Peru's Violation of Our Daughter's Rights

The Wall Street Journal -- 6 February 2003

by Rhoda and Mark Berenson (letter to the editor)

Russell Crandall's article, "Peru Treats the Wounds Of Its Anti-Terrorism Fight" (WSJ, January 31), discusses the case of our daughter Lori Berenson who was tried twice in Perú without due process, once by a hooded military tribunal and once by a civilian court. The article laments that her case overshadows human rights advances, stating that "many international activists equate [her] incarceration with an absence of justice in Perú." We would like to point out that concern over Perú's continued human rights violations have been expressed by the entire international human rights community, including recent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In Lori's case, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, comprised of seven legal and human rights scholars from OAS-member nations, declared unanimously in April 2002 that "the violations of the human rights of Ms. Berenson in the military trial were not cured with the second trial" and that "her conviction in the second trial is so unsupported by the facts that it constitutes a violation of the right to a fair trial." The Commission declared Perú must totally restore Lori's rights and compensate her for economic, moral, and psychological damages and that Perú must completely overhaul the illegal anti-terrorism laws under which Lori was twice tried. Perú refused to abide by the Commission's recommendations and the Commission then brought Lori's case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in an effort to force Perú's compliance.

It is commendable that Perú has established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate two decades of political violence and has finally abolished military tribunals for civilians. However, the case of our daughter Lori will rightly "continue to be a lightning rod for criticism of successive Peruvian governments" until Perú brings all its draconian antiterrorism laws in line with international standards.