Lima (AFP) - Prosecutors in Peru will indict former president Alberto Fujimori and three ex-ministers over the forced sterilization of five women while he was in office, a human rights group says.
According to Milton Campos, who represents the Peruvian women's rights group DEMUS, at least 2,164 people have filed suit over enforced sterilizations during Fujimori's rule (1990-2000).
"State prosecutor Luis Landa has ordered the start of proceedings against Fujimori and three former health ministers for their overall responsibility in the forced sterilization of Mamerita Mestanza, Celia Ramos and three other women, who suffered serious injuries and then died," Campos, a lawyer for the victims' families, told AFP late Wednesday.
"The decision by prosecutor Landa shows that he is convinced there is enough evidence to prosecute former president Fujimori along with ex-ministers Marino Costa, Eduardo Yong and Alejandro Aguinaga, as well as other officials."
In Peru, lawyers involved in such cases are notified ahead of time, before such decisions are made public.
According to official data, some 300,000 women underwent surgery as part of the program, 18 of whom died during or after the procedures.
In December 2016, the victims -- represented by DEMUS -- filed a motion against prosecutor Marcelia Gutierrez's decision to close several of the investigations.
Most of those affected by the forced sterilizations were poor, indigenous Quechua-speaking woman from rural areas, DEMUS says.
- 'Family planning program' -
Victims first filed suit nearly two decades ago but it was only in 2015 that the Peruvian government opened a national register of victims.
In 1996, at the start of Fujimori's second term in office, his government began a family planning and reproductive health program that included tubal ligation procedures that were supposed to be voluntary.
Fujimori believed this would reduce the birth rate and help economic development.
The issue hit the spotlight again ahead of the 2016 election campaign in which Fujimori's daughter, who was running for office, promised to compensate the victims without admitting the state was to blame.
But she lost out to her rival, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who has described the sterilizations as "a crime against humanity."
Although he promised the state would compensate the victims, that has yet to happen.
Now 79, Alberto Fujimori is already behind bars, serving a 25-year sentence for massacres of alleged terrorists in the early 1990s and in February, a Peruvian court also ordered that he stand trial for the 1992 killings of six farmers.