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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Court Statements Joe DeRaymond Sentencing Statement
Joe DeRaymond Sentencing Statement PDF Print E-mail
I have pleaded "not guilty" to the charge of trespassing on the Fort Benning military base, I plea I would like to reaffirm at this time.

I believe the ruling of this Court regarding our right to a jury trial is incorrect. [To this argument the Judge stated that jury trials would take months, and would be too cumbersome, to which I replied, "Justice is cumbersome, Your Honor."] I believe the ruling of this Court regarding the affirmative defenses based on national and international law, related to our duty to protest and oppose the commission of crimes against humanity, is incorrect. I believe I have been denied the right to a fair trial.

Nevertheless, I stand before this Court convicted of Trespass on the Fort Benning military base, in order to protest the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation. It is the people of Latin America who have accurately named this school the "School of Assassins". I am encouraged by my co-defendants, our supporters, but most of all by many friends in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia who support my protest of this school, and are encouraged in their struggle for justice by the presence of School of the Americas Watch here in Fort Benning every year.

Your Honor, I have visited Central America and Colombia many times in recent years. In February of 2005, I was working as a volunteer for the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the Peace Community of San Joseé de Apartadó, located in the northwest corner of Colombia. This community has declared itself neutral in the decades-long armed conflict that engulfs Colombia. They have declared that they will not carry arms, participate in the violence of the war, and will not aid any armed actor in the conflict. On February 20, eight community members were massacred, on their land, while harvesting their crops. They were unarmed, and four of the victims were children, ranging in age from 2 to 15.

Eyewitness testimony and independent investigations indicate that the Colombian military acting in concert with paramilitary forces were the murderers who literally chopped these human beings to pieces. The official Colombian government investigation has yielded no answers. This is not unexpected, since over 150 community members have been assassinated or "disappeared" in the last eight years, and not one perpetrator has been brought to justice. It is worthy of note that two community leaders, Alfonso Bolivar and Luis Eduardo Guerra, were killed in this massacre. Luis Eduardo was a visitor to the demonstrations here in Columbus in November of 2002, and was a courageous worker for peace and human rights. We honor his work, his life and memory.

The United States each year sends many hundreds of millions of dollars to the Colombian military, and the Colombian military sends more soldiers to the School of Assassins than any other nation. Each year, Colombia leads our hemisphere in human rights violations, and each year our Congress and President send more of our tax dollars to support policies of assassination and torture. The School of Americas Watch has identified members of the Colombian military who were in command positions of the Colombian military brigade in control of the region where the massacre of February 2005 occurred. I believe a jury would be very interested in this chain of circumstance.

I want to put these policies and this School of the Americas, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, School of Assassins on trial. I call on my Congress, my President, my Courts, the free press of the world, the governments of the world, to do their jobs, to let the truth out, to let justice be done.

January 31, 2006
Joe DeRaymond

 

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