Perry Center participates in US Southern Command Human Rights Conference
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06 Sep 2016

Perry Center faculty participated in a regional conference on human rights at US Southern Command headquarters in Miami, Florida from August 29 until September 02.

USSOUTHCOM Conference Group PhotoUSSOUTHCOM hosted the conference to examine the challenges associated with applying human rights standards during complex security operations against organized crime groups in the region. Almost 100 representatives from Belize, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and the United States attended. Numerous non-government organizations (NGO) and international government organizations also participated.

Conference coordinator Leana Bresnahan, head of the Human Rights Directorate at USSOUTHCOM, encouraged the participants to ask “the hard questions” about the use of force and respect for human rights. USSOUTHCOM has been assisting Central American governments for almost 20 years in developing doctrine and policy on human rights. The centerpiece of these efforts has been the Consensus Document. On March 11-15, 2002, representatives of 29 Latin American and Caribbean nations convened in Guatemala City to sign the Consensus Document, the goals of which included the development a culture of respect and a system of evaluation for human rights among Latin American armed forces. The Consensus Document identified four critical components for the Latin American militaries:

  • An armed forces doctrine that addressed human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • Education and training standards;
  • Systems of internal control;
  • Cooperation with civilian authorities

Since the establishment of the Consensus Document, USSOUTHCOM human rights personnel have worked tirelessly with partner nations in the region to improve the human rights standards in their countries. Since the start of the HRI in 1997, according to USSOUTHCOM personnel, more than 10,000 Latin American and Caribbean officials have attended 200 USSOUTHCOM-sponsored conferences related to human rights and international humanitarian law.

Perry Center Professor Pat Paterson served as a panelist and working group facilitator during the 3-day event. He spoke about US military lessons learned on civilian casualty avoidance in Iraq and Afghanistan.