REPORT ON THE
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
2. The on-site observation began on October 6, 1980, and ended on October 11. Upon its arrival in Managua, the Commission released a press communique. /
3. The Special Commission set up its offices in the Hotel Camino Real in the city of Managua.
a) Interview with Public Officials
4. On October 6, 1980, the Special Commission held talks with the members of the Junta of the government of National Reconstruction: Drs. Sergio Ramírez Mercado, Rafael Córdova Rivas and Moisés Hassán Morales. During the interview, the Special Commission was accompanied by Dr. Leonte Herdocia, Chairman of the national Commission for the Promotion and Protection on Human Rights, and by Mr. Sergio Labarca, Director of the Office of the General Secretariat of the OAS in Nicaragua.
Speaking for this Government, Dr. Córdova Rivas welcomed the members of the Special Commission and reaffirmed the Government’s open attitude with respect to all matters relating to human rights. He said that it was his wish and the policy of his Government that Nicaragua be seen as an example in the area of human rights. He added that the cases of deaths, disappearances and tortures were acts of the former regime. The new Government, said Dr. Córdova, was conducting a literacy campaign, a program to improve public health services and was also engage in providing higher education and housing to all Nicaraguans. He also said that the Government would not be able to achieve this overnight, but this was the direction it had set for itself.
Dr. Córdova Rivas thanked the Commission or its presence in Nicaragua and added that the Nicaraguan Government would provide the Commission with all the facilities necessary to enable it to conduct its mission, as it had nothing to hide. He pointed out that Nicaragua at that point in time had approximately 7,500 members of the defunct National Guard in prison and that additional 4,500 former guardsmen who had found asylum in Honduras posed a constant threat to his Government. He cautioned that if the prisons left something to be desired, it was due to the lack of resources. He added, in closing that the Nicaraguan Red Cross was providing assistance for the maintenance of the prisoners but that it should not be forgotten that those being held were murderers and torturers who must be punished.
5. That same day, the Special Commission met with Dr. Leonte Herdocia, Chairman of the national Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and exchanged impressions with him and his colleagues at the headquarters of the national Commission, in Las Palmas. Dr. Leonte Herdocia stated that the Government of National Reconstruction had a policy to safeguard and protect human rights, as evidenced by its ratification of international agreements on the subject. As an example, he pointed to its ratification of the Pact of San José, Costa Rica. He said that the Government was totally aware that merely signing treaties would not achieve observance of human rights; rather, those treaties must be put into practice.
In conclusion, Dr. Herdocia stated that by creating the national Commission, the Government of Nicaragua had demonstrated his country’s political will to establish in Nicaragua a system to protect human rights that would be the pride of American and the world.
6. After its visit to the National Commission, the Special Commission met with the Political Committee of the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front: Commander Bayardo Arce, Jaime Wheelock and Humberto Ortega.
The Coordinator of the Political Committee, Commander Bayardo Arce, welcome the Commission and said that the visit would help to clarify certain aspects of the Nicaraguan situation which interested groups were intent upon misrepresenting. He added that they had given the Junta the necessary guidelines to provide the Special Commission with all the facilities and information that it might want in order to collect the best and most varied information and to establish a clear and accurate impression of the human rights situation in Nicaragua.
7. On the afternoon of October 6, the Special Commission visited the Supreme Court. The Vice-President of the Court, Dr. Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia, presided over the meeting, rather than the President of the Court, Dr. Roberto Argüello Hurtado, who was on official mission in Rome, Italy.
8. The Special Commission also held private talks with Dr. Ernesto Castillo Martínez, the Attorney General, with Dr. Nora Astorga, the Special Prosecutor for the trials against the indicted Somocists, and with Dr. Mario Mejía Alvarez, the General Coordinator of the Special Tribunals. The Commission also visited the Special Tribunals and observed various trials in progress. A detailed study of this important subject appears in Chapter IV of this report.
9. The Commission met with the Executive Board of the Council of State and exchanged viewpoints on the composition, powers and functions of this body. During the discussion, the Chairman of the Council of State, Commander Carlos Nuñez made a statement on the nature of the council and its functions since its establishment on May 4, 1980.
10. On October 10, the Special Commission had a lengthy talk with Commander Tomás Borge, minister of the Interior, and Commander Joaquín Cuadra, Deputy Minister of Defense. That discussion centered around the situation of the former members of the National Guard, other Somocists prisoners, as well as the Commission’s general impressions of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. During the discussion, Commander Borge announced the pardon of 72 women who had been jailed for alleged crimes committed during the Somoza regime. The decree-law pardoning these 72 women also included those women who as of December 31, 1980, were over 50 years of age and were in prison or under house arrest. From the information available to the Commission, this pardon covered all women prisoners in Nicaragua, with the exception of two.
