Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Officer Fired for 'Moral Duty' in Haiti

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Officer Fired for 'Moral Duty' in Haiti

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Army captain who inspected conditions in a Portau-Prince, Haiti, jail because he was concerned about human rights violations' being overlooked by the U.S. military in Haiti (NCR, April 14) has been dismissed from the Army.

According to military authorities at Fort Drum, N.Y., the May 14 sentence of dismissal for Capt. Lawrence Rockwood, a Buddhist, is equivalent to a dishonorable discharge for an enlisted soldier.

Rockwood, a soldier in the 10th Mountain Division, was found guilty May 13 of disobedience, disrespect and conduct unbecoming an officer for his actions in Haiti. On the surface, the trial concerned Rockwood's decision last September to visit the prison after he had filed a complaint that his superiors were "indifferent to probable ongoing human rights violations in the (National Penitentiary)."

Beyond the facts of Rockwood's activities, however, were the issues of conscience and conduct by military personnel faced with a sense that, in a given circumstance, moral duty exceeds their duty to lawful authorities.

In any event, on the evening of Sept. 30, Rockwood, armed and in full uniform, climbed over the wall of his base compound and was driven by a Haitian to the penitentiary, where he demanded a list of prisoners and the right to inspect conditions.

According to court testimony as reported in The Washington Post, the warden notified U.S. authorities at Rockwood's request. A U.S. major eventually arrived at the prison to remove Rockwood.

Rockwood's defense was led by civil rights attorney Ramsey Clark. …

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