Berensons Condemn Peru's Exit From Rights Court

Reuters -- 10 July 1999

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - The parents of Lori Berenson, a New Yorker jailed in Peru on treason charges, condemned Friday the Andean nation for leaving an international human rights court, saying efforts to win a new trial for their daughter were "in limbo."

Mark and Rhoda Berenson say their 29-year-old daughter, jailed for life by a hooded military judge in 1996 as a leftist rebel leader, is innocent.

They want the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the region's top legal body, to hear the case and have pressed for an open, civilian trial for Berenson.

President Alberto Fujimori's government decided late Wednesday to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court despite criticism that it would severely limit appeals processes for people who say they are unjustly imprisoned in this Andean nation.

"Peru has shown disregard for international legal obligations. Our case is totally in limbo now. We do not know what is happening after this decision to withdraw from the court," Mark Berenson said in a telephone interview from New York.

The parents took Berenson's case to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which decides which cases go before the human rights court -- a body within the Organization of American States (OAS).

Fujimori said Peru decided to withdraw from the Inter- American Court of Human Rights after it ruled in favor of new trials for four Chileans imprisoned in Peru on treason charges, stating they did not receive due process in a 1994 trial.

Fujimori said the June decision would set a precedent for prisoners jailed on terrorism charges to be freed. Peru is the country with the most number of cases before the court.

The United States, which has urged Peru to hear Berenson's case in a civilian court, said Friday it "deeply regretted" Peru's decision to withdraw from the tribunal.

Lori Berenson was held until last year at Yanamayo prison in the Andes, 12,700 feet above sea level, before being moved to lower-lying Socabaya prison in southern Peru after suffering from ill health caused by the high altitude.