OF THE IACHR
Since September 1984, the date on which the activities covered in
the previous Annual Report ended, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights held three sessions: the sixty-third, the sixty-fourth, and the
sixty-fifth. These sessions were held at the headquarters of the
Commission, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American
States, Washington, D.C.
The General Assembly met in November in Brasilia. It approved
important resolutions on human rights, which are transcribed in this
In addition, the Commission made on-site observation visits in
Suriname and Guatemala, and summaries are given on them and the
above-mentioned General Assembly in this chapter.
At the inauguration of these three sessions, the Chairman of the
Permanent Council and the Secretary General of the OAS were present.
During these meetings, emphasis was placed on the Commission’s
effectiveness and the importance of its work.
At each one of these sessions, the Chairman and the Executive
Secretary of the Commission presented their respective reports, as the
This session was held
September 24-October 5, 1984, at the Commission’s headquarters in
Washington, D.C. All members participated: Mr. César Sepúlveda,
Chairman; Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Luis
Adolfo Siles Salinas, Second Vice Chairman; Dr. Andrés Aguilar; Dr.
Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra; Dr. Gilda Maciel Russomano; and Mr. Bruce
The Commission approved its annual report to the General Assembly
of the OAS, which was submitted to the Assembly’s fourteenth regular
session. In addition, the Commission accepted an invitation from the
Government of Suriname to conduct an on-site observation visit to that
country, and proposed that it take place in January 1985.
The Commission considered the invitation from the Government of
Grenada to visit that country and decided to make that visit after the
elections in that country, without prejudice to sending observers to the
announced trials of those accused of being responsible for the murder of
the former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and members of his cabinet.
In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
adopted at its 63rd session Resolution 17/84 on the case of
the journalist Stephen Schmidt in the Republic of Costa Rica. The IACHR
approved the resolution by five votes for and one against, with one
abstention. The Commission stated in that decision that Organic Law 4420
of September 18, 1969, of the Press Association (Colegio de Periodistas)
of Costa Rica, the rules governing it, and the verdict handed down by
the Third Section of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Costa Rica on
June 3, 1983, sentencing Mr. Stephen Schmidt to three months in prison
for illegal exercise of the profession of journalism, as well as the
other facts established in the petition, do not constitute a violation
of the provisions on freedom of thought and expression in Article 13 of
the American Convention on Human Rights. The text of the resolution is
contained in Chapter III of this report.
During this session, other general matters concerning the
protection of human rights were reviewed. The question of imposition of
the death penalty was taken up, and the Commission decided, in
accordance with the spirit of Article 4 of the American Convention on
Human Rights and the universal trend to eliminate the death penalty, to
call on all countries in the Americas to abolish it.
In accordance with the rules governing it—the Convention, its
Statute, and its Regulations—the Commission also considered various
petitions containing complaints of alleged violations of human rights,
and adopted resolutions on some of them, which are contained in another
part of this report. As is customary at its sessions, the Commission
received persons and representatives of institutions that had asked to
The fourteenth regular session of the OAS General Assembly was
held November 12-17, 1984, in Brasilia. The IACHR was represented by its
Chairman, Dr. César Sepúlveda and Dr. Gilda Russomano, accompanied by
its Executive Secretary, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño.
According to the General Assembly’s agenda, the following
topics concerning the Commission were taken up:
Annual Report of the IACHR 1983-1984 (AG/doc. 1778/84).
The Commission’s Report on the Situation of Human Rights of
Segment of the Nicaraguan Population of Miskito Origin. This report was
also published later in the Miskito language, which is the first OAS
document published in an Indian language.
Twenty-five Years of Activities of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights.
