The Supreme Court of Justice was the highest judicial
authority in the nation. The twelve Supreme Court justices
nominated by the president and served for life. The
had to be approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court of
was also responsible for drawing up the budget for the
which was then submitted to the executive. The budget
could be no
less than 2 percent of the government's expenditures.
Supreme Court of Justice were the Superior Courts, which
seated in the capitals of judicial districts; the Courts
Instance, which sat in provincial capitals and were
civil, criminal, and special branches; and the justices of
peace in all local centers.
Several other judicial functions are worthy of note.
public prosecutor's office was appointed by the president
responsible for overseeing the independence of judges and
administration of justice, representing the community at
and defending people before the public administration.
attorneys, who are also appointed by the president, defend
interests of the state. The office of the Public Ministry
made up of the attorney general and attorneys before the
Court of Justice, Superior Courts, and the Courts of First
Instance. Public attorneys defended the rights of citizens
public interest against encroachment by public officials.
The National Elections Board established voting laws,
registered parties and their candidates, and supervised
elections. It also had the power to void elections if the
electoral procedures were invalid. The six-member board
composed of one person elected by the Supreme Court of
one by the Bar of Lima, one by the law faculty deans of
national universities, and three Peru's regional boards.
Although in theory the judicial system was independent
guaranteed at least minimal operating financial support,
practice this was far from the case. The system had been
by scarce resources, a tradition of executive
inadequate protection of officials in the face of threats
insurgents and drug traffickers. Even without the
guerrilla movements, the system was inadequately staffed
with the number of cases from criminal violations. It was
uncommon for detainees to spend several years in prison
a hearing. In addition, in the emergency zones, where
were operating, security forces have had virtual carte
the areas of interrogation and detention, and suspects
been held incommunicado. Imprisoned suspects awaiting
subsisted in medieval conditions. In 1990 the Ministry of
recorded 60 deaths from starvation and a backlog over
years of 50,000 unheard cases.
The executive branch traditionally manipulated the
for its own purposes, using its ability to appoint and
certain judges for its own political ends. For example,
Superior Court judge ruled that President García's
nationalization of Peru's banks was unconstitutional,
merely replaced him with a judge from his party, the
Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular
Americana--APRA), who then ruled in his favor.
It also was common for known terrorists or drug
to be released for "insufficient evidence" by judges with
protection whatsoever but with responsibility for trying
suspected of terrorism. Largely because of corruption or
inefficiency in the system, only 5 percent of those
terrorism had been sentenced by 1991. Those responsible
administering justice were under threat from all sides of
political spectrum: guerrilla movements, drug traffickers,
military-linked paramilitary squads. Notable cases
murder of the defense attorney for the SL's number two
Morote Barrionuevo, by an APRA-linked death squad, the
Franco Command; the self-exile of a public attorney after
repeated death threats during his investigation of the
role in the massacre of at least twenty-nine peasants in
Ayacucho Department, on May 14, 1988; a bloody letter-bomb
explosion at the headquarters of the Lima-based Pro-Human
Association (Asociación Pro-Derechos Humanos--Aprodeh);
March 1991 resignation of an attorney general of the
court martial, after he received death threats for
police aid and abetment of the rescue by the Túpac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac
MRTA) of one of its leaders, María Lucero Cumpa Miranda.
judicial terrorism was hardly surprising, given the lack
protection for judges dealing with terrorism cases; many
normally rode the bus daily to work, totally unprotected.
Finally, owing to neglect of the judicial system by
governments, the Supreme Court of Justice lacked a
presence at the national level.
In the context of widespread terrorism, what was legal
theory and what happened in practice had little to do with
other. As the situation increasingly became one of
violence, the capability of the judicial system to monitor
course of events was reduced markedly. In addition, the
system was unable to escape the loss of confidence in
institutions in general that had occurred among the
public. The discrediting of the judicial system was a
step toward the total erosion of constitutional order.
Data as of September 1992