SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE
STATES OF THE OAS
its twelfth regular session, held in Washington, D. C., November 15
through 21, 1982, the General Assembly of the OAS adopted Resolution
AG/RES. 618 (XII-0/82), on the Annual Report of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, in which, among other points, after
expressing its regret at the serious violations of human rights that had
occurred or might occur in the hemisphere and taking note of the
observations and comments made by the governments of member states and
of information about the measures they had taken and would continue to
implement to ensure human rights in their countries, it urged the
governments of member states that had not yet done so to adopt and
implement the necessary measures to preserve and ensure full
effectiveness of human rights, particularly the right to life, humane
treatment, and personal liberty, and to reaffirm the fact that summary
execution, torture, and detention without due process constitute most
serious violations of human rights.
It also recommended that the government of the member state,
within the context of a democratic system of government, ensure that the
exercise of power is predicated on the free and legitimate manifestation
of the will of the people in accordance with the specific circumstances
and characteristics people in accordance with the specific circumstances
and characteristics of each country.
It reiterated the need, in those states were prisoners have
disappeared, for their situation to be clarified and for their families
no be notified. It recommended that the governments of the member states set
up central detention registries containing a record of all persons who
have been subject to imprisonment, and that detention be carried out
exclusively by competent and duly identified authorities, and that
persons detained be kept in custody in the places established for that
purpose. It reaffirmed that effective protection of human rights
should also extend to social, economic, and cultural rights, emphasizing
the responsibility incumbent upon the governments of the member states
in the process of promoting cooperation for development in the
hemisphere. It urged the
governments to provide the Commission with the cooperation necessary for
it to carry out its work, particularly through timely response to the
Commission’s requests for information regarding individual cases.
It also emphasized the need for the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights to continue to observe the situation of human rights in the
member states and to present a report on this subject to the thirteenth
regular session of the General Assembly.
accordance with the recommendations made by the General Assembly, the
Commission has continued to observe the situation of human rights in the
member countries of the Organization and must report to the General
Assembly at this session that not all the countries have considered and
observed the recommendations of the General Assembly and that, in some
states, situations have continued to occur in which respect for human
life, for the dignity of man, for personal security and integrity, and
for the essential rights and guaranties, as well as the fundamental
values of democracy, have been trampled upon.
some states, governmental repression has continued or has increased; but
also in certain countries there has been an improvement in the situation
regarding human rights, reflected mainly in the tendency toward and
opening for democracy in the short or medium term offered by the
principal situations in regard to human rights during the period covered
by this report will be analyzed separately, here following, citing some
cases in particular, for the purpose of better informing the General
Assembly, taking as a guide for its study the rights to which the
Commission should pay particular attention in conformity with its
Statute, namely the right of life; the right to personal freedom and
protection against arbitrary arrest; the right to justice and to due
process of law; the right to freedom of religion and worship; the right
to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination. Also the urgency that has affected political rights will be
analyzed, since this Commission is convinced that many of the violations
of the aforementioned rights and freedoms were caused precisely by the
lack of those political rights.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has on several occasions
stressed the importance of creating a climate that favors respect for
this basic right and a restoration of its worth wherever it has been
the Commission is obliged to report to the General Assembly that there
have been grievous violations of this human rights in the period covered
in this report.
Guatemala, fifteen persons were executed after having been sentenced by
secret Courts of Special Jurisdiction, in utter disregard of the basic
guarantees of due process, under illegal procedures in violation of the
fundamental tenets of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which
Guatemala is a party, for offenses not subject to capital punishment
under the laws in effect on the day on which that country’s
ratification of the Convention went into force. This grave event is extensively examined in the special
report on the situation regarding human rights in Guatemala that the
IACHR is presenting to this session of the General Assembly.
It should be pointed out that despite all the Commission’s
efforts and the repeated repudiations of such a member of proceeding,
the government presided over by General Efrain Ríos Montt acted in
disregard of the standards of the Convention.
IACHR trusts that the decision of the new government headed by General
Oscar Humberto Mejia to put an end to the Courts of Special Jurisdiction
will signify a definitive banning of this legal monstrosity, and that
the convictions of persons condemned to death by these Courts will be
adequately reviewed. Likewise,
the Commission recommends that the new Government inform the relatives
of the persons who were executed, the place or places they are buried,
and that it delivers to them the remains so that they might be properly
Suriname, on December 8, 1982, fifteen leaders of that country were
arrested under government orders and sent to Fort Zeelandia, where they
were illegally executed. The
vast amount of evidence gathered by the Commission on this grave event
indicated that some of those fifteen leaders were subjected to brutal
torture before being murdered, and that ranking government officials
directly participated in these acts.
A further point of distress to the Commission is the lack of
investigation and punishment of those responsible, since, as it points
out in its report to the General Assembly on that country, the minimum
conditions for carrying forward legal action for that purpose in the
manner in which such an event warrants do not exist.
Commission has serious misgivings in regard to the continued climate of
violence prevailing in El Salvador, where illegal executions and
disappearances of persons have continued.
As it pointed out in earlier reports, most of these acts are the
work of security forces who are able to act outside the law with
impunity, and of paramilitary groups who, in the absence of an effective
and appropriate investigation of these crimes, would seem to be acting
with the Government’s tacit consent.
to information the Commission has obtained from various reliable
sources, more than 2,000 Salvadorans have perished in the period covered
by this report. These
figures are still alarming and validate the Commission’s insistent
concern to have this violence ended and to see that agreements are
reached to ensure lasting social peace.
