Amnesty International 2002 Annual Report on Human Rights

London, May 28, 2003

(portion extracted that relates to Lori Berenson)

Political Prisoners and the 'Anti-Terrorism' Legislation

The "anti-terrorism" legislation, which has resulted in thousands of unfair trials since its introduction in 1992, remained in force, despite repeated appeals by the human rights community, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for the legislation to be reviewed. The legislation provides for those charged with treason to be tried before military courts which are neither independent nor impartial. In a handful of cases those tried by military courts have had their sentences annulled and their cases transferred to the civilian courts.

Lori Berenson, a US citizen, had been sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2001 by a civilian court following a second trial under the "anti-terrorism" legislation. However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in reviewing the case concluded that Lori Berenson's trial in 2001 was unfair, in particular because she was tried under the 1992 "anti-terrorism" legislation and because the evidence used at this trial was the same as that used at her earlier trial in 1996 by a military court; her conviction by that court had been annulled. The case was before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights at the end of the year.

Hundreds of political prisoners who were tried in the 1990s in summary trials by military courts filed writs of habeas corpus in order to have their sentences annulled and to be given a fair trial. Courts, including the Constitutional Tribunal, ruled in favour of some of these habeas corpus petitions and some political prisoners were being retried in civilian courts at the end of the year.