School of the Americas?
published by The Tico
Times - December 12, 2003
by Naomi Fowler, Program Director, RFPI
Is the US-proposed,
US-commanded International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) being established
within the University for Peace?
The University for Peace has in recent years forged connections and lucrative
contracts with various military bodies, such as the notorious Honduran military
(at the time of writing, there is a plaque commemorating the relationship in
their reception area). The University for Peace hosted a visit in August 1998
from 52 students of the now infamous School of the Americas Command and General
Officers' course. Equally concerning are two courses hosted by the University for
Peace this summer; one seminar entitled 'New Forms of Peace and Human Security,'
among its participants "a number of experts from Central America and
Colombia." (University for Peace website).
Approximately "40 security force representatives" (otherwise known as
military personnel) from Latin America and the Caribbean are developing the
"first training course for trainers on improved control of legal trade and
eradication of illicit traffic in firearms and ammunition." According to the
University for Peace website, courses on "Intelligence and International
Co-operation" are expected to be taught at the University over the next four
years. The course will apparently train "police, customs, and intelligence
officials, as well as military force members, enabling them to become operational
instructors at the national level."
The courses closely resemble in content the strongly opposed ILEA (International
Law Enforcement Academy) to be commanded by the US Department of State with a
proposed base in 'demilitarized' Costa Rica (controversy over the school was such
that El Salvador and Panama both declined to host the school.)
Leaving aside concerns of organizations worldwide over past and current US
involvement in Latin America and human rights issues, the Washington Office on
Latin America points out the "lack of transparency, accountability and
oversight mechanisms in the proposal for ILEA-South."
According to the agreement between the US and Costa Rica, Costa Rica will give
privileges and immunity to instructors, advisors, consultants and other non-Costa
Rican members of staff of the Academy equivalent to those granted to the members
of the technical and administrative staff of a diplomatic mission.
Such privileges are already enjoyed by non-Costa Rican University for Peace staff
and may become critical in the legal fight Radio For Peace International is
currently engaged in on the University for Peace campus. The University's
attitude to the independent radio station dedicated to peace suddenly changed
after 16 years of harmonious co-existence when the University attempted to force
the station out of its building and transmitting facilities which the radio
station itself built and maintained.
It is not so difficult then to explain the sudden hostility and attempt by the
University for Peace to eject the radio station from its own building and
transmitting facilities (without compensation) when you consider the changed
direction of the University and their increasing commitment to training Latin
American military personnel, and growing aversion to close scrutiny by an
organization such as Radio For Peace International.
If indeed the recent training activities of the University for Peace are linked
to the proposed ILEA, then it would be conducting training with minimal scrutiny
and accountability, under the command of the US Government. The US is one of the
only countries in the whole of the Americas that refuses to recognize the
jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International War
Crimes Tribunal and it has failed to ratify the International Agreement on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It has failed to ratify the conventions on
War Crimes and Lesa Crimes Against Humanity, the Convention on Trade and
Prostitution, the Convention of Rights for Migrant Workers and their Families and
the Convention of 6 Howa of 1997 (prohibiting use of anti-personnel mines).
If the United States fails so consistently to acknowledge universal human rights
conventions, what authority do they have to train others to fight against
The proposed ILEA is viewed by many as part of a hemispheric plan by the US that
will increase militarization, complementing initiatives such as CAFTA and other
so-called free trade agreements. The US has a long and troubled history of
providing police aid to Latin American countries, providing millions of dollars
of weapons and training to thousands of Latin American Police Officers. In 1974,
US Congress banned US provision of training and assistance to foreign police with
a statute known as Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act.
The Washington Office on Latin America points out that "Anti-narcotics
policies in Latin America have a long track record of militarization, supporting
abusive police forces and practices and corrupt and anti-democratic intelligence
operations." (Human Rights Concerns Regarding the Proposed International Law
Enforcement Academy in Costa Rica (ILEA South).