Guatemala, the violence that prevailed in the urban centers has lessened
as a result of the policies of General Rios Montt’s Government, which
abolished the use of paramilitary groups in Guatemala City and other
urban centers. However, in
rural areas and in conflict zones, according to the government, where
evidently the rebel forces have committed serious acts, severe
violations of the right to life chargeable to the Guatemalan Army
continue to occur, including the destruction and sacking of villages and
bloody killings of both combatants and innocent civilians, particularly
among the Indian and farm communities.
incidents took place in Chile in which approximately forty persons were
killed and a large number injured, as a result of inordinately severe
repressive actions by the Army and the Carabineros.
These incidents took place in the days of the national protest
organized by the opposition to the government.
The legitimacy of those protests has been recognized by the
highest ecclesiastical and judicial authorities of the nation.
events at the fourth national protest rally, held August 11, 1983,
deserve special attention. That
day twenty-four people perished among them María Angélica Marchant, 8
years of age, Jaime Rojas, 9, and Jaime Cáceres, 10.
Several people were killed in their homes.
Commission is concerned by the irrationality with which the force of
order behaved during the demonstration.
This occurrence may have its explanation in the words of the
President of Chile, who, the day before, Wednesday, August 10, had
warned the citizenry over national television that he was aware that a
rally was being organized; that he had taken the necessary steps, and
that in his capacity as President he had given orders that those who
called the protest and signed it would be held responsible, although
they said it would be peaceful. He
affirmed that they would suffer the consequences and to be careful. He affirmed that they would suffer the consequences and to be
careful, because he would not yield an inch.
Moreover, he said, Santiago would be covered by 18,000 men with
strict orders to act harshly.
further matter that affects or may eventually have a direct effect on
the right to life and on which the IACHR has repeatedly expressed itself
before the General Assembly, because at its seriousness and its social
and legal consequences, in that of the disappearance of detained
persons. This cruel
procedure is undoubtedly the most expedient way to flout the law and
particularly the standards that guarantee protection from arbitrary
detention and the right to personal security and integrity.
extremely grave problem, which is an undeniable fact in some countries
of the hemisphere, cannot be fairly solved unless a clear accounting is
provided, giving all the circumstances, of the status and whereabouts of
the persons who have disappeared. The
Commission cannot but insist on this recommendations to the Governments
of Argentina and Chile; these have been reiterated in special
resolutions to clarify the denunciations made by the Commission, and are
included in another sections of this report.
Argentina, for example, at the end of April 1983, the government
published a document purporting to be the final report on the fight
against subversion and an answer to the enduring hopes of the thousands
of relatives of disappeared persons to obtain a clear word on their
loved ones. This report was
totally rejected by the relatives of the lost persons, as well as by
human rights groups, and ranking Argentine political leaders.
The IACHR has no knowledge that the document in question
clarifies the situation of a single case of the thousands that have been
denounced. With equal
concern the Commission has learned of the amnesty law promulgated on
September 23, 1983 which, if kept in force, would make it impossible to
identify and punish those who participated in the disappearances of
thousands of Argentine citizens as well as the effectuation of
“anti-subversive” measures that provide broad authority to the
Security Forces allowing them to search homes, tape telephone
conversations, detains suspects
and open mail during a 48 hour period without judicial permission.
mention must be made of the fate of the disappeared children who were
apprehended with their parents or who were born during the time of their
detention. The IACHR has
been informed that some have been located, which allows us to assume
that others are still alive. The Commission must insist that the
Argentine Government give urgent priority to the investigations of these
cases, and not allow lower authorities to hinder the work and harass the
relatives who have a natural right to try to find those children.
the other hand, it would seem that a para-official structure allowing
disappearances still exist in Argentina; this may be gathered from the
death of Peronist leader Osvaldo Cambiaso, who was recently freed, then
arrested and killed on May 14, 1983, under circumstances that have not
been clarified. Similarly, knowledge of the Commission as of this date, the
death of labor leader Dalmiro Flores, on December 16, 1982, the date of
the People’s March for Democracy and National Reconstruction, who was
gunned down in plain view of numerous witnesses by a gunman from a
police car that was on security duty in the Plaza de Mayo has not
prompted an investigation or punishment of the offender.
Commission has no knowledge that the Government of Chile has taken any
steps towards clarifying the status of persons who have disappeared
particularly in the years 1973 through 1978.
Quite the opposite, it has been informed that a witness to the
events, extremist Marcia Alejandra Merino Vega, who later crossed over
to cooperate with the security services and was detained together with
persons who are now listed as disappeared, was arrested on June 16,
1983, and freed on June 22 by the Military Administration, despite the
fact that there was a warrant out for her arrest.
contrast, the Commission is obliged to recognize the efforts of the
Government of President Hernan Siles Suazo of Bolivia in speeding up an
investigation on the disappearance of 130 persons during the previous
regimes of General Hugo Banzer, Colonel Alberto Natush, and General Luis
Commission has also received reports and denunciations about disappeared
persons from other countries, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras
and Nicaragua. Without wishing to prejudge some of the cases being processed
the Commission wishes to express its concern over such events,
particularly the cases of arrests and subsequent incommunicado
detention for unreasonably long periods of time and in regard to which
the authorities, especially the police and security authorities, deny
having made such arrest, even in their replies to the judges hearing
writs of habeas corpus.
the Commission urges all the member states of the Organization where
this occur to ban the practice or to avoid its use because of the
irreparable loss that this abusive and unlawful conduct causes and
because, as already pointed out earlier, if this practice continues to
go unpunished, it may become a widespread procedure among lower
authority and a handy tool for political or personal vengeance, with its
logical consequences to the detriment of the right to life.
