News from Lori's Parents

13 November 1996

In this update:

Lori's 27th Birthday

Today is Lori's 27th birthday and 350th day of incarceration. Information about a letter-writing campaign to mark the one year anniversary of Lori's arrest (on November 30th) will be sent by Email next week. In the meantime, the following is an update:

Lori's Condition

Lori continues to struggle to maintain her physical and mental health under horrendous and deteriorating conditions in Yanamayo prison. She spends twenty three and a half hours a day in a small cell that she shares with another prisoner. During her half-hour of "yard" she is continually harassed by so-called "repentant prisoners." There is no heat or running water in the cell. Food is extremely insufficient and the remote location of the prison makes it difficult for families to deliver supplementary food as they do in other Peruvian prisons. Both drinkable and non-drinkable water (used by the prisoners to wash themselves, their clothes and bedding, and to keep the hole in the concrete floor that serves as a "toilet" clean) are dispensed in quantities that are far less than prescribed by United Nations minimum standards. Lori spends her time doing needlework, reading, and writing letters, all activities that are considered "privileges" that can be revoked by the prison officials at any time. The cells are subjected to occasional "searches" during which personal articles, including completed handiwork, books, etc. are stolen by the Peruvian prison personnel.

Lori suffers physically from some altitude related ailments -- circulation problems which result in purple, swollen, cut fingers and an inability to digest certain foods (primarily legumes, the main source of protein in the prison). She also has chronic sore throat and laryngitis.

Despite these ailments and the harsh prison life, Lori never has personal complaints -- her focus is only on the conditions and maltreatment of prisoners in general. Psychologically she remains strong. She continues to claim her innocence of the absurd charges against her. She still wants all the help possible to have her case moved to a civilian court or to otherwise resolve her situation.

Update on Case

The following is a brief update on her case:

Congressional Letters

In early August, following a letter from Lori declaring her innocence and requesting help, bipartisan letters were sent from the U.S. Congress to President Fujimori pointing out Perú's violations of international standards of due process and urging the Peruvian government to grant Lori a fair trial. The House letter was signed by 87 Representatives. The Senate letter, circulating for only four days prior to summer recess, had 20 signatures. A full list of signers will be provided in a future Email.

Perú Admits "Faceless" Courts Flawed

In September the Peruvian government publicly admitted that their system of faceless courts has wrongly imprisoned hundreds of innocent people. (Human rights groups put the number closer to 1,000.) In an attempt to appear to right this wrong, a commission has been established to seek out these innocents and recommend that they be granted pardons. On the other hand, in continued defiance of international law, on October 15 the Peruvian government extended the anti-terrorism laws for another year. This means that innocent people will continue to be arrested, tried by secret, faceless military tribunals, and sentenced to long, harsh terms. Suzanna Villaran, coordinator of all Human Rights Groups in Perú, characterizes her country as having "a little machine that produces innocents unjustly accused of terrorism, and a commission that is going to work forever at liberating them."

Lori Votes by Absentee Ballot

On October 29, Lori voted by absentee ballot following an arrangement worked out at Lori's request by the U.S. Embassy in Lima and the Peruvian government.

United Nations Investigates Lori's Case

The United Nations Human Rights Committee's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, following a complaint of lack of due process filed by Lori's sister Kathy, is currently investigating the case. The Peruvian government filed a response and Lori's lawyers have just completed a counter-response to their preposterous allegations.

Quiet Diplomacy

On the diplomatic end, we assume that the two governments are still discussing Lori's case. Unfortunately, there is no indication that a satisfactory resolution will be reached in the near future.

Berensons on WBAI Radio

On November 22 the Berensons can be heard on WBAI radio along with Rob Weiner, Coordinator of the Latin America and Caribbean Program at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, discussing "Faceless Courts: Crime and Impunity."

One-Year Moratorium on Visits Ending

Lori was arrested on November 30, 1995. The one year moratorium on visits is ending. The Berensons will be visiting Lori at Yanamayo on December 7th. Rules stipulate that monthly visits are only for immediate family and only two members at any one monthly visit are permitted. To better understand the barbaric Peruvian penal system, note that journalists and human rights groups are not permitted entry into Yanamayo prison. Members of the International Red Cross visit the prison sporadically and even though Catholicism is the official religion of the Republic of Perú, members of the Catholic clergy are only permitted to visit irregularly and are allowed to conduct services only on special occasions.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson