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    Members of Peru's Shining Path speak to journalists in a remote jungle region in southern Peru, Cuzco, on April 17, 2012. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 August 2017

The ruling delivered the first convictions in a case that had dragged on for more than a decade.

A Peruvian court on Friday found guilty two former military officers who were responsible for the torture, murder and disappearance of 53 people in a military barracks in the Andean city of Huamanga.

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Judge Ricardo Brousset sentenced the head of the "Los Cabitos" military base, former Lieutenant Colonel Humberto Orbegozo, to 30 years in prison. The head of the Intelligence Detachment of Ayacucho, Pedro Paz Avendaño, was sentenced to 23 years.

The ruling delivered the first convictions in a case emblematic of state-sponsored human rights violations in Peru, which had dragged on for more than a decade.

However, the two former military officers did not appear in court and the court has ordered their immediate arrest.

Brousset also cleared a third former military officer of guilt, citing a lack of evidence, and suspended sentencing for two others because their lawyers said they suffer from dementia.

In a sentencing that stretched from Thursday to early Friday, the court confirmed the systematic abuse that residents near the military base "Los Cabitos" had long charged took place there. An oven was used to burn bodies at Los Cabitos, the court said. 

Brousset also said the Peruvian government was partially responsible for the crimes and must pay reparations because the men had acted on orders to "disappear" suspected members of the Maoist Shining Path rebel group.

The Cabitos military base was at the center of the government’s counterinsurgency operations in the Andean region of Ayacucho, where the Shining Path launched its bid to take over the state.

During the 20-year conflict that began in 1980, an estimated 69,000 people were killed or went missing, and 75 percent of victims were Indigenous people, according to a report by a truth commission.

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