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Death Penalty Information

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Peru threatens to reintroduce executions for child rapists
Peruvians divided on reinstating death penalty for child murder-rapists
By: CARLA SALAZAR, AP Worldstream

Published: Aug 23, 2006
Abigail Reyes was only 2 years old when she was raped and killed, her tiny body found in a sack in the doorway of her home in La Oroya, a smoke-choked Andean mining town.
Authorities accused a 17-year-old neighbor of the shocking crime, which has fueled an intense debate among Peruvians on whether the death penalty should be reinstated for those convicted of raping and killing children.

President Alan Garcia has made the issue a centerpiece of his new administration, announcing just days after he took the office on July 28 that he would push to re-establish the death penalty for those cases. But critics say the reinstatement of capital punishment could tarnish Peru's image and some contend the move is designed to distract the population from thornier issues facing the poor South American nation.
Reyes, who was killed in late July, was the 23rd child to be raped and murdered in Peru this year, according to a report by Caretas magazine _ though police could not provide statistics on such cases.

"Criminals need much more severe penalties and in the face of the horrendous crime of rape followed by murder of underage children, I think that these people don't have the right to live," said Garcia, who enjoys a 63 percent approval rating less than a month into his second administration.

Polls show he enjoys even greater support on the death penalty issue, with one recent survey saying that 82 percent of Peruvians back his stance.
But Garcia has run up against opposition in high places, with judges, human rights activists, Roman Catholic leaders and even his own vice president and six Cabinet officials speaking out against the idea.

"I believe that the death penalty shouldn't be instated in the country," said Walter Vasquez, Supreme Court president. "The international trend is to abolish capital punishment, not return to it."

Peru abolished capital punishment in 1979 for all crimes except treason in a time of war. Under current law, convicted rapists of children under 7 can receive life in prison and maximum sentences of 25 to 30 years for raping children under 14.
Opponents warn that the reinstatement of the death penalty could tarnish the country's image and set back the human rights in Peru _ where memories linger of the bloody Shining Path guerrilla insurgency in the 1980s and the brutal response by security forces.
And legal experts and activists worry the move could mean Peru will have to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

"This will leave Peruvians without a fundamental international mechanism to protect them if the state violates their human rights," the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee said. "This will also make Peru a pariah in the international community."
Activists also warn that the Peruvian justice system is so inefficient that it could erroneously sentence innocent people to death.
But the critics have been unable to sway Garcia, who has said he will ask Congress to pass the issue as a constitutional amendment _ or call a national referendum if lawmakers fail to muster the necessary two-thirds approval.
Political analyst Nelson Manrique said Garcia's vehemence on the death penalty is diverting Peruvians' attention from campaign promises that may prove more difficult to implement _ such as restoring the country's 1979 constitution, revising a free trade agreement with the United States and renegotiating contracts with foreign mining companies.
"We have local elections in November, and I think it's a way to gain backing by being energetic on a measure that is approved by 80 percent of those polled," Manrique said.
"It's a highly effective and well-designed smoke screen," he added. "And it's bringing Alan Garcia the results he hoped for."
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