In view of the foregoing, and in the intend to contribute toward
abolishing this heinous practice, the Commission deems it appropriate
for the General Assembly of the OAS to declare the forced disappearance
of detained persons to be a crime against mankind.
the period covered by this report, again, the largest number of human
rights violations was in the nature of arbitrary arrests without due
process of law. As was indicated in the last year’s Annual Report, such
violations were made possible by the too broad and arbitrary powers
granted under the states of emergency, which unable the political
authority to arrest, without cause or due process of law, all those
persons who, in its judgment, may constitute a danger to internal
Commission is greatly concerned by the utter defenselessness against
arbitrary arrest of whole sectors of the civilian population in some
countries, who must live under the constant effects of the absence of
guarantees and in the natural insecurity that such a situation
Argentina, the state of siege declared in 1974 is still in effect,
although the reasons that caused it to be imposed no longer exist.
Moreover, although arbitrary arrests are no longer made, and in a
considerable number of persons who had been detained were freed under
surveillance, there still are a large number of Argentines imprisoned on
the specific orders of the Executive Power.
Chile, under the country’s exceptional legislation, there were still
restrictions on personal liberty in the period covered by this report,
as evident from numerous individual and mass arrests and administrative
relegation ordered on the basis on the vast powers that transitional
Article 24 grants to the Executive. According to information received by the Commission, in the
first half of 1983 there were 267 individual arrests for political
reasons, and 2,557 mass arrests, figures that are considerably above
those of the preceding periods, not including the nearly 14.000 persons
who were detained in a military mop-up operation in several
working-class areas on the southern part of Santiago on may 14, 1983.
On that day, members of the Armed Forces, carrying automatic
firearms, cordoned off the area and for nearly 15 hours surrounded and
broke into homes, and made numerous arrests; many of the adult women
among them were subjected to unlawful and degrading treatment.
In December 1982, 25 persons were sent, under the existing
administrative relegations order, to small communes in the interior of
the country, and by the first half of 1983, that figure of domestic
exiles had increased to 45.
the other hand, in regard to personal freedom, the Commission is pleased
to note that, according to government figures, 3,090 Chileans who had
been denied entry into their homeland are now free to return.
While the Commission considers this to be a positive step, it
cannot fail to maintain that the right to live in one’s own land is
universally recognized human right that cannot be denied
administratively as the Government of Chile has been doing in the case
of some of its dissidents. The
solution to enforced exile in Chile should be general and not restricted
to partial lists. While
these lists have been numerous recently, until objective criteria are
established, this process imposes further suffering on those whose names
do not appear on them.
El Salvador, the Constitutional Assembly extended the state of siege to
its entire territory on a continuing basis, a measure the government
deems necessary to deal with extremist activities.
In these circumstances, constitutional guarantees are
considerably curtailed, paving the way for arbitrary arrests,
kidnappings, home searches, and random searches.
no state of siege is in force in Haiti, in actual practice
constitutional guarantees and human rights are not in effect.
Any individual may be arbitrarily arrested, beaten, kept incommunicado,
and held for undetermined periods of time by the police or the
volunteers of the national security known as the Tonton Macoutes.
Nicaragua, likewise, the declared state of emergency was continued in
the period covered by this report.
This, in addition to the laws that confer discretionary authority
on the Executive Power, gave rise to abuses in regard to political
dissidents, many of whom were arbitrarily arrested, held incommunicado,
and imprisoned for periods in excess of the time allowed under the laws
covering the subject. The
cases that cause the most concern to the Commission--aside from the
hundreds of Miskito Indians whose plight is covered in a special report
of the IACH--are those of the leaders of the Democratic Conservative
Party, all prominent citizens: Mario Castillo Mendoza, Juan Noguera
Payan, Edgar Holman and Alejandro Pereira.
They were arrested on June 5, 1983, for offenses against state
security and remanded to the popular tribunals for “formal
Judgment.” Another case
of concern to the Commission is that of the Secretary General of the
Christian Social Revolutionary Youth, Francisco Jose Rodriguez Guevara,
a former student leader, who in 1981 earned the distinction of being the
best literacy instructor in Granada.
According to complaints received by the Commission, Rodriguez
Guevara was arrested in June 1982 for purely political reasons.
However, almost a year later, in March 1983, according to
government sources, he was condemned to serve two years in prison “ on
Paraguay, the government continued to arrest citizens, particularly
opposition leaders, who were imprisoned for indefinite periods of time
without being charge with any offenses or delivered to any competent
authorities, under Article 79 of the National Constitution, which
institutes the state of siege. The
case of journalist Ramon Santiago Moreno, among others, deserves
mention, since he had been under arrest, by virtue of the aforesaid
article, from August 3, 1982, until December 24 of that year.
Other cases concerned the situation of Mr. Ruben Varon, who was
arrested on August 3, 1982, and nor released until February 18, 1983,
and Mr. Eugenio Ocampo Llama, who was arrested, brought to trial before
competent court that dismissed the case, but continued under detention
from September 14, 1981, until December 10, 1982, by virtue of article
79 of the National Constitution. The most exceptional case is that of Sergeant Guillermo
Escolastico Ovando, who, having served the fifteen years of the jail
term imposed by a military tribunal has continued in detention since
December 1977, under the provisions of Article 79.
Moreover on some occasions the Government of Paraguay resorted to
the expediency of Article 79 for purposes of arresting political
opposition leaders, holding them for some time, and then expelling them
from the country, denying them permission to return.
