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Newsgroups: alt.politics.radical-left,alt.activism
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 16:19:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: PNEWS <odin@shadow.net>
Subject: PNEWS: Update: Capt. Rockwood
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.950407161705.9041C-100000@anshar.shadow.net>
Written by lchr in igc:reg.carib, March 31, 1995

Update: Capt. Rockwood

By the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 7 April 1995

The following is an update of recent events concerning the court-martial of U.S. Army Captain Lawrence Rockwood.

A trial date in early May is expected in the case of Captain Lawrence Rockwood, who faces charges arising out of his unauthorized attempt to make a human rights inspection of Haiti's National Penitentiary. Captain Rockwood's actions took place on September 30, 1994, while he was serving as a military staff officer with the U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNF) in Haiti.

A preliminary hearing under Article 32b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was held on February 22 at Fort Drum, New York. General David Meade, the commanding officer at Fort Drum, has authorized the court-martial to proceed on all counts. In an effort to limit further news about the case, the prosecution has asked for a broad pre-trial gag order on Captain Rockwood and his lawyers. A judge will decide that motion shortly.

According to Captain Rockwood, conditions which U.S. forces uncovered in another Haitian prison led him to believe that at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, prisoners' human rights, if not their very lives, were at risk.

Captain Rockwood's fears were well-founded, as conditions in Haitian prisons are notoriously atrocious. Of the National Penitentiary, a February 1995 report by an inspection team of International Police Monitors (IPM) under the command of Raymond Kelly, had this to say:

This is the worst prison we have ever seen. The construction itself makes the building unfit for use as a prison.... The worst example [of overcrowding] was the main cell in the Penitencier Nacionale, where once 412 prisoners were incarcerated in one large (21m x 20m) cell.

For the 547 men and women held there (only 22 of whom had actually been convicted of a crime) the monthly food budget was about US$2,000 or less than US$4 per person per month. At the time of the inspection the October allotment had not been received.

Incredibly, the team issuing the report noted that conditions were an improvement over those noted by IPM Deputy Director Paul Brown during a visit in October 1994. In fact, the U.S. government has since agreed to provide substantial funding for prison reform.

Background to the case:

Captain Rockwood is a 15-year veteran who was initially responsible for gathering human rights information in preparation for the landing of the U.S.-led Multinational Force. The charges against him include conduct unbecoming an officer and failure to be at his appointed place of duty. After U.S. Marines uncovered horrific conditions at a Haitian prison in Les Cayes, Rockwood made repeated requests for authorization to investigate prisons in Port-au-Prince to ensure that similar abuses were not taking place under the nose of the MNF command. Unable to secure authorization, Captain Rockwood decided to undertake his own investigation of prison conditions. Before beginning his investigation, however, Captain Rockwood had consulted the military's legal staff and several legal texts concerning the obligations of MNF personnel to protect human life.

In situations touching on such imminent human rights concerns, Captain Rockwood interpreted relevant law, including both U.S. military and domestic law, along with binding principles of customary international law, as establishing an obligation on U.S. officials to investigate and, if necessary, to rectify flagrant human rights abuses occurring in areas under their control. The Lawyers Committee supports this contention.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 940, the Multinational Force is responsible for confronting human rights violations that adversely affect the safety and security of Haiti's transition to democracy. Moreover, well established international human rights standards impose clear obligations on the MNF to ensure that basic human rights are protected. Significantly, human rights concerns are also firmly rooted in President Clinton's statement of U.S. objectives in regard to the MNF's mission in Haiti.

If convicted, Captain Rockwood faces up to ten years in prison and loss of other benefits.

Further information including Captain Rockwood's detailed statement of the events to General Meade, and the actual charges and specifications are available from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.