We are enclosing this information sent to us from Grahame Russell, Director of Rights Action, because we believe it is so relevant to our efforts to free Lori.
Grahame Russell, a lawyer and human rights activist for two decades, was instrumental in the forming of the Committee to Free Lori Berenson and has served on its Steering Committee since its inception. As Director of Rights Action, with offices in Toronto, Washington DC, and Guatemala City, he has focused his organization's work on Latin America and, in particular, on issues of social justice, human rights abuse, torture, and the impact of neo-liberal economic policies on emerging economies. Mr. Russell visited Lori in May 2001 in Lima and also attended her civilian trial. His observations on the lack of fairness appear on the homepage of our Web site: www.freelori.org. In addition, Rights Action has spearheaded two delegations to Peru to visit Lori and other political prisoners and their families and establish dialogue with human rights, clerical, and government officials.
Rights Action is now proposing to devote more of its attention to Peru in order to help ensure that the truth of the past twenty years of repression, terrorism, and suffering in Peru be told and disseminated. It wishes to: (1) Raise funds for grass roots organizations to participate in the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and other venues. (2) Send international delegations to the CVR. (3) Write and distribute reports on issues that are not being fully addressed and investigated in Peru.
Rights Action's efforts for those "found guilty" under the internationally condemned anti-terrorism legislation will be of benefit to thousands of Peruvians and, of course, to Lori, who strongly supports this proposal. A complete description of the proposal is provided below along with information about tax-deductible contributions to Rights Action for this work.
Rhoda and Mark Berenson
"Truth, Re-conciliation & Justice in Peru"
Peru Program 2002-2003
Amount to raise: $31,000
From April 2002 until February 2003, with a possible one-time extension of 5 months, the Peruvian Commission for Truth & Re-conciliation "CVR" will offer Peruvians the 'political space' to tell the truth about the years of repression, terrorism and suffering, from 1980 - 2000. Even with the CVR, it is still dangerous to tell the truth in Peru.
Based on work that Rights Action has been doing in Peru since 1998, we have set out an ambitious work plan, over-lapping directly with the work of the CVR. Our aims are:
1. to raise funds for and contribute directly to efforts by grassroots civil society organizations to participate in the CVR process and in other efforts to tell their own truth;
2. to carry out a series of international delegations, as a means of bringing presence and pressure to bear on the proceedings of the CVR and on the "truth-telling process" in general, and to write and distribute reports on the different aspects of Peru's 20 years of repression, terrorism and suffering, that are not being fully addressed and investigated in Peru.
Rights Action supports and works with grassroots development and human rights organizations in Central America, Chiapas (Mexico) and Peru. Since 1998, Rights Action staffers have traveled regularly to Peru, supporting Peruvians working to draw attention to the abusive situation to 2200 "political" prisoners (jailed under the discredited Anti-Terrorist Legislation), working to have justice done for violations of the past and working to establish a truth commission.
Peru is emerging from a twenty-year internal armed conflict that claimed as many as 9000 "disappeared" and 30,000 killed, left as many as 1,000,000 displaced, destroyed organized civil society, dismantled the civilian justice system, corrupted the political system and created enduring societal fear and division.
Anti Terrorist Legislation: Aiming to eliminate all opposition, then-leader Alberto Fujimori, in alliance with the armed forces, dissolved the Peruvian Congress and the Constitutional Court in 1992, "re-organized" the Judicial Branch and issued a series of vague decrees, known as the Anti-Terrorist Legislation. This draconian legislation established the figure of "terrorist" for the armed and unarmed opposition. State forces manipulated this nomenclature to dehumanize anyone who opposed State policies. In this context thousands were summarily tried, often without defense, by masked military and civilian judges and sentenced to exaggerated prison terms.
The Organization of American States Annual Report stated in 1993 that this anti-terrorist legislation violated "universally accepted principles of legality, due process, judicial guarantees and right to a defense." In several decisions, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights declared that this legislation violates legal guarantees established in the American Convention on Human Rights. Despite a few cosmetic changes, including the cessation of the use of the infamous hooded judges in 1997, the Peruvian government still has not rectified this legislation to conform to international human rights standards.
There are approximately 2200 political prisoners in over ten prisons throughout Peru. It is estimated that over half of the political prisoners are serving 20-year to life sentences with no chance at release. The Anti-Terrorist Legislation expressly prohibits prison benefits, thus excluding parole for good behavior or work.
CVR - Commission for Truth & Reconciliation
During the post-Fujimori transitional government in Peru, a working group was established to set up a national Truth Commission that would investigate the twenty-year internal armed conflict. In late 2001, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission - CVR - was formally constituted, although it has serious limitations: impunity is still widespread in Peru, so many people are afraid to publicly say what violations were committed against them; thousands of victims, family members of victims, and the people imprisoned during the internal armed conflict, have limited or no participation in the CVR's process; hundreds of thousands of internally displaced have little or no access to the CVR's proceedings; the CVR itself is coming under severe pressure from conservative sectors of society, various political interests and certain sectors of the armed forces; etc..
Peru Program Objectives
Based on Rights Action's work in Peru over the past four years, Rights Action has designed this program of direct project support, delegations and reports that, we are convinced, provide timely and well directed support to the complex and still risky process of telling the truth in Peru.
- 1st project: Support for legal work in favor of the rights of persons "found" guilty under the widely discredited ALT (anti-terrorist legislation) and sentenced to abusive sentences, from 20 years to life. This will bring immediate relief to a few of the egregious cases of false imprisonment, while drawing needed attention to the situation of "political" prisoners as a whole.
- 2nd project: Support for grassroots organizations that work with family members of the victims of repression and terrorism and with the internally displaced. This will enable activists to carry out a series of education and mobilization activities, bring public attention to the desperate situation of the family of the victims and of the internally displaced.
Delegations & reports
In 2002 - 2003, Rights Action has programmed 3 public delegations [one already completed] that will bring much needed and well directed public and international attention to the wide range of actors involved in the Truth telling process in Peru. International delegations are an important way of bringing international attention and pressure to bear on the truth process in Peru.
- 1st delegation: Planned so as to be in Peru during the first "public audiences" of the CVR, from April 4-11, RA carried out our first delegation to investigate the socio-political context in which the CVR is to carry out its work, and to investigate how the CVR is actually going to do its work. [Report pending]
- 2nd delegation: will travel to Peru in Fall 2002 and focus on the direct and indirect roles and responsibilities of "other governments" and a range of international actors in Peru's 20 years of repression, terrorism and suffering.
- 3rd delegation: will travel to Peru in early 2003 and have a special focus on the issue of the massacres - that occurred mainly in the 1980s - and the internal displacement of some 1,000,000 persons.
2nd, 3rd delegations, $4,000/ 2: $8,000
Preparation and distribution of 3 reports, $1,000/ 3: $3,000
Support for Association doing legal work for prisoners: $10,000
Support for organizations working with family members of victims and
internally displaced: $10,000
Donation to "Rights Action"
Please make checks payable to: "Rights Action," a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)3 organization and mail to Rights Action, 1830 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009.