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Peru Civil War Said to Have Claimed Over 40,000 Lives - 2003-06-18

The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates as many as 60,000 people were killed or disappeared during Peru's 20-year war between leftist guerillas and state security forces.

After two years of investigation, Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has concluded that the number of people killed or disappeared in the civil war between 1980 and 2000 could be more than double earlier projections.

Speaking through a translator at the United Nations, the Commission's president, Salomon Lerner Febres, presented the findings, which will be formally released in August. "We have felt that there is a minimum of 40,000 dead and it might be more than 60,000. That is the ceiling," he said. "We can never know exactly what the maximum number was."

The commission, backed by the current Peruvian government, was investigating the conflict that followed the government crackdown of Maoist Shining Path Guerrillas and the Marxist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

Investigators found that state security forces, not leftist rebels, were responsible for most of the deaths and disappearances. Commissioners say more than 75-percent of the victims come from Peru's poor and indigenous population.

Former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, who led the country during the 1990s, fled to Japan in 2000 during a corruption scandal. Mr. Lerner says that Peru plans to ask Japan to extradite Mr. Fujimori in a matter of weeks. Mr. Lerner says the former president refused to meet with him during a recent visit to Japan and would not apologize to his country.

The Commission, as part of its probe, listened to thousands of people and obtained more than 17,000 testimonies. It also poured through previously undisclosed official documents from the military tribunals of that period.

Commissioner Sophia Macher says the commission wanted to give a voice to the victims. "Having collected testimony from those who suffered the violence, for us this was part of reparation in and of itself," she said. "The fact that we were collecting these testimonies, for us, this was part of recognition, acknowledgment of what happened to these people in the country."

Commissioner president Salomon Lerner Febres says that in addition to compensation, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission is recommending broad political reform, particularly of Peru's justice system.