Amnesty International Calls on Peru to Give Trial to Lori

Reuters -- 10 April 1998

Amnesty International blasted Peru's military courts on Friday for trials it called "a parody of justice" and said Lori Berenson, a U.S. citizen accused of having guerrilla ties, did not get a fair trial.

The human rights group's U.S. chapter said Berenson's trial, in which she was convicted by anonymous military judges to life in prison, fell far short of international standards and prison conditions for her and other suspects were "inhuman."

"Perú continues to mock human rights guarantees with trials that are but a parody of justice," the organization said in a statement.

Berenson, arrested in November 1995 and charged with belonging to the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), "did not get a fair trial," it said, "Lori Berenson was sentenced to life imprisonment under Peruvian laws and procedures that fall far short of meeting international norms."

Berenson was convicted of "terrorism" in 1996 by "faceless," or anonymous, military judges under a tough anti-guerrilla legal regime in which defense lawyers may not cross-examine witnesses and trials are often wrapped up in minutes.

The anonymity of judges was ended last year, but many of the system's rules are still in effect.

Berenson, a New Yorker, has denied the charges. Her lawyers have demanded she be released or given a civilian trial.

Amnesty quoted the U.N. Human Rights Committee as saying in 1996 that most members of Perú's military courts had no legal training and that non-military people should be tried in civilian court "before an independent and impartial judiciary."