11. On October 11, the Special Commission met with Father Miguel D’Escot Brockmann, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had been outside of the country of official mission but who had returned to meet with the IACHR Special Commission.
b) Interview with religious authorities and human rights organizations
12. On October 6, the commission met with Monsignor Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop of Managua. On Wednesday, October 8, the Commission met with the bishops and religious leaders of the cities of León and Granada.
13. On October 6, the Commission spoke with Mr. Ismael Reyes, Chairman of the Nicaraguan Red Cross, and with representatives of the headquarters. Then, the Commission met with 15 members of the national Executive Board of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights of Nicaragua, whose Chairman is Ricardo Paiz Castillo and whose National Coordinator is José Esteban González Rappaccioli.
14. On October 7, the Special Commission received at its office representatives of the Association of Relatives of Political prisoners.
c) Representatives of political organizations
15. The Special Commission held a number of meetings with representatives of the following political organizations: The Partido Conservador Demócrata, the Partido Social Demócrata Cristiano, the Partido Social Demócrata, the Partido Liberal Independiente, the Partido Socialista de Nicaragua and the Movimiento Liberal Contitutionalista. It also spoke with former members of the Junta, Ing. Alfonso Robelo and Mrs. Violeta Barrios vda. De Chamorro.
d) Representatives of the communications media
16. The Commission held talks with representatives of the following newspapers: El Nuevo Diario, La Prensa and Barricada, as well as the President of the Journalists’ Union (UPN) and representatives of other communications media such as: Radio Corporación, Radio Sandino and Radio Voz de Nicaragua.
e) Representatives of union organizations
17. The Special Commission met with representatives of the following unions: the Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN), the Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS), the Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (CST), the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC), and the Asociación de Mujeres “Luis Amanda Espinoza” (ANLAE).
f) Representatives of the private sector
18. Continuing its interviews, the Commission received the following representatives of the private sector: Enrique Dreyfus, Chairman of the Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE) and Chairman of the high Council for private Enterprise (COSEP); Reynaldo Hernández, Chairman of the Construction Board; Ismael Reyes, Chairman of the Industrial Board; Guillermo Cuadra, Chairman of the National Council of Professionals (CONAPRO); Carlos Gabuardi, Executive Secretary of COSEP; Jaime Montealegre, Vice Chairman of INDE; Pedro Cuadra, Director of the Construction board; Martin Barcenas, Director of the Association of Agricultural and Livestock Producers of Nicaragua; Enrique Bolaños, Director of the industrial Board; Ramiro Gurdián, Vice Chairman of UPANIC; Rosendo Díaz, Executive Secretary of UPANIC, and Horestes Romero, Executive Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.
g) Visit to the detention centers
19. On October 8, the Special Commission divided itself into three groups and visited the following detention centers in Managua and other places: “El Chipote”, “Héroes y Mártires de Nueva Guinea” (Free Zone); “Jorge Navarro” (Modelo Prison) in Managua; “Ruth Rodríguez,” the women’s prison in Granada. “Luis Henríquez Largaespada” (La Pólvora), also in Granada; “Quinta Ye,” a detention center near León, the Coyotepe detention center, “Benjamin Zeldón” in Masaya, which was empty at the time of the visit; “Orlando Betancourt,” a recently-constructed prison center in Chinandega to which the prisoners who had been held at the Hotel Cosiguina had been transferred; and “Juan José Quesada” in Jinotepe. At the Government’s suggestion, the Commission also visited the “Francisco Meza” rehabilitation center for minors, in Managua.
20. In a press communique published throughout Nicaragua, the Commission invited all persons who considered themselves to have been victims of a violation of human rights as defined in the American Convention on Human Rights, to personally submit their cases to the Commission. The public was received at the Hotel Camino Real in Managua, from October 6 through 10.
The Special Commission received a total of 3,921 communications; of these 2,577 referred to cases involving members of the defunct National Guard, while 1,344 involved individual accused of having been civilian collaborators of General Somoza.
All persons who wished to file a compliant were duly received
The Commission would like to record its thanks to the Nicaraguan Government and the Nicaraguan people in general for their cooperation, enabling it to properly execute its mission.
i) Preliminary Recommendations
21. On October 11, the Commission met again with the members of the Junta to present its preliminary recommendations. The text of that document is as follows:
Upon the conclusion of its visit, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) wishes to express its thanks to the Government authorities for the open and complete cooperation that was provided through its stay in Nicaragua.
This same cooperation motivated the Government of national Reconstruction to ratify the American Convention on human Rights in September 1979 and other international instruments on the subject.
