Friday, July 26, 2002

Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, I am outraged and appalled by the continuing incarceration of Lori Berenson on charges of collaborating with terrorists in Peru. Lori Berenson is not a terrorist, nor has she ever collaborated with terrorists. She is an intelligent and caring young woman who is committed to justice.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently vindicated Lori Berenson . The Inter-American Commission came to the following conclusion:

``The Peruvian State is responsible for the violation of the right to judicial guarantees, of personal integrity, and of the right concerning the principle of legality to the detriment of Berenson , having judged her in the military court, submitting her to inhumane and degrading conditions of detention, starting a new trial conforming to Legal Decree 25475 (antiterrorist law), and permitting the evidence collected during the first [military] process with a value of proof in said [second] trial.''

Lori Berenson has been unjustly imprisoned in Peru for nearly seven years under the harshest possible conditions. She has never had a trial that respected her rights or met international standards of fairness and due process. Not only has Lori never wavered in her insistence that she is innocent of the charges against her, she was charged under the antiterrorist laws that the Inter-American Commission has deemed unacceptable.

The Peruvian government is challenging the decision of the Inter-American Commission by filing a lawsuit against the Inter-American Commission at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Peru's lawsuit is mean-spirited and frivolous and will only result in the unnecessary further incarceration of Lori Berenson . In similar cases, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has confirmed the rulings of the Inter-American Commission that Peru's antiterrorist laws violate the American Convention on Human Rights. These court decisions have resulted in the release of the defendants whose rights were violated.

Lori Berenson's health has been damaged by her wrongful imprisonment. The Inter American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the conditions of her incarceration are ``degrading and inhumane.'' Continued incarceration while awaiting a decision of the Inter American Court will cause her needless additional suffering.

Legal and humanitarian considerations require that Lori Berenson be released immediately. I urge the Peruvian government to set her free.

LORI BERENSON -- HON. CAROLYN B. MALONEY (Extensions of Remarks - July 29, 2002)


Friday, July 26, 2002

Mrs. MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, for almost seven years, Lori Berenson , an American, has been imprisoned in Peru under exceptionally harsh conditions that have seriously affected her health. From the beginning, many of us have said that Lori's convictions were based on extremely flawed trials in which she was denied due process. Her first conviction by a hooded military tribunal was so tainted that it was thrown out by Peru. Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that her second trial was also flawed, determining that the Peruvian government violated Ms. Berenson's rights.

Indeed, much of the evidence used against Lori was gathered during her discredited military trial, in many cases from witnesses who had been subjected to torture. Most of the witnesses have since recanted their earlier statements. The only witness against Lori at the second trial received a reduced sentence in return for his initial testimony condemning Lori and, on the eve of Lori's second trial, was given a new trial so that he can get another reduction in sentence. Furthermore, court proceedings clearly show that the judges had decided the verdict long before this trial began. How fair is a trial in which a judge proclaims a defendant guilty while witnesses are still being heard? Even this badly tainted court admitted that Lori was innocent of terrorist acts or of belonging to a terrorist organization. Further, the law under which Lori was convicted has been widely condemned by the international community for its broad scope and outrageously heavy penalties.

The Inter-American Commission has spoken and Peru should listen. Lori has condemned terrorism and has said that she opposed the violence and deaths there have been. Peru embarrasses itself by continuing to keep her in prison based on a flawed trial and an indefensible statute.

She has been in prison for far too long. It is time for Lori to come home.