Lack of accountability of any organization in any part of the world that enjoys
diplomatic immunity is cause for serious concern, and too often it is left to
independent media to expose. Who will now scrutinize an organization like the
University for Peace? To whom are they accountable and to whom do they owe
explanations for the military training courses they are running? To whom do they
owe an explanation for their shameless treatment of Radio For Peace
International? If their intention is not to close down Radio For Peace
International permanently, why did they not offer fair compensation and
If the ILEA is indeed, as many suspect, an
initiative in which the University for Peace is involved, what does that mean for
Costa Rica's constitutionally mandated neutrality which would be violated should
military officials be involved or present at such an Academy? The US Government
is quick to point out that the School of the Americas was for military personnel
only and that the ILEA is for civilian law enforcement officials. However, there
is no clause specifically barring military personnel from studying or instructing
at the Academy.
In such an instance would an organization like the University for Peace abuse its
international diplomatic status so that no such violation of the Costa Rican
constitution could be challenged or even investigated? Would the University for
Peace International campus grounds be used in the same way as with Radio For
Peace International and the attempted ejection of the station from its own
property? This should be a simple issue of property rights that seems to be
clouded by the immunity issue unfortunately for RFPI.
Who exactly is the University for Peace accountable to? As a United Nations
entity, ultimately the UN must be responsible for ensuring that even their low
level entities are not abusing their privileges and that an organization like the
University for Peace is not using the word 'peace' in its name to command
worldwide respect and funding that it does not deserve. The United Nations must
take responsibility for ensuring that unethical activities are not carried out in
Radio For Peace International is now engaged in a legal battle for compensation
from the University for Peace through the Costa Rican courts after having been
forced off the air and out of their building. The United Nations has remained
silent throughout, despite receiving repeated appeals from around the world and
from RFPI itself, asking for their intervention.Updates on the situation can be
obtained from www.rfpi.org or the RFPI listener
||The University for
Peace authored a reply to the above article, which was published in the
Tico Times as, "University is Deeply Committed to Peace." The
following article was written in response to it, published in February
published by The
Tico Times - February 13, 2004
by Naomi Fowler, Program Director, RFPI
The response from some staff members of
the University for Peace does not begin to deal with the issues I raised in my
article. Simply to quote their mission statement is meaningless. Actions speak
louder than words, and many of the actions of the University for Peace do not
match their expressed sentiments.
At the same time the University for Peace
was busy throwing out Radio For Peace International from their own building
without any compensation, they released a new book entitled 'Elogio de la
Convivencia' (Eulogy of Co-existence) with a foreword written by the very man in
charge of this exemplary action, the University's Vice-Rector. Mission statements
in such a climate are meaningless.
RFPI's 'eviction' from it's own building took place one month after the visit of
a former top official of the NSC/CIA/Pentagon structure and current Bush insider
[William Martin, see backgrounder]. If such
connections influenced the decision to oust the radio from it's own building
without compensation, we should all know about it. Links of this nature fly in
the face of any mission statement the University cares to name.
It is the business of the people of Central America to know about any such
possible links; Costa Rica has a constitutionally mandated neutrality to defend
and an important global role to play in helping to demonstrate the practical
benefits of a demilitarized nation, especially within the developing-nation
landscape. The infamous School of the Americas made very similar claims to the
ones the University for Peace is making now about their new-found mission to
train military forces in human rights. I would encourage such an initiative if I
believed it were being fairly represented.
The University for Peace is the only University anywhere in the world that is
chartered on behalf of the United Nations to grant degrees in its name. It should
represent the highest original goals of the UN system itself. I join the calls on
the United Nations to investigate the university.
The world has lost RFPI's independent voice which was broadcasting programming on
human rights, anti-militarism and social justice issues; issues in fact that
truly fulfill the University for Peace mission statement. The very action of
silencing a voice helping them deliver on their expressed beliefs raises serious
questions from the inside and the outside of the University for Peace campus.
Why didn't the members of the faculty who,
according to the University for Peace, are "full of commitment and
integrity," raise their voices while RFPI was being harassed, intimidated,
and finally censored? Are they feeling intimidated themselves? At what price is