1. The following
denunciation was made in a communication dated November 9, 1976:
should like to give you some background with respect to a situation that
has developed in Argentina with regard to the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses are known all over the world as good citizens and
law-abiding people who take the principles of the Bible seriously.
August 31, 176, this official decree, signed by Jorge Rafael Videla,
President of Argentina, ordered the district office and all the Halls of
the Kingdom of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be closed.
decree Nº 1867 states: 'the sect in question maintains principles that
are contrary to the national character, to the basic institutions of the
State and to the fundamental principles of his legislation. The freedom
of religion upheld in Articles 14 and 20 of the National Constitution
is, of course, self-limiting in the sense that religious ideas may not
imply any violation of the law, or an attack on public policy (order
public) national security, morality or custom.'
prohibition covers all the activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses, all
their literature, and the closing of their Halls of the Kingdom and the
district office. Currently, there are 31,140 Jehovah's Witnesses in
Argentina, in 604 congregations. As of September 17, 21 Jehovah's
Witnesses were in jail.
2. In a
communication of January 11, 1971, the Commission asked the person
filing the denunciation to send the official decree prohibiting the
activities of the society in reference.
3. In a note dated
April 11, 1977, the complainant expanded his comments and sent the
Commission an authentic copy of Decree Nº 1867 of August 31, 1976,
prohibiting activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Argentina.
4. At its 41st
session, the Commission requested the claimant by letter dated August 3,
1977, to supply additional information. In a note of October 14, 1977,
the complainant replied to the Commission's request for information as
letter is in reply to your communication of August 3, 1977 requesting
information on our situation, that is, of the Jehovah's Witnesses in
answer to point Nº 1, the case of the six witnesses arrested in Apóstoles,
Misiones, has been returned to the Court of Justice where it was first
heard for consideration of pages 44 and following, after the appeal was
denied by the Criminal and Correctional Court of Appeals and Minors. We
are including the judgment denying the appeal. The Department of Justice
has entered no other judicial proceeding since December 7, 1976.
the case of Puerto Rico, Misiones, the 16 persons who were held in jail
for 60 days were released after an appeal. We took the case to the Court
of Appeals in the month of August 1977, asking for a stay in the
proceedings. The case is still pending.
to point 3. We received a favorable decision in the Court of Appeals in
our suit which sought to declare the Government's decree
unconstitutional; but we are still under an act of prohibition, being
unable to carry out our activities or to meet in our religious
meeting-houses. (We attach hereto a copy of the Court's decision). The
decision was appealed, and the case went to the Supreme Court in August
1977. We are now awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court. We also
enclose a copy of the Government's appeal and a copy of our final
5. The complainant
sent the Commission the following documents, which are now in its
Memorandum. 2. List of arrests and maltreatment of Jehovah's Witnesses.
3. Decision of the Court of Appeals. 4. Our Memorandum presented to the
Supreme Court. 5. Government appeal. 6. Document and press clipping
showing religious discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses in schools.
7. Court's decision in the case of Apóstoles. 8. Memorandum containing
information on a case in which I am charged, for violation of the Penal
Code. In this case, Lucio Antonuccio and I have been accused and tried,
but the Court acted without hearing testimony from us. This case is now
in Federal Court.
6. In the
memorandum attached to his communication of October 14, 1977, the
complainant made the following accusation:
case rapidly became famous and had certain consequences. Many Halls of
the Kingdom were closed in the Provinces of Misiones, Entre Ríos and
Formosa; this was clearly and obviously obstruction by the federal and
provincial authorities to freedom of religious. Immediately, the
Jehovah's Witnesses filed a special complaint with the Federal Courts in
the Capital. The reply came from the Ministry of the Interior,
accompanied by a decree from the Executive Power which prohibited all
public and private meetings, preaching activities, printing and
distribution of booklets or magazines, and the principal offices were
closed. Again, the Witnesses filed suit, maintaining that the Government
authorities were not only impeding their freedom of religion, but were
also arbitrarily and unconstitutionally restricting and denying their
constitutional guarantees detailed in the response.
because they had adopted a firm stand in defense of the principles of
Jehovah, more than 300 school-age children were denied primary education
by being dismissed from the schools they had been attending, or simply
by being prevented from enrolling. Some continued their studies at home,
by themselves, with the intention of taking the examinations at the end
of the school year with special examiners so that they would not lose
the year, but this was also denied them. Why? One reason might be found
in the note sent on March 2, 1977 to the Director of Schools Nº 6 of
Aristóbulo del Valle, Misiones, by the General Education Council in
Misiones, which concluded by saying: 'You are hereby informed that the
examination is not authorized for students professing the religion of
the Jehovah's Witnesses. An obvious case of religious discrimination!
