Peru Rejects O.A.S Court Decision

Reuters -- 3 June 1999

LIMA, June 3 (Reuters) - President Alberto Fujimori rejected on Thursday an Inter-American Court of Human Rights order for Peru to grant a new trial to four Chileans imprisoned on treason charges.

Claiming the court ruling infringed Peru's sovereignty, Fujimori dashed prospects the decision would set a precedent for others jailed on terrorism charges -- including U.S. citizen Lori Berenson -- who hope to win similar cases.

The Organization of American States' (OAS) court, the hemisphere's top legal body on human rights, said the Chileans did not receive due process in a 1995 trial when anonymous military judges sentenced them to life for treason.

"The Peruvian government is not going to free terrorists," Fujimori told reporters.

"This ruling goes against Peru's constitution, which establishes that once there has been a court case there cannot be a second trial. It goes against Peru's sovereignty and the country's internal security," he said.

The president's rejection of the court ruling once again highlighted Peru's human rights record -- widely criticized by rights groups -- and was likely to further damage the government's image, political analysts said.

Peru, which is the nation with the most cases before the court, is not obliged to implement its decision but, through its membership of the OAS, is expected to follow any recommendation, political and legal analysts said.

The U.S. government has urged Peru to give a new trial for New Yorker Berenson, who was jailed for life in 1996 as a Marxist rebel leader. Her family is also pressing for the OAS court to order a retrial.

"(Fujimori's decision) seems to be a disrespect for the rule of law," her father, Mark Berenson, said by telephone from New York.