Protection of American Citizens Abroad - The berenson case and broader american concerns

The Berenson family's web site regularly posted material that called attention to the disparity between the Department of State's annual reports on Peru's violations of human rights and its reliance on quiet diplomacy in dealing with their daughter's plight. Supporters were asked to write letters to the president or secretary of state that cited 22 U.S. Code 1732, which directs the president to take all necessary steps—short of going to war—to secure the release of an incarcerated American citizen, "if it [the incarceration] appears to be wrongful."

About half of the members of the House of Representatives signed a letter, addressed to President Clinton, in April 2000 (three months before Peru agreed to a second trial in civil court) citing this statute. The letter advised, "A failure to intervene on Ms. Berenson's behalf would send the message that the United States will not act when its citizens are wrongfully imprisoned in foreign countries." Those signing the letter did not specify what they meant by "intervene."

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