Lori Berenson's statement on beginning a hunger strike

I, Lori Berenson, am supporting and joining a protest in the form of a hunger strike by political prisoners here at Huacariz Prison and throughout Peru. I believe that this protest against the policy of human rights abuses which ex-President Fujimori's government implemented, from the violation of the right to life to the anti-terrorism legislation still in effect, is a just protest.

The fundamental premise of Decree Laws 25475 and 25659 of the anti-terrorism legislation continues to be abusive and contrary to Peruvian constitutional principles and international conventions on human rights; and this is to the detriment of thousands of people, amongst whom I am included. This anti-terrorism legislation has allowed for the State to commit human rights abuses such as arbitrary detention, torture, disappearance, and summary executions, and has condemned thousands to many years of reclusion from society in totally inhumane conditions which seeks the physical, psychological and moral destruction of prisoners. In civilian and military courts, hooded and non-hooded judges sentenced political prisoners to long prison terms without opportunities granted to all other prisoners such as parole or shortened sentences through prison work.

To date, the lack of due process and disproportionately elevated sentences continue, as does impunity remain for all those responsible for years of human rights abuses.

And the current Justice Minister Fernando Olivera has decided to implement policies of repression within the prison system that arouse hate and anger and cannot possibly help forge a peaceful society. These policies do nothing to bring factions of this country together in a spirit of reconciliation - so necessary for the future of Peru.

It is for these reasons that, starting today, Monday, February 18, 2002, I am joining other political prisoners in this nation-wide hunger strike. I support their statement (see attached translated from the Spanish) and I support their demands.

Lori Helene Berenson Mejia
Huacariz Prison
Cajamarca, Peru
Monday, February 18, 2002

Statement and Demands of Political Prisoners

Throughout history those in power have maintained their privileges at the expense of the peoples' misery. Faced with poverty and injustice, groups of Peruvian people formed various organizations with the goals of changing that situation, improving the economic, political, and social rights of the people, and restoring their dignity.

The corrupt and criminal Fujimori-Montesinos government wanted to depict an organization such as the MRTA as "terrorist" in an attempt to erase who they are -- people who seek political and social change. Now it is known who the real criminals were - those who used their power to get rich illicitly and eliminate their opponents. These were the same people who built those jails at Callao Naval Base, Yanamayo, and Challapalca for purposes of extermination and implemented a prison policy for revenge and abuse that Justice Minister Fernando Olivera is trying to reinstate today.

We here announce the beginning of a hunger strike in support of those prisoners in the tomb-like jail at Callao Naval Base -- a jail that has been a symbol of the vengeance of the Fujimori-Montesinos dictatorship that was particularly sadistic with those who refused to negotiate their dignity and their principles and their commitment to social change. This hunger strike is denouncing the prison policy that Justice Minister Olivera is implementing which once again is attempting to ignore and stomp upon the most fundamental rights of prisoners.

We make the following demands:

  1. End impunity. Give a trial and punishment for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out as a State policy and give a trial and punishment to Fujimori, Montesinos, and General Hermosa for the summary execution of the captured hostage takers in the Japanese Ambassador's residence on 22 April 1997
  2. End the prison policy of oppression and revenge and end the arbitrary and violent transfer of prisoners instituted and carried out by Justice Minister Fernando Olivera. Political prisoners' rights must be respected.
  3. Close down the tomb-like jails at the Naval Base of Callao, and the inhumane prisons of Yanamayo and Challapalca in the southern Andes - three prisons that have been condemned internationally by all human rights groups.
  4. Abolish the unconstitutional legislation passed by the Fujimori-Montesinos dictatorship such as the "anti-terrorism" laws and pass new laws that provide new trials for political prisoners and sentences that allow a possibility for parole.
  5. Move prisoners to jails closer to their families.
  6. Use an "inclusive" Truth Commission to search for and publicize historical truth. There cannot be reconciliation without examining the root causes of the problems and this examination must include all components of society. The Truth Commission must be allowed to find and say the truth. The Truth Commission must examine the real causes of what has happened. There cannot be reconciliation if there is still injustice, political prisoners, unaccounted for "disappeared," and persecution.
  7. Satisfy the demands of the Peruvian people. Satisfy their civil, economic, and social needs and change the ultra neo-liberal economic policies started by the Fujimori regime.