There are the cases, among others, of Mr. Domingo Laino, a writer
and university professor; Mr. Luis Alfonso Resk, chairman of the
Christian Democratic Party, and Mr. Augusto Roa Bastos, a writer.
This is especially noteworthy since the Minister of the Interior,
Dr. Sabino Augusto Montanaro, declared on February 21, 1983, after the
general elections, that all exiles would be allowed to return to the
country, except for Messrs. Laino, Resk and Bastos.
He alleged that the first-named had been deported for having
painted street walls with political slogans that amounted to a
government destabilization campaign.
The second-named was said to have been deported for inciting to
rebellion, and the third, according to the Minister, for having
maintained relations with Soviet elements.
Uruguay, the state of emergency has been kept in effect by virtue of the
national security law, enacted by the National Congress in July 1972,
which suspended certain constitutional guarantees of persons identified
as carrying out subversive activities and for whom it was also
established that military tribunals would hear their cases.
Decrees issued subsequently by the military government and
broadened the emergency powers. In
August of this year, police arrested hundreds of demonstrators who were
protesting against the government’s decision to ban all political
activities in the country, a ban that threatened to interrupt compliance
with the political time schedule that would lead to a democratic process
in Uruguay. A communiqué
of the Uruguayan police announced that 83 persons have been arrested and
that most of them had been released, with four being turned over to the
civil courts for having assaulted a police officer. The Commission has received information from various sources
that the detainees had been mistreated by the police officers.
Likewise, the Commission is concerned about the situation in
which many imprisoned persons, having served their respective sentences,
are not released, and the fact that some of them have even been
re-sentenced and are currently serving additional sentences for offenses
supposedly committed against state security while they were serving
their original sentences.
guarantees and rights to a fair trial and due process, recognized both
in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the
American Convention on Human Rights, are still suspended in several
countries (Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay,) under
internal legal measures enacted prior to September 1982.
In other cases, such as Guatemala, those rights and guarantees
were suspended after that date, and in still others, the rights and
guarantees, although not suspended, have not been duly observed.
Commission regrets that, although neither the American Declaration on
the Rights and Duties of Man nor the American Convention on Human Rights
authorizes the suspension of the legal guarantees essential to the
protection and defense of the fundamental rights contained in those
international instruments, during the period covered by this report,
hundred of persons were subjected to police investigations and judicial
procedures that were inadequate because the individuals were not given
due process nor afforded the minimum guarantees that are essential to
ensuring fair and proper investigative procedures and trials.
most significant of all the cases of violations of the right to a fair
trial and due process took place in Guatemala, when the Government
headed by former president Efrain Ríos Montt issued Decree Nº 46-82 of
July 1, 1982, which created and put into operations the Courts of
Special Jurisdiction to try persons charged with subverting or
destroying the country’s legal, political, social and economic
structure. These Courts of
Special Jurisdiction, truly courts-martial, sat in secret, and followed
procedures, standards and methods that were military in nature.
In the course of their existence, it was impossible to find out
where they were based, who their members were, how many members they
had, or how frequently they met. On
the occasion of its on-site visits to Guatemala, the Commission was able
to ascertain by reading and examining the files kept by those Courts,
and in interviews with some of the persons brought to trial, that
absolutely no legal guarantees were observed in the proceedings, trials
or sentencing of the accused, many of whom were found guilty solely on
the basis of self-incriminatory statements, which in most cases, were
extracted through torture. The accused were not allowed counsel, nor
even the most elementary means of defense.
By order of these Courts three sets of, executions were carried
out in Guatemala on September 17, 1982 and March 3 and 22, 1983, with a
total of 15 people being brought before the firing squad.
the ouster of General Efrain Ríos Montt on August 8, 1983, the first
measure announced by the new Chief of State of Guatemala, General Oscar
Humberto Mejía Vitores, was the immediate abolition of these Courts.
When he took over the government, he made a statement to the
press to the effect that “the Courts were secret tribunal established
by Ríos Montt to hand out death sentences to alleged ‘subversives’
and ‘common criminals’.”
Nicaragua, the Sandinista Government issued Decree Nº 1233 on April 11,
1983, establishing the Anti-Somoza People’s Courts.
While the preamble to the Decree states that the People’s
Courts are intended to bring to trial the country’s own nationals for
war crimes or crimes against humanity, such an aim is negated by Article
1 of the Decree itself, which establishes that the offenses that shall
be dealt with by the People’s Court are those contemplated under
Decree Nº 1074, Articles 1 and 2, in other words, those established in
the Law on the Maintenance of Order and Public Safety.
This means that the People’s Courts will be used almost
exclusively to try persons accused of political dissidence.
the opinion of this Commission, the Anti-Somoza Courts are tainted from
the very start by that undisguisable prefix “anti”, which conveys or
conditions their lack of impartiality, independence and autonomy.
It must also be borne in mind that far from being judicial
courts, they are administrative tribunals that are subject to the
Ministry of Justice and are composed of members of the militia,
reservists and militants or supporters of the Sandinista National
Liberation Front, in other words, the political enemies of the accused.
As a result, their impartiality, fairness and independence of
judgment are seriously compromised.
regard to El Salvador, the Commission adopted a resolution at its 60th
session held June 27-30, 1983 deploring the delay and denial of the
length of time that has gone by, to bring to trial and punish those
members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces who tortured and murdered the
American religious workers. Sisters Ida Ford and Maura Clark of the Maryknoll Order,
Dorothy Koesel of the Ursulines, and Jean Donovan, during the course of
a military operation.
resolution was duly forwarded to the Government of El Salvador so that
it might make such observation as it deemed pertinent, but to date, no
reply has been received on the matter.
