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For Fujimori to see justice, Japan must help Peru



Published: Thu, September 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



As president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori rode on top of the world -- especially with the help of his secret police. But with the election of Alejandro Toledo in June, a new day dawned on the South American nation. Now there is even a warrant out for Fujimori's arrest. But for the accused murderer to be brought to justice, Japan -- where Fujimori fled -- must be willing to surrender the fugitive.

A little more than a year ago, Fujimori and his secret police henchmen and armed security forces made it impossible for Peru to hold fair elections by intimidating voters and members of opposition parties. Toledo pulled out of the race, knowing that the outcome was pre-ordained -- Fujimori had Peru's constitution changed to permit his running for a third term. But after a scandal involving the secret intelligence force whose leader had strong ties to Fujimori, the president was forced to call for new elections which ultimately paved the way for Toledo's victory.

And now the world knows that Fujimori's perversion of democracy went far further than the disruption of free elections. Last Wednesday, Peru's attorney general filed homicide charges against the disgraced ex-president, linking him to two massacres by paramilitary death squads in the early 1990s.

Killings' co-author: Prosecutors allege that while serving as president Fujimori & quot;co-authored & quot; the killings and & quot;knew in detail the operations & quot; of the death squad known as the Colina group, according to a statement from the office of Peru's attorney general. The Colina group is accused of gunning down 15 people in 1991 at a Lima tenement building. Group members were also linked to the kidnapping and murder of nine students and a professor at a Peruvian university in 1992.

If the allegations are true, it would be yet another chapter in the grim history of South America, where paramilitary death squads and military dictatorships thwarted democracy in nation after nation. Part of Peru's tragedy is that Fujimori's government purported to be democratic but was not.

Thus far, Japanese officials have said that inasmuch as they have no extradition treaty with Peru, they will not force Fujimori to return to his native land. Further, Japanese law prohibits the extradition of its citizens to stand trial for crimes committed in other countries. Japan granted Fujimori citizenship within days of his fleeing there from Peru, on the strength of his parents having been born in Japan.

Those who perpetrate crimes against humanity, as Peru's attorney general has characterized Fujimori's alleged misdeeds, should not be protected. In the interests of international justice, Japan should not harbor Fujimori.




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