The Association for Legal Aid and Social Action (ALAS) provides legal services and reintegration assistance for individuals, regardless of their personal ideology or actions, who are currently or were formerly incarcerated for political crimes during Peru’s civil war. More than 22,000 people were detained and accused of political crimes during the war that lasted from 1980 to 2000.
ALAS, located in the Peruvian capital, Lima, has established four interrelated programming areas to provide support to current and former political prisoners. First, ALAS provides legal defense to political prisoners for their retrials. This work is significant not only for the current retrials but also because, historically, legal defense has not been a right in Peru. No other human rights organization in Peru has taken on the task of providing legal defense to individuals regardless of their political beliefs. In addition, ALAS provides legal assistance to recently freed individuals by informing them of their right to take legal action related to human rights violations. ALAS also provides tools for self-sustenance to these former prisoners by helping them implement small businesses that will be managed by them.
A climate of persecution and stigmatization against former prisoners, which does not contribute to overall social peace, continues to exist and promotes the social bitterness and segregation of those who express or represent different ways of seeing the development of Peruvian society. This climate of intolerance hinders the effective reintegration of former prisoners into the community. However, those who have been released have demonstrated a great ability to adapt to new conditions and current economic realities. ALAS has supported this process from within minimum standards of human dignity. There are many of prisoners who will continue to be released, which raises the challenge of finding ways for these former prisoners to solve their problems of survival and to begin to contribute to the community and society.
One former prisoner being helped by ALAS states: I was imprisoned for 15 years. I survived prison with the support of my colleagues who were with me and together we have overcome the most difficult moments. After a year of freedom I thank ALAS because, thanks to their help, I found it easier to rebuild my life and face the adversities of the world again. Today, I have a small business that I manage with my partner. Definitely, if we had not counted on that first support, we would still be "kicking cans" as we say here in Peru.
ALAS seeks funds to assist these former prisoners who are about to gain their freedom to provide the initial assistance they need to rejoin the community. ALAS also seeks funds to help in the implementation of a small business for these former prisoners to begin their new lives.