2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: bieke@coqui.net
Date: Tue, 5 Dec 2000 16:35:41 -0500 (EST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] International Tribunal in Vieques

International Tribunal Condemns Navy Violations of Human  Rights in Vieques
Robert Rabin, Committee for the Rescue and  Development of Vieques

The Government of the United States of North America,  and in particular,
the US Navy, is guilty of violating the human rights of the  people of
Vieques, Puerto Rico, as a consequence of sixty years of Naval practice on
this island municipality. That was the final verdict of a panel of  judges
that listened to several days of testimony during the International
Tribunal about Human Rights Violations in Puerto Rico and Vieques, held in
the  Count Mirasol Fort in Vieques from the 16th to the 20th  of November.
The Committee for Human Rights in Puerto Rico, under the  direction of Dr.
Luis Nieves Falcon and the Committee for the Rescue and  Development of
Vieques (CRDV) sponsored and organized the Tribunal. Nilda Medina,
coordinator of the Vieques Peace and Justice Camp and member of the CRDV,
mobilized  a large group from the community to help with the great amount
of work related  to the Tribunal and to assure the success of this
important project of  solidarity with the Vieques struggle.

The Tribunal helped denounce internationally the  violations of the most
basic human rights, violations that result from the colonial  situation of
Puerto Rico, the repression against those who fight for Independence  and
the presence of the US Navy on Vieques. Holding the Tribunal in Vieques
helped focus attention on the problem of militarization. The participation
of judges from Asia, Africa, America and Europe contributed to the
international  dissemination of information about the Vieques case.

Dr. Denis Brutus, National Poet of South Africa and  ex political prisoner
with Nelson Mandela under the Apartheid regime,  presided over the panel of
judges that included distinguished defenders of human  rights from Germany,
East Timor, Canada, Spain, United States and Puerto Rico.  Monsignor Walter
F. Sullivan, Catholic Bishop of Richmond, Virginia and national  president
of Pax Christi in the US (pacifist organ of the Catholic Church) and Dr.
Rainer Huhle, founding member of the Latin American Human Rights
Documentation  and Information Center and the Center for Human Rights of
Nuremberg, Germany  were also on the panel. The attorneys for the people
included  outstanding Puerto Rican lawyers, well known for their work in
favor of self  determination and for their solidarity work toward the
demilitarization of Vieques.  Lawyers Fermin Arraiza, Jr., Jose Juan
Nazario and Pedro Varela, represented  the interests of Puerto Rico and
Vieques during the proceedings that  included the participation of
recognized political, religious, feminist and cultural  leaders from all
parts of the Puerto Rican archipelago and from the  diaspora.

Several informal activities allowed the judges and  other members of the
Tribunal to converse with people from the community and  learn about our
music, culture and history. The first night in Vieques the  judges and
lawyers met with a large group of representatives from diverse sectors  of
the population to speak informally and dance to the music of the Ruben
Bonano Trio. Saturday night, approximately fifty participants in the
Tribunal joined hundreds of Viequenses in the vigil celebrated each
Saturday  night at the Peace and Justice Resistance Camp, in front of the
gates to the bombing  range at Camp Garcia. Sunday evening the judges and
their advisors worked while  other Tribunal participants shared with
members of the community during a  cultural presentation by the Vieques
plena group, Vieques Libre  (Free Vieques). During the weekend people
visited the bioluminescent bay and  places of archaeological and historic
interest on Vieques

The first day of deliberations were dedicated to Self  Determination, US
Control Over the Local Economy, Militarization,  Political Repression,
Displacement of the Population, Protest and Cultural  Expression. Among the
participants were lawyers Juan Mari Bras and Noel Colon  Martinez, Dr.
Margarita Mergal, Fernando Martin in representation of Ruben Berrios,
representatives of Bishop Juan Vera of the Methodist Church and  Monsignor
Corrada del Rio of the Catholic Church. Testimonies were also  presented by
high officials of the United Church of Christ of the US.

Several ex political prisoners of Puerto Rico  participating in the
Tribunal, stayed with Vieques families and had an opportunity to get  first
hand information about the difficulties caused by the military presence.
Presentations by sisters Lucy and Alicia Rodriguez and Elizam Escobar
received great applause from the community. Ex political prisoners Dylcia
Pagan, Carmen Valentin, Edwin Cortes, Luis Rosa, acted as observers during
the  Tribunal. Puerto Rican freedom figher and heroin, Lolita Lebron,
received a  standing ovation after presenting testimony on political
repression in Puerto  Rico throughout this century.

On Sunday, representatives of diverse sectors of  Vieques community -
women, fishermen, religious figures and activists - offered testimonies
about the terrible consequences of the military presence.  Mayor elect,
Damaso Serrano, opened the session on Vieques with a fraternal  greeting
and a message of gratitude to the members of the Tribunal. Cristina  Garay
and Myriam Soba, of the Methodist Church and the Vieques Women's  Alliance,
respectively, described the abuses committed by Navy personnel against
Viequense women in the 1950's and 1960's. Carlos Zenon and his son
Yabureibo, talked about the historic and heroic struggle of the fishermen
while community  organizer, Ismael Guadalupe (CRDV) touched the theme of
military and police  repression against the local struggle. Vieques
fisherman, Carlos "Prieto" Ventura,  brought evidence of the military
destruction of the marine environment. Ex  mayor, Radames Tirado (PNP
1976-1980) described Navy intervention in the  local political arena to
promote candidates that favor the military presence  on Vieques.

Environmental scientists, Jorge Fernadez Porto and  Lirio Marques,
described in detail the destruction and contamination with  heavy metals,
uranium and other harmful chemicals componentes as a result of  more than
half a century of bombing and other military activities on the Eastern
part of Vieques. Dr. Rafael Rivera Castano (CRDV) and Dr. Cruz Maria
Nazario  (School of Public Health-UPR) provided extensive evidence about
the effects of  military contamination on the health and well being of the
Vieques population.  Robert Rabin, (CRDV) Director of the Vieques Historic
Archives, presented a  brief testimony in which he accused the Navy of
practicing cultural genocide  through the destruction of archaeological
resources and historical sites located  inside the military area.

The judges verdict recognized "the inalienable right  of the people of
Vieques to life, a healthy environment, social and economic development,
rights that have been consistently threatened by the  presence and
activities of the US Navy. This situation results from the attempt by  the
US Government and the US Navy to destroy the population of this island,
partially or totally, a policy that has resulted in death and serious
physical and  mental damages."

The Tribunal urged the US Government to order the  immediate and permanent
cessation of all military activity on Vieques. The judges also  recommended
the decontamination of Vieques and a just indemnization for  damages to the
health of the people and the natural resources and to secure the  economic
recovery of the island. 

The International Tribunal contributed to campaign of  dissemination and
denunciation aimed at discrediting US military policy  in Vieques and in
other parts of the world where their actions are in  direct violation of
basic human rights. During the past six months, the  Committee for the
Rescue and Development of Vieques has sent community representatives  to
present the Vieques case in international forum in Spain, England,  Korea,
Japan, Mexico, Cuba and the United States.. For several years, the CRDV has
 coordinated visits by international delegations for demilitarization and
decontamination, along with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (US) and the
Caribbean  Project for Peace and Justice (PR). The work of the
International Tribunal about  Human Rights Violations in Puerto Rico and
Vieques will be a significant  contribution to the struggle for peace on

For more information from the CRDV  including  the final findings and other
documents related to the International Tribunal please contact us by email
at bieke@coqui.net. We also suggest you visit the web site of the Committee
at Redbetances.com or the web site, viequeslibre.org

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