News from Lori's Parents
3 September 1997In this update:
- PLEASE HELP LORI BERENSON -- A CALL FOR ACTION
- Letter in the House of Representatives
- Letter in the Senate
- Residents of New York
- SAMPLE LETTER/MEMO TO REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS
PLEASE HELP LORI BERENSON -- A CALL FOR ACTION
During our recent visit Lori said: "I know that 'Peruvian Intelligence' knows full well that I had absolutely no knowledge of and nothing to do with any plans for an attack on the Peruvian Congress." ... "I am being punished for my beliefs."
We find Lori's comments terribly upsetting. What should parents say or do when we hear things like this? We brought up our children to love, honor, and respect all peoples and to place highest importance on the value of human life. Our daughter Kathy works at a center for abused women. She is finishing her doctorate in clinical psychology, examining the impact of such abuse on the upbringing of the children. Our daughter Lori has always championed the causes of the poor and the oppressed. She performed much civic volunteer work and worked on human rights projects. Lori has always been personally opposed to violence and we are certain she is suffering only for ideology, not for any actions or terrorist deeds.
We are very grateful for all your past support for Lori and for your notes and letters and calls which have helped sustain us over these difficult months. All your efforts to members of Congress and the State Department successfully moved Lori's case forward last year. We cannot let these good efforts fade. We cannot let Lori disintegrate further towards a slow and horrible death without being given her rightful opportunity to receive justice.
Now that Congress has reconvened, we ask for your support. We must keep Lori alive in hearts and minds of all those who believe in human rights and justice. To date, the Peruvian government has ignored the requests of Presidents Clinton and Carter, the State Department, 20 Senators, 87 Congressional Representatives, all major human rights groups, and thousands of people who have written or called -- urging due process and an open civilian trial for Lori. This is unacceptable. We will not let her die while political and business relations with Perú go on as usual. It is now time for us to focus our efforts on the U.S. government's foreign policy, where, according to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, "human rights is the center piece -- it is what makes America what it is." It is time for her to demonstrate that in Lori's case.
Please help us now!
Rhoda and Mark Berenson
Letter in the House of Representatives
A letter is presently circulating in the House of Representatives to be sent to Secretary of State Albright asking her to "do all within your power to impress upon the Peruvian government the importance of providing [Lori] an open and fair proceeding in a civilian court without further delay." During the August recess 36 members signed onto this letter. They are:
Berman (CA),Bonior (MI),Conyers (MI),Dellums (CA), Forbes (NY), Frost (TX),Gejdenson (CT), Hinchey (NY),Horn (CA),Kaptur (OH),LaFalce (NY), Leach (IA), Levin (MI), John Lewis (GA),C.Maloney (NY),Markey (MA), McDade (PA),McGovern (MA),McKinney (GA),McNulty (NY),Minge (MN), James Moran (VA),Morella (MD),Nadler (NY),Oberstar (MN),Payne (NJ), Porter (IL),Sabo (MN),Serrano (NY),Shays (CT),Skaggs (CO),Slaughter (NY),Stark (CA),Torres (CA),Underwood (GU),Woolsey (CA).
PLEASE call or write to your representative and urge him or her to contact Maggie McDow in Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's office (225-7944) and to sign the letter to Secretary of State Albright. If you call, emphasize that all Lori is asking for is due process and everyone, regardless of political orientation, believes that Lori deserves due process in a civilian court. The switchboard number for the House of Representatives is 202-225-3121.
If you prefer to write, a sample Letter/Memo is appended to this e-mailing. Write to your representative; House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.
Letter in the Senate
An identical letter to Madeleine Albright will be circulating in the Senate shortly. Please call or write to your Senators, asking them to contact Mike Lostumbo in Senator Moynihan's office (224-4451) in order to add their names to the letter. The switchboard number for the Senate is also 202-225-3121.
If you send a letter to your Senators, the address is United States Senate; Washington, D.C. 20510.
Residents of New York
Senator D'Amato has not yet joined Senator Moynihan in this effort on Lori's behalf. He has proudly notified many of his constituents that he was one of the signers of last year's letter to President Fujimori. Please remind him of that, urge him to sign this year's letter and tell him that his constituent, Lori Berenson, needs his continued and strong support. If you call his office, ask for the Legislative Director, Greg Rickman (202-224-6542).
Perú - In mid June the Peruvian government began allowing visits to the prison and we visited Lori in June, July and August. She is still suffering physically from altitude and cold related ailments -- hoarseness and sore throat, swollen and cracked hands -- but she remains amazingly strong psychologically. Fortunately, some conditions at the prison have improved a little. Not only have family visits resumed, they have been increased from 30 minutes to one hour and can be made weekly. (At least one of us will be visiting Lori and bringing her supplies about once every six weeks. Due to "lack of funds and personnel," U.S. Embassy officials will visit only 4 times a year.) In addition, "patio time" for the prisoners, their time out of their cells, has increased from 30 minutes to one hour each day. Owing to the "El Niño" weather pattern, it has been extremely cold this winter in the Andes, and particularly cold inside the prison cells where there is no sunshine. Night time temperatures are always well below freezing (and have fallen to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and Lori sleeps under eight blankets. The days, however, have bright sunshine and the extra 30 minutes out in the yard is greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, her cold cell is horrendous and overall the prison remains extremely harsh. Lori lives in a 2 meter by 2.5 meter all-concrete "refrigerator" 23 hours a day. At these temperatures certain toothpastes, hand cremes, and medicated ointments freeze or disintegrate and are not usable.
On the home front - The July 16 Congressional Record details an amendment to a Senate appropriations bill to limit military education and training assistance for Perú unless President Clinton certifies to Congress that the Government of Perú is taking all necessary steps to ensure that United States citizens held in prisons in Perú are accorded timely, open and fair legal proceedings in civilian courts. The discussion of this amendment, by Senator Leahy of VT, includes a description of Lori's case. House and Senate members will meet in September to arrive at the final wording of this bill and we are lobbying to retain this amendment in the final version.
In August, Amnesty International released a report highly critical of Perú. Their press release stated "Scores of prisoners of conscience adopted by Amnesty International -- known in Perú as 'innocent prisoners' -- are currently in detention, along with hundreds of other people who have been falsely accused of 'terrorism.' Peruvian human rights organizations quote a figure of at least 600. All of them were detained under legislation that falls short of international fair trial standards."
SAMPLE LETTER/MEMO TO REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS
Re: Due Process for Lori Berenson
In January 1996, Lori Berenson, an American citizen, was sentenced to life in prison by a secret Peruvian military tribunal in violation of international law. She was denied a fair public trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, as required by international covenants ratified by Perú. The Peruvian anti-terrorism laws afford no due process and have been strongly criticized by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch: Americas, The Carter Center for Human Rights, and other human rights organizations.
Ms. Berenson has suffered for 21 months in an excessively harsh Andean maximum security prison which endangers her health and allows her extremely limited access to family and legal counsel. She continues to claim her innocence and asks only for a trial that meets international standards of due process.
I urge you to sign the letter to Secretary of State Albright, asking her to do all within her power to impress upon the Peruvian government the importance of providing Ms. Berenson an open and fair proceeding in a civilian court without further delay. For the House of Representatives letter, please contact Maggie McDow in Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's office (225-7944); for the Senate letter, please contact Mike Lostumbo in Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's office