Statement on Lori Berenson
22 January 1998
Amnesty International has had a long-standing concern with the human rights situation in Perú, a concern which was exacerbated with the passage of the Peruvian anti-terrorism legislation. As we are gathered here today, we denounce once more these laws because they continue to fall far short of meeting international standards of fairness. Thanks to these laws, hundreds of innocent persons have received very harsh sentences - many of whom have been recognized by the goverment itself to have been innocent. Thousands more have had to go through trials that are a complete mockery of justice, which have denied them their fundamental human right to due process and to justice.
Amnesty International considers Lori Berenson a political prisoner. Indeed, there is no way getting around that. Nor is there getting around the fact that she did not receive a fair trial. The circumstances of her arrest, trial, and conviction raise troubling questions and make any decent human being feel a sense of deep repulsion against the unfairness of her treatment. It is sad but true however that hers is not an isolated incident of human cruelty.
Since 1980, Amnesty International has documented thousands of incidents of human rights violations in Perú: "disappearances", massacres, killings and torture, perpetrated by both Peruvian government forces and armed insurrection groups.
Let us not forget that the vast majority of these heinous crimes have not been investigated and that the few perpetrators who were sentenced for these crimes were pardoned after the enactment of the Amnesty Laws of 1994. We find it positive that the Government of Peru has recognized that its measures to combat terrorism have been too drastic and has released more than three hundred people, for having been found innocent of the crimes imputed. However, more clearly needs to be done.
Lori Berenson's plight for a fair trial is the plight of thousands of Peruvians for justice. Amnesty International urges once more the goverment of Peru and President Fujimori to listen to this plight and to immediately:
- unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience;
- grant new, fair and open trials before civilian courts to the more than three thousand political prisoners who are still detained and who were sentenced as a result of processes that fall far short of international fair trial standards; and
- eliminate all forms of torture and degrading treatment and punishment
Lori deserves a fair trial as do the thousands of other Peruvians, innocent and otherwise who have been swept up in these efforts that so flagrantly violated human rights.