Target: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala
Goal: Improve training of Peruvian security forces to reduce use of excessive force against protesters
Over the past year, at least fifteen civilians have been killed and many more injured while attending protests throughout Peru. Human Rights Watch, a respected watchdog for human rights worldwide, reports that Peruvian security forces are in part to blame, standing accused of using unnecessary lethal force against protestors, an act condemned by international law.
This is no sudden anomaly; during the 5-year presidency of Alan García, predecessor to Peru’s current president (Ollanta Humala), police intervention at public protests resulted in the death of 165 civilians. For democracy to thrive, individuals must be able to safely express their opinions. While this is certainly not an easy job, it falls to security forces to maintain and reestablish order without resorting to lethal violence.
It is also the responsibility of President Humala’s administration to hold Peruvian security forces accountable for their actions and to ensure that they are properly trained and equipped to uphold a peaceful, democratic society.
Serving as an example, a recent protest began peacefully in Celendín in an effort to condemn a gold mining operation’s negative impact on a local water supply. The protest turned violent and left four civilians dead and sixteen wounded by gunfire, some of whom were mere bystanders. While protesters threw rocks and fired homemade rockets, security forces answered with firearms.
While international norms permit the use of firearms against protesters as protection against serious injury or death, such protection should not have been necessary. Having run out of tear gas and with no other means to contain the crowd peacefully, the local police force retreated and was replaced by soldiers. Unlike the local security forces, military personnel do not answer to civilian courts and can thus avoid prosecution for crimes such as the use of illegal lethal force.
A lack of sufficient equipment and clear direction in dealing with protestors led to the tragedies witnessed at Celendín. If the local police forces had been properly equipped with tear gas and instructed in how to contain what began as a peaceful protest, it is unlikely that military personnel would have been necessary and even less likely that the protest would have ended in death. This is hardly an isolated incident, and if the Peruvian police force is not better trained and better outfitted, these disasters will only repeat themselves.
Having recently been given congressional authority to legislate on numerous matters pertaining to the police and armed forces, President Humala must act quickly to ensure the future safety of public protests and bring those responsible for unnecessary deaths to justice. In so doing, he will guarantee the continuation of Peruvian democracy. Sign this petition and demand that urgent action is taken to improve the security measures taken against protesters.
Dear President Humala,
During your first year as president, fifteen civilians were killed while at protests throughout Peru, some mere bystanders. These unnecessary and tragic deaths are a direct result of a poorly equipped and insufficiently trained police force.
The example of Celendín, where local police officers were replaced by military personnel due to a lack of tear gas, shows how simply ensuring that security forces are properly outfitted with sufficient non-lethal equipment saves lives.
International law forbids the use of lethal force against protesters unless there is a serious threat to the lives of security forces. As president, you have the responsibility to provide your security forces with the tools necessary to protect them, and they have a responsibility in turn to protect the rights of people to protest.
Please take appropriate actions to better train and equip your security forces, and bring those individuals who violate international norms to justice. In so doing, you will protect all Peruvians and promote a more democratic society.
[Your Name Here]
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