Nevertheless, the Commission is aware of the efforts the
President of the Republic has made to guarantee the independence of the
the limitation that have been noted and the absence of a truly
independent judiciary in many countries, some progress has been made to
the administration of justice in the period covered by this report,
which the Commission wishes to emphasize.
Argentina, federal judges are beginning to participate more actively in
investigations of the crime of unlawful arrests, in which they have
called ranking military officers to testify.
Some judges, in fact, have contacted the Commission requesting
information on cases of arrested persons who have disappeared.
Chile, likewise, although there has been no formal change in the
judicial system, the Appellate Courts are changing their attitude and,
in some instances, have revoked the charges against persons indicted for
breaking the law of state security.
They did so in July 1983, in the case of the former Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Chile, Gabriel Valdés, and other political leaders,
who had been arrested and held incommunicado.
They were released as a result of a ruling by the Court of
appeals of Santiago, which was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court.
It should also be mentioned in this report that Dr. Rafael
Retamal was elected President of the Supreme Court.
freedom, established in Article 12 of the American Convention and in the
constitutions of most of the American nations, is intended to guarantee
every person’s right to hold, maintain, or change his beliefs or
religion as well as to manifest them in public or in private,
individuals or together with others, unimpeded.
speaking, the Commission has not discerned any marked violations of this
rights in the period covered, although it has been concerned about some
unjustified hindrances, such as harassment, threats, expulsions from the
country, and detentions, which had had an effect on the full
effectiveness of freedom of conscience and religion.
the Commission noted in its report on that country, the Catholic Church
in Guatemala under the Government of General Ríos Montt was subjected
to continuous harassment in its efforts to fulfill its pastoral mission,
particularly in the rural and Indian areas.
Many priests, nuns and missionaries had to leave the country to
save their lives, after having been branded as “channels of
information” for the guerrilla groups.
Some did not receive reentry permits and in other instances, the
immigration service only granted them permits to live and work in their
respective zones for periods of three months.
The Quiché Department is a case in point: some of the places of
worship, rectories, convents, and other properties of the church were
burned and, in other cases, confiscated and occupied by the Army. The Ríos
Montt Government announced its decision to grant indemnification for and
repair the damages to these religious communities.
The Commission trusts that the present Government will honor that
Commission as also been especially concerned in regard to the
polarization in Guatemala of the Catholic Church and the Protestant
denominations on the one hand, and on the other, of the fundamentalist
sects, particularly the Church of the Word, which came to have
preponderance not only in Guatemala society but also, and especially, in
high government offices. Statements
made by the new President, General Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores, on
assuming the presidency, underscoring the religious fanaticism’ that
enveloped ranking government officials, including the deposed President,
reinforce the Commission’s apprehension on this delicate point.
Catholic Church and its clergy in Nicaragua have continued to have
difficulties in their relations with the government.
The polarization of the followers of the traditional Catholic
Church and the Popular Catholic Church is well known.
The IACHR considers it vital that the government adopts an
irreproachably neutral stance and enjoins this upon all those in its
service, to avoid an aggravation of the situation and to pave the way
for an ongoing dialogue between the Catholic hierarchy and the
government in an effort to surmount the present difficulties.
Additionally, the predominant religion on the Atlantic Coast, the
Moravian faith, most of whose members are Miskitos, is encountering the
most serious difficulties in pursuing its religious activities.
Although some of the problems have been solved, such as a
prohibition against some of the pastors’ endeavors, were allowed to do
so. In this sense, the
Commission trusts that the steps undertaken by the National Commission
for the Prevention of infringements against and the Protection of Human
Rights to obtain a pardon, pursuant to Decree 858 of the Clemency Law,
for the Moravian leaders Emilio López Smith, Higinio Morazán Dison,
Angel Bello Lackwood, Adrian Pasquier Ramos, Sandalio Patron Doroteo,
and Heculano Edward Salomón, may be granted.
Catholic Church in Chile, which has traditionally shown its concern for
the protection of human rights by denouncing abuses of power by the
civil and police authorities, and by assuming the legal defense of
persons whose rights had allegedly been violated, has encountered
difficulties in carrying out its pastoral mission this year.
The Catholic Church made public denunciations, national and
internationally, of the illegal arrest and subsequent expulsion in March
1983 of three Catholic priests without formal charges or trial.
His Eminence Cardinal Silva Henriquez, then Archbishop of
Santiago, stated: “The church cannot permit the political power to judge by
itself and before itself the pastoral activities of the Church.”
He further stated, “The expulsion of Catholic clergymen from
the country is detrimental to the relationship between the Church and
the State at all levels. This
attitude infringes on freedom of religion.” Monsignor Juan de Castro
Reyes, Vicar of the Solidarity of the Archbishopric of Santiago, noted,
“The basic fact … is that the Church is being harassed, these events
confirm that the Church is being mistreated.”
Adding to this, the Commission was advised that Rev. Pablo
Fontaine Aldunate and Rev. Jeremiah Healy Kertrins were detained on
March 26, 1983, as they left a memorial service for the late Archbishop
of El Salvador, César Arnulfo Romero.
The authorities accused them of participating in political
demonstrations and in conspiring against the security of the State.
The archbishop of Santiago denounced this as an arbitrary
measure. Furthermore, on September 14, 1983, several priests and nuns
were detained for publicly protesting the use of torture in Chile,
although they were subsequently released.
