Sense-of-the-Assembly Resolution No. 0119

Calling for the Release of Lori Berenson from Prison in Peru

Whereas Lori Berenson, a twenty-six year old American freelance journalist with press credentials, was wrongfully convicted of treason by a hooded military court in Lima, Peru, on January 11, 1996, and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, and

Whereas the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, the Washington Office on Latin America and other independent human rights organizations have protested that her trial was unjust and that she is a prisoner of conscience [correction: political prisoner] suffering unusually harsh conditions who deserves to be released, and

Whereas the United States embassy in Peru and the US Department of State protested to the Peruvian government that she was denied due process, was not tried in an open civilian court with full rights of legal defense, in accordance with international juridical norms, and 222 members of the US House of Representatives and 43 senators have called for her humanitarian release, and

Whereas the Supreme Military Council of Peru declared her life sentence and charge of treason null and void on August 28, 2000, but a new civilian trial threatens double jeopardy and an additional 20-year sentence in a country still struggling to achieve democracy, and

Whereas Lori Berenson maintains her innocence, corroborated by a guerilla leader in testimony, and her commitment to justice for the poor honors God (Psalm 146) and is exemplary of the policies and practice of world mission of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada under Jesus definition of mission (Luke 4:18);

Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada meeting July 13-17, 2001, in Kansas City, Missouri, inform the Ambassador of Peru in Washington, D.C., that it deplores the conditions under which Lori Berenson was tried, sentenced and imprisoned;

Be it further resolved that the United States Department of State be advised that basic human rights and the treatment of American citizens by foreign governments are serious concerns of our churches not only on humanitarian grounds, but because of international travel of church members, the overseas service of our missionaries and the exchange of persons and delegations among religious bodies across international lines;

Be it further resolved that the president of the United States be urged to seek the release of Lori Berenson on the basis of his mandate (United States Code 22, Section 1732) to achieve liberation for an American citizen wrongfully imprisoned in a foreign country by any means necessary short of war.

Eastgate Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

[The General Board recommends that the General Assembly ADOPT business item No. 0119. Debate time 12 minutes.]

On Tuesday, July 17, 2001, business item No. 0119 was adopted overwhelmingly in plenary session by the General Assembly.

A total of 8,108 Disciples voting representatives and visitors registered for assembly. The United Church registered 3,394 UCC delegates and visitors for synod.