Commissioners: Dinah Shelton, Rosa María Ortiz, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing to discuss the implementation of the new Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos (Ministry of Justice and Human Rights) in Peru. The hearing follows a 2000 IACHR report on the general human rights situation in Peru, which suggested that Peru’s National Coordinator for Human Rights (CDDHH), a nongovernmental entity, be fully supported. Peru passed a law (Ley 29809) that lays out the organization and function of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in December 2011. The State representatives discussed how the new Ministry, as well as proposed legislation, seeks to promote the protection of human rights, increase access to justice, and protect vulnerable groups in Peru.
To illustrate the efforts, the government discussed how a newly created vice-ministry promotes access to justice through public defenders, free legal services, and alternative dispute resolution. The vice-ministry will also anticipate in the development of the Plan Nacional de Derechos Humanos (The National Plan for Human Rights), slated to be completed in March of 2013, to ensure that Peru’s human rights protection is in conformity with international norms such as the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention), the Organization of American State’s 2009 Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights, and the United Nation’s Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. The National Plan is intended to assure that victims have access to justice and would provide them with material, medical, social, and psychological assistance. Additionally, for victims of specific harms (such as sexual abuse) the National Plan would provide supplement legal aid programs tailored to address the particular needs of such victims.
The new law also created the Dirreción General de la Defensa Pública y Acceso a la Justicia (General Directorate of Public Defense and Access to Justice), which supervises and promotes access to public defenders, extrajudicial conciliation, and the use of alternative conflict resolution. Part of the implementation is the Directorate of Legal Assistance, under which twenty-nine public defenders provide free services to victims in numerous judicial districts and, most notably, staffs a telephone program that provides legal advice.
Because the program is still relatively new, the State said it hopes that in the future the Peruvian government will be able to enlarge the area of coverage for free legal services, avoid cases of re-victimization, improve the response time for cases, give increased specialized attention to groups such as women and children, and improve civil society’s confidence in public defense by avoiding cases of impunity.
In response to the presentation, the commissioners expressed concern regarding the capacity for the new programs in terms of caseload, as well as the experience and expertise required to deal with groups such as rape victims, children, and adolescents. Commissioner Dinah Shelton also inquired as to the gender balance among the public defenders as an indicator of diversity among those providing the services. She said that a balanced number of female and male defenders would more aptly address the needs of groups such as rape victims.
The representatives from Peru acknowledged the concerns by the commissioners and said the State would report back when it had more data available from the programs to respond to questions regarding the specific backgrounds or gender of the public defenders.