struggle by Jehovah's Witnesses to establish the freedom to worship God
according to their own conscience in Argentina has a long list of
victims: men, women and children, who have been detained and mistreated
simple because they were Jehovah's Witnesses, or because they have
studied the Bible with them. In many cases, there was a real abuse of
authority, -insults, threats and even beatings- as is demonstrated in
the attached list.
present, we understand that there are some 100 young Jevhovah's
Witnesses imprisoned in the military prison of Magdalena, some 500 more
in Campo de Mayo and another 50 throughout the rest of the country,
young men 18 years of age. And this year, even more may be added to the
list of persons detained, because the class of 1959 has been called up.
These young men have been accused of insubordination and have received a
two-and-a-half to four year prison sentence. Military service lasts only
one year, and often ends after 8 or 9 months.
young men are being punished because they are observing the Christian
commandment no to fight, and not to kill, and because they do not want
to betray their conscience or the principles of the Bible.
these problems,-children expelled from school, people dismissed from
their jobs, homes destroyed, unjust detentions and confiscation of our
literature,- are due to the fact that the Government does not want to
recognize us officially as a religion, even though this is what we are
and nothing more, as every one knows."
7. A number of
communications received by the Commission during September and October
1978 provided additional information on the situation with regard to the
Jehovah's Witnesses in Argentina, as follows:
of the Jehovah's Witnesses were prohibited in 1976. This prohibition was
appealed to the Court of Justice. In February 1978, this prohibition was
upheld by the Supreme Court. As a result, many Jehovah's Witnesses have
been unjustly detained; they have lost their jobs and their children
have been dismissed from school, and have been prevented from getting an
8. In a
communication of October 10, 1978, the Commission transmitted the
pertinent parts of the denunciation to the Government of Argentina,
asking it to provide the corresponding information.
9. The Commission
has in its possession a photocopy of the note sent on March 2, 1977 by
the Technical Secretary of the General Inspectorate of Primary Education
to the Director of School Nº 6, Mr. Carlos Almeida, stating as follows:
is recommended that the Director make a conscientious study of the
Regulations for free examinations approved by Resolution Nº 45/68 and
amended by Resolution Nº 3044/68, and that he faithfully implement it.
Particular attention will be paid to preparation of the curriculum for
the examination, which should be studied with care by the members of the
Examining Board and properly supervised by the Director, to ensure that
the basic subjects correspond to the grades to be awarded, thus ensuring
that those passing have received a proper education.
tests must be submitted to this office for final approval, along with
the grades awarded by the examining Board and the corresponding reports.
Director will be responsible for any failure to comply with the
regulations or with the recommendations indicated above.
are hereby informed that this examination is not authorized for pupils
professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses."
On March 5, 1979, the Commission sent a cable to the Government
of Argentina, urging it again to send the information requested in its
previous note of October 10, 1978, and asking it to reply prior to March
10, 1979. The Government of Argentina did not send the Commission the
information it had requested.
1. In the light of
the above-mentioned information, it is deduced that the Jehovah's
Witnesses has been prohibited from conducting religious activities in
the Republic of Argentina;
2. All domestic
remedies have been exhausted, and the Supreme Court found against the
Jehovah's Witnesses, and for the appeal filed by the Government of
3. The foregoing
constitutes a clear violation of the right to religious freedom, freedom
of worship and hence to the possibility of declaring and practicing it
in public and in private.
4. Also violated
was the right to equality of opportunity in education and the right to
life and personal security of the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, RESOLVES:
1. To declare that
the Government of Argentina violated the right to life, liberty and
personal security (Art. I), the right to freedom of religion (Art. V),
the right to education (Art. XII), the right of association (Art. XXI)
and the right to protection against arbitrary arrest (Art. XXV) of the
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
2. To recommend to
the Government of Argentina: a) that it reestablish the observance of
religious freedom; b) that it repeal Decree Nº 1867 of August 31, 1976,
because it violates the fundamental rights listed above; c) that it
adopt the necessary measures to put an end to the persecution of the
congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses; d) that it inform the Commission
within 60 days as to the measures taken to put into practice the
recommendations contained in the present Resolution.
3. To communicate
this Resolution to the Government of Argentina and to the person filing
4. To include this
Resolution in the Annual Report to the General Assembly of the
Organization of American States, pursuant to Article 9 (bis), paragraph c,
iii of the Statute of the Commission, without prejudice to the
Commission’s being able to reconsider the case at its next session in
light of such measures as the Government may have adopted.
at the 605th meeting of November 18, 1978 (45th Session) and transmitted
to the Government of Argentina).