TO FREEDOM OF INVESTIGATION, OPINION, EXPRESSION AND DISSEMINATION
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of the Man establishes
this right and states that it can be exercised by any medium whatsoever.
establishing freedom of though and expression, the American Convention
on Human Rights did so in the broadest fashion, indicating that this
right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and
ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing,
in print, in the form of art, or through any other procedure.
It also establishes that the exercise of this right cannot be
subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent
imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law in
order to ensure respect for the rights or reputations of others and the
protection of national security, public order, or public health or
the period analyzed in this report, in those American countries with
prolonged states of emergency, an atmosphere of fear and insecurity
prevailed. This was due to
the legislation itself as well as the abusive control by the
governments, which have arbitrarily suspended or threatened to suspend
or close mass communication media, all of which has led in practice to
self-censorship by such information media.
Under these circumstances, the exercise of such an important
right has been seriously restricted.
IACHR also wishes to stress the fact that, when this principle is
injured, the nation’s thought and political activities are not the
only things affected. Cultural
development also suffers; artistic freedom is restricted; and cultural
expressions as important as the theater, and literary production and
books, which show the characteristics of the countries with their
virtues and shortcomings do not find a favorable environment for working
freely and thus progressing.
censorship of the press, books and artistic productions in general, and
the occasional banning of writers and artists are expressions most
typical of totalitarian societies, which should be removed from our
aspect worthy of special attention is the matter of academic research,
especially in the university centers.
Universities lacking autonomy in the guidance, determination and
management of research programs in the economic, political and social
fields can make little progress and take little advantage of the
resources offered by contemporary advanced technology.
Governments where this occurs, rather than intervening in,
controlling and censoring activities of this kind, should foster them,
encourage them and provide them with financial support.
some countries of the hemisphere, there have been attacks against this
right, which the Commission wishes to point out.
Commission has reports from Argentina according to which in the period
covered by this report mass communication media, such as the magazines
“La Semana,” “Quorum” and “Linea,” were suspended or
temporarily closed. Also,
on occasion, all the communication media have been prohibited from
publishing specific news items on various topics, including some
political items and others related to matters of public order. Several Argentine journalists have also been subjected to
questioning, threats and harassment over these last 12 months.
Brazil, under the National Security Act, the Law of the Press, and
Decree Law 1077 of January 6, 1977, which provide for restrictions on
freedom of the press, certain journalists, such as Julio de Mesquita
Neto, Omar Bessio Trindade, Carlos Rafael Guimaraes, Elmar Bonnes de
Costa, Rosuita Saveressig Laux, Paulo Roberto Ferreira and Juvencio
Mazzarollo, were indicted and tried.
The Commission has taken note of public declarations by
government authorities announcing the government’s willingness to
amend the law on National Security to allow for exercise of this right.
March 1983, the military authority of the Catholic University in Chile
refused to grant time on that university’s television channel to the
Cardinal, Archbishop of Santiago. In
May 1983, the news programs of the “Cooperative Vitalicia” radio
station were suspended for nine days.
On the other hand, although various restrictions against this
right have continued. In June of this year the government provided for an end to
prior censorship of book publication, which is a step forward with
regard to the previous situation whereby the government had presented
the entry of or had censored various books.
countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, the prevailing atmosphere of
violence and insecurity has led those responsible for the communication
media to censor themselves, which keeps public opinion from having duly
Haiti, the 1980 Law of the Press, which establishes prior censorship,
continues in effect. The
communication media which were closed in 1980 remain closed and the
large majority of the men and women of the written and spoken media who
were jailed or expelled from the country continue to be detained or in
Grenada, Leslie Pierre, editor of the “Voice”, has been under arrest
without charges since 1981 because of the government’s opposition.
Likewise, following the Grenadian government’s closing of the
newspaper “The Torchlight” and the Church Bulletin “Catholic
Focus,” the Commission, in accordance with the American Convention on
Human Rights, has been acting as an agent for peaceful solution in order
to reach a solution to this case based on respect for human rights,
taking into account that the parties in dispute have accepted its
of the most serious cases of restriction of this right is occurring in
Nicaragua. Prior censorship, particularly of the daily “La Prensa,”
exercised thus far partially and unfairly, has repeatedly held that
paper from circulation due to the obstacles placed in the way by the
government; or in other instances it has led to its temporary
suspension. This arbitrary
behavior by the government and the restrictions it also imposes on radio
broadcasts, especially on newscasts and programs involving opinions,
which express a view different from the government’s policies, go
beyond the limits a government can reach even in a state of emergency.
Paraguay, despite the fact that the existence of the state of siege and
of Law 209 on “Defense of Public Peace and Individual Freedom”
maintains a constant threat over the communication media, such media
were enjoying considerable freedom to publish news and commentary
through the use of self-censorship.
Nevertheless, beginning in May 1983, the repression against the
communication media appears to have started up again. Free distribution of the daily newspaper “ABC Color”
began to be hindered early that month through detention of the trucks
carrying the paper. It’s
Director, Aldo Zucolillo, who was arrested for allegedly violation the
Special Law on Privileges. Mr.
Zucolillo who was freed on bond, is being tried for having committed
that crime. Moreover, the
Paraguayan authorities decided to punish the local station “Radio Ñanduti”
by closing it for one month and also prohibiting use of the open mike in
the country’s broadcasting stations. Previously, on December 30, 1982, the weekly “La República”
had been closed by order of the Executive Branch for having published,
as reported by the government, a subversive manifesto aimed at the armed
forces. Likewise, on
December 9, 1982, the police confiscated a shipment of books entitled
“The Merchant General,” by Dr. Domingo Laino, which were to come out
on December 10. Dr. Laino,
his wife and the publisher-owner of the printing plant were the book was
printed, Mr. Enrique Velilla, were jailed at that time.
