Peru is a constitutional, multiparty republic. President Pedro Castillo assumed the presidency in July, succeeding President Francisco Sagasti, after winning the June 6 presidential runoff, in elections that observers characterized as free and fair. Legislative elections took place concurrently to elect the 130-member, single-chamber parliament.
The Peruvian National Police report to the Ministry of Interior and maintain internal security. The Peruvian Armed Forces, reporting to the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security in addition to some domestic security responsibilities in designated emergency areas and in exceptional circumstances. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed some abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of serious government corruption at all levels, including in the judiciary; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and sex and labor trafficking.
The government took steps to investigate and, in some cases, prosecute or otherwise punish public officials accused of abuses and corruption, including high-level officials. Nonetheless, corruption and a perception of impunity remained prevalent and were major public concerns.
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.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
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.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge in court the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention. The government constitutionally suspended the right to freedom from arrest without warrant in designated emergency zones and nationwide during the continued national state of emergency for COVID-19. As of November lesser restrictions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 remained in force.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The law requires a written judicial warrant based on sufficient evidence for an arrest unless authorities apprehended the alleged perpetrator in the actual conduct of a crime. In all other circumstances, only judges may authorize detentions. Authorities are required to arraign arrested persons within 24 hours, except in cases of suspected terrorism, drug trafficking, or espionage, for which arraignment must take place within 15 days. In remote areas, arraignment must take place as soon as practicable. Military authorities must turn over persons they detain to police within 24 hours. Police must file a report with the Public Ministry within 24 hours of an arrest. The Public Ministry, in turn, must issue its own assessment of the legality of the police action in the arrest.
The law permits detainees to have access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. Police may detain suspected terrorists incommunicado for 10 days.
Arbitrary Arrest: Prosecutors continued to investigate allegations of unlawful detentions by police forces, including plainclothes officers, that reportedly occurred during the November 2020 protests.
Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. According to a May report by INPE, 36 percent of prisoners were being held under pretrial detention provisions. The length of pretrial detention occasionally equaled but did not exceed the maximum sentence of an alleged crime. Delays were due mainly to judicial inefficiency, corruption, and staff shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the law, courts released prisoners held more than nine months (up to 36 months in complex cases) whom the justice system had not yet tried, convicted, and sentenced. The courts factored pretrial detention into final sentences.
Official guidelines stipulate an accused individual must meet three conditions to receive pretrial detention: there should be reasonable evidence that the subject committed the crime; the penalty for the crime must be greater than a four-year prison sentence; and the subject is a flight risk or could obstruct the justice process through undue influence over key actors, including through coercion, corruption, or intimidation. The Constitutional Tribunal may consider the guidelines for current cases of pretrial detention as they deliberate habeas corpus requests. In 2020 Congress approved legislation preventing the use of pretrial detention of police officers who kill or injure “while complying with their duties,” overriding executive opposition.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Some NGO representatives alleged the judiciary did not always operate independently, was not consistently impartial, and was sometimes subject to political influence and corruption.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right, although reports of judicial system corruption were common. In June the government completed the transition begun in 2006 from an inquisitorial to an accusatory legal system and fully applied the application of a new criminal procedure code to streamline the penal process.
The law presumes all defendants are innocent. The government must promptly inform defendants, in detail, of the charges against them and provide defendants a trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense. State-provided attorneys, however, often had poor training and excessive caseloads. Although the law grants citizens the right to a trial in their own language, interpretation and translation services for non-Spanish speakers were not always available. This deficiency primarily affected speakers of indigenous Andean and Amazonian languages.
The law provides that all defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants have the right to confront adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. The government cannot compel defendants to testify or confess to a crime. Defendants may appeal verdicts to a higher court and ultimately to the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Tribunal may rule on cases involving the constitutionality of laws and issues, such as habeas corpus.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Citizens may seek civil remedies for human rights violations, but court cases often take years to resolve. Press reports, NGOs, and other sources alleged that persons outside the judiciary frequently corrupted or influenced judges.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The government’s continued declaration of emergency zones in the VRAEM and La Pampa – due to drug trafficking and terrorist activity, and illegal mining, respectively – suspended the right to home inviolability in those regions.
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.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Freedom of assembly may be suspended in areas of the VRAEM and La Pampa emergency zones, where elements of the Militarized Communist Party of Peru, drug traffickers, and illegal miners operated.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The law does not require a permit for public demonstrations, but organizers must report the type of demonstration planned and coordinate its intended location with authorities. The constitution specifies the rights of freedom of unarmed assembly and association.
The government may restrict or prohibit demonstrations at specific times and places to ensure public safety and health. Police used tear gas and force occasionally to disperse protesters in various demonstrations. Although most demonstrations were peaceful, protests in some areas turned violent, resulting in one death as of November. In the context of the presidential elections in June, minor clashes between groups of protesters occurred, without evidence of improper use of force by police.
d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
In-country Movement: The government maintained emergency zones including restrictions on movement in the VRAEM due to the presence of the Militarized Communist Party of Peru, and in La Pampa, due to illegal mining activities. These illegal actors at times interrupted the free movement of persons by establishing roadblocks in sections of the VRAEM. Individuals protesting extractive industry projects also occasionally established roadblocks throughout the country.
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 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their national and local government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal, compulsory, and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Legislative and first-round presidential elections were held in April, and in June a presidential runoff election took place. Domestic and international observers, including the Organization of American States international observation mission, declared the elections to be fair and transparent. Pedro Castillo from the Free Peru party won and assumed the presidency on July 28, with Dina Boluarte as his vice president. Runner-up Keiko Fujimori from the Popular Force party and some of the party’s political allies presented legal challenges to the second-round result, alleging fraud. Electoral authorities reviewed the challenges per the electoral rules for six weeks after the election and eventually dismissed them as unsubstantiated. Citizens elected all 130 members of the single-chamber Congress freely and fairly, according to observers.
Political Parties and Political Participation: By law groups that advocate the violent overthrow of the government and adhere to ideologies “intrinsically incompatible with democracy” cannot register as political parties.
Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. For the first time, political parties’ lists of congressional candidates were required to have gender parity and alternate male and female candidate names. The law also requires gender parity and alternating male and female names on party lists for regional assemblies, regional governor and vice governors, and presidents and vice presidents. This law raised the previous quota of 30 percent of each gender on congressional lists to 50 percent. Of the 130 members of Congress elected for the 2021-26 term, an all-time high of 47 (36 percent) were women. This was in comparison with 33 congresswomen during the 2020-21 complementary term, 36 during the dissolved 2016-19 term, and 28 in the 2011-16 term.
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 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and in particular the Vice Ministry of Human Rights and Access to Justice, oversaw human rights policies and issues at the national level. The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and Ministry of Labor and Employment Promotion also had significant human rights roles. These government bodies were generally considered effective. The independent Ombudsman’s Office operated without government or party interference. NGOs, civil society organizations, and the public considered the Ombudsman’s Office effective.
Congressional committees overseeing human rights included Justice and Human Rights; Women and the Family; Labor and Social Security; Andean, Amazonian, Afro-Peruvian Peoples, and Environment and Ecology; Health and Population; and Social Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.