LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian court on Friday found guilty two of the seven former military officers who were accused of torturing and murdering civilians in a poor highland province in 1983.
The incidents occurred at the start of a bloody, two-decade conflict between government forces and insurgents.
Judge Ricardo Brousset also said the state of Peru was partially responsible for the crimes and must pay reparations because the men had acted on orders to "disappear" suspected members of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path rebel group.
The ruling delivered the first convictions in a case emblematic of state-sponsored human rights violations in Peru. The case had dragged on for more than a decade.
In sentencing that stretched from Thursday to early Friday, the court confirmed the systematic abuse that residents near the military base "Los Cabitos" had long charged took place there.
An oven was used to burn bodies at Los Cabitos, the court said in a sentence dictated in the presence of victims' family members.
Brousset sentenced Edgar Paz and Humberto Bari to 23 and 30 years in prison, respectively. However, the two former military officers did not appear in court and are now sought for arrest.
Brousset also cleared a third former military officer of guilt, citing a lack of evidence, and suspended sentencing for two others because their lawyers said they suffer from dementia.
The Cabitos military base was at the center of the government's counterinsurgency operations in the Andean region of Ayacucho where the Shining Path launched its bid to take over the state.
During the 20-year conflict that began in 1980, an estimated 69,000 people were killed or went missing, and 75 percent of victims were indigenous people, according to a report by a truth commission.
At least one victim of torture at Los Cabitos died while waiting for the verdict, according to local newspaper La Republica.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Matthew Lewis)