In accordance with Article 9 (bis) of the Statute, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has, among other duties, that of submitting a report each year 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 things, the following: “1) A statement of progress achieved in the realization of the goals set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”


          In connection with the foregoing, the Commission received replies from the governments of Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Nicaragua, as summarized below:




          In its note Nº 181 of June 25, 1979 the Government of Brazil laconically stated that “the Brazilian legal order fully and affirmatively upholds the protection, observance and effective enjoyment of human rights, and the nation’s Constitution devotes one of its chapters to individual Rights and Guarantees. Thus, during 1977 and 1978, it was not necessary to enact any new legislation supplementing the Constitution on the observance and enjoyment of human rights.”




          In its notes Nos. 514 and 550 dated June 11 and 20, 1979, respectively, the Government of Chile provided information (summarized below) regarding amendments to the law enacted since December 1977, stressing that “the human rights situation in Chile continues to be characterized by a sustained, continuous normalization in all areas”…, and pointing out, as synthesis of the present situation, that in 1978, there had been no case of a. persons sentenced to death or deaths related to political events; b. persons who had disappeared; c. persons deported from the country or whose citizenship was withdrawn; d. persons detained without trial, nor e. accusations or complaints filed with the Chilean courts for maltreatment.


          In the legislative field, the following provisions, classified according to the human rights to which they bear direct relation, were of note:


          I.          The right to life and personal security


          Decree-Law Nº 2460 (Official Gazette of 1/24/79), containing the new “Organic Investigations Law” (Civil and Judicial Police of the State), which prescribes a number of measures to guarantee the physical security and procedural rights of persons detained.


          The Government pointed specifically to Article 19, which prohibits and penalizes investigative officials “for any act of violence aimed at coercing statements from the person detained;” and Article 20, which provides that “The Investigations Police shall, immediately upon detaining an individual, bring him before the judge having jurisdiction”, and establishes the detainee’s right to be examined by a Court physician and to the issuance of the appropriate health certificate, which will subsequently be sent to the Judge hearing the case, for incorporation into the proceedings.


          II.          The right to personal freedom


          Decree-Law Nº 2185 (Official Gazette of May 1978) which, as indicated by the Chilean Government, amended a number of provisions of the Code of Penal Procedure in order to expedite and facilitate the granting of parole to detainees and prisoners. The restrictions on this right are established in the exceptions under Article 1, Nº 6, paragraph d. of Constitutional Act Nº 3 of 1976, and under the new text of Article 6 of the Code of Penal Procedure, as amended by the aforesaid Decree-Law Nº 2185. However, in any of these exceptional cases, on the basis of a well-founded decision “the Judge may allow the person out of jail, provided there are very good grounds for doing so.”


          III.          Freedom of opinion, expression and dissemination of thought


          In this area, the Government refers particularly to Edict Nº 122, issued by the Chief Executive on November 20, 1978, which expressly repealed the previous Edict Nº 107 of March 11, 1977, and thus reestablished “full freedom to import books, newspapers, magazines and all type of printed matter.”


          IV.          The right of assembly and association


          In the information submitted, the Chilean Government makes particular reference to the progress in the labor and trade union fields, and stresses the fact that “inflation, although not totally under control, has fallen back to historical levels on the order of 30%, and continues its downward trend. This has enabled collective bargaining to be resumed, which, in turn, has meant a gradual but real normalization of trade union life.”


          A first step was Decree-Law Nº 2200 of June 15, 1978, which, in the view of the Chilean Government, contains a major innovation, namely, an end to the differences between blue-collar or manual workers and white-collar or intellectual workers, a difference that had been part of Chilean life for more than fifty years and that has accustomed the vast majority of blue-collar workers to a system that was per se opposed to true trade union freedom. With the proclamation of this Decree-Law, “there should be an automatic end to industrial trade unions, and the socially pejorative classification of ‘worker’ should disappear.”


          By virtue of the provisions of Decree-Law Nº 2376 (Official Gazette of 10/28/78), the bases were established for organizing “first rank” trade unions; it was chosen to encourage shop unions, and not craft unions, in light of Chile’s experience in this area. At the same time, the “industrial unions” and the “shop unions” of private employees were merged into a single type of trade union, called a “worker’s union.” It was determined that they could later continue to operate as one, or could separate, but they would be governed by identical regulations, with no distinction between blue-collar and white collar workers, and the right of free association with or disassociation from trade unions was guaranteed.


