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Teófila Ochoa Lizarbe et al v. Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado

Court United States District Court Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, United States
Case number 07-21783-CIV-JORDAN
Decision title Final Judgment
Decision date 4 March 2008
  • Teófila Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estates of Silvestra Lizarbe Solis
  • Estates of Gerardo Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estates of Victor Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estates of Ernestina Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estates of Celestino Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estates of Edwin Ochoa Lizarbe
  • Estate of Fortunata Badeon Gutierrez
  • Estate of Edgar Pulido Baldeon
  • Cirilia Pulido Baldeon
  • Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado
Categories Crimes against humanity, Torture, War crimes
Keywords Accomarca Massacre; command responsibility; crimes against humanity; torture; war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Peru
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On 14 August 1985, 60 women, children and elderly men were killed in the highlands village of Accomarca in Peru’s southern Andean region of Ayacucho. This massacre is known as the Accomarca Massacre.

The plaintiffs brought a complaint against Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado (Second Lieutenant (Subteniente) in the Peruvian Army) who was responsible for the command of the soldiers that committed the killings. The plaintiffs sought justice on behalf of all the members of the Asociación de Familiares Afectados por la Violencia Política del Distrito de Accomarca (Association of Relatives of the Victims of Political Violence in Accomarca) who lost relatives in the massacre. Hurtado was found guilty for the crimes committed in connection with the Accomarca Massacre.

On 4 March 2008, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered Hurtado to pay $37 million in damages to the plaintiffs.

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Procedural history

In 1992, Telmo Hurtado, a former Second Lieutenant of the Peruvian Army, was found guilty by a military tribunal of abuse of authority. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

In 1995, President Fujimori enacted two degrees granting full amnesty to anyone who may have violated human rights in the course of the fight against the Sendero Luminoso, a terrorist insurgent group that was dedicated to overthrowing the Peruvian government by violent force. Therefore, Telmo Hurtado never completed his sentence.

In decisions handed down in 2001 and 2002, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared that the amnesty decrees were null and void. The Peruvian Supreme Court later incorporated these decisions into Peruvian law. Following these decisions, Hurtado fled to the U.S. The Government of Peru issued an extradition request with the U.S. in 2007 because Hurtado could not be prosecuted in absentia.

In 2007, the U.S. authorities arrested Hurtado for immigration fraud.

In July 2007, plaintiffs brought a case against Hurtado before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, accusing him of direct liability for grave human rights violations and of indirect liability under the command responsibility doctrine for abuses committed by his subordinates in connection with the 1985 Accomarca Massacre. The action was brought pursuant to the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute.

On 28 July 2007, following Hurtado’s failure to respond to the summons and complaint, the plaintiffs filed a motion for default judgment.

On 21 November 2007, a default judgment on liability was entered against him for torture, extrajudicial killing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

See also: 

Trial transcript before Judge Jordan, 11 February 2008

Plaintiffs’ memorandum of law on damages and closing statement, 18 February 2008

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Related developments

On 16 June 2009, the U.S. authorities approved the Peruvian extradition request. However, Hurtado remained in a U.S. immigration detention centre until July 2011.

In November 2010, the trial in Peru commenced.

On 15 July 2011, Hurtado was extradited to Peru.

On 19 January 2012, on his first appearance, Hurtado denied all charges.

On 9 April 2012, Hurtado admitted that he was responsible for the killing of 31 people and for covering up the military High Command’s role in the Accomarca Massacre.

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Legally relevant facts

The plaintiffs filed a civil action suit against Hurtado who was allegedly responsible for the killing of their relatives during the Accomarca Massacre on 14 August 1985. The plaintiffs filed the case to seek justice on behalf of all the members of the Asociación de Familiares Afectados por la Violencia Política del Distrito de Accomarca (Association of Relatives of the Victims of Political Violence in Accomarca) who lost relatives in the massacre. 

Hurtado had command over certain Peruvian military forces that carried out the Accomarca Massacre. The forces went to Accomarca and the nearby area of Lloccllapampa, looking for members of the Sendero Luminoso (also called “Shining Path”), which had a presence in Accomarca. Although no Sendero Luminoso members or weapons were found in the area, Hurtado ordered his men to round up the residents on the pretence that there was going to an assembly or meeting. The soldiers then, on Hurtado’s orders, brutally beat the men, raped some of the women, and then massacred 60 people who had been rounded up. Hurtado himself threw a grenade into a house where some residents had been forced into. The soldiers subsequently went from house to house in Lloccllapampa, looking for and killing all those who could be found.

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Core legal questions

Can Hurtado be held liable under the Alien Tort Claims Act for the beatings, rapes and murders of the Accomarca residents?

What was the appropriate compensation for the plaintiffs?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 (Title 28 U.S. Code, Chapter 85, Section 1350)

Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, United States

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 2008, United States:

  • Rule 54 - Judgment; Costs

  • Rule 58 - Entering Judgment
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Court's holding and analysis

Following the judgment on liability entered against Hurtado on 21 November 2007, plaintiffs brought a claim for damages.

On 4 March 2008, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida first noted that a human life and human suffering are not subject to intrinsic monetary valuation. Nevertheless, the Court awarded damages to the plaintiffs because ‘placing values, for purposes of assessing damages, is all that a court can do’, and because ‘it is what the TVPA requires’ (p. 5).

Accordingly, Hurtado was ordered to pay $37 million ($12 million dollars in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages) in damages (p. 5).

The judgment in this case represents the first time that anyone has been held accountable for atrocities committed in connection with the 1985 Accomarca Massacre.

Hurtado was incarcerated and faced deportation to Peru in order to be prosecuted for the human rights crimes committed.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

‘Telmo Ricardo Hurtado’, TRIAL.

‘Perpetrator: Telmo Hurtado Hurtado’, The Center for Justice & Accountability.

Trial Against Peruvian Human Rights Abuser Concludes in Miami’, The Center for Justice & Accountability, 11 February 2008.

Á. Páez, ‘RIGHTS-PERU: Survivors Come Face-to Face with Massacre Leader’, Inter Press Service, 22 February 2008.

‘Prepara sentencia a Telmo Hurtado’,, 4 March 2008.

‘U.S. court awards $37 million in 1985 Peru massacre’, Reuters, 5 March 2008.

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Social media links

‘Peruvian torture victims to be paid’, Democratic, 12 February 2008.

A. Unkovic, ‘US judge orders former Peru officer to pay $37 million to massacre survivors’, Jurist, 5 March 2008.

Hallan culpable a Telmo Hurtado por masacre de Accomarca’, info región, 5 March 2008.

S. Miles, ‘$37 Million Awarded In Alien Tort Statute Case’, The Legal Examiner, 6 March 2008.

J. Zeitlin,‘Massacre Victims Finally Win: $37 Million’, Miami New Times, 7 March 2008.

P. Merchant, ‘$37 Million Human Rights Award’, ImmigrationProf Blog, 7 March 2008.

‘Peruvian ex-officer to pay in massacre case’, World War 4 Report, 24 March 2008.

‘Peru: Ex-Officer Loses Massacre Suit’, Weekly News Update on the Americas, 24 March 2008.

Trial Against Peruvian Human Rights Abuser Concludes In Miami’, SOA Watch.