Peru dispatch: anti-crime state of emergency declared in three districts does not give the army and police unlimited powers – JURIST

Peruvian law students from the Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas, Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco  are reporting for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting Perú. All of them are from CIED (Centro de Investigación de los Estudiantes de Derecho, a student research center in UNSAA’s faculty of law dedicated to spreading legal information and improving legal culture through study and research, promoting critical and reflective debate to contribute to the development of the country. Liliana Rivera Chillca is a law student from UNSAAC and a member of CIED. She files this dispatch from Cusco.

On September 18, the President of Peru together with the Council of Ministers announced the declaration of a state of emergency in three districts of Peru: San Juan de Lurigancho (Lima), San Martín de Porres (Lima) and Sullana (Piura). This decision was made due to uncontrollable citizen insecurity in these districts and to confront crime and organized crime that has increased greatly there, making it necessary for greater control by the state over the internal order of the country. One of the events that was critical to making this decision was what happened on September 15, where as a result of a grenade explosion in a nightclub in San Juan de Lurigancho, 15 people were injured, including minors.

This measure allows the intervention of the Peruvian Armed Forces in the control of internal order in support of the Peruvian National Police. Although it is a measure that the mayors of the districts demanded in order to control citizen security, in recent years the Armed Forces and the National Police of Peru have lost the trust of the Peruvian population. Due to alleged acts of abuse of power in protests that resulted in the unfortunate death of several compatriots. Therefore, this measure may also cause uncertainty in the actions of these internal control institutions. In other words, situations of abuse of authority may occur again that confront citizens not only with street crime, but also with the fear of being intervened with the excessive use of force by a member of the Armed Forces or National Police.

In this regard, it should be noted that the measure taken to declare a state of emergency is due to the characteristics of this exceptional regime indicated by the Constitutional Court of Peru, which makes it necessary. Likewise, although this measure involves the restriction of certain constitutional rights such as the right to liberty, inviolability of home, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement, these restrictions are not absolute and the intervention of the Armed Forces and National Police also have limits.

The State of Emergency should not be understood as a state in which the Armed Forces and the National Police of Peru have absolute powers over the control of the internal order of the country. Rather, it should be understood as a measure that, although it gives greater powers to these institutions to deal with serious situations that put the constitutional order at risk, but which are limited by the constitutional and international principles of reasonableness and proportionality in the use of force.

This is why it is necessary to supervise the functions and powers that the Armed Forces and National Police must fulfill in a state of emergency. This is to prevent the internal order of the country from being effectively ensured without situations of abuse of power or excessive use of force. Therefore, the Executive Branch must also ensure this aspect, since as mentioned at the beginning, the Peruvian population no longer trusts our internal control institutions in a state of emergency.

In conclusion, the measure taken by the Peruvian state is necessary to control the citizen insecurity that is at risk in the districts of San Juan de Lurigancho, San Martín de Porres and Sullana. However, it must be remembered that a state of emergency does not authorize the Armed Forces and National Police of Peru to use excessive force, nor does it grant them absolute powers. In a state of emergency, internal control institutions must ensure the safety and well-being of the Peruvian population by exercising their functions under the principles of reasonableness and proportionality. In this way, it is also necessary for the State to intervene in the supervision of these powers and avoid any situation of abuse of power.

Opinions expressed in JURIST Dispatches are solely those of our correspondents in the field and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST’s editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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