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Federal Judge Orders Release of Names of SOA/ WHINSEC Graduates


Oakland, CA – On April 22, 2013, United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the Northern District of California has ruled against the Obama Administration’s secrecy around the multi-million dollar, U.S. taxpayer-funded Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) military training school, and has ordered that access to who trains and teaches at the school be restored. Human rights activists had taken the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the information, and won.
Read the court ruling here: SOAW.org/judgment

SOA Watch compiled the names, course, rank, country of origin, and dates attended from 1946 to 2004 for every soldier and instructor at the School of the Americas, which was renamed to the Western Hemisphere Institute in 2001. After researchers exposed cases of known human rights abusers attending the WHINSEC (despite claims that the "new" school was committed to human rights), and shared this research with Congressional decision-makers, the Department of Defense (DOD) refused to disclose any future information about students or teachers at the WHINSEC.

In 2010 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ignored the public's right to know and determined that it is “in the national interest” to deny human rights organizations and the public access to any more information.

The school made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Hundreds of SOA alumni have been implicated in human rights abuses and the formation of death squads, 11 Latin American military dictators, including Manuel Noriega of Panama, Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, General Rios Montt of Guatemala, attended the school. SOA graduates led the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and the 2009 coup in Honduras, and continue to be involved in repression campaigns in Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico.

“The decision by the court is victory for transparency and human rights, and against government secrecy,” said SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois.

The release of the names is essential for Congress to make decisions about foreign military training. After the upholding of the value of transparency, and the public's right to know, over the Obama Administration’s secrecy, human rights organizations will use this ruling to further expose the negative impact of the SOA/ WHINSEC in Latin America.

SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the SOA/WHINSEC through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. This November 22-24, SOA Watch will hold its annual vigil at the gates of the SOA in Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA Watch is working on a campaign to call attention to the continued human rights abuses associated with the SOA/ WHINSEC and demand that the school will be shut down.

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