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Army stacks deck against Rockwood for May 8 trial

From This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 13, no. 5. 26 April-2 May 1995

In a pre-trial hearing on April 22 at Fort Drum near Watertown, New York, a military judge struck down most of the witnesses proposed by the legal defense team for Capt. Lawrence Rockwood, the U.S. Army counter-intelligence officer who faces a general court-martial on May 8 for trying to rescue Haitian political prisoners. Rockwood's defense consists of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and an Army lawyer, Capt. Judith Camarella.

This witness will have no relevant testimony, the prosecution's Capt. Edward O'Brien repeated each time the defense proposed a military or civilian witness who had visited the National Penitentiary about 2 weeks after Rockwood's Sept. 30th visit. Many would have testified to sub-human conditions and arbitrary brutality. Those visits were too remote and have no bearing on Capt.Rockwood's actions, Capt. O'Brien argued to Chief Judge Col. Robert Newberry.

Among the defense witnesses blocked by the judge were Michael Levy, formerly of Amnesty International, who now works in the Haitian Government's International Liaison office; Mr. Paul Brown, a UN observer who inspected the National Penitentiary on October 13, 1994; and Sgt. Jacobson, a Danish military specialist in prison inspections world-wide who visited the prison as part of the multinational force in October, November, and December 1994. Sgt. Jacobson has described the National Penitentiary as the worst prison he has ever seen, Ramsey Clark told the judge.

One has the distinct impression that we are witnessing a cover-up, Ramsey Clark said when faced with the witness disqualifications. These witnesses have important information on the conditions and dangers that existed in the National Penitentiary and which prompted Captain Rockwood to act.

The defense also wanted to call in five experts in international and military law. But Judge Newberry limited expert witnesses of the defense to three.

Clark also argued that the charges against Captain Rockwood should be dismissed due to the apparent conflict of interest the court-martial raises for Gen. David Meade, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division. Meade also commanded US forces in Haiti from September 1994 to January 1995. Meade has a personal stake in Rockwood's case, Clark said to Judge Newberry, an irregularity that the Army calls unlawful command influence. Gen. Meade has an interest other than an official interest because his mission [in Haiti] is challenged by Captain Rockwood, Clark said. If Captain Rockwood is acquitted, Gen. Meade will be humiliated. If convicted, the General is vindicated.

Therefore, Clark asserted, Gen. Meade is exerting pressure on the military brass under his command at Fort Drum, in particular those officers on the panel which will judge Rockwood.

On September 30, 1994, Captain Rockwood attempted to inspect the National Penitentiary without specific permission from his superiors. For his efforts, the Army is now prosecuting him with a general court-martial - one of the military's harshest - which carries up to a 10-year prison sentence.