Return to Putis: EPAF Resumes Exhumations of Mass Graves

Two weeks after completing the exhumation of the largest mass grave found in Peru’s history, the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF) returned to Putis today to begin work on exhuming four additional graves from a December 1984 massacre.

As the Peruvian government faces renewed pressure from the human rights community to divulge the names of those responsible for the massacre, EPAF returned to the remote site high within the Andes where 123 men, women, and children were shot more than two decades ago by the Peruvian military. Reappointed by the local prosecutor’s office in Ayacucho to conduct the official exhumations in the area, EPAF will spend the next 20 days exhuming the remains of villagers buried in four separate grave sites.   

"We are committed to continuing the work we started weeks ago," said EPAF Director Jose Pablo Baraybar. "We hope our efforts to finish recovering those disappeared in Putis will help ease the pain of these families and write a new chapter in this tragic conflict."

EPAF began exhuming bodies today from the first of four grave sites – a mass grave located just in front of an altar within the crumbling remains of a stone church. The area was cleared weeks ago, revealing two skulls just beneath the surface. Additional grave sites in the area include two classrooms within an adjacent school. Approximately 50 to 60 bodies are expected to be buried among the four sites.  

The Putis massacre occurred after hundreds of villagers were displaced from their homes in late 1984 and rounded up by soldiers. A group of 123 villagers were taken to Putis and shot on December 13, 1984. Braving extreme conditions and drug traffickers, EPAF spent two weeks in May extracting almost 60 skeletons and the remains of about 10 more bodies from the largest of five mass graves in the area.

Since the initial exhumation, representatives within the Peruvian government and the military have refused to respond to new requests for information regarding those military officers stationed at the Putis military base in 1984. Peru’s Ministry of Defense and the Commander General of the Peruvian military have both refused to cooperate in any prejudicial investigation.

Ash Kosiewicz is a Peace Fellow with The Advocacy Project in Washington, DC, and is currently in Peru working with EPAF. Visit his blog at