Mrs. Laino and Mr. Velilla were set free and Mr. Laino was
expelled from the country.
Suriname there is no free exercise of this right.
The government controls all the information media and censors the
news. Freedom of opinion is
also seriously threatened by provisions adopted by the Council of
Ministers, which prohibit the possession, distribution, sale and
importation of any article, which could be considered a threat to
national security and public order.
Uruguay, on August 2, 1983, the government, in addition to prohibiting
all political activity, also banned the publication of news items on
politics. By applying the
same decree, in September 1983 the Government closed the weekly papers
“Aqui” and “Opinar” because of their reporting the steps being
taken by the European Economic Community to obtain the release of
General Liber Seregni, who has been in prison for the last ten years.
to the facts set forth, the Commission reaffirms the needs to respect
this right and, because of the consideration set forth, to allow its
full exercise, thus protecting those who conscientiously carry out the
function of reporting and those who have the right to be informed
without arbitrary interference.
its 1980-81 Annual Report to the General Assembly, the Commission
pointed out that the government have the obligation vis-à-vis these
rights and the right to political participation to allow and guarantee
the organization of all political parties and other associations.
The states must also protect the free exercise of political
activities, which must include, among other thing, peaceful opposition,
free discussion of topics related to socio-economic-development, and
access to and conduct of free election with the guarantees indispensable
for the results to express the people’s will.
was not in vain that the states, upon signing the Charter of the
Organization, reaffirmed as guiding principle of the system the fact
that American solidarity requires political organization based on the
effective exercise of representative democracy.
At its eleventh and twelfth regular session, the General Assembly
itself, upon taking up the reports of the IACHR, pointed out that the
democratic structure is an essential factor in establishing a political
society in which human values can be truly fulfilled, and it agreed with
the Commission regarding the urgency of making political rights
respected and that in those countries which have not yet done so, the
democratic system of government should be reestablished or improved so
that the exercise of power will stem from the legitimate and free
expression of the people’s will.
view of the turmoil in the region, achievements of these persons makes
it necessary to promote programs with much imagination and effort that
will strengthen the democratic institutions by making them more
functional and by establishing mechanism whereby the citizens will
participate increasingly in the great decisions of the state.
Of course, the governments cannot strengthen the democratic
institutions to the hemisphere by themselves.
The political parties are currently responsible for improving
their working systems, researching social problems more thoroughly in
order to offer the best alternatives, modernizing their methods of
actions and putting them on a technical footing and, above all, upon
exercising the right of opposition, seeing that this is done through
peaceful and legal means. It
is important, especially in those countries, which have reinstituted
democratic systems, generally after painful experiences, that the
political parties understand their enormous responsibility in upholding
and preserving democracy.
respect for political parties and dialogue as a means of preserving
social peace, together with specific programs that will develop some of
the concerns indicated here, may be the basis for a sounder and more
participatory democracy in our hemisphere.
is why the Commission looks with approval upon the measures some
countries have been taking to hold elections and to establish democratic
systems, which in 1984 and 1985 will enable a return to constitutional
normality in those countries. On
the other hand, in other countries, the Commission observes with great
concern how current governments, in order to remain in power, deny any
participation by the people in choosing their authorities, thus bringing
about, as the Commission has observed in previous reports, extreme
positions which can only lead to a worsening of human rights situations
and to acts of terrorism by and against the governments.
Argentina, the political process has been developing within a broad and
complete framework of guarantees. General
elections have been set for October 30, 1983, and the takeover by the
new Constitutional Government has been set for January 1984.
The Commission has observed all of this with great satisfaction.
Commission is pleased to put on record the installation of the current
democratic government in Bolivia. At
the appropriate time, the General Assembly of the Organization had the
opportunity to express itself on the interruption of that country’s
constitutional process and instructed the Commission to act.
Therefore, upon reconfirming its satisfaction with the change
that has occurred in Bolivia, the IACHR urges the Organization of
American States to give all the support necessary to strengthen and
preserve its democratic form of government.
state and country election was held in Brazil in November 1982, and
election of the new President of the Republic by the Electoral College
is expected in November 1984. The
process of democratizing Brazil proposed by President Joao Figueiredo
thus will be carried out, with full guarantees for the participating
Commission has taken due note of the statements made by the senior
authorities of the Chilean Government with regard to engaging in a
dialogue with the democratic opposition groups and initiating a
political opening. Although
this dialogue is currently suspended, this year’s events show more
than ever the urgency and need for a change in position by the
government, establishing conditions favoring exercise of the political
rights of all Chileans and allowing, as soon as possible, the
establishment of a democratic system stemming from free, secret and
informed elections with equal access by all participants to the mass
communication media and reflecting the people’s will.
If the strong desire of the Chilean majority to achieve such a
democratic system—shown by the monthly peaceful protests, among other
actions—is frustrated, this could lead that country to very
regrettable consequences, including a high cost in human lives.
This explains the statements by high religious authorities
speaking of the need to restore democracy in Chile as the only way to
avoid violence and to consolidate a stable and lasting social peace.
respect to El Salvador, the Commission repeats its recommendations
regarding the need to find a political solution that involves all
sectors, that on the basis of that agreement a date be set for general
elections to which all political groups have access with the necessary
guarantees to assure that the results truly reflect the will of the
Grenada, the government announced on June 4, 1983, the appointment of a
five-person committee entrusted with drafting a new constitution to
replace the current one, which has been suspended since the 1979 coup
d’état. According to
a statement by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, if the constitution is
approved by a plebiscite, elections will be called within 18 to 24 hours
Guatemala, the government headed by General Mejia Victores, which
assumed power in August, has indicated that it will adhere to the
political schedule offered by the previous government.
