School of the Americas Watch Wins Prestigious Human Rights Award Print
Washington, DC ? School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) was awarded the esteemed 21st International Alfonso Com?n Award in Barcelona, Spain today. The Alfonso Com?n Foundation, a private foundation that works to serve those who are struggling to build a more just world, grants the annual human rights award. SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois accepted the award?presented by Mayor Joan Clos and the City Council of Barcelona?on behalf of the SOA Watch movement.

Past recipients include Nelson Mandela, Vandana Shiva, and Brazil?s Movement of Unemployed Workers (MST). In 1989, the award was given to San Salvador?s University of Central America and its rector, Ignacio Ellacur?a. Two weeks after receiving the award, Ellacur?a was assassinated along with five other Jesuits, their co-worker and her 14-year-old daughter. Nineteen of the 26 soldiers found responsible for the murders by a United Nations Truth Commission were trained at the US Army?s School of the Americas (SOA).

The SOA, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, is a military training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia where over 60,000 Latin American security personnel have been trained in courses including counterinsurgency, sniper training, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in Central and South America.

SOA Watch, a national grassroots organization that works to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and to change U.S. foreign policy, has held a demonstration at the main entrance to Fort Benning each November since 1990 calling for the closure of the training facility. Since protests began, more than 170 people have served prison sentences of up to two years for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against the SOA/ WHINSEC. Earlier this year after a meeting with Fr. Bourgeois and other religious leaders, Hugo Chavez decreed that Venezuela would no longer send soldiers to train at the institution.

Each year the Alfonso Com?n Foundation recognizes individuals, groups of people or collective organizations that have distinguished themselves in their work for justice, peace and human rights. SOA Watch was recognized for its work to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and its struggle for substantial change in US foreign policy.

?SOA Watch is honored to received this recognition,? said Fr. Bourgeois. ?Inspired by the work of past recipients and the stories of growing resistance around the world, we will continue our struggle to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and to work for justice, at home and abroad.?