law prohibits intimidation by employers and other forms of antiunion discrimination. It requires reinstatement or compensation of workers fired for union activity. The law allows workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. By law at least 20 workers must join to form an enterprise-level union, and 50 workers to form a sector-wide union or federation. Some labor activists viewed this requirement as prohibitively high, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, which represented 96.5 percent of all businesses.
Long-term employment under short-term contract schemes was widespread, including in the public sector. The use of unlimited consecutive short-term contracts made the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining difficult. In March Congress approved the progressive elimination of “administrative service contracts,” a hiring method of short-term contracts with diminished rights widely used in the public sector, even for de facto permanent positions.
Private-sector labor law sets out nine categories of short-term employment contracts that companies may use. The law sets time limits on contracts in each category and has a five-year overall limit on the consecutive use of short-term contracts. A sector-specific law covering parts of the textile and apparel sectors exempts employers from this five-year limit and allows employers to hire workers indefinitely on short-term contracts. Following the November-December 2020 protests against an additional exceptional arrangement to the agricultural labor law, Congress passed a revised agricultural promotion law that allows for hiring through consecutive short-term contracts, compensation, and paid-leave benefits for agricultural workers through 2031. The new law sets mechanisms to compensate ceased workers, gradually raises workers’ participation in revenue sharing (from current 5 percent to 10 percent in 2027), and sets explicit requirements for the provision of transportation, meals, sanitation services, and emergency health care. It also forbids child labor, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment.
Street-cleaning union leader Isabel Cortez was elected to Congress in April, representing Lima with the Together for Peru party, the first time a leader from this union was elected to Congress. In 2020 Cortez filed a criminal complaint of physical aggression by unidentified persons who threatened her, allegedly due to her public demands for better labor conditions. The case remained under investigation. In August Cortez was selected to chair the labor commission in Congress.
The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their governing documents, with prior notice of five days for the private sector, 10 days for the public sector, and 15 days for emergency services. Essential services must also receive the approval of the Ministry of Labor to strike and provide enough workers during a strike to maintain operations. Neither private-sector nor public-sector institutions may legally dismiss workers who strike.
NGOs that specialize in labor affirmed the government did not effectively enforce the law on freedom of association, collective bargaining, or other labor laws. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Workers faced prolonged judicial processes and lack of enforcement following dismissals for trade union activity.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not always enforce it effectively. The law prescribes penalties of eight to 15 years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking crimes committed against adults and six to 12 years’ imprisonment for exploitation crimes classified as forced labor. The government had a separate commission, interministerial protocol, and national plan for combating forced labor and child labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping.
Forced labor crimes continued to occur in domestic service, agriculture, forestry, gold mining and related services, factories, brick making, and organized street begging, as well as in illegal activities such as counterfeit operations. Illegal logging affected many indigenous communities, who found themselves trapped in forced labor. The self-styled drug-trafficking organization Militarized Communist Party of Peru, which authorities considered the successor of the terrorist organization Shining Path, used force and coercion to recruit children to serve as combatants or guards in the VRAEM. It also used force and coercion to subject children and adults to forced labor in agriculture, cultivation or transportation of illicit narcotics, and domestic servitude, as well as to carry out terrorist activities. In July the government approved the National Policy against Trafficking in Persons 2021-2030, which replaced the previous plan for 2017-21.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The legal minimum age for employment varies from 12 to 18 depending on the type of job, the job conditions, and the hours per day. Employment must not affect school attendance. A permit from the Labor Ministry is required for persons younger than 18 to work legally. Parents must apply for the permit, and employers must have a permit on file to hire a minor. The law forbids children younger than 18 to work in domestic service.
The Ministry of Labor and the National Labor Inspectorate are responsible for enforcing child labor laws – in coordination with police and prosecutors when forced child labor crimes are involved – but enforcement was not effective, especially in the informal sector where most child labor occurred. Labor law enforcement agencies lacked sufficient inspectors and training to adequately combat child labor, and the government did not provide complete information on labor or criminal enforcement efforts against the worst forms of child labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes.
A government report found the prevalence of child labor was 22 percent in 2018; however, 59 percent of households in extreme poverty had a child laborer. In addition there were four times more child laborers in rural areas than in urban areas. Among the population of working children, 57 percent worked in agriculture, and 21 percent worked in small-scale or street retail.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, or social status. Nonetheless, NGOs working on labor and discrimination issues reported employment discrimination on race, skin color, national origin, social origin, disability, language, and social status continued. The law does not specifically identify discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity occurred. The law establishes the following employment quotas for persons with disabilities: 3 percent for private businesses with more than 50 employees and 5 percent for public-sector organizations. The law prohibits discrimination against domestic workers and prohibits any requirement by employers for their domestic workers to wear uniforms in public places. The National Council for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities oversees compliance with employment quotas for persons with disabilities. Compliance with quotas varied.
The government did not effectively enforce the law on discrimination. Penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. NGO representatives and labor rights advocates noted discrimination cases often went unreported.
The most recent Ombudsman’s Office report, issued in 2017, found that 28 percent of working-age women were not performing paid labor, instead performing unpaid domestic work such as childcare, compared with 10 percent of working-age men. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the gap, with a study by the Peruvian Economy Institute showing that women’s paid employment, which fell by 17 percent compared with a 10 percent drop for men’s paid employment during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, had as of July recovered only by 37 percent, compared with a 100 percent recovery of men’s paid employment.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage, which was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The government did not effectively enforce wage laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.
The law provides for a 48-hour workweek and one day of rest for workers in the formal sector. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, nor does the law limit the amount of overtime that a worker may work. The law stipulates 30 calendar days of paid annual vacation. In 2020 Congress approved legislation that aligns the labor rights of domestic workers with the rights of regular, formal-sector workers. The new law replaces previous laws that granted diminished rights to domestic workers, such as less vacation time and smaller yearly bonuses, and elevates the minimum age to perform domestic service jobs to 18.
Noncompliance with the law is punishable by fines. According to a labor NGO and labor experts, many fines went uncollected, in part because the government lacked an efficient tracking system and at times lacked political will. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.
Occupational Safety and Health: The law has fines and criminal sanctions for occupational safety and health (OSH) violations. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws, and penalties for these violations were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes such as negligence. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Criminal penalties are limited to cases where employers deliberately violated OSH laws, and where labor authorities had previously and repeatedly notified employers who subsequently did not adopt corrective measures. The law requires workers to prove an employer’s culpability before they can obtain compensation for work-related injuries.
Informal Sector: Many workers in the informal economy, approximately 70 percent of the total labor force, received less than the minimum wage. Most informal workers were self-employed. Nearly 90 percent of Venezuelan migrant workers were in the informal sector, most of them in suboptimal conditions and earning less than the minimum wage due to their lack of proper documentation and inability to validate their academic credentials. Workers in the informal economy were at increased risk of exploitation in sex or labor trafficking.