Gray Panthers of San Francisco
March 2007 Newsletter

Is the International Law Enforcement Academy
Just Another SOA—School of Assassins?


While opposition against the SOA (WINSEC) in Georgia, one of the US training sites for the Latin American military, has been growing, the US has quietly established several lesser known International Law Enforcement Academies including the most recent one in El Salvador. While the focus is on training civilian police and judicial officials, the State Department claims that the ILEAs seek to “buttress democratic governance through the rule of law; enhance the functioning of free markets through improved legislation and law enforcement; and increase social, political, and economic stability by combating narcotics trafficking and crime.”

The first ILEA was established under President Clinton in Budapest in 1995. ILEAs later emerged in Thailand, Botswana and New Mexico. During the search for a Latin American site, both Panama and Costa Rica turned away the school based on the US refusal to ban military instructors or armed forces personnel from the program. At the same time, the US was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court and demanding diplomatic immunity from prosecution for the academy’s US personnel. The agreement “contains a clause that guarantees immunity to foreigners who participate in the ILEA.” At the OAS assembly in June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “Wherever a free society is in retreat, a fear society is on the offensive. And the weapon of choice for every authoritarian regime is the organized cruelty of the police state.”

Many in Latin America refer to the SOA as the School of Assassins and fear that ILEA is just another way of training police and judicial officials to oppress their own citizens. Salvadoran Ombudsperson for Human Rights, Dr. Beatrice de Carrillo, who wrote a report on the corruption and the poor human rights record of the Salvadoran police force, strongly opposed her government’s plans for the ILEA. She called ILEA “disastrous” and said, “The construction of the Academy would mean the total lack of sovereignty of our country.” The Commission for Human Rights in El Salvador also condemned the Academy, saying that “under the flag of security, they want to repress the people, in times that we should be creating an academy to solve the social problems of the country.”

Currently, this leaves repression of civil society groups, such as those protesting the economic policies of the World Bank and IMF, to the local police forces. Given the US history of police and military training programs in Latin America, the ILEA could provide training for human rights violators. This is especially worrisome due to the lack of transparency, accountability and oversight mechanisms in the ILEA proposals. Funding for classes and overall program come directly from the US government, particularly the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Department.

A 1993 UN Truth Commission stated that 90 percent of the violence during the Salvadoran war was not the result of rebel activity but rather due to the government and associated death squads. Further, the war’s most dramatic killings and incidents of torture (Assassination of Archbishop Romero, 1981 El Mozote massacre, and the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests ) could be connected to “military personnel trained at the flagship of US hemispheric military training, the SOA.”

US intervention in the Salvadoran civil war supported the government’s targeting of villages thought to have leftist sympathizers. The massive displacements caused by this strategy eventually led to the gang problems that the US now wants to solve with its expanded presence in El Salvador. Placement of ILEA in Central America undermines current efforts that encourage regional autonomy just as the Central American countries are cooperating in their own initiatives to strengthen the rule of law and cooperation on a range of other initiatives.

Important questions need to be answered. What does past experience reveal about the role of US training schools? Will the new ILEAs, like the SOA, be a tool of repression and violence? Can ILEA trained civilian police perform the role of eradicating gangs and terrorism without such violence? What kind of crime-fighting techniques will be taught in Latin America and whom will they be directed against? Will ILEA become another obstacle to human rights? If these questions remain unanswered, all ILEAs should be shut down


(page 10)
front page | previous page | next page