Judiciary officials in Peru have demanded increased protection from authorities following the murder of a prosecutor, suggesting threats and intimidation by criminal groups are negatively impacting the functioning of the country’s justice system.
Senior San Martín prosecutor Fermín Alberto Caro Rodríguez was shot by two individuals on November 26 as he parked his car in his garage, according to La República. The police are investigating the murder and have not yet established the identities of the culprits, but the general suspicion is that the execution was related to one of Caro Rodríguez’ cases.
Following the official’s execution, the Supreme Court Board (Junta de Fiscales Supremos) demanded via a press release that the “Interior Ministry improve the protection mechanisms and the safety of our prosecutors,” reported La República.
These demands were echoed by the National Council of the Magistracy (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura – CNM), which stated in a communiqué that the body “expresses its concern for the security of the prosecutors and the judges who are responsible for cases relating to…drug trafficking, hired killings, and organized crime.”
Judiciary officials “put their lives and those of their family in danger, for which we ask that the relevant authorities take immediate action to ensure the adequate protection,” the statement continued.
A week earlier, on November 19, another individual was shot and killed in front of his house, reported El Comercio. Eighteen-year-old Joseph Wilder Paredes Cortez was a witness in an ongoing case against a police officer. The latter had arrested the young man for alleged drug possession, and had demanded 10,000 Peruvian soles — roughly $2,900 — to let the youth go free, leading Paredes Cortez’ family to denounce the extortion before district anti-corruption prosecutor Wils Gonzales Morales.
The prosecutor had asked on October 5 for witness protection for Paredes Cortez, who was to testify in court against the allegedly corrupt police officer. But the measure was never granted by law enforcement who claimed a lack of resources, including personnel, to ensure the safety of the witness.
“There was the question [among police officers] as to why they should provide personal security to someone who may have been implicated in other committed crimes,” explained Wils Gonzales Morales. The murdered witness had previously been accused of theft, assault and drug trafficking.
InSight Crime Analysis
The judiciary officials’ safety concerns are worryingly reminiscent of a regional trend whereby recurrent threats to judges, prosecutors and witnesses impede the efficiency of the justice system and fuel impunity.
As InSight Crime recently explained, the risks associated with their work has reached such levels that Mexican judges are widely unable to take impartial decisions on cases pertaining to organized crime. And this has had concrete and visible impact on the judicial system’s capacity to function normally, with impunity levels reaching 99 percent according to a 2016 study.
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Neither Peru’s insecurity nor impunity levels are as dire as Mexico’s, but the country has had significant corruption issues within its judiciary for a number of years — the most recent concerning a judge’s suspicious release of several dozen suspected gang members. Judiciary officials’ inability to safely carry out their work may only worsen the corruption within the institution, providing little incentive for judges and prosecutors to impartially try criminals.