International Tribunal on U.S. Colonial Crimes in Puerto Rico

Summary of indictment of the U.S.

The following is a brief summary of the indictment prepared by chief prosecutor Augusto Zamora for the International Tribunal on U.S. Colonial Crimes in Puerto Rico on Oct. 27 in New York City. For full indictment, see

1. Puerto Rico, a supposed “Free Associated State” under the constitution of 1952, continues to be a colony of the United States. The U.S. maintains Puerto Rico under colonial domain, with the subterfuge of “Free Associated State,” an entity of colonialist origin, with which the U.S. flagrantly violates the world legal order, which constitutes a crime against Puerto Rico.

2. The “constitution” of Puerto Rico, proposed in 1952 and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1953, predates by eight years the decolonization process promoted by the United Nations. In 1952, Puerto Rico was occupied by U.S. military forces, and thus its people’s choices regarding the referendum were not free. In addition, the constitution of a sovereign nation (according to the U.N.) should never be subject to the approval and scrutiny of the colonial power, as it was here.

3. By submitting the case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly of the United Nations, the United States was accepting, on the one hand, that Puerto Rico was a colonial nation and that the United Nations had jurisdiction over Puerto Rico because it was the country subjected to colonial rule.

4. The deprivation of that inalienable right to a lawful and reliable exercise (of self-determination) under the supervision of the United Nations bears full witness that the regime in Puerto Rico is a blatantly colonial regime, and the U.S. uses this regime to keep Puerto Rico under U.S. colonial domination. Maintaining Puerto Rico as a colony is a violation of the world legal order, and it constitutes a crime against the people of Puerto Rico; as such it should be denounced.

5. By approving and enforcing the so-called PROMESA law, the United States has acted as a colonial power over the territory of Puerto Rico, violating even the null-and-void process of 1952. With that law, the U.S. has returned Puerto Rico to the situation it had in 1898, violating the substantive rights of the Puerto Rican people, such as their right to freedom, self-determination and the right to their natural wealth and resources. The U.S. commits a crime against the people of Puerto Rico by usurping their freedom, denying their self-determination and violating the sacred right of the Puerto Rican people to their natural wealth and resources.

Verdict demands reparations for U.S. crimes

Front row: Susan Abulhawa, The Rev. Luis Barrios, Pam Africa. Second row: Jaribu Hill, Ajamu Baraka, Gerardo Cajamarca Alarcón. Third row: Mahtowin Munro, Deirdre Griswold. Behind them: Noriko Oyama, Hyun Lee, Andre Francois, Luz de las Nieves Ayress Moreno, Bernadette Ellorin, Chrisley Carpio, and Angélica Lara.

Following two hours of deliberation on the evening of Oct. 27 in New York City, the jury at the International Tribunal on U.S. Crimes in Puerto Rico issued the following verdict:

The International Tribunal on United States’ Colonial Crimes Against Puerto Rico, having met in open session as guests on unceded Lenape Indigenous land, on Oct 27, 2018;

Having heard testimony regarding the history of U.S. colonial rule over Puerto Rico since 1898; and

Having heard testimony from experts, eyewitnesses, colonial resisters and survivors — the majority of whom were born in Puerto Rico and continue to endure colonial depravity there — on the catastrophe endured by the Puerto Rican people both during and in the aftermath of Hurricane María;

Having viewed videotape interviews and examined other documentary material on these topics;

Hereby finds the U.S. government guilty of the following crimes against humanity, warranting all measures of relief and redress, including, but not limited to, reparations:

1. That it has deprived the people of Puerto Rico of their right to self-determination, a violation of international law;

2. That after buying Puerto Rico from Spain in 1989 without the consent of the people of Puerto Rico, it subdued popular resistance through military conquest, set up and maintains a settler-colonial regime;

3. That this colonialization of the Puerto Rican people took place over a century, during which independence movements were repressed with great bloodshed;

4. That the passage of Law 600 by the U.S. Congress in 1950 ostensibly allowing Puerto Rico to draft its own constitution (and its official status renamed “Commonwealth,” known in Spanish as “Estado Libre Asociado” or “Associated Free State”) effectively legalized U.S. colonialism and created a veneer of legitimacy to what was and remains the subjugation of the Puerto Rican people;

5. That this colonial imposition has profoundly and detrimentally impacted every area of life in Puerto Rico, from its domestic policies to its external relations, resulting in intergenerational psychosocial trauma;

6. That this colonial imposition has included theft of land for U.S. military bases and exercises that have contaminated the soil, air and water, resulting in widespread diseases, health deterioration and death, as well as destruction of wildlife and domestic farm animals; that it has further resulted in forced displacement, dispossession, loss of home and exile;

7. That this colonial imposition, through the so-called Fiscal Control Board, is directly responsible for the disastrous conditions still existing in Puerto Rico more than a year after Hurricane María, in which the U.S. corporations and banks, under the guise of helping with reconstruction, have expropriated billions of public dollars, creating a humanitarian crisis;

8. That this colonial imposition has used the hurricane as a pretext to further the long-standing neoliberal and right-wing policies of the U.S. government to privatize fundamental social services and destroy labor movements, especially in the fields of education and electricity;

9. That the U.S. government imposed protocols that allowed and encouraged corporate looting of Puerto Rico’s natural resources and wealth and the exploitation of Puerto Rican labor, dispelling the myth and legend that Puerto Rico owes the U.S. government anything; in fact, an extraordinary debt is owed to the Puerto Rican people by the U.S. government and by U.S. corporations;

10. That the U.S. has committed genocide against the Puerto Rican people, including decades of sterilization of Puerto Rican women, medical experimentation, suppression of Boricua culture, exploitation of Puerto Rican youth to fight imperialist wars, denial of basic human needs, including water, healthful food, a refusal of international humanitarian and solidarity aid from various nations, such as Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela, following Hurricane María.

Therefore, we hereby demand the following:

1. The U.S. government acknowledge and apologize for aforementioned crimes against the Puerto Rican people.

2. The U.S. surrender all property and power forcibly taken from the Puerto Rican people.

3. The U.S. pay reparations to victims of the crime of colonialism.