House of Representatives Letter to President Fujimori

August 1996

August 5, 1996

President Alberto Fujimori
Palacio de Gobierno
Plaza de Armas S/N
Lima 1 Peru

Dear President Fujimori,

We write to respectfully request that you take the necessary steps to set aside the conviction and sentence of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson and either provide her a fair and public trial before a civilian and impartial court or release her.

Lori Berenson was arrested on a public bus in Lima. She was interrogated for days without access to a lawyer, family member, or friend. She was charged with treason against Peru, though she was a temporary visitor and citizen of the United States. She was given no written notice of the charges against her, meaningful access to counsel, or opportunity to prepare and present a defense. She was denied the right to cross examine witnesses against her and was compelled to answer charges or presumed to have admitted them. She was tried before a "faceless" military tribunal by unknown prosecutors and judge, convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. The conviction has now been affirmed by two similar faceless military review panels.

The alleged factual basis for the conviction has changed with each review. The secret nature of the proceedings makes it impossible to know whether there is any evidence supporting the various pronouncements of guilt by the unknown judges and, if there is, whether it is credible. By the very nature of their chosen procedures, the only way to known what evidence the military has reviewed and what it has decided, is what the military itself says.

In all their assertions, the military personnel conducting the proceedings have never claimed that Lori Berenson committed a violent act, intended to commit a violent act in the future, or confessed to any crime.

Lori Berenson has consistently declared her innocence. She has stated that her purpose has been to help the poor, the miserable, and the hungry of your country. This is no crime. Despite your assertion in Washington in May that she admitted being a member of the MRTA, she has denied that she has ever been a member, and no evidence of such membership has ever been produced.

The use of military tribunals in Peru against civilians has been universally condemned by the international community as a violation of international law, which binds Peru and which Peru has recognized. Among the numerous controlling provisions of international law which are violated are those found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Among the specific violations of international law in the military prosecution of Lori Berenson, the following are incontestable:

  1. there was not a fair and public hearing before a constitutional, independent and impartial court;
  2. there was no presumption of innocence-guilt wfas inferred in the absense of an assertion of facts supporting innocence;
  3. no detailed statement of charges, or adequate time for preparation of the defense, or opportunity to defend was provided;
  4. cross-examination of prosecution witnesses was denied;
  5. the right to present witnesses for the defense was denied;
  6. the right to present witnesses for the defense was denied;
  7. the defendant was compelled to testify.

We very much want to have close and friendly relations between our peoples and governments. We want Peru to be prosperous and secure. But we find the use of faceless military courts in Peru and the denial of a fair and public trial before constitutional, independent and impartial courts to be a serious violation of human rights. We are aware that Peru has suffered tremendous losses-both human and material-at the hands of the Shining Path and the MRTA and we are of course aware of the responsibility your government owes its citizens to guarantee their security. Nonetheless, as per Article 118 of the Constitution of the Republic of Peru, this objective does not free your government from its obligations to respect the international human rights covenants it has ratified.

We ask you to have Lori Berenson's convictions set aside now and either afford her a fair, public trial in a proper forum, or set her free.


Carolyn B. Maloney

James A. Leach

Ronald V. Dellums

Constance A. Morella

Benjamin A. Gilman

John Porter

Christopher Shays

Tom Lantos

Joseph P. Kennedy

Sam Gejdenson

Eliot L. Engel

James L. Oberstar

Randy Cunningham

Victor O. Frazer

Barney Frank

Nancy Pelosi

Charles E. Schumer

Esteban Torres

Pete Geren

Sander M. Levin

Howard L. Berman

John Conyers, Jr.

George Miller

Charles B. Rangel

Major R. Owens

Jose E. Serrano

David Minge

George E. Brown, Jr.

Sheila Jackson-Lee

Matthew G. Martinez

Lucille Roybal-Allard

Edward J. Markey

Michael Bilirakis

Cynthia McKinney

Cleo Fields

Barbara B. Kennelly

Julian C. Dixon

Bennie G. Thompson

Rosa DeLauro

Robert T. Matsui

Corrine Brown

Elizabeth Furse

Louise Slaughter

Martin Frost

Glenn Poshard

James A. Traficant

Lane Evans

Marcy Kaptur

Sidney R. Yates

Edolphus Towns

John J. LaFalce

Thomas J. Manton

Richard J. Durbin

Martin Sabo

Nita M. Lowey

Bruce F. Vento

Henry Waxman

Jerrold Nadler

Donald M. Payne

Thomas M. Foglietta

Ed Pastor

John Lewis

Eva M. Clayton

Zoe Lofgren

James P. Moran

Pete Stark

Martin T. Meehan

Bobby L. Rush

Lynn C. Woolsey

Luis V. Gutierrez

Carrie P. Meek

Maxine Waters

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Nydia M. Velazquez

Peter Deutsch

Peter T. King

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Stephen Horn

John Joseph Moakley

William O. Lipinski

Bernard Sanders

John W. Olver

Robert G. Torricelli

Maurice D. Hinchey

Floyd H. Flake

Melvin L. Watt

Karen McCarthy