REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
On December 23, 1986, a complaint was filed with the IACHR concerning the
Miguel Angel Rivan Hernández, a 20-year old student at a high school
in Ilopango in the Department of San Salvador, was kidnapped on November 29,
1986, at 7:30 p.m., near San Salvador. At
the time of his capture, the young man was on his way home from his place of
work at a Texaco service station located in the Ilopango district.
According to eyewitnesses, his captors took him away in a pick-up truck.
Some days later, his family received information to the effect that he
was being held prisoner at the Ilopango Air Force Base.
The family was also told that Miguel Angel would be released by Christmas
of 1986, but that did not happen.
The family has unsuccessfully exhausted all of the remedies of El
Salvador’s domestic law in an effort to have his arrest acknowledged, to have
the reasons for his arrest explained, and to have him either brought before a
judge or released. The Armed Forces
and policy deny that they arrested Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández and deny that
they have him in custody. However,
it was learned that Rivas was later taken to facilities of the National Guard,
though that arm of the police continues to deny his arrest. It was also learned that he is in bad health.
There were also reports that the Salvadoran Government’s Human Rights
Commission reportedly conducted an investigation into this case, and presented
its findings to the President of the Nation, Ing. José Napoleón Duarte.
The latter reportedly ordered that the information be passed on to the
Criminal Investigations Commission. Despite
the many steps taken, thus far the arrest of young Rivas Hernández has not been
acknowledged and the family continues to be overwhelmed by anguish and
In the case in question, apart from the normal official communications,
the Commission has made a number of personal inquires with the Salvadoran
authorities in connection with the situation of Mr. Rivas Hernández.
Moreover, when one of the attorneys from the Secretariat of the
Commission visited the Republic of El Salvador in November 1987, direct
inquiries were made in this connection in the hope of helping to secure the
release of the person in question.
In view of the fact that no statement or response was forthcoming from
the Government of El Salvador, the Commission addressed the following note,
dated January 15, 1988, to the Foreign Minister of that country:
On behalf of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, I would
like to repeat once again our request to Your Excellency’s Government that it
supply the information that it deems pertinent with respect to the instant case.
We refer to our notes of December 23, 1986, June 1, 1987, and a telex
dated October 28, 1987, copies of which are attached hereto.
Apart from this, Your Excellency’s Government is well aware of the
direct, personal overtures that have been made with the Salvadoran
Government’s Human Rights Commission and with the Embassy of El Salvador in
Washington to have the student Ribas Hernández released alive.
Should that information not be received within a period of 30 days, the
Commission would then consider the possibility of applying Article 42 of its
At its 72nd session, and in consideration of the fact that despite the
time that had elapsed, the Government of El Salvador, had not responded to any
of the Commission’s repeated communications and inquiries, even personal
inquiries that it had not even requested an extension for that purpose; that,
moreover, the information the Commission had in its possession corroborated the
denunciation; that, in effect, young Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández had been
kidnapped by members of the security forces; that he was still alive but
“disappeared” in an official detention center of the National Police; that
even though all of the legal and constitutional guarantees of defense by an
attorney and trial by an independent and competent court were in full effect, he
had been denied them; and finally, that unofficial reports indicated that his
predicament was due to a personal rivalry between the young man and an officer
in El Salvador’s Armed Force, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
in application of Article 42 of its Regulations, resolved the following:
To presume as true the facts denounced in the communication dated
December 23, 1986, concerning the illegal capture and subsequent disappearance
of student Migue Angel Rivas Hernández.
To declare to the Government of El Salvador that this involves very grave
violations of the right of protection against arbitrary arrest (Article 7) and
of the right to life (Article 4) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
To recommend to the Government of El Salvador that it order an exhaustive
investigation to determine the authorship of the facts denounced, the
whereabouts of the victim and, in accordance with the laws of El Salvador, that
the person or persons responsible for these acts be punished and that the
Commission be informed within 60 days of the measures taken to put the
recommendations set for the in the present resolution into practice.
To transmit this resolution to the Government of El Salvador.
If, within the stipulated 60 days the Government does not present
information on the measures it has taken, the Commission will include this
resolution in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of
American States, in accordance with Article 63.g of the Commission’s
In response to the copy it received of resolution 21/88, on May 19,
last the Government of El Salvador, in a letter sent by the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Ricardo Acevedo Peralta, acknowledging multiple receipt, he replied the
In connection with Case 9844, concerning the situation of Mr. Miguel
Angel Rivas Hernández, during the course of the visit that the Executive
Secretary of the Salvadoran Government’s Human Rights Commission made to the
headquarters of the IACHR at is mots recent session, he gave a verbal report on
the matter and on the situation of the case and Dr. Luis Fernando Jiménez, who
visited El Salvador in November of last year, on an IACHR mission, also had an
opportunity to obtain information. The
case in question has been referred to the Criminal Investigations Commission for
the appropriate purposes.
