23 December 1998

UA 318/98 Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatmentor punishment

PERU Lori Helene Berenson (female)

Lori Helene Berenson, 29, a US citizen, has been in solitary confinement for over two and a half months. Prolonged solitary confinement can cause severe and lasting physical and psychological damage, and Amnesty International is concerned that this amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Lori Berenson was convicted of the terrorism-related crime of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Peruvian military court in January 1996, for her alleged links to the armed opposition group Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA), Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Party.

She was transferred from the Penal de Maxima Seguridad de Yanamayo, Yanamayo Maximum Security Prison, to Socabaya Prison, on 7 October 1998, ostensibly because of her poor health. Since then she has been in solitary confinement, in 'dark silence' from 6pm to 6am.

In a letter to Amnesty International her parents say: 'Her day is spent in an almost completely silent environment. Her cell is in a separate wing of the prison and she is unable to hear or see anyone else. Her only communication is with the guard who brings her food and water and takes her to a courtyard for one hour of isolated outdoor activity. She is permitted no access to telephone, radio, TV, or any item, either electric or battery operated. She is not permitted newspapers or political magazines. She is cut off from the world. She said that she spends the day in her cold concrete cell singing so she can hear another human voice, albeit her own.'

Background Information

Since new legislation was introduced in 1992, Amnesty International has been concerned at the conditions endured by prisoners accused of terrorism-related offences. For example, in September 1998 an Amnesty International delegation visited Chorrillos high security women's prison, in Lima, where they saw that prisoners from the MRTA and the Partido Comunista del Peru (Sendero Luminoso) (PCP), Communist Party of Peru (Shining Path), were only able to talk to family visitors through a metal grille, through which it was difficult to hear or see.

Amnesty International believes that the Peruvian authorities are inflicting cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment on PCP and MRTA prisoners. There is evidence that PCP and MRTA prisoners who refuse to renounce their ideas are being systematically denied rewards for 'good behaviour' (which includes renouncing their political beliefs). These rewards include extra time in the prison yard and physical contact with visitors.

Amnesty International considers that under the 1992 anti-terrorism legislation Lori Berenson did not receive a fair trial. The organisation has repeatedly called on the Peruvian authorities to bring this legislation into line with international standards on fair trial.

Recommended Action

Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters:

Appeals To:

Minister of Justice:

    Dr. Alfredo Quispe Correa
    Ministro de Justicia
    Ministerio de Justicia
    Scipion Llona 350
    Lima 18, PERU

    Telegrams: Minister Justice, Lima, Peru
    Faxes: 011 511 422 3577

Dear Minister/Sr. Ministro:
President of the National Penitentiary Institute:

    General PNP Juan Nakandakari Kanashiro
    Presidente del Consejo Penitenciario
    Instituto Nacional Penitenciario
    Jr. Carabaya 456
    Lima 1, PERU

    Faxes: 011 511 427 0624

Dear President / Sr. Presidente:
Prison Governor:

    Sr. Director
    Establecimiento Penal de Socabaya

    Telegrams: Prison Governor, Socabaya, Arequipa, Peru

Dear Governor/Sr. Director:

Copies To:

Please send appeals immediately. Check with the Colorado office between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, Mountain Time, weekdays only, if sending appeals after February 2, 1999.

'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights Visit the Amnesty International UDHR campaign website on http://www.amnesty.excite.com