Who is Lori Berenson?

Portrait of Lori

Lori Berenson is a social activist who was born in New York but has spent her adult life in Central and South America.

Lori Berenson is a firm believer in the need to work for a better world for all, for a world in which everyone's fundamental human rights are respected.

Lori Berenson's love for the Latin American countries and cultures goes beyond an interest in customs or folklore. She believes that the cultural wealth of these countries should not just be seen from a tour guide's perspective but be taken into account in the construction of a new and better society respecting the national pride and dignity of all peoples that have been considered "conquered" over the centuries.

Lori Berenson has participated in research and investigation work as well as having done secretarial, translating, writing, and editorial work. Upon detention she was writing articles for two progressive US magazines.

On November 30, 1995 Lori Berenson was arrested on a public bus in downtown Lima, accused of leading an insurgent organization, the MRTA. A hooded military tribunal, using antiterrorism legislation promulgated during a state of emergency, sentenced her to life for "treason against the fatherland." Four-and-a half years later, due to international pressure, her sentence was vacated and she was retried by a civilian court under the same antiterrorism legislation. She presently is serving a 20-year sentence for collaboration.

In April 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared that Lori Berenson was tried twice under illegal anti-terrorism laws that failed to comply with international standards and violated her rights to due process. The Commission further declared that Perú failed to demonstrate proof in its conviction of Lori Berenson and ruled that her rights be fully restored and that Perú must completely amend its illegal anti-terrorism laws. Because Perú refused to comply with the Commission's recommendations, the Commission brought Lori Berenson's case questioning the antiterrorism legislation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights where it now awaits decision.

Lori Berenson continues to express her concerns for social justice and for human rights from her prison cell. She has repeatedly pointed out that trials denying due process and wrongful convictions under the illegal anti-terrorism laws cited above are far from unusual in Perú and thousands of people have been affected. In that manner, her case is far from exceptional. In Lori Berenson's case, there were numerous due process and human rights abuses and irregularities noted during her detention, two trials and incarceration. Lori Berenson was subjected to abusive treatment, termed "cruel, inhumane, and degrading" by several human rights organizations, but the physical and psychological abuses suffered by many others have been much worse. As in Lori Berenson's case, thousands of people condemned under these illegal anti-terrorism laws were, and are, innocent of the charges or were given disproportionately high sentences and worse, almost all have been brutally mistreated or savagely tortured during their detention and even in the jails, not just to try to obtain information or to force self-incrimination, but as part of a state policy of hatred and revenge against the insurgents. Lori Berenson specifically asked that her Website note this in an effort to give due respect to, and dignify, the voice and human rights of those people.


This site provides a chronological listing of events in Lori's case, complete texts of relevant news articles, reports from the State Department and Human Rights organizations on Perú's system of military tribunals as well as some recommended books.

The legal issues are discussed and we have included Perú's response and our counter response.

The legal issues are discussed under Frequently Asked Questions.

Please view the photo album to see Lori as she was before being condemned prison. We've also posted poems and songs written by Lori's supporters.