SOUTHCOM’s commander established the Human Rights Office in 1995 to promote greater observance of human rights in the Western Hemisphere and to directly advise the commander on these issues. The Human Rights Office's primary responsibilities include:
Human Rights Education and Policy
The Human Rights Office administers the command's human rights policy. SOUTHCOM established Regulation 1-20 in 1998, which requires all personnel assigned to SOUTHCOM or deployed to the Area of Responsibility to take human rights awareness education, understand their obligation to respect and protect human rights, and to report all suspected violations of fundamental human rights. SOUTHCOM personnel are also issued a pocket card (“Standing Orders Card”), which delineates SOUTHCOM’s Zero Tolerance policy for human rights violations.
Security Cooperation – The Human Rights Initiative
The Human Rights Initiative is a program initiated by SOUTHCOM’s commander in 1997 and seeks to bring together representatives of military, security forces, civilian government and civil society to develop a model human rights program for military forces focused in four areas: doctrine, education and training, internal control systems, and cooperation with civilian authorities. The Human Rights Office supports the efforts of 11 countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay) and one regional organization, the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC) that have made a formal commitment to implement HRI within their armed forces.
Analysis and Policy Advising
The Human Rights Office provides direct support to the commander and senior leadership by advising on human rights developments in the Area of Responsibility that affect partner nation militaries and the nations of the region.
The office serves as the command’s liaison with representatives of the human rights community, including the interagency, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Human Rights Office holds regular meetings and identifies avenues for collaboration with the human rights community in the promotion of human rights within the military forces of SOUTHCOM’s Area of Responsibility.
Combating Trafficking in Persons
SC-HRO is responsible for overseeing the implementation of and compliance with DOD and SOUTHCOM CTIP Policy, which requires Combating Trafficking in Persons training for all personnel, including contractors. The Human Rights Office focuses its Combating Trafficking in Persons efforts on developing Area of Responsibility specific guidance and education for SOUTHCOM personnel to better recognize indicators of trafficking in persons, and to comply with DoD and SOUTHCOM’s Zero Tolerance policy toward trafficking in persons.
The Human Rights Office provides support to command offices responsible for ensuring that command-sponsored training and exercises incorporate human rights principles, and are in compliance with SOUTHCOM Regulation 1-20.