Eleven years ago, the United States Navy officially stopped its live military practices on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico after 60 years of using the island to practice bombing, biochemical warfare with legal agents and military training. The Navy´s toxic legacy on the island has led to disproportionately high rates of cancer, hypertension, asthma, cirrhosis and other respiratory illnesses affecting almost every Viequense family.
Contaminants that contain the same heavy metals used by the Navy have been found on the land, in the vegetation and in the surrounding waters of the island. While the Navy is currently engaged in an administered clean–up process, it continues to use questionable tactics–such as open – air detonation of bombs – to comply with its obligations, despite the fact that many Viequenses have condemned such practices.
After 70 years, the residents of Vieques still have never received an admission from the Navy of the type of toxic substances practiced with, nor any admission of responsibility for the long–term damage caused to their health and environment, much less damages or reparations. The Navy has been protected by a legal principle called sovereign immunity which has essentially allowed them to be impugn from their actions. After generations of harm caused, the people of Vieques deserve justice. On September 23, 2013, a group of human rights organizations and law school clinics came together to file a petition before the Inter–American Commission on Human Rights to seek redress before an international human rights forum and to hold the United States accountable for the atrocities committed in Vieques. The petition declares that the United States and the Government of Puerto Rico have violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, including the right to life, health, access to information, work, movement and residency and to due process. We are asking that the Commission admit our petition and finally allow for a full investigation into the decades of toxic military warfare conducted on Vieques which has caused the deaths and compromised the health of thousands of Viequenses. This is the final chance before a legal body to hold the United States accountable for its actions without administrative or legislative action.
We ask that you sign the petition below requesting that the Inter–American Commission on Human Rights admit our petition and move to investigate the merits of our claims. Let the Commission know that you support the right of the people of Vieques to redress and the U.S. Navy must be held liable for its abusive, destructive and deadly practices.
70 years is too long for anyone to wait for justice.
Alianza de Mujeres Viequenses
National Lawyers Guild
Caribbean Institute for Human Rights
Human Rights Clinic, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico School of Law
Human Rights Clinic of Western New England School of Law
How you can help
With your support, this letter demonstrates to the Commission that there have been human rights violations in Vieques that have gone without remedy and Viequenses still demand justice. Ask the Commission to admit our petition now. Con su apoyo, esta carta demostrará a la Comisión que si ha habido violaciones de derechos humanos en Vieques y que no se ha hecho justicia todavía. Ya es hora. …
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