Torture Survivors, Veterans, Students, Nuns Rally at Justice Department to Oppose Gonzalez, School of the Americas Print
Washington, DC ? Human rights advocates lobbying for the closure of the controversial School of the Americas/ Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC), a military training school for Latin American security personnel, and critics of newly appointed Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez rallied today at the Justice Department. Gonzales was broadly criticized by civil and human rights groups for authoring a series of memos on policies that led to the abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Legislation soon to be introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) calls for the suspension of training at the SOA/ WHINSEC and for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate past activities of the school and its graduates, including identifying those responsible for having ?drafted, approved, or taught with manuals that advocated illegal tactics such as torture.?

?From the continued impunity of training schools like the SOA/ WHINSEC to the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez, we?ve seen this administration turn a blind eye to issues of torture,? said Carlos Mauricio, a torture survivor from El Salvador and founder of the Stop Impunity Project. ?It?s time to end the impunity and take a real stand against human rights abuses.?

Under intense public and Congressional pressure, the SOA was ?closed? in December of 2000; three weeks later it reopened with a new name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The move was widely seen as a smokescreen attempt to deflect public criticism of the school and to distance the institution from its contentious past.

School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), the Stop Impunity Project and the Torture Abolition Survivors and Support Coalition (TASSC) organized the rally today. SOA Watch, a national grassroots organization, holds a vigil each November at the gates on Ft. Benning, home of the SOA/ WHINSEC. This past November, more than 16,000 people from across the Americas gathered in opposition to the school.

?Torture memos and the School of the Americas are out of line with the values of Americans,? said Joyce Ellwanger, 68, of Milwaukee, WI. ?If we want lasting peace and security, we need policies that reflect our values of justice and democracy.?