Information provided by the Governments of Argentina,

Brasil, Chile, Haiti, and the United States of America


          In accordance with Article 9 (bis) of its Statute, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has, among other duties, that of submitting a report annually to the Inter-American Conference (now the General Assembly, Articles 51 and 52 f of the Charter of the OAS) or to the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. This report should include, among other matters, the following: “1) A statement of progress achieved in realization of the goals set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”


          In order to comply with the aforementioned mandate, the Commission, through its Chairman, requested the governments of the member states to provide the information mentioned in the Introduction to this report.


          Information was received from the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Haiti, and the United States of America and is summarized below:




          Law Nº 1.702 of the provinces of the Chaco, established a health control plan for schoolchildren that includes medical examination, laboratory control work, and keeping individual records for each student attending the educational institutions of the provinces.


          By means of Law Nº 5.890, promulgated on November 6, 1975, the Province of Córdoba established within its jurisdiction a workday of no more than eight (8) hours from Monday through Friday, and of no more than four (4) hours on Saturday, with a weekly total not exceeding forty-eight (48) hours.


          The Province of La Pampa approved Laws Nos. 680 and 681, under which pensions to the blind, deaf-mute, disabled, and handicapped, and old-age pensions, would be adjusted annually in relation to the cost-of-living increase in the previous year.


          Various decisions of the Ministry of Labor (Nos. 125/75, 201/75 and 287/75, among others) have granted legal status to labor unions and approved the statutes of a number of unions and professional associations.


          Under Law Nº 21,312 published in the Official Bulletin of May 21, 1976, petitions for habeas corpus are admitted, in both its effects in favor of a person being held at the disposition of the Executive Branch under Article 23 of the Constitution; and Law Nº 21,449, published in the Official Bulletin of November 1, 1976, regulates the procedure for considering the situation of persons detained at the disposition of the Executive Branch who request authorization to leave the country, it being agreed that such a request may be brought 90 days after the date on which the arrest was ordered.


          Resolution 3,168 of April 30, 1976, of the National Migration Office, regulates the status of political asylees.


          Resolution 3,439 of May 12, 1976, of the National Migration Office, authorizes persons with temporary residence permits to enter and leave the country during the effective period in which their permits are valid.


          Decree Nº 1,483, published in the Official Bulletin on September 2, 1976, provides a period of time for all foreign nationals residing illegally in the country who cannot return to their country of origin due to political, social, racial, or religious reasons, to report to the immigration authorities, in order to normalize their status under current immigration regulations.


          Under Law Nº 5,878, the Province of Córdoba modified the organic law of the Federal Penitentiary Service in order that this service may fully carry out its functions of guarding, custody, and rehabilitation of prisoners being held in the various prisons throughout the province.


          Under Decree Nº 3,116/75, the Province of Mendoza regulated the application of the progressive penitentiary system in its territory.




          Among the most important activities of 1975 was the immunization of over 80 million persons against meningococcic meningitis, the eradication of malaria in six states with a population of nearly 6 million, and the establishment of a system for cholera prevention, which made it possible to keep the country free of this disease.


          Under Law Nº 6,229 of July 6, 1975, the National Health System was established, enabling the government to adopt a pragmatic course of action to avoid duplication and competition between the mechanisms of organization and operation of the country’s health services.


          The Educational Credit Program, established by the Ministry of Education and Culture in coordination with the Caixa Econômica Federal and the banking system, provides for the investment of nearly one billion dollars in four years to aid students lacking financial resources. Due to the technical assistance provided in planning preschool education and in setting up the necessary infrastructure, in 1975 there was a 20% increase in the enrollment of preschool children from ages 4 to 6. With regard to elementary education, the government’s efforts to reach a desirable level of fundamental education should be noted. In 1975 the average rate for the population from 7 to 14 years of age was about 84%, as against 71.6% in 1964. With regard to supplementary education and literacy programs for adults, it should be mentioned that in 1975, MOBRAL (Brazilian Literacy Movement) reached 1,600.000 people. With regard to assistance provided to students, the following should be mentioned: the awarding of 113,465 scholarships in 1975, the provision of school lunches, which in 1975 benefited 83% of Brazilian cities and 11 million children, the supply of notebooks and school materials to 2 million students, and through the National Book Institute, the free distribution of 11.5 million texts to needy students.


