New power allows immigration agency to pursue alleged human rights violators living in U.S.
By: BEVERLEY LUMPKIN
April 6, 2007
WASHINGTON — Immigration agents have arrested three former foreign military officers who entered the U.S. after lying about their pasts during Peru's struggle with the Shining Path guerrilla movement and Argentina's “dirty war.”
The arrests of the three, who are accused of crimes against humanity in their home countries, points out how often alleged human rights violators have sought refuge in this country.
They were arrested under expanded powers granted to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement under changes in 2004 to U.S. intelligence law. The agency is part of the Homeland Security Department.
Telmo Ricardo Hurtado-Hurtado was arrested in Miami and charged with criminal visa fraud. Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro was arrested in The Plains, Va., where he sold artwork and antiques, and charged with criminal violations of U.S. visa laws. Juan Manuel Rivera-Rondon was arrested in Baltimore and detained pending proceedings to send him back to Peru.
The immigration agency “will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who have come to our country in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for the crimes they have committed against others,” its chief, Julie Myers, said when the arrests were announced this week.
Some people accused of human rights violations have sought refuge in the U.S. to avoid prosecution and punishment for crimes committed in their home countries. Sometimes they have lived and worked in U.S. communities where their former victims have sought asylum.
The immigration agency has created a unit to track and prosecute alleged human rights violators. So far the unit has identified over 800 cases from 85 countries, with people returned to Haiti, Somalia, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Honduras and Bosnia.
According to court papers, Hurtado-Hurtado commanded a Peruvian army platoon in 1985 that was seeking out members of the Shining Path guerrilla movement in the village of Accomarca. He and his troops herded 69 villagers, including women and children, into a building and massacred them, the documents say, and he “threw hand grenades into the rooms and finally proceeded to set them on fire so that the bodies of the victims were burnt.”
On May 31, 2005, the Peru's Supreme Court requested that the U.S. extradite Hurtado-Hurtado to face charges relating to the massacre. He faces criminal charges in the U.S. for lying on his visa application when he said he had never been arrested or convicted of a crime. After being prosecuted on those charges in Miami, he will be returned to Peru to face trial.
Rivera-Rondon is wanted by Peru for taking part in the same massacre as Hurtado. He faces administrative charges in the U.S. and proceedings that would return him to Peru for trial.
Barreiro, a retired Army major who was chief interrogator of Argentina's most feared torture chamber, is accused of being personally responsible for the torture and death of several individuals during Argentina's “dirty war.”
Nearly 13,000 people are officially reported as missing during the Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship. Human rights groups say the toll is closer to 30,000 victims.
Barreiro faces U.S. criminal charges of visa fraud and after prosecution will be returned to Argentina to face charges.
The court papers show that Barreiro applied for a visa to the U.S. in Buenos Aires in September 2003. On the application, he denied having ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, and acknowledged that he understood that any false statement could result in the canceling of his visa.
An immigration agency agent obtained documents from the court in Cordoba, Argentina, disclosing that Barreiro was arrested and detained in 1987 for six crimes of torture, and one of torture leading to death.