In addition, the OAS General Assembly at its fourteenth regular
session approved the following resolutions on the topics listed above:
REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN
ON HUMAN RIGHTS
adopted at the eighth plenary session,
on November 17, 1984)
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HAVING SEEN the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (AG/doc. 1778/84), the Special Report of the Commission
(AG/doc. 1779/84), and the observations and replies from the
That the protection and exercise of human rights is one of the
lofty purposes of the Organization of American States and that their
observance is a source of solidarity among the member states as well as
a guarantee of respect for human life and the dignity of man;
That the principal purpose of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in
all the member states;
That the democratic system is essential to the establishment of a
political society in which human values can be fully realized;
That it is necessary to
stress the positive evolution already begun or completed in some
countries toward a return to democracy;
That it is also a positive step that certain countries have
adopted measures which contribute significantly to observance of the
rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man and in the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José),
despite which situations still persist which adversely affect observance
of the rights of the individual, the dignity of man, personal security
and safety as well as the values of democracy, including social justice;
That in its Annual Report 1983/84, the Commission sets forth in
detail that in some countries of the hemisphere human rights are still
being violated, as in cases of deaths caused by actions imputable to
governmental authorities, detentions without trial, investigatory police
actions devoid of the minimum guarantees that the proper administration
of justice demands, administrative expulsion of nationals, obstacles
placed in the way of freedom of religion and worship, and the serious
restrictions imposed on freedom of opinion, expression, dissemination of
thought and political rights;
That the practice of the forced disappearance of persons still
continues and in the majority of cases the disappearances have not been
That this practice is cruel and inhuman, mocks the rule of law,
and undermines those norms which guarantee protection against arbitrary
detention and the right to personal security and safety;
That it is necessary to reiterate the importance of economic,
social and cultural rights in the context of human rights for the
integral development of the individual;
That Chapter V of the Annual Report of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights makes reference to the urgent need to find an
appropriate solution to the problems derived from the massive
displacement of persons in the hemisphere, taking into consideration the
new reality which has emerged in recent years with regard to refugees
and displaced persons;
That the Commission
notes in Chapter V of its Annual Report the request that the member
states and the organs and bodies of the inter-American system present
specific proposals regarding the content of the Additional Protocol to
the Pact of San José as regards economic, social and cultural rights;
That the Commission also emphasizes the urgency of paying greater
attention to the teaching of human rights in order to disseminate the
norms and principles relating to their protection,
1. To take note, with
interest, of the Annual Report, the Special Report and the
recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to
thank the Commission and to congratulate it on the serious and important
work it is doing in the field of protection and promotion of human
2. To urge the governments
of the states mentioned in the Annual Report to accept the
Commission’s recommendations in accordance with the provisions of
their constitutions and their domestic law in order to ensure the
faithful observance of the human rights set forth in the American
Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention
on Human Rights.
3. To take note of the
comments and observations of the governments of the member states and of
the reports on the measures that they have taken and will continue
putting into practice to guarantee human rights in their countries.
4. To reiterate that the
practice of the forced disappearance of persons in the Americas is an
affront to the conscience of the hemisphere and constitutes a crime
5. To urge those states in
which disappearances of persons have occurred to clarify their situation
and inform their families of their fate.
6. To reiterate the need to
prevent and, where appropriate, to put an immediate end to violations of
human rights, especially the right to life, personal security and
liberty and the right to a fair trial and due process; and to reaffirm
that summary executions, torture and detention without due process
constitute extremely serious violations of human rights.
7. To recommend to those
member states that have not yet done so that they reestablish and
improve the system of representative democracy based on free elections
through secret, universal suffrage; and without prejudice to the
foregoing, the characteristics and circumstances of each country shall
be taken into account and their laws respected, and in every case, all
citizens shall be given access to the mass communications media and
shall enjoy the other guarantees essential for election results to
represent the will of the people.
8. To remind the member
states of the need to guarantee the full exercise of freedom of
conscience, religion and worship, as well as the right to freedom of
inquiry, opinion, expression and dissemination of thought, bearing in
mind the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the
American Convention on Human Rights.
9. To reaffirm that an
aspect of the effective protection of human rights must be recognition
of rights of a social, economic and cultural character, emphasizing the
responsibility of the governments of the member states in the process of
promoting cooperation for hemispheric development.
10. To reiterate its request
to the Permanent Council that it submit a report to the General Assembly
at its fifteenth regular session on the status of the work relating to
the serious problem of refugees and the mass displacement of persons in
the hemisphere, while bearing in mind the recommendations made by the
Commission in Chapter V of its Annual Report.
11. To note with
satisfaction the decision of the governments of the member states that
have invited the Commission to visit their respective countries, and to
urge the governments of states that have not accepted or agreed to a
date for such a visit to do so as soon as possible.
12. To invite the member
states and other interested organs and entities to present specific
proposals to the General Assembly on the content of the draft Additional
Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights as regards economic,
social and cultural rights, especially as regards the definition of the
rights subject to protection and the institutional mechanisms which
should be created to ensure their adequate protection.
13. To urge the member
states to incorporate the teaching of human rights in their official
curricula by including such reading matter both in primary and secondary
school courses, bearing in mind the respective constitutional systems
and the corresponding international instruments.
14. To request the
Commission to continue monitoring the situation of human rights in such
member states as it deems appropriate and to report thereon to the
General Assembly at its fifteenth regular session.
15. To invite the
governments of those member states that have not yet done so to consider
the advisability of accession to or ratification of the American
Convention on Human Rights.
16. To urge all governments
to provide the Commission with the cooperation necessary for it to carry
out its work properly, particularly as regards a timely response to the
Commission’s requests for information on individual cases.
