In July 1991, during a military operation to suppress “terrorists” in the Santa Barbara campesino community in Huancavelica, Peru, the Peruvian Army patrol “Escorpio” kidnapped seven children all under age seven, five women and three men. The Army accused the group of having relatives likely to become terrorists for Peruvian communist rebel group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and took the group to the nearby Misteriosa mine, where they tortured and killed all fifteen. Attempting to cover up their crimes, the officers used dynamite to explode the victims’ bodies and collapse the mine entrance.
The Army charged the officers with aggravated murder and tried them in military courts. Only one witness testified at trial, however, due to witness harassment by government security forces and the officers were acquitted. Subsequent criminal proceedings against the officers in regular courts were initiated but then dismissed due to amnesty laws.
In July 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report on the case, finding that the Army officers’ acts and application of the amnesty laws violated the victims’ right to life, right to a family, and right to fair trial. In 2013, the Commission referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as Peru failed to remedy these violations. In 2015, the Court ordered the victims’ remains to be returned to their families. This photograph depicts the 2017 funeral procession of the victims’ remains being brought at last, 26 years after the killings, to Huancavelica’s General Cemetery to be buried.
Alejandro Olazo is a photojournalist from Lima, Peru and is a photographer for Caretas, a Peruvian political magazine. He aims to document some of Peru’s most iconic human rights cases.