          Provision was made under Supreme Decree Nº 159, also of 10/18/78, for trade union elections by free, secret and uninominal vote in all the “shop unions.”


          Also in the labor field, the Government cited Decree-Law Nº 2545 which regulates the system of union dues, based on obligatory contributions by all members and a payroll check-off, if required by the majority of the members, and in any event, if an individual member so demands; meaning that similar regulations were also established for employees in the public sector, whose right to association or disassociation is expressly recognized. The Government calls attention to the fact that Decree-Law 2525 recognized the need to set a reasonable time-period for the country to adjust to the new regulations, and provided that, for the time being, the previous check-off systems would continue to be in effect, thus correcting a serious omission from Decree-Law 2376, which had caused problems and complaints.


          Lastly, the Chilean authorities report that other provisions with a direct or indirect impact on labor have been enacted, and had already been partially amended by the above-mentioned Decree-Laws.


          The authorities cite Decree-Laws Nos. 2345, 2346 and 2347, all dated October 20, 1978, which grant the Government special … powers to reorganize the civil service; seven trade union federations were dissolved as being contrary to public policy (ordre publique) and not consonant with the purposes of a trade union, and associations or groups that assume representation of labor sectors while not having legal standing were declared to be contrary to public policy and national security. The Government itself points out that “these three regulations have given rise to free, broad and varied criticism,” and that there are at present a number of legal cases and claims still pending but the Government also states that it has been making rational changes and corrections to the provisions described above, such as the fact for example that it has failed to enforce Decree-Law 2346, and has thus permitted unrestricted operation of union affiliated with the federations that had been dissolved, and has upheld the right of federation with those unions. Furthermore, it has not enforced Decree-Law 2347 until such time as the new regulations on the trade union system are enacted.


          VI.          State of emergency


          The Government reports that on March 1, 1979, Decree-Law 2326 dated September 1, 1978 ceased to be in effect. This Decree-Law had declared a State of Siege, at the level of a simple Domestic Disturbance, in the Department of El Lao of Region Two, “which means that currently, there is no place within the national territory under state of siege.” By Decree Nº 391 of the Ministry of Defense, the “curfew” was lifted on March 10, 1978.


          Despite the foregoing, the Government states that: “There continue to be changes in the zones or states of emergency contained in Law 12927 of August 1958”, and then goes on to mention Articles 31 to 36 of that Law, Article 10 of Law 13959 of July 4, 1960, Decree-Law Nº 1887 (Official Gazette of August 13, 1977), Decree-Laws Nos. 81 and 198 (Official Gazette of December 29, 1973) and Article 1 of Nº 100, Article 6 of Decree Law Nº 640, of 1974, Article 1 Nº 6 of Constitutional Act Nº 3 and Article 1 of Decree-Law Nº 1877 which has constitutional rank. These legislative provisions give the grounds for a declaration of a State of Emergency and of a State of Siege, the consequences or legal implications, the special powers given to the Chief of the Zone and the President of the Republic during the time these measures are in force, and the sanctions, prohibitions and restrictive measures that are supplied as long as such emergency situation persist.


          In concluding its report on this point, the Government stated “As will become evident from the provisions quoted above, laws of exception in Chile are based on the fact that situations occur that could endanger the security of the country or the rule of law, and are not based merely on the will of the authorities”, and that this legislation “covers procedural and administrative remedies that ensure that the powers granted under the law of exception are exercised with the strictest respect for the law that gave rise to them and that regulates them.”


          VII.          General information


          Under this heading, the Government reports:


          That in the LEGAL field, a. the promulgation of Decree-Law 2191 of April 19, 1978 was an important step in normalization of the country. This Decree-Law contains the Amnesty Law which was extended to all persons sentenced by Military Tribunals between September 11, 1973 and April 18, 1978, inter alia those sentenced for crimes against the security of the State; and b. that on March 23, 1979, the Supreme Court sitting en banc “handed down a resolution appointing Visiting Magistrates (Justices of the Superior Court and of the Court of Appeals, with special powers, who would be called on the rule on the merits of a particular case) to hear all denunciations and the resolution appointing Visiting Magistrates (Justices of the Superior Court and of the Court of Appeals, with special powers, who would be called on the rule on the merits of a particular case) to hear all denunciations and the corresponding legal cases on presumed disappearances of persons within the jurisdiction of Courts of Appeals in Santiago, Concepción, Rancagua and Temuco, which also extends to other courts of justice”, and for this reason “any investigation and final judgment on the aforesaid cases are absolutely outside the interference or responsibility of the Government.”