Subsequent to transmittal of resolution 21/88, to which the Government
of El Salvador raised no objection nor did it provide any useful information in
the above-transcribed not, the Commission received a letter from the parents of
Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández reporting that he had been seen alive.
The text of that letter was brought to the Salvadoran Government’s
attention in a note dated June 8, 1988, which reads as follows:
On behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I have the
honor to address Your Excellency to forward the text of a letter that this
Secretariat received from the parents of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández in
connection with the situation of their son, who had been illegally
arrested–disappeared by the Armed Forces of El Salvador:
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that on March 27, I went to
the Jurisdiction of Tacachico, Department of La Libertad, in the company of six
people, in an effort to find my son, Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
Victor Manuel Iraheta and I saw my son, who was inside National Guard
Headquarters in that jurisdiction.
We wish to report that we have informed Mr. Peter Schmeelk, Human
Rights Officer with the United States Embassy, that we saw my son inside the
headquarters building. Through Mr.
Schmeelk, we were negotiating for my son’s possible release.
Since Mr. Schmeelk has advised us that because of the institution’s
honor it is not in the National Guard’s interest to release my son, aware as
they are of the crime that they have committed, it is also inconvenient for the
Embassy of the United States, because of the ties that it has with them and
which I will refrain from detailing here.
Therefore, I am turning to you in the hope of securing a timely
investigation that will help save the life of my son, Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández,
and thereby resolve this painful and unjust case, which has caused us so much
Thanking you for your attention to this request, please accept our
The Commission views this person’s predicament with the greatest
concern. Thus far, the Government
of El Salvador has evaded any official reply as to his personal situation even
though, extraofficially, it has been admitted that Mr. Rivas Hernández is not
only alive but that he is being held in custody without investigation, without
trial, without proper defense, without access to the legal guarantees provided
for in the Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador.
Unfortunately, you Excellency’s letter of May 19, 1988, does not
supply specific information as to the situation of Rivas Hernández; instead,
allusion is made to the fact that Lic. Benjamin Cestoni, Executive Secretary of
the Salvadoran Government’s Human Rights Commission, presented an oral report,
once more, concerning the matter and the situation of that person, i.e., that he
The IACHR wishes to once again respectfully request clarification of
the situation of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Since this overture, the IACHR has not received from the Government of
El Salvador, any information or cooperation that would shed some light on the
situation of the individual in question.
The background information presented in this document;
The resolution adopted by the IACHR at its 72nd session;
That subsequent to transmittal of that resolution, the Government of El
Salvador did not supply the IACHR with any information and has not taken any
action to put an end to the illegal and arbitrary state of affairs described
That the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in a resolution on Case
7920 corresponding to Manfredo Velázquez vs. Honduras, has stated that
“prolonged isolation and forced noncommunication… are themselves forms of
cruel and inhuman treatment, injurious to the individual’s psychological and
moral freedom and of the right of every prisoner to proper respect for the
dignity inherent in the human being, which is itself a violation of the
provisions of Article 5 of the Convention…”
In exercise of the powers vested in it,
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To confirm resolution 21/88 of the IACHR which, in application of the
provisions of Article 42 of the Commission’s Regulations, presumed as true the
facts contained in the denunciation referring to the illegal arrest and
subsequent disappearance of student Miguel Angél Rivas Hernández.
To energetically condemn the official practice of government security
forces involving the forced detention, disappearance of individuals and in
particular, in the instant case, that of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
To call upon the Government of El Salvador to reflect upon the
seriousness of the facts of the instant case and on the irregularity arising out
of its failure to reply to the IACHR and cooperate with it.
To urge the competent authorities of the Republic of El Salvador to
investigate this obvious case of abusive official kidnapping, violation of the
legal guarantees and continued violation of the rights to personal freedom and
due process of law being perpetrated against the person of Miguel Angel Rivan
To reiterate the recommendations made earlier to the effect that an
exhaustive investigation be ordered to determine the authorship of the facts
denounced, the whereabouts and definite location of the victim and, in
accordance with the laws of El Salvador, punishment of those directly and
indirectly responsible for these events.
To communicate this resolution to the Government of El Salvador.
To publish the present resolution in the Commission’s Annual Report to
the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.