March 5, 2008 / 7:30 PM / in 11 years

U.S. court awards $37 million in 1985 Peru massacre

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has awarded $37 million to some victims of a 1985 massacre carried out by the Peruvian military in a remote mountain village during a search for members of the Shining Path rebel group.

The court ruling, signed by District Judge Adalberto Jordan on Tuesday, found former Peruvian Army officer Telmo Ricardo Hurtado liable for what became known as the “Accomarca massacre,” the slayings of 30 women, 23 children and 16 men in Peru’s southern highlands region of Ayacucho.

The lawsuit was brought by two survivors, Teofila Ochoa Lizarbe and Cirilia Pulido Baldeon, who were 12 years old when the army unit killed their relatives during Peru’s two-decade battle against the Maoist rebels.

Hurtado, in U.S. custody on an immigration violation, invoked his right against self-incrimination and refused to participate in the court case.

Jordan ruled Hurtado, then a second lieutenant, ordered his men to round up residents in Accomarca on August 14, 1985.

“The soldiers then, on Mr. Hurtado’s orders, brutally beat the men and raped some of the women. Then they killed almost all of the residents who had been rounded up with machine gun fire and grenades,” the ruling said.

Ochoa’s mother, four brothers and sister, and Pulido’s mother and 9-month-old brother, were among the dead. Jordan awarded the $37 million to the two women and the estates of their relatives.

The judgment may be largely symbolic since it is unknown if Hurtado has the assets to pay the victims.

The lawsuit, brought under the U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, alleged the Peruvian soldiers were responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Jordan’s ruling said Hurtado was found guilty by a Peruvian military tribunal of abuse of authority in connection with the Accomarca massacre but did not serve any time due to an amnesty declared by then-president Alberto Fujimori in 1995.

Reporting by Jim Loney, Editing by Michael Christie and Alan Elsner

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