No More War! No More Impunity!

by Lori Berenson

While the world watches on TV, stupefied, as those who believe themselves to be the owners of everything are boasting about the "flashing lights," as if this were a videogame rather than the announced war against Iraq that has bypassed the United Nations, there is one word that comes resoundingly to mind: IMPUNITY. The "flashing lights" that we saw in Iraq in 1991, thanks to CNN cameras, were bombing raids that caused uncountable deaths and injuries. The damages caused by this war will be worse. It is worth asking ourselves: 'For how long will we permit those who consider themselves to be the most powerful to act with impunity against others, without trying to put an end to such demented behavior?'

Here in Perú, we are again listening in the news to declarations of the ex-President Alberto Fujimori who, while a fugitive from justice in Japan, continues to speak about how he would like to return to govern Perú. Yet on these very same days, we also hear that Fujimori is now on Interpol's list, accused of crimes against humanity, amongst others, and he acts like this is nothing. This complete shamelessness is nothing new; it is something that for us is almost normal. Do we really believe that one day an ex-head of State or high-ranking military leader or a wealthy and powerful person will pay for their crimes?

These things are happening again and again and the human being passes from being indignant, to indolent, to immune, given that the power holders have always taught us to be immune. It has become so common that this behavior is seen as "normal." Even amongst those of us who are paying for crimes that most of us did not commit, even we are becoming accustomed to the ominous common fact: those in power can do and undo what they want with impunity. The world has turned upside down.

For centuries this world has functioned upside down to such a point that human beings kill one another for greed or for power, and we are destroying our habitat. Although there are many countries considered "dysfunctional" by international lending institutions, given the conditions of poverty and under-development that exist, there are other countries that, far from seeking the development and survival of the rest of the world, exalt in their own egoism, spending billions of dollars in weaponry and war -- that is to say, in the death and destruction of humanity. Human beings are dying of hunger and curable diseases, and yet the money is used for more death. Who will put an end to all this?

The powerful have always acted with impunity in any number of ways against their adversaries. Recent history re-affirms this. Every "conquest," every war, even the truth commissions formed in the recent decades, confirm and reaffirm the common denominator: impunity for the powerful always prevails.

But, have we become incapable of resisting impunity? Yes and no. So many times have those in power stomped on the rights of its people, so many times have they violated the basic rights of life, health, education, and work. Those empowered have even taken away the right to national pride and the right for the public to know the truth. All of these things cumulate, so that we become accustomed to the given state of affairs in the same way that a laborer gets accustomed to "working himself to death" in order to survive and that the innocent prisoner gets accustomed to his/her incarceration. But one does not forget. Human beings have a conscience and experience indignation and the hate that grows in the bottoms of our hearts as we live with and see so much injustice, so much abuse - always with impunity. Incredulously, we listen as the powerful, with the luxury of cynicism, ask, 'Why do they hate us so much?'

The great hope of these days is to listen to so many voices -- the numbers are growing every day -- that are against the war. From our prison, we add our voices to those voices; and probably it will be from our graves as well. We repudiate so much infamy, so much death, so much injustice in the name of egoism. The time has come to say "enough"! No more abuse, no more complicit silence, no more greed, no more of these ominous crimes. This world belongs to all of us and we have the right to determine its future. No more impunity!

Lori Berenson
Huacariz Prison
Cajamarca, Perú
Written: March 27, 2003