Political prisoner Lori Berenson speaks out on human rights in Perú and on terrorism

To the Community of Peruvian and International Journalists:

I, Lori Berenson Mejía, respectfully address you in order to express some of my reflections about recent events in Perú regarding me and regarding human rights:

1 -- Perú's Internationally Condemned Anti-Terrorist Legislation:

It appears to me extremely positive that a level of consensus exists regarding the necessity to modify the anti-terrorist legislation to comply with international standards of human rights.

2 -- "Terrorism" and My Fabricated Negative Image:

It is very painful to me that my name and my image continue to symbolize what is called "terrorism," just as it was during the Fujimori dictatorship. I am not a terrorist. I reiterate -- I am not a terrorist. I was convicted and sentenced for collaboration with terrorism, although there was no evidence to support that conviction. There is no proof of my guilt for that crime. I was convicted and sentenced under the "criterion of conscience" whereby judges don't need real evidence as a basis for their decision, only intuitive beliefs. And sadly, I continue to represent "terrorism" - a word that has such a horrible effect on the collective imagination.

3 -- My Civilian Trial and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights:

I believe that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will favor me and others sentenced under the illegal anti-terrorist legislation because neither the Peruvian government nor the Special Court for Terrorism complied with previous rulings of the Inter-American Court regarding the need to adapt the anti-terrorist legislation to meet international standards. My civil trial was tainted and distorted. There was no respect for due process, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently corroborated.

4 -- The Work of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

Although it might be difficult for some of the national and international press to read this and believe me since I am seen as a "monster," or even worse, I really believe it is necessary for the health of this country that the truth about these past years of political violence be known in its true dimension with all the causes, the actions, and the participants in order to dignify this to all the victims and to the entire Peruvian society. I hope that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will find the "real truth" and not a "half-truth" that pleases one sector of society or another. This will be best for Perú's well being. And it is my desire that Perú and its people have a better future.

Lori Berenson
Huacariz Prison
Cajamarca, Perú
July 2002
(Translated from Spanish)