          Decree Nº 76,403 of October 1975 establishes the National Employment System (SINE), whose basic task is to serve as an intermediary between people seeking employment and production units in need of labor. The activities carried out by the National Commercial Apprenticeship Service (SENAC) and by the National Industrial Apprenticeship Service (SENA) were responsible for the vocational training of 900,000 workers.


          Law 6,210 of June 4, 1975, revokes both the contributions on social security benefits and the suspension of retirement payments due to renewed employment.


          Law 6,226 of July 14, 1975, establishes a system of reciprocal counting of time served between public service and private enterprise for the purposes of retirement.


          Law 6,243 of September 24, 1975, defines the status of retired persons who go back to work and of insured persons who enter the social security program after age 60.


          Law 6,260 of November 6, 1975, establishes social security benefits for rural employers and their family dependents.


          The conditions for financing were reformulated, and new measures designed to make home ownership easier for a larger number of families, particularly lower income families, were implemented.




          Decree Law Nº 1,008, of May 8, 1975, amended Article 15 of the country’s Political Constitution, making 5 days the maximum period for detention for crimes against the national security during emergency situations; in other cases, the term is forty-eight hours. It must be noted that Article 13 of Constitutional Act Nº 4, published on September 13, 1976, extended the five-day period established in this decree law to 10 days.


          Decree Law Nº 1.009 of May 8, 1975, systematized standards on legal protection of procedural rights for those persons held for crimes against the national security, creating a more favorable and liberal treatment of them. Article 1 provided that during a state of siege, the agencies authorized to preventively detain persons presumed, with grounds, guilty of endangering the security of the state, shall be obliged to inform the immediate family of the person being held, within 48 hours of the detention.


          Moreover, this complement and clarifies the change introduced in Article 15 of the Political Constitution by Decree Law 1.008, previously cited, prescribing that the detention may not last more than five days and after this period the person being detained shall be set free or remanded to the appropriate Court, or to the Minister of the Interior when it is a case of applying the special powers or a state of siege, in which case it shall be accompanied by a written report with all the background information. Moreover, it drastically sanctions the use of illegal pressures on those being detained.


          Article 8 changed Decree Law Nº 640 of September 10, 1974, limiting the operation of Military Courts in time of war to states of siege due to external or internal war, and in the degree of internal defense.


          Decree Law Nº 1.181 of September 11, 1975, put an end to the state of siege in degree of internal defense, establishing the state of siege in degree of internal security.


          Supreme Decree of Justice Nº 187 of January 26, 1976, regulates the standards aimed at guaranteeing the rights of those detained by virtue of a state of siege, set forth in Article 1 of Decree Law Nº 1.009, summarized in the following manner: 1. Medical examination for those detained upon entering as well as leaving detention establishments, with the purpose of determining whether the have been mistreated or subjected to undue pressures, in which case the Ministry of Justice will denounce the fact to the pertinent authority, who, within 48 hours, shall draw up the appropriate summary to determine who is responsible and proceed accordingly. 2. Inspections by the President of the Honorable Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice, without advance notice, to detention sites in connection with states of siege to verify strict compliance with the legal and regulatory standards in force over the rights of those detained, duly reporting to the respective authorities any irregularities they notice. 3. Arrests related to application of a state of siege may be made only with a prior written order from the head of the pertinent specialized security agency, which must indicate the name of the person arrested, of the arresting officer, place of imprisonment, date and time of the arrest, name, position and signature of the person who ordered this measure, and seal and stamp to authenticate the order. A copy of the order of arrest must be handed to the immediate family member that the person being detained indicates. In the case of entry and search, the appropriate written order to conduct the it shall be shown, and a copy of it given to the owner of the house or the occupant of the house searched, once the action is completed. 4. Through Supreme Decree of the Ministry of the Interior Nº 146, detention sites were set up at Puchuncaví in Valparaíso, Region V, Tres Álamos and Cuatro Álamos in Santiago, Metropolitan Region. 5. Decree 187 indicates the offices and employees in the respective regions who will take the steps necessary in providing the President of the Supreme Court, the Minister of Justice or the employee designated by him, as the case may be, all the means of support leading to the proper fulfillment of their duty.


