UN says Peruvian police used excessive force in protests

Geneva (AFP) –


Peruvian police used "unnecessary and excessive force" when faced with mass protests in November against the appointment of Manel Merino as interim president, the UN Human Rights Office said in a report on Tuesday.

Security forces had failed to comply with international human rights norms and standards.

"International law is clear: people have the right to peaceful assembly, and gatherings can only be dispersed in exceptional cases," said Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On November 9, Congress impeached popular president Martin Vizcarra -- who had led an anti-corruption drive -- for a bribery scandal he denied.

On November 12, Fourteen people were hurt, two seriously from gunshot wounds, after police cracked down on protests.

Two days later, thousands took to the streets again to demand the ousting of Merino. Two died and more than 100 were injured when police fired shotgun pellets into a huge march in the capital Lima.

Merino resigned on November 15.

At Peru's invitation, a Human Rights Office mission to Lima took place from November 17 to 22 to gather information on alleged violations committed during the protests.

"Police in Peru used unnecessary and excessive force when faced with mass protests between November 9 and 15," the UN Rights Office said.

The report said police officers did not distinguish between the peacefully-protesting majority, and a minority alleged to have acted violently.

The report said that police fired pellets from shotguns and tear gas canisters directly at people's heads and upper bodies, indiscriminately and from close range.

It said two protesters were killed by shotgun pellets fired at their torso.

Bachelet, a former Chilean president, urged government and Congress to "take the necessary steps to ensure law enforcement agencies conduct themselves according to international human rights norms and standards.

"The state must also uphold the right of the victims and their families to justice, truth and reparations, including non-recurrence."