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Peru President Backs Death for Predators

August 9, 2006

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Peru’s president said Tuesday he will seek to establish the death penalty for sexual predators who kill children through an amendment to the constitution.

``Criminals need much more severe penalties and in the face of the horrendous crime of rape followed by murder of underage kids. I believe these people have no right to live,″ President Alan Garcia told reporters. ``Society must defend itself from them, reinstituting the death penalty.″

Peru abolished capital punishment in 1979 for all crimes except treason in a time of war. Under Peruvian law, convicted rapists of children under 7 can receive life in prison and maximum sentences of 25 to 30 years for raping children under 14.

Garcia, 57, who left Peru nearly bankrupt and mired in guerrilla violence during his 1985-90 presidency, campaigned for re-election, in part, on a promise to seek the death penalty for sex offenders who prey on children.

``I will propose it though a bill in Congress to amend the constitution or through a referendum in which I will convoke all Peruvians″ to push the issue onto the legislative agenda if lawmakers don’t take action, said Garcia, who took office July 28.

But the proposal was met with mixed reaction from lawmakers and members of Peru’s legal establishment.

Peru is a signatory to the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which explicitly forbids capital punishment.

Congress chief Mercedes Cabanillas, a member of Garcia’s Aprista party, said Tuesday that Peru might be able to partially withdraw from the pact.

``There are ways. It must be reviewed by constitutional and treaty experts,″ she told reporters.

Amending the Peruvian Constitution requires approval by two-thirds of the 120-seat legislature in two separate sessions.

Even Garcia’s own justice minister, Maria Zavala, said changing the law would be ``complicated,″ and suggested stiffer prison sentences might be a more prudent course.

Attorney Greta Minaya, head of the Lima Bar Association, told the Peruvian daily newspaper Peru.21 that ``it would be useless and grave to implement the death penalty in Peru.″

She called Garcia’s push for capital punishment ``populist.″

Amnesty International’s representative in Peru, Ismael Vega, said Peru’s overburdened and inefficient justice system is error prone.

``Capital punishment is a double edged sword because it has been proven in many places, and in Peru as well, that many sentences are erroneous,″ he said.

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