Notwithstanding its future analysis of the observance of human rights in Nicaragua in its report and the recommendations it will propose to the government of national Reconstruction at that time, the Commission would now like to set forth a number of preliminary recommendations in view of the urgent attention that, in the Commission view, they require. These preliminary recommendations are as follows:
1. On the prison system. The IACHR visited most of the detention centers that house prisoners accused of or sentenced for crimes other than common crimes. It wishes to state to the Government of national Reconstruction that, with the exception of the “Ruth Rodríguez” women’s prison in Granada, in general it found the conditions under which the prisoners are held to be deplorable and inconsistent with the minimum requirements necessary for the respect of human dignity, as established in Article 8, paragraph 2.d, of the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans, and Article 5, paragraph 2, of the American Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, the IACHR recommends the following measures:
a. That the overcrowding in the cells be reduced;
b. That every prisoner be given a bed with a mattress;
c. That the diet of the prisoners be improved;
d. That the frequency and regularity of visits by family members to detainees be increased;
e. That a system be established that permits prisoners to use the toilet facilities more often;
f. That the prisoners be allowed to wash their uniforms more frequently;
g. That at leas once a day and for a reasonable period of time, the detainees be allowed to leave their cell to get some sun;
h. That investigations be conducted and that, where appropriate, those responsible for guarding the prisoners and found to be beating or torturing them in violation of the instructions of the Government of National Reconstruction, be punished;
i. That the necessary measures be taken to see to it that medication supplied by the detainees relatives actually reaches the detainees;
j. That the prison facility be provided with medical services and medication essential to care for prisoners who are ill;
k. That prisoners suffering from infectious-contagious diseases be removed to adequate health centers, proper surveillance notwithstanding;
l. That in all prison facilities, conduct of, and attendance at, religious services be allowed;
m. That the prisoners be allowed to receive books, newspapers, magazines and materials for handwork;
n. That at all detention centers, relatives of prisoners be allowed to bring in food twice each week;
o. That searches of relatives visiting detainees be conducted in a manner consistent with human dignity;
p. That hygienic conditions at the detention center be improved considerably;
q. That minor be released; should it be impossible or inadvisable to release them that they be confined in special rehabilitation centers;
r. That the service of those prisoners who are willing to cooperate to enlarge and improve the facilities be used; resources contributed by private institutions or international organizations could also be used for that purpose.
s. That study be given to the possibility of granting a pardon to apply to the following groups of individuals:
i. The maimed, disable or seriously ill;
iii. Old men.
2. On the subject of the rights and guarantees of defense.
Should the Special Tribunals be maintained:
a. That view by a higher judicial authority, such as the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals, be established with respect to sentences handed down by the Special Tribunals; such recourse being available only to the defendant;
b. That departmental special tribunals be established to reduce the congestion in the Managua Courts;
c. That the charges brought against the accused be established by concrete evidence based on prior investigations; the indictment should indicate clearly the name, date, places and other circumstances, relating to the acts imputed;
d. That Article 20 of Law 185 creating the Special Tribunals be amended so that the Special Court of Appeals may review guilty verdicts handed down by the lower Court with power to overturn or reduce the sentence;
e. That the time periods for preparing the defense and presenting the evidence be broadened;
f. That both the indictment and the sentence be based on grounds and specify the crime, the events, and the evidence in support of the accusation, in each case.
3. On the matter of the defense and promotion of human rights.
The IACHR recommends that the commissions dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights in Nicaragua, governmental or private, be guaranteed complete autonomy for the exercise of their activities.
f. Press conference
22. At the conclusion of its visit to Nicaragua on October 11, the Commission held a press conference at the Hotel Camino Real, where it released a press communique. /
1. The present report is the result of the various pieces of background information and evidence on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua which the Commission compiled before, during, and after, the on-site observation conducted in October of 1980.
2. The Commission has given special consideration to the information and testimony it received during the on-site observation from the Nicaraguan authorities and from representatives of various sectors of the Nicaraguan community. This report is based, to a large extent, on the investigations, which the Commission conducted during that on-site observation.
3. Moreover, in preparing this report, consideration has been given to a number of denunciations received by the commission concerning alleged violations of human rights. Those denunciations are being processed in accordance with the Regulations of the IACHR. By using such individual cases, the Commission seeks to illustrate the various subjects and situations dealt with in the report.
4. The Commission has given careful study to the legislation enacted by the government of National Reconstruction since July 19, 1979, the conduct of its courts and the international standards applicable in the area of human rights. Among the latter, the Commission has attached particular importance to the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party.
5. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has consulted various documents, submitted by both the Government and other sectors, that concern the situation of human rights in Nicaragua or that in one way or another shed some light on and provide a better understanding of the current situation in Nicaragua.
6. This report takes into consideration the observations and comments made by the Government of Nicaragua in its note of June 15, 1981 concerning the version of this Report which the Commission provisionally approved at its fifty-second session, held in March 1981.