In this regard, election of a constituent assembly is set for
July 1984. According to the
law on convocation, which its aims and objectives.
As announced, the constituent assembly would begin its work on
September 15, 1984.
new electoral law was enacted in Haiti on December 15, 1982.
This law includes provisions for the election of community
representatives and councilmen. The
law assembles the various legislative acts, laws and decrees on election
and introduces certain specifications and changes deemed appropriate.
In keeping with this law, municipal elections (the first since
1957) were held from April to July 1983.
Nevertheless, these elections were carried out in an atmosphere
of insecurity and fear due to the virtual existence of a state of siege,
and the lack of individual guarantees, and while the main opposition
leaders were imprisoned or in exile.
Included among these were Gregoire Eugen, Chairman of the
Christian Social Party, exiled; Silvio Claude, Chairman of the Haitian
Christian Democratic Party, under house arrest, Marie France Claude,
Secretary of the aforementioned party, exiled, and Frantz Denise, whom
the Haitian Christian Democratic Party had nominated for Mayor of
Port-au-Prince in place of Silvio Claude, imprisoned in May 1983.
Other members of the PSCH were imprisoned in June 1983, as
follows: Duplex Jean Baptist, attorney; P. Andre; Paul Theodat; Augustin
Auguste, Jacques Perard Bertulien, Emilius Bernet, Jacques Joseph and
others. Enactment of the
electoral law and the holding of elections, even in the aforementioned
circumstances, which the Commission would like to interpreter as signs
that the initial steps might have been taken in Haiti toward a political
opening, have vanished due to the adoption of the new constitution.
This, as has been stated elsewhere in this report, confirms Jean
Claude Duvalier as President of the Republic for life, gives him the
right to designate his successor, and grants powers over the affairs of
the Nation during the recess of the legislative branch.
regard to Nicaragua, the Commission should repeat its observations let
forth in the Annual Report for 1981-82 that the exercise of political
rights is one of the most sensitive and serious factors in that
country’s human rights problem. There
is no atmosphere of respect and tolerance for persons who profess other
tan official beliefs and ideologies.
Such persons, during the period covered by this report, have not
been free to exercise their political rights, which is the only way to
ensure true ideological pluralism.
The Commission is not unaware of the difficult situation
Nicaragua is experiencing at the present time.
Nevertheless, in the Commission’s judgment, the Government has
the obligation to respect the legitimate rights of the peaceful
opposition and to seek to hold general elections without subjecting them
to conditions which, as the Commission indicated, are evaluated
subjectively by the government authorities.
In this regard, the Commission has taken note of the State
Council’s approval on August 17, 1983, of the bill on political
parties, which must be approved by the Government Junta to become law. Its prompt issuance and full observance by the parties and
authorities could constitute a substantial political opening, if it is
complemented by an electoral law setting forth the conditions and
circumstances for holding free, secret and informed elections within a
short period, open to all Nicaraguan political sectors.
In this regard, the Commission wishes to recall that the June 23,
1979, resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers
of Foreign Affairs sets forth as a basis for solution of the serious
problems of the Nicaraguan people in paragraphs 3 and 4 “guarantee of
the respect for human rights of all Nicaragua without exception” and
“the holding of free elections as soon as possible, that will lead to
the establishment of a truly democratic government that guarantees
peace, freedom and justice.” In
turn, the Nicaraguan Government Junta, in its “plan to achieve
peace,” invited all the government of America to call all Nicaraguans
to hold free elections to choose their representatives to the
municipalities and to elect the country’s highest authorities at a
the period covered by this report, an electoral process was developed in
Paraguay, which resulted in general elections on February 6, 1983.
Here General Alfredo Stroessner was elected President of the
Republic for the sixth consecutive time.
Even though the state of siege, which had existed in the country
since 1954, was lifted for Election Day, it is a fact that the
successive and uninterrupted renewal of the state of siege through
decrees issued every 90 days has caused an exceptional situation to
become permanent. This, and
the existence of Law 209 on “protection of public peace and freedom of
individual” caused the entire electoral process to be carried out in
an atmosphere of restriction on public freedoms, fear and insecurity,
while the leaders of the opposition, as has been stated elsewhere in
this report, were persecuted and imprisoned or made to leave the
Suriname, the present government’s program does not guarantee the
principles established in the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man to maintain a democratic system based on universal, free
and secret suffrage and the right to participate in the conduct of
public affairs. The
establishment of people’s committees or militias and other similar
organizations constitutes a serious restriction on participation by
citizens of Suriname in their country’s government.
In the opinion of the IACHR, the current process of
institutionalization, which is under way in Suriname, does not allow the
free exercise of political rights.
In Uruguay an announcement by the government of the desire to return to a democratic system has been a good sign. The schedule announced provided for national elections by November 1984 and turnover of authority to the new government by May 1985. However, these favorable measures have been contradicted by the massive arrests in July, August and September 1983 of peaceful demonstrators who basically call for a seed-up in attaining a democratic system; by the decree of August 2 prohibiting the activities of the political parties; and by declaring illegal certain civic organizations, especially the Service of Peace and Justice, the only human rights entity which functioned freely in Uruguay.