          In the area of EDUCATION, it is reported that in March 1979, the President of the Republic issued a general directive covering educational measures to ensure freedom of education and to gradually incorporate parents and the community into the management of educational services. It also reports the creation of a teaching degree and an increase in the annual budget from 400 to 600 million dollars.


          In the HEALTH field, the Government stressed that there was a “reduction in the infant mortality rate and overall mortality indices and in other indicators, according to statistics from agencies specializing in this field”, and that nutritional programs had been drafted.


          In the field of ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS, the Government reported not only the progress mentioned earlier that “inflation had fallen back to historical levels on the order of 30%, and was continuing its downward trend”, but also reported “a reduction in unemployment, which still continues to be a serious problem and to receive the Government’s highest attention”; “the increase in the purchasing power”; “a surplus in the balance of payments”; “a financed budget”; “increase in per capital income and reserves of $1,500 million.”




          The Guatemalan Government reported the following information in its note Nº 536-I-OEA-12, of June 28, 1979: … that there is no need for the Government of the Republic to send the information requested of it “since all its laws and the Constitution of the Republic are in total conformity with the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Constitution of the Republic gives even broader protection to some of human rights than that accorded in these declarations.”




          Under cover of its Note Nº 29 of June 11, 1979, the Honduran Government forwarded a document reporting the provisions and various actions taken in a number of fields where it states progress has been made, and laid particular stress on the following:


          I.          In the political field, the Honduran Government reports that one of the basic objectives that the present Military Government had set itself from the time it assumed power “was to put the country on the road back to establishing the Constitutional Order, by setting up a legal system that would fully guarantee the Honduran people democratic participation in the conduct of public affairs.”


          In its pursuit of this objective, the Government stresses that it has adopted the following legal provisions and administrative measures:


          1.          Decree Nº 572 of December 27, 1977, which promulgated the “Electoral and Political Organizations Law”, which entered into effect January 1, 1978, “makes substantial innovations with regard to the observance of Political Rights” vis-à-vis previous laws on the subject.


          The new Electoral Law “includes, among other important provisions, the principle of proportional representation and the principle of independent candidacies, which are thus formally regulated for the first time in the country’s history.”


          Article 1 of this Law will govern the procedures for the election of Deputies to a National Constituent Assembly which will be responsible for the legal reorganization of the Powers of the State and the constitutional organization of Honduras.


          The new Electoral Law “includes, among other important provisions, the principle of proportional representation and the principle of independent candidacies, which are thus formally regulated for the first time in the country’s history.”


          Article 1 of this Law will govern the procedures for the election of Deputies to a National Constituent Assembly which will be responsible for the legal reorganization of the Powers of the State and the constitutional organization of Honduras.


          The new electoral law stipulates that a program will be put into practice in the following stages:


          a.          The period for obtaining voting cards and for registering in the national electoral census began on August 15, 1978 and will end on August 30, 1979.


          b.          The period for registration of new political parties ended on December 31, 1978.


          c.          General elections will be called for deputies to the Constituent Assembly on December 1, 1979, and the elections will be held on the third Sunday in April 1980. The results of the elections will be declared, at the latest, 30 days after the date of the elections, and the deputies to the Constituent Assembly will take their seats two months after the date on which the results are announced to begin the legislative duties to which they were called.


          The Law also established permanent electoral agencies.


          As regards economic, social and cultural rights, the document states that the text of the constitution and various other legal provisions establish that there is an obligation on the State to promote economic, social and cultural rights; the legislative measures enacted during 1977 and 1978 to promote these rights include the following:


          I.          1.          Decree Nº 717 of December 29, 1978, increasing the minimum wage.


          II.          2.          Decree Nº 592 of May 6, 1978, creating the Honduran Institute of Agricultural Marketing, and


          III.          3.          Decree Nº 623 of May 19, 1978, which established the National Commission for the Commemoration of the International Year of the Child, concentrating on promoting the protection of the child and the family, and the general well being of all children in Honduras.




