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The Judiciary System and Crime Rates in Peru: An Overview

Mar 9, 2023 | 0 comments

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Mar 9, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Overview of the Criminal Justice system

Peru is a South American civil law country. It is a democratic country with a decentralized republic which has the political system of multiparty. The president in Peru is the head of state as well as the government, he/she represents the country’s ongoing interest and directs the policies of government (Hammergren, 1998). Under the present constitution, the president terms limit is set as five years and he/she is forbidden to seek for an immediate re-election. According to Hammergren (1998), the president designates the Prime minister and the entire council of ministers. Peru’s structure of government includes Central government, Regional government as well as the Local government. The central government is structured into a three-tier system in accordance with the separation of power principle with ever wing of the central government being independent and autonomous of each other.

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The first branch of the government is the executive, that consist of the president and council of ministers, this wing of goverment is tasked with directing and executing the country’s policies, the legislative wing of the government consist of unicameral Congress which has 130 members who are elected for a term of five years (Lambright, 2015). Their role is to make laws which are inferior to the constitution the third wing of the government is the Judiciary which is in charge of administering justice in the entire country.

According to Cerrón (2005), Royal Audiencia of Lima was the predecessor of Peru Judiciary, during the Viceroyalty of Peru when she got independence, there was a resolution made by, José de San Martín that Audencia of Lima would function as a national court pending the establishment of the permanent judicial system. Far ahead, Simón Bolívar established the present judicial system, with the formation of supreme courts of justice in Lima, Huamanga, Cusco and La Libertad.

The Judiciary of Peru can be translated as a wing of the government that interprets a well as applies the laws to guarantee justice that is equal and in accordance with the law and also to offer an instrument for the resolution of disputes (Landa, 2001).

The Judiciary in Peru is a tiered series of courts, with Supreme court sitting at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the second level which consists of twenty-eight superior courts with every single of this having jurisdiction over a judicial district which is similar to the 25 regions of Peru. The third level court consists of one hundred and ninety-five each with a jurisdiction over a province while finally, the fourth court level consists of 1838 courts each with a jurisdiction over a single district (Mariluz, 2011).

According to Mariluz (2011), the 1993 constitution of Peru acts as the supreme law of the country, followed by legislation made locally as well as the international treaties. As mentioned earlier the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, followed by seven courts with each having five judges in numbers. The orders go as follows, the Supreme Court, mixed court and finally the peace courts.

Crime in Peru

Crimes is a consistent issue in Lima and other parts of Peru. According to Aguirre (2005), Crime in the street is predominant mostly in urban centres, particularly in Lima. Purse snatching, pickpocketing the theft of cars parts, smash-and-grab robberies are among the popular crimes that happen in Peru. Garrido (n.d) added that the electronic device like laptops, smartphones, cameras and iPod are items that the criminals highly target.

Peru is among the highly ranked in regards to the rate of crime in Latin America. Serious crimes like Kidnappings, armed robberies, burglaries, assaults and petty theft are very popular in a day to day life of Peru (Garrido, n.d). There has been a steady increase in violent crime in the country over the last few years, particularly the crimes of opportunity which include Robbery, Kidnapping and the theft of vehicles. Whereas complimentary violence committed against the outsiders is occasional, based on the statistics by Peruvian National Police, there has been an increase in robberies as well as assault involving violence over the last few years (Aguirre, 2005).

According to Refugees (1995), all the US and foreigners are prone to crime based on the public perception that the foreigners are wealthier than the locals and there is a higher likelihood that they could be carrying a larger sum of cash and other valuables. While the staff of the US embassy and other foreigners stay in well-off areas with private security all over, this does not take away the vulnerability as they can still find themselves being victims of violent crimes (Garrido, n.d).

According to the Peru World Prison Brief. (2018), there has been an increase in the rate of murder in Peru has been recorded from 1,533 in 2014 to 1,749 in 2015. Cases relating to incapacitating agents have been frequently reported in the area of Lima. This scheme is used by criminals to incapacitate the victim, providing them with an opportunity to steal the victims belonging or even to sexually assault them.

Residential burglaries are the most popular over the weekends, during the day and on holidays when most of the houses have been vacated. The thieves often get entry to the houses by exploring unsecured entryways, forcing access through perimeter door or even tricking the domestic employees (Aguirre, 2005). Residential burglaries also occur at a higher rate in single-family homes. Theft of vehicle parts and carjacking in general from parked vehicles happen regularly throughout the country. The criminal often target sports utility vehicle and sedan with the upgrades they deem expensive.

According to Zevallos (2016), though the government has played a bigger role in the fight against crime and domestic terrorism, the threat still persists in most part of the country. On December 15th 2015, a state of emergency was declared by the Peru government in the district of Callao with the intention of curbing the gang violence that was linked to drug trafficking, homicide as well as extortion. Peru National Police improved the number of foot patrols to within a hundred and sixty officers. According to the law of the land under the state of emergency, the police are allowed to make an arrest as they deem proper without the judicial order as well as the constitution allow them under this circumstances to conduct a search without a warrant (Landa, 2001). Peru government had the pleasure of extending the state of emergency at their pleasure, and this they did for the next 45 days till January 2016.

