Practice Relating to Rule 117. Accounting for Missing Persons
Section D. Right of the families to know the fate of their relatives
Peru’s IHL Manual (2004) states: “The families of the victims of armed conflicts have the right to know what has happened to them, and the victims have the right to receive news from their family.”
Peru’s IHL and Human Rights Manual (2010) states: “The families of the victims of armed conflicts have the right to know what has happened to them, and the victims have the right to receive news from their family.”
In 2004, in the Genaro Villegas Namuche case, Peru’s Constitutional Court found:
Besides having a collective dimension, the right to know the truth has an individual dimension. The holders of this individual right are the victims, their relatives and persons close to them. The right to know the circumstances in which human rights violations were committed and, in the case of death or disappearance, to know the fate of the victims, shall not be subject to a statute of limitations. Persons directly or indirectly affected by a crime of this magnitude shall always have a right to know, amongst others, who committed the crime, when, where, how and why the victim was executed, and the location of his or her remains, even if much time has passed since the commission of the crime.
In 2004, in its fourth periodic report to the Committee against Torture, Peru stated:
263. The judgment of the Constitutional Court in a case of forced disappearance of persons stands out in particular. In the Court’s ruling (Order No. 2488-2002-HC/TC) of 18 March 2004 regarding Mr. Genaro Villegas Namuche, a victim of forced disappearance, the right to truth was recognized as a new fundamental right. Thus, although it is not expressly recognized in Peru’s Political Constitution, the right to truth is fully protected, arising in the first place from the State’s obligation to defend fundamental rights and from the protection of the courts. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court considered that, wherever reasonably possible and in special and unprecedented cases, implicit constitutional rights must be developed so as to allow better protection of and respect for human rights, since this will help strengthen democracy and the State, in accordance with the terms of the current Constitution.
264. In the considerations to which the judgment refers, the Court establishes the limits of application of the right to truth. According to the Court, the right is two-dimensional, being both collective and individual. …
265. Alongside … [the] collective dimension, the right to truth has an individual dimension, whose beneficiaries include victims, their families and their relatives. It resides in the knowledge of the circumstances in which human rights violations were committed and, in the event of decease or disappearance, of the fate which befell the victims as such, a knowledge that cannot be subject to time limitation. It must be remembered that the right of victims and their relatives is not limited to obtaining economic reparation, but also includes the need for the State to undertake an investigation into the facts, considering that a full knowledge of the circumstances of each case is also part of a form of moral reparation which the country and in the event the victims require for their enjoyment of democracy.
273. The forced disappearance of persons was a practice used systematically in Peru during the internal armed conflict which the country experienced during the decade of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, as a consequence of the activities of terrorist groups and of the State’s response to subversion.
[emphasis in original; footnote in original omitted]