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Peru does not have specific legislation on the protection of sacred places of indigenous people.  Its cultural property, including graves, human remains, and artifacts, are governed by the general rules applicable to the cultural heritage of Peru.

The Peruvian Constitution provides that archaeological ruins and sites, monuments, bibliographic and archival documents, artistic objects, and documents of historic value, expressly declared to be cultural assets, and provisionally those presumed as such, are the nation’s cultural patrimony, regardless of their status as private or public property,[1] and are protected by the state.[2]  The protection of cultural property has been extensively structured by the Ley General de Patrimonio Cultural (LGPC) (General Law on Cultural Patrimony) No. 28296[3] and its regulation under Decreto Supremo No. 011-2006-ED.[4]

The LGPC defines cultural property that is part of the cultural patrimony of the nation as any tangible or intangible expression of human work of paleontological, archeological, architectural, historical, artistic, military, social, anthropological, traditional, religious, ethnic, scientific, technological, or intellectual importance, value, and significance, which is specifically declared or legally presumed as such.[5] 

Once declared a cultural property asset, property must be registered in the National Registry of Cultural Property Assets, within the Ministry of Culture.[6]

Indigenous art, materials, graves discovered in archeological excavations, and discoveries are governed by the LGPC and its regulation.[7] State protection includes a number of restrictions imposed on the private or public owners of those cultural items regarding their sale, transfer, export, etc., in order to secure their adequate preservation.[8]

The transfer of cultural property assets must be reported to the competent authorities.[9] If the transfer is for valuable consideration, the seller must also give the authorities thirty days to opt to purchase the item, which will expire after said term and allow the seller to freely transfer the cultural property.[10]

The protection of the land categorized as cultural property includes the soil and subsoil where the property is located.[11] Any development or change in use of land constituting cultural property must have the prior approval of the National Institute of Culture.[12]  

Private participation in the conservation, restoration, exhibition, and diffusion of this patrimony is encouraged, as is its return to Peru when it has been illegally removed from the national territory.[13]

The Penal Code[14] further provides that exploration, excavation, or appropriation of items found in pre-Hispanic archeological areas, without authorization, is a crime sanctioned with imprisonment and a fine in addition to seizure of the assets and civil compensatory reparation.[15] Criminal penalties also apply to whoever finances or organizes illegal extractions or explorations,[16] or destroys or illegally takes items of the cultural patrimony out of the country.[17]

A bill on the Protection and Preservation of the Paleontological Patrimony of the Nation, submitted on April 17, 2017, and pending congressional approval, would complement the LGPC, providing specific rules for the protection and preservation of paleontological assets.[18]

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Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
March 2019


[1] Constitución Política del Perú [CPP] [Political Constitution of Peru], Oct. 31, 1993, art. 21, http://spij. minjus.gob.pe/content/publicaciones_oficiales/img/Constitucion-Politica-2016.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/FM5Y-NYJ2.

[2] Id.

[3] Ley 28296 General del Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación [LGPC] [General Law on Cultural Patrimony] art. I, http://www.leyes.congreso.gob.pe/Documentos/Leyes/28296.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/87FQ-MXTV

[4] Decreto Supremo No. 011-2006-ED Aprueba Reglamento de la Ley 28296, Ley General del Patrimonio Cultural [RLGPC] [Regulation of LGPC], https://www.senace.gob.pe/download/senacenormativa/NAT-3-4-02-DS-011-2006-ED.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/9MTQ-XNRB.

[5] Id. art. II.

[6] RLGPC art. 9.

[7] LGPC art. 1.1.2.

[8] Id. arts. 7, 9 & 10.

[9] Id. art. 12.

[10] Id. art. 13.

[11] Id. art. 27.

[12] Id. art. 29.

[13] Id. art. V.

[14] Decreto Legislativo 635, Apr. 25, 1991, Código Penal [Penal Code] arts. 226-231, at 45, http://spij.minjus. gob.pe/content/publicaciones_oficiales/img/CODIGOPENAL.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/5VDJ-SKS7.

[15] Id. arts. 226, 231.

[16] Id. art. 227.

[17] Id. arts. 228, 230.

[18] Proyecto de Ley No. 1240/2016 CR Ley de Protección y Preservación del Patrimonio Paleontológico de la Nación [Bill No. 1240/2016 on the Law on the Protection and Preservation of the Paleontological Patrimony of the Nation], Apr. 17, 2017, http://www.leyes.congreso.gob.pe/Documentos/2016_2021/Proyectos_de_ Ley_y_de_Resoluciones_Legislativas/PL0124020170417.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/W4JF-AMVJ.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020