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Behind the Rockwood case

By Pat Chin, in Workers World,
6 April 1996

The Haitian people continue to demand justice for the many victims of the 1991 coup. They do so despite the U.S. government's attempts to cram new elections and reconciliation -- a substitute for putting their tormentors on trial -- down the Haitian masses' throats.

Over 5,000 people were killed during the three-year coup regime. The Macoute military and paramilitary death squads committed untold human-rights violations, most of them unspeakably atrocious.

Women were brutally raped. Faces were hacked off with machetes. Victims were forced to eat their own body parts. And disfigured bodies were dumped in the streets to terrorize the population into submission.

Today, more than six months into the U.S. occupation of Haiti, not a single person has been brought to trial. No mechanism has been set up to answer the people's cry for justice.

Instead, the coup leaders have all been eased into exile by Washington or awarded comfortable embassy posts abroad. And although U.S. occupation forces apprehended a few dozen killers whom the people had flushed from their hiding places, those arrested were almost immediately released.

Plus, most government prosecutors and judges are pro-coup Duvalierists.

Because of all this, popular organizations like the National Popular Assembly have stepped up the campaign for justice. One of the most important tasks is to compile evidence on human-rights violators as the first step toward forming popular tribunals.


Capt. Lawrence P. Rockwood, a military counterintelligence officer with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, tried to expose human-rights violations in Haiti. He ran into resistance from the U.S. high command there.

Rockwood's unit was the main force deployed in Haiti during the Sept. 19, 1994, invasion that paved the way for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return and the ongoing occupation.

While in Haiti, the captain worked in the human intelligence section of the Joint Intelligence Center. Day after day he saw reports of abductions, rapes, beatings, robberies and murders.

Intelligence reports also highlighted human-rights abuses at five prisons in and around Port-au-Prince, including Fort Dimanche and the National Penitentiary.

A Sept. 27 account from U.S. Special Forces also told of barbaric conditions found in a Les Cayes prison--dozens of emaciated men, some with skin falling off their backs, wasting away from hunger and illness in a tiny 12-by-four-meter cell. (Haiti Progres, March 8-14)

Rockwood repeatedly asked his superiors to act against the terrorism and redress the deteriorating conditions in the prisons. He was rebuffed.

Keep things in perspective about Haiti, Lt. Col. Frank Bragg, Rockwood's superior, told him. One hundred percent of what you hear don't believe, and 50 percent of what you see don't believe. (Haiti Progres)

But that wasn't all. Rockwood soon found that by ignoring the rights violations the U.S. Army was supporting the Haitian army, police and paramilitary forces that were butchering people. Some atrocities, he learned, even occurred in front of U.S. forces.

However, any alleged attacks on the Haitian bourgeoisie received the U.S. military high command's immediate attention. (Haiti Progres, March 22-28)

On Sept. 30, Rockwood filed a complaint with the division's inspector general. He charged his immediate commanders with criminal negligence for allowing gross human rights violations, including murder, to continue unabated in the city, Haiti Progres reported (March 8-14).

Because he refused to back down, Rockwood was ordered back to the U.S. He faced two psychiatric evaluations. He was pressured to resign--and refused. He now faces a court martial.

Former U.S. Attorney General and Haiti Commission founder Ramsey Clark represents Rockwood. He says letters of support for Rockwood should be mailed to Hon. Togo D. West Jr., Secretary of the Army, 101 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 20310-0101, or faxed to (703) 614-5520. Copies of the letters can be mailed to Clark at 36 East 12 St., New York, N.Y. 10003, or faxed to (212) 979-1583.