YEARS OF ACTIVITIES OF THE INTER-AMERICAN
ON HUMAN RIGHTS
adopted at the eighth plenary session,
on November 17, 1984)
This year completes twenty-five years of activities of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, established by Resolution
VIII of the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign
Affairs held in Santiago, Chile, in 1959; and
Protection and exercise of human rights constitute one of the
highest purposes of the Organization of American States, and their
observance is a source of solidarity among the member states as well as
a guarantee of respect for human life and the dignity of man,
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
1. To thank the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for an to congratulate it on
the important work accomplished in fulfillment of its mandate to promote
and defend human rights during the twenty-five years of its activities.
2. To express its steadfast
support to the Commission for the work done and to reaffirm the
importance that its reports have for the defense of human rights.
3. To urge all the
governments to continue to give the Commission the cooperation it needs
to accomplish its work.
The Commission was invited by the Government of Suriname on
August 1, 1984, to make an on-site observation visit to that country.
When it accepted the invitation, the Commission suggested that the visit
take place in January 1985 and scheduled it from the week of January
12-17 in agreement with the Suriname Government.
Before the visit, and IACHR Special Commission held hearings in
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on January 8-10, to hear the testimony of
Suriname citizens claiming violations of human rights by the Government
of Suriname, which allegedly occurred after the Commission’s first
visit to the country. The members of the Special Commission were Dr. César
Sepúlveda, Chairman, and Dr. Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas, Second Vice
Chairman, assisted by Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary
of the IACHR, and Dr. Claudio Grossman, who served as interpreter.
On January 11, the members of the Special Commission, except for
Dr. Sepúlveda, traveled to Paramaribo, Suriname, where they met with
Mr. Bruce McColm, member of the Commission, Dr. Ernst Brea and Ms. Diana
Decker of the Executive Secretariat’s staff. Later, Dr. Edmundo Vargas
Carreño, Executive Secretary, joined them.
The members of the Special Commission carried out an extensive
program that had been previously prepared for their visit, which
included interviews with the Acting Prime Minister E.L. Tjon Kie Sim, in
the absence of the Prime Minister Mr. Wim Udenhout and the Acting
President of the Republic L.F. Ramdat Misier, the Acting First Justice
of the Supreme Court, Mr. Oosterling; the following government
ministers: Labor, Mr. Siegfreid Gilds; Justice, Mr. Frank L. Leeflang;
and the Army and Police, Mr. W.P. Maynard, as well as leaders of
religious, political, labor press, university and professional groups.
Visits were also made to military installations and prisons in Fort
Zeelandia, Santo Boma and Membre Boekoe Kazerne. A subgroup traveled to
the interior of the country, visiting the Bush Negro community named
Tepoe. A number of special projects subsidized by the government were
also visited, such as children’s nurseries, leprosariums, and old-age
The visit ended on January 18 with a press conference and the
issuance of a press release. The Commission has submitted to this
General Assembly a separate special report of the Special Commission
(OEA/Ser.L/V/II.65, doc. 11).
The Commission held its sixty-fourth session March 4-8, 1985, at
its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Participating were its Chairman,
Dr. César Sepúlveda, and the following members: Andrés Aguilar, Marco
Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Gilda M. Russomano and Bruce McColm.
At the session, the Commission was pleased to receive the
Chairman of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Dr. Pedro Nikken
and Justices Thomas Buergenthal, Rafael Nieto and Carlos Roberto Reina,
as well as the Court Secretary, Dr. Charles Moyer. Views were exchanged
about matters of common interest to the two organs established for the
protection of human rights by the Pact of San José, Costa Rica.
The Commission held a special ceremony on March 7, attended by
the Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador João Clemente Baena
Soares, the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Val T. McComie, and
a number of diplomats accredited to the Organization. At that ceremony,
the Commission presented the book “Human Rights in the Americas,”
that the IACHR has published as a tribute to the memory of its former
member Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches. The book contains 30
articles by jurists from several American countries on various aspects
of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human
A this session, the Commission received the report drawn up by
the Special Commission that visited Suriname in January for an on-site
study of the status of human rights in that country. In view of the
urgency and importance of this situation, the Commission made several
provisional recommendations for immediate improvements in human rights,
which were submitted to the Government of Suriname.
In addition, the Commission considered the invitation extended to
it by the Government of Guatemala to visit that country to observe the
progress that had been made in the field of human rights. The Commission
decided at that time to schedule the visit for May.
On this occasion, the Commission also continued preparation of a
report on the status of human rights in Chile.
The Commission considered at this session the status of human
rights in other member countries of the OAS and approved several
measures that were recommended to the governments involved.
In addition, the Commission made several changes in its
regulations which were reported in due course to the governments of the
member countries and published in the new edition, updated on July 1,
1985, of the “Handbook of Existing Rules Pertaining to Human Rights in
the Inter-American System,” (OEA/Ser.L/V.II.65, doc. 6).
