This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
The trial of former President Alberto Fujimori of Peru, quietly nearing a conclusion in a Lima courtroom, has been a model process that shows how countries can deal with despotic leaders from a troubled past. In the course of a trial that began in December 2007, prosecutors have built a methodical case that the former president authorized two death-squad killings in the early 1990s as part of an anti-insurgency strategy that produced gross human-rights violations.
Mr. Fujimori argues that there is no direct evidence tying him to the two incidents. He also denies knowing the existence of any death squads working for his government and says he never approved a dirty war against leftist rebels of the Shining Path insurgency. That's hard to swallow, given Mr. Fujimori's iron control of the government during his years in power and his take-no-prisoners attitude toward the Shining Path and other rebel groups. Ultimately, these matters and Mr. Fujimori's credibility are up to the court.
In a larger sense, however, the trial is about the former president's responsibility for waging what undoubtedly was a dirty war. Did the desperate situation faced by the Peruvian people under the assault of the Shining Path justify Mr. Fujimori's methods? He has argued – and will no doubt do so again before his trial ends – that he was forced to fight fire with fire.
Mr. Fujimori claims he had public support to wage an all-out war against the Shining Path and that the trial is just a way for the public to wipe its conscience clean now that the threat is diminished.
Don't believe it.
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