          Supreme Decree of Justice Nº 504 of April 30, 1975, states that punishment depriving one of his liberty or restricting it, imposed by the military courts, can be commuted to required departure from the country.




          By virtue of Law 94-135 of November 28, 1975, the Older Americans Act of 1965 was amended, establishing several social service programs for senior citizens and prohibiting discrimination on account of age.




          By Decree of the President of the Republic dated December 23, 1976, pardon was granted to 140 prisoners, some of whom were considered to be political prisoners. The names of those pardoned were published in “Le Moniteur”, the official newspaper of the Republic of Haiti. Furthermore, this decree commuted the death sentence of several people to hard labor for no more than 15 years, and reduced the length of other persons’ sentences to hard labor.


          On December 24 of the same year, by a new decision of the President of the Republic, 24 more persons were freed. Their names appeared in a communication issued by the Ministry of Justice.


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          The fact that the data requested by the Commission were sent, as well as the measures taken by the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Haiti, and the United States of America, constitutes positive acts that show interest in the attainment of the goals of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          This information constitutes important elements that the Commission will take into account, at the appropriate time, in evaluating the effective exercise of human rights in a specific country, as has been done in relation to the same legal standards referred to now by the Government of Chile, which had already been analyzed in the Second Report on the Situation on Human Rights in Chile (OEA/Ser.1/V/II.37, doc. 19 corr. 1, pp. 6-19).









          The first paragraph of the preamble of the Charter of the Organization of American States affirms that “…the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty, and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations.” The third paragraph states that “…the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation on this continent, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.”


          Unfortunately, the situation in 1976 in the American countries as concerns respect for an effective protection of human rights does not allow us, generally speaking, to say that our hemisphere is remaining faithful to its historic mission and to these lofty ideals.


          Numerous persons have lost their lives due to terrorist attacks, clashes with armed forces or police authorities or under circumstances that make presumable the intervention of paramilitary and parapolice groups tolerated, if not fostered, by the authorities.


          There have already been many cases recorded of “missing persons”, that is, persons who according to witnesses and other evidence have been detained by military or police authorities but whose detention is denied and whose location is unknown. Added to the illegal deprivation of freedom in these instances is the anguish of relatives and friends who do not know whether the missing persons are dead or alive and who are unable to avail themselves of the remedies established under law or to lend them material and moral assistance. The growing number of cases of this kind in several American countries is a reason for serious concern to the Commission and is, properly, one of the aspects of the situation in the area of human rights that has warranted very special attention by the Commission as well as the governmental and nongovernmental bodies which function in this area in one way or another.


          The status of “missing” seems to be a comfortable expedient to avoid application of the legal provisions established for the defense of personal freedom, physical security, dignity and human life itself. In practice this procedure nullifies the legal standards established in recent years in some countries to avoid illegal detentions and the use of physical and psychological duress against persons detained.


          It must not be forgotten that Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man mentions the right to personal security immediately after the rights to life and to liberty. Every state has the clear duty to guarantee the security of all persons living in its territory, whether they be citizens or foreigners.


          Another aspect of the problem which particularly concerns the Commission is the widespread practice of sophisticated means of torture in several American states. The spread of these means of repression is due to the lack of standards that would effectively protect persons detained or due to the fact that these standards are not applied in practice or, what is more serious, due to the intimidation of judges and high officials of the administration, who do not perform their duty of preventing these acts by investigating and punishing those responsible for such acts with all force.


          An equally disturbing form of mistreatment of detainees is the lack or shortage of medical attention in jails and other detention centers, which has been repeatedly denounced and which in no few instances has led to the death or permanent harm of the victims of this kind of violation.


          Added to these problems, which warrant emphasis due to their serious nature, are others which, without compromising human life, physical security or dignity, touch on rights as basic as the right to liberty and to due process.


          In this line of thinking, we must mention first of all the serious limitations on the right to a defense in some countries of our continent. According to information gathered by the Commission, in some countries the performance of attorneys in defense of human rights is obstructed or prevented by assaults against life, deprivation of freedom, exile, or every kind of threat or reprisal against them or their families. The Commission has specific denunciations by attorneys who have been victims of every kind of violence caused only by their active participation in the defense of persons detained for reasons of state security or for alleged violations against the public order.


