CORTE INTERAMERICANA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS
COUR INTERAMERICAINE DES DROITS DE L'HOMME
CORTE INTERAMERICANA DE DIREITOS HUMANOS
INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its LVI Regular Session at its seat in San José, Costa Rica, from August 26th to September 7th, 2002. The following public hearing took place during this session: ...
7. Lori Berenson Case v. Peru. Preliminary Phase.
On July 29th, 2002 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed an application to the Court on the Lori Helene Berenson Case (No. 11,876) against the State of Peru. According to the Commission, said application refers to the "violations of the human rights of Mrs. Lori Helene Berenson Mejía that took place both during her trial under military jurisdiction and subsequently under regular criminal jurisdiction, as well as the inhumane conditions of her detainment in the Yanamayo prison." According to the facts stated by the Commission in its application, United States citizen Lori Helene Berenson Mejía was detained on November 30, 1995 in Lima, Peru, and a case was brought against her for the crime of "high treason" under military jurisdiction. In this legal proceeding, the provisions of Decree Law No. 25.659 were applied, according to which "faceless" military judges tried the alleged victim, and there were restrictions to her right to defense. On March 12, 1996 Mrs. Lori Berenson was sentenced to life imprisonment, charged with the crime of "high treason." After Mrs. Berenson filed an extraordinary remedy for review of final judgment, the Supreme Military Justice Council established that Mrs. Lori Berenson "did not occupy that leadership position within the aforementioned terrorist organization; and that, this being so, the criminal conduct of the applicant is not in line with the hypothesis contained in the Decree Law [No. 25.659] that regulates the crime of High Treason." According to the statement by the Commission, that Court annulled the supreme writ of execution of March 12, 1996, in its August 18, 2000 judgment. The Commission continued its statement of the facts and pointed out that after that judgment had been rendered, copies of the case file were forwarded to the regular criminal court, where a new trial against her began on August 28, 2000, which culminated in the June 20, 2001 judgment that convicted Mrs. Berenson for the crime of collaboration with terrorism, set forth in Article 4, paragraphs (a) and (b) of Decree Law No. 25.475, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Justice of Peru confirmed this judgment on February 13, 2002. Finally, the Commission stated that Mrs. Berenson was incarcerated at the Yanamayo prison from January 17, 1996 to October 7, 1998, during which time, according to the argument by the Commission, she was subjected to "inhumane detainment conditions." In the opinion of the Commission, said facts constituted a violation "to the detriment of Mrs. Berenson of the rights to fair trial, to freedom from ex post facto laws, and to humane treatment, embodied in Articles 8, 9 and 5 of the American Convention, respectively, all of them in combination with the obligation imposed by Article 1(1) on the Peruvian State to respect and ensure the rights protected by the Convention." The Commission also stated in its application that "[t]he legislation under which Mrs. Berenson was tried and convicted involve[d] a violation by the Peruvian State of its duty to adopt domestic legal measures, in accordance with the terms of article 2 of the American Convention." The Commission requested that the Court determine and declare that the Peruvian State is responsible for said violations and that it "has the international obligation to ensure reparation to Mrs. Lori Berenson for the violations to her human rights committed by the Peruvian State through its agents." In this regard, the Commission requested that the Court order the Peruvian State "pursuant to its domestic legal provisions, to immediately adopt all necessary measures for the violations of the human rights of Mrs. Lori Berenson to cease [...] and, specifically, to ensure the enjoyment by Mrs. Lori Berenson of her infringed human rights." With respect to pecuniary and non pecuniary damage, the Commission stated in its application that "the [alleged] victim w[ould] specify her claims [...], pursuant to Article 63 of the American Convention and Articles 23 and those in accordance with it in the Rules of Procedure of the Court." The Commission also requested that the Court order the State, as a guarantee of non-repetition to adopt "the necessary measures to amend Decree Laws 25.475 and 25.659, in such a manner as to make them compatible with the American Convention on Human Rights." Finally, the Commission requested that the Court order the Peruvian State to pay well-founded costs originating at the national level, as well as those originating at the international level in processing the case before the Commission and those that may derive from processing the application before the Inter-American Court.
On July 22nd, 2002, the Peruvian State, in turn, filed an "application regarding Report 36/02 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights - Lori Berenson Mejía Case", according to which Mrs. Lori Berenson Mejía was "convicted in Peru to 20 years in prison for the crime of collaboration with terrorism, under regular court jurisdiction, in a June 20, 2001 Judgment, which became res judicata through a February 13, 2002 Writ of Execution by the Supreme Court of Justice. The judgment also imposed civil reparations for the amount of 100,000.00 new soles." In its brief, the State requested that the Court declare: a) that the Peruvian State acted in accordance with the standards established by the Convention and by the case law of the Court, when it annulled the convictions against Lori Berenson Mejía in military courts; b) that the Peruvian State acted in accordance with the standards established by the Convention and by case law of the Court, when it recognized that regular courts were the appropriate jurisdiction to try Lori Berenson Mejía; c) that there is no basis in the Convention nor in the case law of the Court to reach the conclusion, as the Inter-American Commission did in Report 36-02, that Lori Berenson Mejia's human rights were violated during the proceedings under regular court jurisdiction; d) that the Peruvian State acted according to the standards established in the Convention and in the case law of the Court when, on August 31, 2000, it modified the penitentiary regime of Lori Berenson Mejía by transferring her from the Socabaya Penitentiary in Arequipa to the Women's Penitentiary in Chorrillos, Lima; e) that the Peruvian State acted in accordance with the standards established by the Convention and by the case law of the Court when, on December 21, 2001, it transferred Lori Berenson Mejía, who had already been convicted, to the Huacariz Penitentiary, in Cajamarca. In its brief, the State pointed out that it "does not submit to the Court the issue derived from trial of Lori Berenson Mejía under military jurisdiction for aggravated terrorism [nor] the issue derived from the right to compensation that the Commission has estimated in favor of [Mrs.] Berenson." The State established that it "base[d] its application on articles 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 51(1) and 61 of the Convention and 26, 32 and 33 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court." Finally, the State argued in its brief, based on the factual and legal grounds stated in it, that "since August 24, 2000, Berenson Mejía's human rights, established in Articles 5, 8 and 9 of the Convention, have not been nor are violated."
The Court studied the application filed by the Inter-American Commission and the brief filed by the State of Peru, and on September 6th, 2002, issued an Order in which it decided:
- To admit the application filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the Lori Berenson case.
- To admit the brief filed by the State of Peru for it to be processed within the same proceedings as the application filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.