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US Army presses ahead with Rockwood trial

From Haiti Progres,
Vol. 13, no. 1, 29 March to 4 April 1995

The US Army officially announced this week that it plans to court martial Capt. Lawrence Rockwood for trying to stop the barbaric treatment of prisoners at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince last September. Maj. Gen. David Meade, Rockwood's superior and the commander of US forces in Haiti until this past January, said Mar. 25 that Rockwood will face a string of charges including disobeying orders, failing to report for duty, and conduct unbecoming an officer. An intelligence officer on Gen. Meade's staff, Rockwood left US military headquarters without permission last Sept. 30th to investigate conditions at the National Penitentiary. He acted after the US command refused to prevent ongoing human rights violations in Haiti at the time, a failure which the 36-year-old Rockwood claims was criminally negligent.

The move comes as Rockwood's case continued to gather national and international media attention. Support for Rockwood is also growing among US-based religious and Haiti solidarity groups as well as major human rights institutions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for example, recently honored Rockwood with an award for his actions in Haiti. Given Rockwood's growing cause celebre status, the Army's decision to go ahead with the court martial may appear foolish. Indeed, as Rockwood's attorney Ramsey Clark has already made clear, the US military's role in Haiti will be on trial just as much as Rockwood's actions. The important thing is to change the American military culture so that an officer who encounters human rights abuses will be able to approach his superiors without fear of retribution, Rockwood told the Associated Press after hearing of his impending court martial. Rockwood faces up to ten years in prison and certain dismissal from the US Army. No trial date has been set.