Pursuant to the pertinent rules of the American Convention on
Human Rights, its Statute and Regulations, the Commission considered
several petitions containing complaints about alleged human rights
violations, and adopted resolutions concerning several of these
petitions. As is customary at its sessions, the Commission received
persons and representatives of institutions that had duly requested to
A Special Commission of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, composed of Dr. César Sepúlveda, Andrés Aguilar, Marco G.
Monroy Cabra and Bruce McColm, conducted at the invitation of the
Government of Guatemala, an on-site observation visit to that country
During its stay in Guatemala, the Special Commission interviewed
the Chief of State, the President of the Constituent National Assembly
and the Human Rights Commission of that Assembly; the President of the
Supreme Court; the President and members of the Electoral Court, the
Attorney General of the Nation and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Interior, and Education. In addition, the Special Commission interviewed
the President of the Committee for National Reconstruction; the Director
of National Policy; the Head of the Police Department of Technical
Investigations; the Chief of the Forensic Medicine Service and the
Judicial Agency; the Director General for Regional Planning; and other
national and departmental, civil and military officials.
The IACHR Special Commission also visited the penitentiaries and
detention centers Granja de Rehabilitación Pavón and the Second
Police Precinct of the capital (Segundo Cuerpo de Policía).
Outside Guatemala City, the Special Commission also visited
several of the so-called development polls (Polos de Desarrollo) located
in the Ixil Triangle in the Department of Quiche, specifically: San
Felipe the Chenlá, Tzalbal, Acul and the Refugee Camp of Acumbal.
The Special Commission likewise held meetings with persons and
representatives of several political, religious, humanitarian, media,
professional, business and labor union organizations, from all of whom
it received important information on the human rights situation in
In addition, the Commission continuously operated in the capital
an office for the receipt of complaints about alleged human rights
violations. These complaints were handled in accordance with applicable
legal rules. The Government of Guatemala has promised the Commission
that no reprisals will be taken against persons who filed complaints
with the Commission or against entities and institutions that provided
information and testimony to it.
Because of its urgency and importance, the Special Commission
turned over to the Chief of State when it completed its visit a
confidential document containing its preliminary recommendations. In
addition, the Special Commission expressed public appreciation in its
press release for the facilities the government provided it for carrying
out its mission, and thanked the authorities, the media, the various
representative institutions of the Guatemalan community, and the
Guatemalan people in general for their cooperation and hospitality.
The sixty-fifth session also was held at IACHR headquarters in
Washington, D.C., June 24-July 1, 1985, with the participation of all
members: Drs. César Sepúlveda, Chairman, Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas,
Second Vice Chairman; Andrés Aguilar, Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra; Gilda
M. Russomano and Bruce McColm, except for its First Vice Chairman, Dr.
Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro, who could not attend the session because of
At that session, the IACHR elected the following officers for
1985: Dr. Andrés Aguilar, Chairman; Dr. Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas,
First Vice Chairman; and Dr. Gilda M. Russomano, Second Vice Chairman.
The Commission expressed for the record its appreciation for the work of
its previous chairman, Dr. César Sepúlveda, who presided over the
Commission for the last two years with exceptional skill.
At this session, the Commission approved a preliminary report on
the status of human rights in Chile. Also, as a result of its on-site
observation mission in January 1985, it adopted a preliminary report on
the status of human rights in Suriname. In accordance with the
appropriate regulations, both reports were transmitted to the
Governments of Chile and Suriname, respectively, so they could submit by
the established deadline any comments they wish to make on it.
At that time, the Commission also decided to accept the Haitian
Government’s invitation to conduct an on-site observation visit in
that country on the status of human rights. The place and other
arrangements for the visit will be determined jointly by the Government
of Haiti and the Commission, in accordance with the IACHR regulations.
The Commission also considered the contents of the Annual Report
to be submitted to the fifteenth regular session of the OAS General
Assembly. In addition to those subjects that must be included pursuant
to the General Assembly and Commission regulations, the IACHR decided to
include a chapter on the status of human rights in Guatemala, which,
based particularly on the Commission’s on-site observation visit last
May, will update its previous reports on that country.
The Commission also took cognizance of the Secretary General’s
efforts to get OAS member countries to pay the contributions they owe,
and decided to express its strongest support for those efforts. The
budgetary and administrative restrictions on the Commission resulting
from the OAS financial crisis is seriously limiting its activities and
impeding its efforts to carry out the tasks set for it by the OAS
Charter of promoting the observance and defense of human rights.
The Commission also considered several complaints of alleged
human rights violations and the general status of human rights in other