The IACHR has closely followed developments in El Salvador, especially since 1978, when, as a result of its on-site visit, it approved a report on the status of human rights in that country. On the basis of that report, it has continued to submit year after year periodic reports to the OAS General Assembly on the most significant actions affecting the status of human rights in El Salvador.


          José Napoleón Duarte, who had previously headed the government of El Salvador—setting up the Government Junta (Junta de Gobierno) in 1980 and presiding over it until March 1982, when he was replaced—became President of the Republic on June 1, 1984, and, as was reported in the last Annual Report, was the first civil candidate elected democratically in El Salvador in 50 years.


          President Duarte’s administration, despite its declared efforts to promote, protect and defend the full observance of human rights in the country, give priority to complaints about violation of those rights and investigate military attacks on civilian populations, guarantee the impartiality of judicial processes, penalize the perpetrators of all violations of human rights, and clarify the acts committed by the “Death Squadrons,” has unfortunately little accomplished in these areas in its one year and three months of existence.


          Although the serious and widespread violations of human rights in the country in recent years have diminished during the period covered by this report, they continue to affect seriously the Salvadoran people in the capital and rural areas. While, according to the complaints received, the armed forces of El Salvador are responsible for most of this violence, the guerrillas are not excluded, and they are also accused of cruel acts of murder, torture and other violations of basic human rights.


          In October 1984, President José Napoleón Duarte began efforts to restore peace and social harmony in El Salvador by opening up dialogue with guerrilla leaders whom he invited publicly in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on October 8, 1984, to participate in talks to that end.


          As a result of this praiseworthy initiative, the principal guerrilla leaders met for the first time on October 15, 1984, in the city of La Palma, 80 kilometers north of El Salvador, with President Duarte. Collaborating in holding the meeting were the Catholic Church, the International Red Cross and diplomatic representatives of a number of countries. A second round of talks took place on November 30 that same year in Ayaguato, 20 kilometers south of El Salvador, but the setting of a new date to continue the dialogue has been postponed on numerous occasions.


          Although both the guerrilla leaders and President Duarte have stated that they are quite disappointed with the results of the negotiations that have been carried out, and both sides have engaged in recriminations against the other side for the failure to reach an understanding or achieve results, the IACHR shares the hope voiced by many actors, including the Catholic Church, that these attempts to achieve peace and harmony through dialogue will not be discontinued or fall through for good.


          As to political rights, elections were held in El Salvador on March 31, 1985, ten months after the Government of President Duarte took office, to select a new 60-member legislative assembly and appoint the 262 mayors and municipal councils in the country. The results of the election, the fourth held in the last three years, which show the progress made through the democratic process, resulted in a sweeping victory for President Duarte’s Christian Democratic Party.


          When the results of the election were published, the rightist coalition demanded that the elections be declared null and void, but the Central Elections Council unanimously rejected the petition as inadmissible.


          Regarding the right to life, the activities of the “Death Squads” have continued their toll of kidnappings, disappearances and murders with less intensity in the urban areas of El Salvador away from the capital. In rural areas, cases of extralegal executions and abuse of authority by members of the Army have continued to occur. Although to a lesser extent, bombings and machine-gunning of civilian populations attributed to the Salvadoran Air Force, forced removal of populations resettled as displaced persons in refugee camps, and violations of the Geneva Convention have continued to be charged.


          According to information provided to the Commission by reliable sources, the proven number of civilian noncombatants killed as a result of violence by the Salvadoran Army during the period of this report is as follows:
























































          The right to liberty and personal security, freedom from arbitrary arrest, the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest and the charges, and to be brought without delay before a trial judge have very limited effectiveness in El Salvador. The maintenance of the state of siege, which is extended monthly without complying with the mandate in paragraph 3 of Article 27 of the American Convention, which provides that the other States’ Parties to the Convention shall be notified of such suspension of guarantees, has virtually deprived the Salvadoran people of those rights since March 1980, when the state of siege was declared. This situation has become worse since the implementation of Decree 50 of February 1984, which regulate the treatment of political prisoners.


          On this issue, the Commission has information that up to June of this year over 400 persons have been held without charges and without having been brought before judicial authorities. Many of these prisoners have been in custody for four or five years under these conditions, despite the complaints of their families, and writs of habeas corpus filed on their behalf.


          The Commission has information that many of the prisoners in the La Esperanza in the Canton of San Luis Mariona of San Salvador who have been confined for offenses against the public order, before being transferred to that public prison, have been held for long periods of time in secret military detention centers, in which they were kept incommunicado and subjected to mistreatment, torture and other abuse.


          Regarding the right to protection of physical, mental and moral integrity, the IACHR has received and is processing charges of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to which almost all persons of both sexes held by Salvadoran authorities have been subjected. Prisoners also complain that after they have been held incommunicado and have been transferred to the La Esperanza prison, forensic doctors they have requested to examine them for physical and mental injury produced by torture do not show up. So prisoners are prevented from obtaining medical-legal proof and certification that would enable them to bring charges against those responsible and seek damages.


          In addition to these and other acts, the Commission has continued to receive other complaints that Salvadoran Government and military officials have perpetrated acts that are violations of other rights and guarantees stipulated in the American Convention. The Commission wishes to place special emphasis in this report on a fact, that because of its seriousness must be brought to the attention of the OAS General Assembly, and that is that the Government of El Salvador has increasingly been failing to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights without any explanation or justification. It has first of all refused to answer repeated requests sent to it for information until a point has been reached that virtually all relations with the Commission have been suspended, and since January 1985, communications from the IACHR have not even been acknowledged.


          The foregoing leads the Commission to the following conclusions and recommendations:


a.                 While the serious and widespread human rights violations indicated in previous IACHR reports have declined during the period covered by this report, they still continue to affect the Salvadoran people in the capital and in the countryside seriously;


b.                 The Commission has no doubt about President Duarte’s good intentions to respect human rights. However, despite his declared efforts to promote, protect and defend their full observance, his actions have not yet resulted in significant improvement, and achievements or progress in this area during his one year and three months of government have been very small.


c.                 Although the results of the two rounds of talks between President Duarte and the guerrilla leaders have not attained the objectives proposed, the IACHR agrees with the hope voiced by many sectors that talks should be continued and a final collapse of these efforts should be avoided.


d.                 It is essential to conduct pending investigations on human rights violations attributed to the Salvadoran security forces, that have been reported to the government by the IACHR and punish those responsible.


e.                 Despite the violent situation, which is often uncontrollable, generated by the internal conflict taking place in El Salvador, the IACHR considers it essential for the government to take the measures required to exercise greater and more effective control in order to avoid the excesses and abuses of power that the Salvadoran armed forces are frequently accused of.


f.                   So long as the confrontation continues, the government and the guerrillas should, in order to make the war more humane, respect the basic principles of humanitarian law and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.


g.                 Abuses, mistreatment and torture charged by prisoners held in the La Esperanza prison should be investigated, and the perpetrators of such acts should be punished accordingly.


h.                 Note that the repeated refusal of the Salvadoran Government to investigate human rights violations attributed to its security forces in the complaints reported to the government by the IACHR, and to report to this Commission on the findings of such investigations constitutes a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights, and a breach of the international protection rules that the inter-American system has established to defend the essential rights of human beings, which El Salvador has pledged to respect and to have respected.


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