Report of Police Death Squad Adds to Public Security Anxieties in Peru

Report of Police Death Squad Adds to Public Security Anxieties in Peru
Police near Peru's Congress during President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's inauguration ceremony, Lima, July 28, 2016 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

In the most serious accusation among many that have damaged the reputation of Peru’s National Police in recent years, the country’s Interior Ministry has identified a group of police officers who allegedly participated in “death squads” that assassinated petty criminals in order to earn extra money or promotions, at a time when crime was rising to unprecedented levels. The charges complicate the urgent challenge of improving public security for a new government that has been in power for less than a month.

According to the national press, 97 police officers are under investigation for the extrajudicial killings of 27 criminals between 2011 and 2015. The officers allegedly lured the criminals into areas where they might attempt a robbery, then shot them and planted guns on them. “This is one of the most atrocious chapters in the history of the [National] Police, and those responsible have been clearly identified,” says Carlos Basombrio, Peru’s interior minister.

Investigations into the extrajudicial killings began earlier this year, but they weren’t reported by local media until shortly before President Pedro Pablo Kuckzynski was sworn in for his five-year term on July 28. One of Basombrio’s first actions as minister was to name a committee to investigate and produce a report on the matter, which is scheduled for release today.

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