Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Human Rights: Ursuline Sister jailed for 'acting on conscience'

This is a follow up to i On Global Trends article Human Rights: Ursuline Sister arrested for 'acting on conscience' published Monday, November 24, 2008

Ursuline Sister of Cleveland Diane Therese Pinchot was sentenced to 60 days in prison for misdemeanor trespassing onto the grounds of Fort Benning in Georgia, Nov. 23, 2008. She received no fine. She says she trespassed and risked arrest and a prison sentence "to raise awareness of the need to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)," formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), a military training school for Latin American security personnel located at Fort Benning.

Sister Diane Therese's action -- like her religious order's corporate stance calling for the closure of SOA/WHINSEC -- is grounded in the December 1980 rape and murder of fellow Ursuline and friend Sister Dorothy Kazel and her companions, lay missioner Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford in El Salvador. Three of the five Salvadoran National Guardsmen convicted of the crimes were trained at the SOA. The two officers who ordered the killings have yet to be charged for their involvement.

"Dorothy's death and the thousands of other deaths and disappearances taught us nothing if today the same U.S. government is still training Latin American soldiers the skills of torture and war," says Sister Diane Therese.

On weekend of her arrest Sister Diane Therese joined more than 20,000 people at the gates of Fort Benning to participate in an annual vigil to call for an examination of U.S. foreign policy as it relates to Latin America and closing SOA/WHINSEC. The vigil takes place each year in conjunction with the anniversary of the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper's daughter at the hands of a Salvadoran Army patrol. Nineteen of the military officers cited for the murders received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas.

Former students and graduates of SOA/WHINSEC consistently make the news for committing violent crimes against the people of their home countries, including massacres of entire villages. Recently former students and graduates have been increasingly associated with committing violent crimes on behalf of drug cartels.

Since protests against the SOA/WHINSEC began 19 years ago, more than 225 "prisoners of conscience" have served sentences of up to two years for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Source: Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland

Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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