Peru Congress approves statute of limitations for crimes against humanity

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's Congress passed a law on Thursday introducing a statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, despite opposition from human rights organizations who argue the measure will hamper ongoing investigations into serious abuses.

The law passed with 15 votes in favor and 12 against in the Congress' permanent commission, after the right-wing dominated legislature initially approved the law last month with 60 in favor, 36 against and 11 abstentions.

"There are military and police officers aged 80, 85 and 90 who are unjustly imprisoned and others who are unjustly prosecuted for an undue application of crimes against humanity," said Fernando Rospigliosi, a congressman for the right-wing Popular Force (FP) party.

The FP is led by Keiko Fujimori, who promoted the law and is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, 85, who was last year released from prison after serving 16 years for human rights abuses during his decade-long rule in the 1990s.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights this week urged Peru to annul or block the law, but the government of President Dina Boluarte swiftly rejected this and blasted it as interference.

"I am absolutely outraged," Prime Minister Gustavo Adrianzen told journalists on Wednesday, referring to the court issuing a precautionary measure "in the most unusual way and without any precedent in jurisprudence."

The law needs to be signed by the president before implementation, Boluarte is expected to do so in the coming days.

Rights groups say the law would cut short dozens of investigations into human rights abuses committed before 2003, when fighting between security forces and rebel groups left 69,000 people dead or missing at the end of last century.

"Those who can benefit most immediately from the law are former President Fujimori," said Yvan Montoya, a law professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

"It seems to me they are betting this law can apply to several cases for which he is being tried."

Fujimori, who was pardoned on humanitarian grounds after being sentenced to 25 years in 2007, faces charges in an upcoming trial of being a "perpetrator-by-means" of the murder of six people from rural areas in 1992, during clashes between security forces and guerilla group Shining Path.

The crime of which he is accused is considered a crime against humanity.

FP lawmakers argue the bill seeks justice for some 800 military personnel being "unjustly" investigated for crimes against humanity, a charge on which 36 military personnel have been sentenced since Fujimori's presidency.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Stéphanie Hamel; Editing by Josie Kao)