          In some instances the bar associations or similar organizations which have fulfilled their duty to defend their members’ rights have also been subjected to threats and acts of violence.


          The Commission has also received denunciations stating that in some instances judges have also been victims of these abuses and that they are also exposed to delayed promotions or even loss of their positions if they do not yield to the intentions of the executive authorities.


          Unfortunately, these highly serious violations do not complete the list of acts that warrant special remarks in this part of our report.


          The handing over of refugees to the authorities of their country of origin, in violation of the conventions on human rights and other accepted international humanitarian principles and standards, knowing that this involves serious risk to such persons and even endangers their very lives, is clearly an act that involves the responsibility of the authorities of the country that enables or allows such action, as well as that of the authorities of the country so requesting.


          Added in some instances to the entire range of penalties that are being applied to the political dissidents is the loss of citizenship, with all the consequences thereof to the persons to whom it is applied and to the international community.


          The frequency with which the exiling of nationals is resorted to, not as an option as established in some bodies of law but rather as an act forced upon the person and against which there is no recourse, in violation of the right to residence and movement established in Article VIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, is reason for alarm and concern.


          Mention should also be made of the policy followed by some states of not granting passports to their nationals, who then in most instances are able only to travel to and reside in bordering countries.


          The Commission is not unaware that these and other violations occur in a context of acute ideological or, more generally, political conflicts and that some states have lived through a situation quite like a civil war or have been on the brink thereof.


          Under such circumstances it is obvious that the standards established for normal times cannot be applied without serious risk to the maintenance of public order and state security, but, as the Commission has said so many times, application of the emergency decrees provided for in the constitutions and laws of many states cannot or should not result in the repeated violation of basic human rights.


          Thus, for example, the declaration of a state of emergency or a state of siege cannot serve as a pretext for the indefinite detention of individuals, without any charge whatever. It is obvious that when these security measures are extended beyond a reasonable time they become true and serious violations of the right to freedom. Likewise, the indefinite prolonging of trials for crimes against public order and state security, which give rise in some instances to deprivation of the freedom of the accused for a longer period than the longest sentence he could receive, is a violation of the right to a fair trial provided for in Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. It goes without saying that these emergency situations in no instance justify the application of torture, nor much less the loss of life except, in the latter instance, in application of the death penalty, if this penalty has been provided for under a law preceding the violation and has been imposed by the competent courts under due process in which the person convicted has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.


          It should be stated at this time that the states have not only the right but the duty to take the measures necessary to prevent acts of terrorism and violence. As the Commission has stated on other occasions, the governments cannot, without incurring serious responsibilities, act as simple spectators of the violence caused by one sector of the population against another.


          The Commission’s task in the area of human rights protection is possible due largely to the cooperation it receives from individuals, institutions and other entities that act in their respective countries in the defense of human rights. Without this cooperation, which enables the Commission to receive accurate information on specific cases of human rights violations, with all the requirements of our Regulations, it would be hardly possible to form a complete opinion on these cases and on the general status of human rights in the different countries of this hemisphere. Thus it observes with great concern the measures taken by some governments against some of these persons and institutions. It must be kept in mind in judging these acts and in assessing their seriousness that these measures have been taken against respectable individuals, institutions or entities which have acted out in the open in the territory of the states in which they reside or are located, which have bravely faced the misunderstanding of some persons and in no few instances have faced threats and acts of violence and have been subjected to measures that can be explained only as reprisals for their humanitarian efforts.


          In this context, we can stress a favorable situation: the increase in and strengthening of private international associations truly devoted to fostering respect for the rights and freedoms established in universal and regional declarations, conventions and covenants on human rights.




          In view of the preceding considerations, the Commission reiterates, first of all, the recommendations contained in its earlier report1 which continue to be very current, and, in addition, recommends:


          1.          That all the necessary measures be taken to prevent the security forces or other authorities from arresting and detaining persons without the knowledge of the competent authorities and of the relatives of the prisoner, so as to put an end to the so-called cases of “disappearance”. Among these measures the following may be mentioned: close vigilance by the high officials and by the Judicial Branch over the actions of the security forces; periodic visits to the places described as illegal detention centers and imposition of severe sanctions on members of these forces who give an evasive reply to requests for information about persons they have detained.


