University for Peace Community Liason Group

- a concerned citizens initiative -

(Our group is independent of and has no formal approval from the University for Peace)

 

 

     

Peace-washing the 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 international crime?

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 relocation costs?

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 their name.

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 site www.saverfpi.org

  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 of 2004  

UPeace Response Deemed Meaningless
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 their silence?


 

 

 

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