In conclusion, the Commission wishes to state, that when compiling the
facts narrated in the present Report, it was unable to disregard the nature of
the previous regime, and the repeated violations of human rights committed by
its authorities, especially the military; the
difficulties that the new authorities had to confront when they took charge of a
country practically destroyed by Civil War and, in that difficult context, the
present Government’s stated intention to respect human rights.
 This press communique reads as follows: “On October 6, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will begin its activities in the territory of Nicaragua. The commission is composed of its Chairman, Professor Tom J. Farer, and by the members Drs. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Luis Tinoco Castro, Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and César Sepúlveda. Accompanying the Commission will be Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, and Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark and Dr. Christina Cerna, lawyers with the Commission. It will be assisted as well by the technical and administrative personnel necessary.
The purpose of the visit is to conduct an observation of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua, for the purpose of preparing a report on the observance of those rights, in accordance with the Regulations that govern the Commission.
During its stay in Nicaragua, the Commission will hold talks and hearings with authorities, entities and individuals representatives of the various sectors that make up Nicaraguan society, among them the political, professional, religious, business, union, student, labor, and humanitarian sectors and the mass communications media.
In extending its invitation to the Commission to conduct this on-site observation, the Government of Nicaragua has provided broad places of detention; to interview any individuals and institutions the Commission may consider necessary; the Government has also assured the Commission that individuals and institutions that wish to speak with the Commission may do so without impediment of any kind and that no reprisals will be taken against them.
Following a program prepared for that purpose, the Commission will conduct its activities in the city of Managua, as well as in other places in the country, among them León, Chinandega, Granada, Jinotepe, Matagalpa and Estelí.
The Commission hopes that during its stay in Nicaragua the representatives of the various parts that make up Nicaraguan society will lend it their cooperation so as to contribute to a better understanding of the situation in Nicaragua in the field of human rights.
The Commission will have its offices in Managua, at the Hotel Camino Real, Pista Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, where, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., October 6-10, it will receive any denunciations of alleged violations of human rights that may wish to be presented.
 The text of that press communique is as follows: “Today, Saturday, October 11, 1980, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its on-site observation of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua which it began on the 6th of this month, at the invitation of the Government of this country. Participating in this visit were Commission members Mr. Tom J. Farer, Chairman; Messrs. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Vice-Chairmen; Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches; Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro and César Sepúlveda. These were assisted, by professional and administrative staff from the Secretariat.
During its stay in Nicaragua, the Commission held talks with the members of the Junta of the government of national Reconstruction, of the Council of State, of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, of the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of the Interior and of Justice, members of the Supreme Court and of the Special Tribunals, as well as other civilian and military officials, both national and departmental.
The commission also met with the Chairman of the Nicaraguan Red Cross, with the President of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference, and representatives of various political, religious, humanitarian. Communications, professional, scientific, business, union and university institutions, and of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, from whom it received important testimony with respect to the Nicaraguan human rights situation.
The Commission visited “Jorge Navarro” formerly “Modelo” prison, “Héroes y Mártires de Nuevo Guinea”, in what was formerly the “Free Zone,” and State Security detention centers in El Chipote, at the “Germán Pomares” military compound in the city of Managua.
It also visited “Orlando Betancourt” prison and “Commando Carlos Amaya Talamante” detention center in the Department of León, “La Pólvora,” now known as “José L. Enríquez,” and “Ruth Rodríguez” women’s prison in the city of Granada, the Coyotepe detention center, “Benjamín Zeledón” in Masaya, which has no prisoners at the present time, and “Juan José Quesada” detention center in Jinotepe in the Department of Carazo.
The Commission also received complaints on alleged violations of human rights during its tour of other cities, as well as in the office it maintained for the duration of its stay in the Hotel Camino Real in Managua. Said denunciations were processed in accordance with the Statue and Regulations of the Commission. The Government of Nicaragua reiterated to the Commission its decision to refrain from adopting any form of reprisals against whose who submitted complaints to the Commission and against those entities or persons that provided it with information and testimony.
The Commission cannot put forth any value judgement or any substantive opinion as to the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. It well meet later in Washington; there, it will consider the valuable information compiled during its on-site observation, the documents and information presented to it, and the other sources it has at its disposal, and prepare the corresponding report. That report will be transmitted to the Government for such observations as it may deem appropriate. Once those observations have been analyzed, the Commission will transmit its report to the corresponding organs of the OAS and will make it public.
The foregoing notwithstanding, because of their urgency and importance, the Commission today delivered to the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction a document which contains recommendations aimed at improving the situation of human rights in this country.
The Commission whishes to
thank the government for the facilities it provided to enable the commission
to carry out its mission and wishes to thank the authorities, the press, the
various institutions representative of the Nicaraguan community and the
people of Nicaragua, in general, for their cooperation and hospitality.