          2.          That an effective policy be applied against torture, for which purpose everything possible should be done to enable the judges to investigate denunciations received about these violations, without prejudice to the duties the administrative authorities themselves have to make the appropriate investigations and to impose the penalties established in the laws and regulations. Only through rigorous investigations, submission to trial, and the imposition of severe penalties on the persons responsible for these tortures will it be possible to put an end, or at least to limit, this abominable practice and prevent its recurrence.


          3.          That the detention centers and prisons be provided with the staff and the means necessary for giving adequate medical assistance to the prisoners or convicts and to authorize the transfer of these prisoners to public or private hospitals or clinics, outside of these centers, when the resources available there are not sufficient to ensure the treatment required by the patients.


          4.          That the necessary measures be taken to ensure the protection of lawyers and judges so that they may fully carry out their functions.


          5.          That the standards established in the Convention regarding the situation of refugees of which the state concerned is a member, be adhered to faithfully.


          6.          That an end be put to the increasingly generalized practice in some countries of canceling passports or denying the issuance or renewal of them to their nationals, for political reasons or for causes not contemplated in the pertinent legislation.










          Very few changes have occurred in the period covered by this report in the situation described in general terms in Part II of the preceding report of this Commission.


          If, on the one hand, there has been progress in some American countries in the field of economic, social, and cultural rights, on the other hand, insofar as the effective respect for an protection of civil and political rights is concerned, the most than can be said is that the general situation is not worse than in preceding years.


          Violence continues to be an instrument used by groups or organizations bent on imposing their own political views by this means, or by government officials and agents, in some cases made worse by the fact that they operate as paramilitary or parapolice organizations.


          In this climate of violence, the life, the liberty, and the security of the individual, that is to say, his basic rights as set forth in Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, are in constant danger and are frequently violated.


          In this regard, the Commission is concerned with the view that the government is responsible only for violations committed by its officials or agents and that it could remain with its arms crossed in the face of attacks on these rights that are the result of armed struggle between enemy factions. The duty of the state is to guarantee the security of the population, and it would be failing in this duty, both by action and by omission. The state cannot remain indifferent in such a fundamental matter, and it must do everything in its power to effectively protect these rights.


          Special reference should be made in this report to repeated denunciations that, in several American countries, physical and mental pressures are applied to prisoners, without, apparently, the persons indicated as being responsible for the commission of these offenses against the dignity, and at times, the very life of the person, being submitted to trial, and eventually being punished with the severity called for by these crimes.


          The Commission is also concerned about the fact that in some American countries either there are no adequate resources for protecting human rights or the exercise of these rights is impossible in fact, either because the detained person does not, in fact, have access to the protection agencies, or because of the inhibition of these agencies.


          It is necessary to issue a clear and precise legal rules deciding how and with what effect one may have recourse to habeas corpus when persons have been arrested or confined through the exercise of “special powers”, or “exceptional powers”, or “immediate security measures”, if the Constitution that should be applied does not contain express provisions to the contrary.


          The advantages that would be derived from the enactment of a law that would clarify this point are infinite. The fact that, even in those cases, the Judge can force the arresting authority to bring the prisoner before him (which is what “habeas corpus” means), would enable one to determine the following (which is not always known):


1.      Whether the person is still alive.

2.      Whether he bears signs of having been tortured or subjected to physical or psychological pressures.

3.      Where he is being detained.

4.      What are the conditions of the detention site or prisoner camp to which the prisoner has been sent.

5.      Whether he is being given cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.


          The safeguarding of the institutions, of the integrity and sovereignty of the states, is an extremely important matter, which amply justifies the granting of special powers to certain organs of the government to be exercised in exceptional cases; but the protection of a person’s liberty, integrity, and honor are also a primary function of law.


          Finally, we find it useful to point out the importance of respect for conventions or customary rules with regard to asylum, the result of a long evolution in our hemisphere.




          In order to try to reduce the violation of human rights resulting from the fact that in several American countries the whereabouts of hundreds or thousands of persons who have been arrested by the authorities is unknown, we consider it of the highest priority that the General Assembly of the Organization adopt a resolution based on the observations made by the Commission in Part II of this report.


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1            These recommendations are contained in the Appendix included at the end of this Part II.

1            Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for 1975. (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.37 doc. 20 corr. 1 of June 28, 1976).