Criminalization by adapting the legal framework


In several Latin American states governments have adapted their legal framework to criminalize the social protest more easily. This way they legalize government response or secure impunity for police and other armed forces personnel.

The Conga project – the social protest

In Peru laws have been adapted to allow detainees to be held incommunicado for up to 10 days regardless of the crime, to permit arrests without warrant up to 24 hours after. The criteria for hiring police officers for private security services have been adapted in favor of mining companies. Laws have been passed increasing the scope of police and military intervention, meaning that armed forces can react faster and harder against protest actions without having to justify their actions. It is harder to prosecute armed forces in case of deaths while fulfilling their duties.

During the presidency of Alejandro Toledo the foundation for a legal framework for the criminalizing of the social protest was created. Toledo aggravated the punishments for the obstruction of public services. The García administration was catastrophic for the human rights defenders in Peru, as they criminalized the social protest dramatically. Every protest action must formally be requested, this way ignoring the right to free assembly. Laws were passed that complicates the work of NGO’s; they should adopt the government’s position during social conflicts. The law that declares immunity for armed forces who cause wounds or death “while carrying out their duty and by using their weapons in the stipulated manner” is a grave violation of the rights to life and physical integrity. García ‘s administration made sure that public officials who openly sympathizes with the social protest could be penalized and declared unfit to serve.

Ollanta Humala joins in this trend of his predecessors:

  • On the fourth of May a new law was passed that once more expands the scope of the police and armed forces. “The lethal action of a police officer cannot be prosecuted if it is in accordance with this law” it states
  •  In the end of May 2012 new decrees were passed that allow the militarization of the region of Cajamarca and the province of Espinar.
  •  The first of June the public ministry has installed a new norm which creates special judges for the social conflicts of Cajamarca and Cuzco, more specifically for actions that fit within the definition of “public disturbances”. These judges will work in other jurisdictions; for the conflict in Cajamarca these judges will be seated in Chiclayo. This is a grave violation of the right to be brought to justice in the region where the events occurred. Protesters from Cajamarca who will be charged for public disturbances will be brought to justice in another jurisdiction.