Statement for January 11, 2000
by Lori Berenson
from Socabaya Prison,
Arequipa, Perú

Dear Friends:

Thank you all for coming today and for all the help you have given me these past four years.

I admire the dedication of people like yourselves to the cause of human rights, social justice and freedom. I am immensely grateful for your efforts to see me free. These efforts certainly will benefit those who live in similar and in worse circumstances.

The violation of human rights in Perú isn't only a problem of lack of democracy, freedom of speech and press, and the existence of judicial systems that are completely subordinate to political power. The foremost violation is the institutional violence that relegates the vast majority of people to living in misery. The right to food, health, education and employment are human rights that are consistently violated in Perú and we cannot be silent when we see and live these violations, when we know that there is spreading hunger and misery -- and far too many deaths that result from neglect.

In addition, the judicial systems in Perú have sentenced thousands, falsely accused as I was, to live in prisons under horrendous conditions. This includes the civilian courts whose judges are appointed by the president and the secret military courts, both of which often fulfill a more political than judicial function. In Perú's jails today, as Amnesty International has pointed out, access to better conditions is contingent on prisoners' denials of their own beliefs and their denouncing of those who refuse to betray their beliefs.

Over these last four years I have become more convinced than ever that in the presence of social injustice and abuse, silence is almost as harmful as the injustice itself. To be silent is to be an accomplice. We will not be silent, we will not be quiet, until this changes, until there is justice and respect for human rights in Perú. And we will keep the faith that justice will prevail.

I thank you again for your help and efforts to better the situation of human rights and to see my freedom.

Lori Berenson
26 December 1999