          The Jamaican Government, it note Nº OAS/40/2 of July 12, 1979, provided information on the progressive measures adopted over the last two years, which can be summarized as follows:


          I.          The right to equality before the law


          The Status of Children Act of 1976 basically abolished any distinction between children born in wedlock and those born out of wedlock; before this act was passed, the general presumption of law was that the word “child” was applied only to children born in wedlock.


          II.          The right of suffrage and participation in the Government


          The Parish Council (Amendment) Act of 1977 lowers the age of eligibility to be elected to the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation and Parish Council. The age has been reduced from twenty-one to eighteen thus enabling more persons to take part in governing the country.


          III.          Right to the benefits of culture


          The Copyright Act of 1977 affords to those persons who have a right to property, which is of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic nature, a civil remedy from any breaches of their right to such property.


          IV.          Right to social security


          The Pensions (Civil Service Family Benefits) Act of 1979, among other things, takes note of the Status of Children Act to provide that children born out of wedlock are eligible for benefits.


          V.          Right to due process of law


          The Criminal Justice (Reform) Act of 1978 increases the sentencing options open to courts in dealing with convicted offenders, allowing unpaid community service permitting the convict to leave for work during the day and returning to his place of detention at night.


          The Parole Act and Parole Rules of 1978 provide for the release of prisoners on parole, thereby enabling them to serve a portion of their sentence outside penal institutions.


          The Ombudsman Act of 1978 created the post of Ombudsman to whom members of the public may complain, subject to certain restrictions, where the alleged grievance is due to administrative acts of the government.




          In its Note UP-RC-77 of June 9, 1979, the Government of Nicaragua provided the following information, stressing that: human rights are respected and promoted in Nicaragua, and the constitutional Government of the Republic is able to use constitutional measures to confront the aggressive policies of international communism, which never ceases in its desire to take over our hemisphere.


          Thus in the political field, the following legal provisions are reported:


          1.          Executive Decree Nº 40 of September 19, 1977 which ended the state of emergency and fully reestablished constitutional guarantees, the exercise of which had been limited by Decree Nº 5 of December 28, 1974, because of the terrorist activities of the FSLN, which culminated in the assassination of former Minister Dr. Jose María Castillo Quant, and the kidnapping of a number of government officials and foreign diplomats.


          2.          The National Congress, at the suggestion of the Executive, approved Decree Nº 708 of July 12, 1978 (as a Law of the Republic), which in part amended the constitution. Amendments were made to Article 74, to make the principle of political pluralism a reality, fulfilling the promise made by the President of the Republic on February 26, 1978; Article 330 placed exercise of the right to vote under the regulation of the “Electoral Law”, bringing it out from under the rigidity of a constitutional precept, so that the various recognized political parties could take part in amending electoral laws and could serve as members of the advisory courts on electoral procedure, and Article 331, which raised the “Law of Amparo” and the “Martial Law” to the rank of Constitutional precepts.


          3.          By virtue of the provisions of Executive Decree Nº 59 of December 7, 1978 issued by the President of the Republic in the Council of Ministers, Decree Nº 58 of October 12, 1978 was rescinded (it had partially suspended on a temporary basis the guarantees established under Articles 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 49, 58, 59, 73 and 75 of the Constitution until April 30, 1979), and constitutional guarantees were fully reestablished throughout the national territory.


          4.          On December 3, 1978, the National Congress passed Law Nº 743 which gave full and unconditional amnesty to civilians and military personnel convicted or accused of political crimes or related common crimes, and ordered Nicaraguan Consuls abroad immediately to issue passports to any exiles who wished to return to the country under the pardon granted. The amnesty covered all those indicted since the previous Decree of pardon (issued on March 3, 1976) up to December 11, 1978, and the Government reported that numerous detainees were released under this clemency measure.


          5.          On labor matters, it was reported that:


          a.          In Decree Nº 790 of April 2, 1979, the National Congress approved amendments to Articles 188 through 209 of Title IV of the Labor Code, upholding full freedom of association with trade unions for all workers, and


          b.          Decree Nº 202 of April 23, 1979 amended the Organic Law of the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security extending benefits, until that time restricted to certain urban centers, to rural and domestic servants.



[ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]