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Fujimori Faces Criminal Charges of Forced Sterilization - 2002-07-26

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who is under indictment for numerous alleged human rights violations, is facing new criminal charges linked to the government's forced sterilization program during his rule in the 1990s. More than 200,000 Peruvians say they were pressured into being sterilized between 1996 and 2000.

An investigative committee says only about 10 percent participated voluntarily in Peru's controversial sterilization program during the 1990s.

"The testimony says some women were forced, some were threatened with fines," said the committee's president Jose Succar. "Others were promised food in exchange for sterilization, and some had their operations under unsafe conditions."

The committee says as many as 18 women are believed to have died. More than 15,000 male vasectomies were also performed.

The committee says most of the victims were Indians from poor areas with high birth rates. The government claimed the operations tubal ligations for women were simple and quick and the patients could go dancing the same night.

Some Peruvian lawmakers are pressing for genocide charges against former President Alberto Fujimori, alleging he was well aware of what was going on.

Others, like Ivonne Macassi, the head of a women's rights group, says the charges are serious, but probably do not amount to genocide. She says the forced sterilization was carried out at a time when conservative movements in Peru fought against traditional contraceptive methods. She describes the sterilization program as poor application of political family planning.

The former Peruvian top health official, Eduardo Yong Motta, says the government acted with the best of intentions.

"The health ministry never participated in any genocide project," he said. "Our job was to make sure Peruvians were healthy and to promote health in the country."

Mr. Fujimori is being charged in many other cases, including arms smuggling, human rights violations and corruption. In a speech from Japan to mark his upcoming 64th birthday, Mr. Fujimori was defiant. He says he and his supporters are being victimized in a political vendetta orchestrated by the current government of President Alejandro Toledo.

Japan, where Mr. Fujimori found refuge, refuses to extradite him to face the charges leveled against him.