International Tribunal on Violation of Human Rights in Puerto Rico and Vieques by the United States of America

Social Justice, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

International Tribunal on Violation of Human Rights in Puerto Rico and Vieques by the United States of America


Committee for Human Rights in Puerto Rico (Sponsor)

The People of Puerto Rico Versus the United States of America

I. Precedential Background

II. Findings and Legal Foundations

1. Introduction

2. The U.S. government is found guilty for the continuation of the denial of the right to self-determination

2.1 The continuing effects of colonialism on the economic situation in Puerto Rico

2.2 The increased militarization of Puerto Rico

2.3 The continuing assaults on the culture, language, and legal traditions of the Puerto Rican people

2.4 The continuation of repression and criminalization of the independence movement

3. The violation of human rights of the people of Vieques

III. Verdict

Judgment

1. Precedential Background

In January of 1989, a special session of a Permanent People's Tribunal was convened in Barcelona, Spain, to determine whether the U.S. government was in violation of human rights treaties and obligations under international law in relation to Puerto Rico and its people. After considering three days of testimony from experts, and reviewing numerous documents on varied aspects of U.S.Puerto Rico relations and their effect on the lives of the Puerto Rican people, the Tribunal found that the U.S. government was denying the People of Puerto Rico their most fundamental human right: the right to self-determination.

In arriving at this legal conclusion, our colleagues of the Barcelona Tribunal issued the following verdict. Based on the factual and legal foundations presented, the Permanent People's Tribunal declares:

1. That Puerto Rico and its people have the right to freely determine their political, economic, social, and cultural condition in accordance with the Algerian Declaration and principles of international law.

2. That the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is not the proper way for the Puerto Rican people to exercise their self-determination right, whereas in the referenda that have been carried out on the Island, the required guarantees that govern the true exercise of such right, in accordance with the Resolutions and practices of the U.N., have not be observed.

3. That the U.S. has an international duty to respect the right of Puerto Rico to its self-determination, in accordance with the obligations it has conventionally and customarily assumed.

4. That the actual U.S. military policy in Puerto Rico constitutes an obstacle for self-determination of the island and it threatens the peace and security conditions of the Caribbean region.

In returning their verdict, our predecessor Tribunal called upon the U.S. government to take the following steps to ensure the self-determination rights of the People of Puerto Rico:

To implement through all political, economic, and administrative means available to them, the conditions that would make possible for the Puerto Rican people to exercise their self-determination right, and especially to:

(a) Acknowledge the political prisoner status of those Puerto Ricans incarcerated due to their work and militancy in favor of Puerto Rico's independence and to grant a general amnesty to all Puerto Ricans currently incarcerated because of their involvement in the struggle against colonialism.

(b) Relinquish the current powers the U.S. Congress has to amend and approve the decisions made by the representative bodies and government of Puerto Rico.

(c) Completely transfer any power the U.S. Congress or the U.S. government may have over Puerto Rico to a deliberative body with constitutional character, made up of representatives from all the political and social forces of Puerto Rico chosen on an elective basis.

(d) Negotiate such measures as a transitional status of the juridical and political condition of Puerto Rico, until the self-determination right is effectively exercised. …

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