Peru is a republic with a population of around 30 million on the western coast of South America. It was rocked by violence during the presidencies of Fernando Belaunde (1980-85), Alan Garcia (1985-90) and Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), when insurgency groups, including Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, fought the Peruvian armed forces. The violence was accompanied by widespread human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances. According to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, Peru registered the highest number of enforced disappearances in the world between 1987 and 1990.
In 2010, a decade after the end of the general insurgency, there were believed to be as many as 15,000 people whose fate and whereabouts remained unknown.
In addition to political violence, Peru has experienced serious problems with human trafficking. One 2013 report noted that three to five people go missing in the capital city, Lima, every day. About a fifth of the total number who go missing are never found, with most reported cases involving minors between the ages of 14 and 17.
Efforts to prosecute those involved in enforced disappearances during the 80s and 90s have been constrained by legislation which, for example, makes it difficult to prosecute a public servant after he or she has retired. In April 2009, former President Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for, among other things, human rights abuses committed in 1991 and 1992 including enforced disappearances.
Organizations active in the effort to account for the missing and to take action against those guilty of orchestrating or participating in enforced disappearances include the Legal Defense Institute.
In 2003, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prepared to present its Final Report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that a provisional list of the missing in Peru would be published as a joint effort by the ICRC, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the National Coordinator for Human Rights.
In 2014, the ICRC facilitated an exhibition of clothing and other personal items recovered from mass graves, in addition to presenting a book of photographs of such items, which it says will help to identify the dead.