There is also a criminal network with a speciality in illicit business, piracy as well as counterfeit products. According to Aguirre (2005), the item manufactured and distributed by the counterfeit criminals are often cheaper and substandard endangering the lives of the citizens by exposing them to life-threatening illness. These products are widely available in. counterfeit currency is a substantial problem in the country, this includes the counterfeit of currency such as Euros, Pesos Chileno, Nuevo Soles and Bolivianos. According to Garrido (n.d), US Secret Service report puts Peru among the highest ranked countries in the world that produces counterfeit currency. In 2015 approximately $2,630,200 of fake US currency were seized by the Peru National Police. In addition, the fraud that involves credit card is equally rampant and it has frequently been reported mostly by foreigners who travelled to Peru.

Domestic terrorist, as well as other criminal activities, have rendered travelling at night in many areas of Peru dangerous. As a result of this, the US Embassy restricted its citizen from travelling at night even after the state of emergency was called off in June 2015. The upper region of Huallaga possesses a major threat to the night travellers due to the drug lords, and other criminals who are keenly controlling the region. The rates of carjacking and kidnapping at night are also high (Garrido, n.d).

Peru Prison

According to Peru World Prison Brief (2018), the current prison population in Peru is 88,423 and this includes the pre-trial detainees and the prisoners in remand, the female take 5.6% of the prison population while the rest are male. The Juvenile under 18 takes 0% while under 20 take-ups 1.0%. The foreign prisoners amount to 1.8% of the prison population. The country has 69 prisons as at 2018 with the official capacity of 39156. There has been a steady rise in the population of prison from 2004 to 2016.

According to Zevallos (2016), the main challenge of the Peru prison system is overcrowding. Aguirre (2005), stated that it is important to note that from August 2011 to June 2016 the population in the prison grew by approximately 30,000 people, this can be translated to 60.9% increase. Zevallos (2016), stated that this means that the Peruvian Prison System was forced to accommodate an extra 6000 inmates every single year. Considering the government has also tried to increase the prison capacity it still falls short of the growth of prison capacity. A study done by Peruvian National Penitentiary Institute indicated that to manage the menace of overcrowding in the Prisons, the prison would be forced to build a five hundred bed capacity prison every single month, an amount which would be unsustainable considering the staff requirement necessary to deal with security and administration issues in prison (Garrido, n.d).

According to Cerrón (2005), based on article 8 of Peru’s constitution, the government has an obligation of fighting and punishing drug trafficking. Similarly, it is responsible for regulating the use of intoxicants. The intake of drugs in Peru is not punished and possession of drugs in small quantities is permitted by the government. However, the production, as well as the distribution of drugs, are illegal.

In 1993, Peru, together with Ecuador, signed an agreement with the Andean Trade Preference Agreement together with the US, later substituted the agreement with Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Columbia and Bolivia had already agreed to ATPA earlier in the year 1991 and had started reaping its benefits a year after signing the agreement in 1992 (Hammergren, 1998). Hammergren (1998), further stated that by agreeing to the terms of the agreement and signing it, Peru assented to partner with the US and other countries who were part of the treaty to fight drug trafficking and the production right from its source.

According to Lambright (2015), the Act intended to replace the production of coca plant with other agricultural cash crops. In response to their effort in combating the eradication of coca plant, Peru among other countries was allowed U.S tariff exemptions on particular products including a certain type of fruits. In 2012, it was unfortunate that Peru Breached the ATPA agreement and stopped complying with the terms hence it terminated the agreement and in return the country lost all the tariff exemptions she previous let enjoyed in the US and as a result by the end of 2012, Colombia was overtaken by Peru as the World’s major grower of the coca plant.

In conclusion, several studies have been conducted on Peru criminal justice system, with Murray (2001), doing a comparative study of Peru criminal Procedure where he gives a deep insight about the prosecution process and other aspects of law in comparison to other countries. Murray highlights the issues of corruption in the judiciary and how powerful people can easily bribe their way to justice, just like most of the countries in Latin America.


Aguirre, C. (2005). The criminals of Lima and their worlds: The prison experience, 1850-1935. Durham [N.C.: Duke University Press.

Cerrón, M. (2005). Justice of the Peace in Peru: An efficient Justice Service. Retrieved from https://www.law.ufl.edu/_pdf/academics/centers/cgr/7th_conference/Justicia_de_Paz_en_el_Peru__Eng

Garrido, R. Legislation on drugs and the prison situation in Peru. Retrieved from https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/tni-systems_overload-peru-def.pdf

Hammergren, L. A. (1998). The politics of justice and justice reform in Latin America: The Peruvian case in comparative perspective. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press.

Lambright, A. (2015). Andean truths: Transitional justice, ethnicity, and cultural production in post-shining path Peru.

Landa, C. (2001). The Scales of Justice in Peru: Judicial Reform and Fundamental Rights. Retrieved from http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/research/peru-The%20Scales%20of%20Justice%20in%20Peru%20Judicial%20Reform.Landa.pdf

Mariluz, L. L. P. (2011). Judicial corruption in the Peruvian judicial system: Ways to resolve the problem by applying the economic analysis of law.

Murray, D. (2001). A Comparative Study of Peruvian Criminal Procedure. Retrieved from https://repository.law.miami.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3092&context=umlr

Peru | World Prison Brief. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.prisonstudies.org/country/peru

Refugees, U. (1995). Refworld | Peru: The Two Faces of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a7ed4.html

Zevallos, J. (2016). Overcrowding in the Peruvian prison system. International Review Of The Red Cross, 98(903), 851-858. doi: 10.1017/s1816383117000649

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