New legislative decrees in Peru aimed at improving the government’s ability to combat organized crime have also stirred debate over the balance between security and the right to privacy.
On July 27, the Peruvian government issued a legislative decree allowing police to obtain data on cell phone users from telecommunications companies without a warrant, reported El Peruano.
According to the AP, the government said the measure was vital for combating the ill effects of organized crime — such as drug trafficking, extortion, and hired assassinations — and will help police identify, locate, and capture criminals.
Access to phone data, however, will only be allowed in specific cases: when a crime is in the act of being committed, the person is being investigated for a crime carrying a prison sentence greater than four years, or when it is necessary for police investigations.
Police will be required to retroactively seek approval from a judge before using phone data as evidence in court. Phone taps will still require a judicial order.
Peru also passed a second legislative decree that formally defines “murder-for-hire” in the country’s penal code. Those convicted of carrying out contract killings will now receive a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, while those found guilty of using a minor to conduct the crime now face life in prison.
InSight Crime Analysis
The goal of Peru’s new legislative decrees is to help the government tackle crime and more effectively provide security. Nonetheless, these laws also raise new concerns.
Chief among them is the issue of cell phone surveillance. Indeed, the decree — which was passed on a national holiday without Congressional debate, using special powers recently granted to President Ollanta Humala — has evoked criticism from civil liberties defenders. Critics have called the decree an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, mirroring debates in the United States over the bulk collection of user metadata by government agencies.
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This increases the possibility that information collected from police surveillance will be diverted towards political ends, and thus negate any postive benefits that this approach may afford the government in its fight against organized crime. Notably, in a previous high-profile case, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was convicted of mass illegal surveillance of prominent Peruvian citizens.