Prosecutors in Peru have handed down the first charges under a new law specifically targeting “sicariato,” or hired killings, raising questions about whether the new legislation will be enough to discourage this crime.
Two suspected assassins in the Peruvian city Trujillo are the first to be charged under the country’s new sicariato law passed July 27th, reported El Comercio. The new law differentiates hired assassination from other forms of “killing for profit,” increasing the minimum prison sentence from 15 to 25 years and allowing for life in prison in certain cases. The law also applies to those who are responsible for arranging a contract killing, in addition to those who carry out the murder.
The approval of the new law means that there are now multiple statutes in place for prosecuting those suspected of committing murders for economic motives. It will be up to prosecutors and judges to decide in what cases the new, more specific sicariato law will be applied instead of the long-standing “killing for profit” law. Under Peruvian legal code, when two competing statutes seem to apply to the same case, prosecutors and judges are supposed to allow the statute that is most favorable to the accused to take precedence.
In the case of the two suspects charged this week, prosecutors appeared to have little difficulty justifying the application of the sicariato law, saying that the case at hand clearly involved a hired assassination.
InSight Crime Analysis
Targeting contract killing is the latest in a series of legislative reforms designed to give Peru’s law enforcement and judicial system better tools for tackling organized crime. The tougher law is obviously meant to discourage the crime, but in order for this to happen, it will ultimately depend on how well police, prosecutors and judges handle hired killings on a case-by-base basis.
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There have been previous indications that powerful, corrupt political figures in Peru have relied on murders-for-hire as a way to cement their criminal networks. Cesar Alvarez, the former governor of one of Peru’s wealthiest states, is said to have presided over a “violent mini-dictatorship” which saw a wave of contract killings in the area, including the assasination of his political rivals. Alvarez was arrested on corruption and murders charges in 2014.