Rhoda and Mark Berenson
320 East 25 Street, #2AA
New York City, NY 10010-3140
February 22, 2001
Mr. Richard A. Boucher
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Dear Mr. Boucher:
We are greatly distressed that you stated at the State Department briefing on February 19 that Lori Berenson received due process at her civilian trial and that her lawyer "did ensure that his client received all the rights and protections that can be afforded under Peruvian law." Both statements are patently wrong.
The trial began on August 28, 2000 while Mr. Fujimori was still in power and the investigative judge, Romel Borda, was a provisional appointee of Vladimiro Montesinos, a former CIA asset now jailed on charges of corruption, arms dealing, drug dealing, embezzlement, and human rights abuses including torture and organizing death squads.
The courtroom phase was presided over by a judge, Marcos Ibazeta, who had proclaimed in newspaper articles more than a year before he was assigned to the case that Lori's claims were irrational and she was a member of the MRTA governing bureau, something not even claimed by the prosecution. Judge Ibazeta refused to recuse himself when this fact was brought to his attention. And contrary to your statement, Lori's lawyer, Dr. José Luis Sandoval, has repeatedly pointed out all the ways in which Lori was denied the rights and protections guaranteed under international and Peruvian law. The only differences between Lori's trial and other such trials were its length, the hostile daily anti-American media coverage and the live television coverage that turned it into a "show trial" during which the prosecution and the court vilified her through improper and unfounded allegations and verbal abuse.
DoS Briefing on Lori Berenson Case
We are attaching a copy of a 25-page document, previously provided to the State Department, detailing many of the violations of due process at Lori's trial. It was prepared with the assistance of Lori's Peruvian counsel.
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights has declared that Peru's anti-terrorism laws under which Lori was convicted violate the American Convention on Human Rights. (See case of Castillo Petruzzi, et al, Judgment of May 30, 1999, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser C) No. 52 (1999). Your statement seems to approve Lori's trial on terrorism charges in Peru's civilian court and proclaims the laws and the procedures of this court to be fair. Surely you don't mean this.
It is also extremely damaging to Lori for her own government to declare her trial provided due process. If you wrongfully proclaim her trial to be fair, a believing public must assume she is guilty. We are most concerned that your statement will send a message to Peru that its judiciary need not be reformed when the OAS and human rights groups are insisting that reforms are urgent.
We ask you to retract your statements concerning due process and that Lori's Peruvian lawyer ensured protection of all her rights. These are important issues which involve not only the right of an individual to a fair trial but the needed reform of a judicial system which was a creature of the corrupt Fujimori-Montesinos administration, a system that has been universally condemned for its disregard for human rights and whose reform the Peruvian people depend on. Peru must establish a body of law and system of justice that meets international standards of fairness.
Rhoda and Mark Berenson
Incl: Document on due process violations in the Lori Berenson case
STATE DEPT. BRIEFING TRANSCRIPTION
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you have any comments on the situation, the legal situation, of Lori Berenson in Peru?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see where we are on that. The Peruvian Supreme Court, as you know, upheld the conviction and sentence of Lori Berenson for collaboration with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. This is the final step in the Peruvian appeals process. We understand, though, that she still has a case pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights here in Washington, and that body could decide to refer her case to the Inter-American Court in San Jose, Costa Rica.
We were interested all along in seeing that she got a fair and open hearing. The new trials corrected some of the most egregious flaws in the military trial and addressed some of the concerns that we have had about her military trial. We do think that the Peruvian Supreme Court has now looked at all the issues that were raised by Ms. Berenson's defense attorney in the appeal that the attorney filed on her behalf, and we believe that the attorney did ensure that his client received all the rights and protections that can be afforded under Peruvian law.
QUESTION: But you are satisfied?
MR. BOUCHER: We wanted a more open trial. We are satisfied the issues have been raised by her attorney and been looked at. But she still does have these legal rights and is pursuing them, apparently.
QUESTION: Going back to Lori Berenson, I just want to make sure that I understand. You have no problem with the Supreme Court appeal and the upholding of the conviction?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our point all along has been that she deserved a fair trial; she deserved due process. This process appears to have followed Peruvian law in that her defense attorney was able to represent her and able to raise issues that the court indeed looked at. And now that this -- while this brings to a close the Peruvian legal process, she still maintains certain rights under the Inter-American process, and that is apparently what she is pursuing.
QUESTION: Okay. So you're satisfied, then -- I just want to make sure this is absolutely clear -- that she got a fair hearing before the Supreme Court and that she received all of her rights and due processes?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view has always been that there needs to be due process, and this appears to be following due process.
QUESTION: Along the same case, on the Berenson case, will the U.S. go as far as to ask a presidential pardon for Ms. Berenson, which seems to be the only option for her to be released?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. Simple answer.