The Commission has continued to observe during the period of this report the status of human rights in Nicaragua. This section, therefore, is designed to describe the most important events that have occurred in the country in the human rights area after the Commission’s last annual report. This section will add to the information in the Special Report on Nicaragua drawn up by the Commission in 1981 and the Report on the Situation of Human Rights of a Segment of the Nicaraguan Population of Miskito Origin, published in 1984. The Commission also dealt with Nicaragua in its annual reports for 1981-1982, 1982-1983 and 1983-1984.


          During the period covered by this Annual Report, elections were held to choose the president and vice president of Nicaragua and representatives of the Assembly of the country, an organization that is charged with drafting a constitution and that assumes the duties of the legislature that were previously carried out by the Council of State. The elections were held on November 4, 1984, and candidates of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and Sergio Ramírez Mercado were elected President and Vice President, respectively.


          The candidates elected for the 96 members of the National Assembly were as follows: 61 from the Sandinista National Liberation Front—20 of whom are not members of the party although they were its candidates—14 from the Democratic Conservative Party, 9 from the Independent Liberal Party, 6 from the Christian Social Popular Party, 2 from the Nicaraguan Socialist Party, 2 from the Nicaraguan Communist Party, and 2 from the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement. It should be noted that several political parties that are members of the Democratic Coordinating Group (Coordinadora Democrática) did not take part in the elections, and therefore obtained no representation in the Assembly.


          The new officials took office on January 10, 1985, and the National Assembly held its first session on January 22. At that session, the Assembly passed an amnesty law, which had been announced by the President in his inaugural address, and was aimed at members of groups that had taken arms against the government, including the leaders of those groups that had been excluded from the previous amnesty. This broader coverage was regarded by the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference as a positive achievement. The condition imposed by the law is that those who wish to be covered by the amnesty law must lay down their weapons. Government spokesmen have explained that the amnesty does not, in the terms proposed, mean acceptance of a dialogue with those groups, which continue to be denied political representation.


          These opposition groups proposed conducting a dialogue with the Nicaraguan Government under the sponsorship of the Catholic Church of Nicaragua. The document proposing that was published in San José, Costa Rica, on March 2, 1985, and was signed by many persons, including Messrs. Alfonso Robelo, Adolfo Calero and Arturo Cruz. It set a deadline of April 20 to establish the dialogue and make significant progress, because if that did not occur, the possibility of a peaceful solution to the situation prevailing in Nicaragua would disappear. The dialogue has not yet taken place.


          The Commission has noted with special attention the negotiations being conducted between the Nicaraguan Government and the Miskito group Misurasata, headed by Brooklin Rivera. Conversations began in August 1984 and continued with an invitation from President Ortega to the Miskito leader to visit the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, which he did in October of that year. From that time until May 27, 1985, four meetings were held between the Misurasata leaders and the Nicaraguan Government, at which some limited progress was perceived to have been made. Unfortunately, since May 27, these efforts have been suspended. The IACHR hopes that the obstacles now standing in the way will be overcome so that fruitful negotiations can take place between the Miskito leaders and the Nicaraguan Government. For that reason, the Commission reiterates its readiness to assist in this effort in any way it can.


          Regarding the situation of the Miskito population in Nicaragua, the Commission has been informed that the government is drafting legislation to deal with the educational, land, natural resources and political decision-making participation issues affecting the population of the Atlantic coast. The Commission has also been informed that last August the people that had been removed from their towns on the Coco River into the interior of Nicaragua had begun to be resettled in their previous communities. In the Commission’s view, this is a highly positive development that is in accord with the recommendation made by the IACHR in its Report on the Human Rights Situation of a Segment of the Nicaraguan Population of Miskito Origin, a recommendation that was accepted by the Nicaraguan Government.


          The state of emergency that was instituted in Nicaragua as a result of the internal situation, which is well known, has resulted in restrictions and suspensions of some of the rights included in the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party. Thus, freedom of expression has continued to be restricted because of the system of prior censorship now in effect for the independent newspaper La Prensa. In this regard, the Commission received information that in April, a campaign was organized to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Nicaraguan Permanent Commission on Human Rights, which consisted in publication in the newspaper La Prensa and transmission by Radio Católica and by Radio Corporación of articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without comment. According to information provided to the Commission, the Communication Media Department of the Ministry of the Interior on April 18, 1983, prohibited Radio Católica from transmitting the reading of the articles from the Universal Declaration, and censored La Prensa’s mention of the Permanent Commission. It authorized the publication only of the text of the article from the Universal Declaration. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights notes with concern this kind of behavior by the Nicaraguan Government, which contradicts the commitments assumed by Nicaragua when it signed the international instruments to which it is a party.


          In the period covered by this report and under the current state of emergency, the right of movement and residence has been curtailed, and it has been suspended in those regions where the government has considered that confrontations with the armed groups operating in Nicaragua have been occurring with the greatest intensity. These forced displacements have affected a large number of people, especially in the Departments of Madriz, Jinotega, Estelí and Nueva Segovia.


          The Commission has repeatedly informed the Nicaraguan Government of the objections to restricting the effectiveness of the habeas corpus remedy during the state of emergency. The Commission has been informed that provisions deriving from the state of emergency have continued to affect the right of habeas corpus, which is a serious deviation from the American Convention on Human Rights. In addition, suspension of such an important remedy creates conditions that can lead to other types of violations of those rights, such as the right to personal security and the due process.


          In this connection, the Commission has been informed about situations where persons are held for short periods without their families being informed about their whereabouts and the charges made against them. The absence of remedies to determine the situation in which imprisoned persons are held contributes to the anguish of the complainants and to insecurity in the population as a whole. This type of behavior by the Nicaraguan Government clearly becomes harassment when applied to persons that have expressed opposition to the government.


          That is the case, for example, of Roger Guevara Mena, who was arrested last February and held incommunicado for the period allowed by Nicaraguan law. Mr. Guevara Mena had also encountered various difficulties in leaving Nicaragua on two previous occasions and had been induced to resign from the university where he taught law.


          The Commission was also informed in November and December 1981 about several situations that affected eminent persons, some of whom had taken positions contrary to the government, who encountered a number of unusual bureaucratic problems when they tried to leave Nicaragua for various reasons. Fortunately, this situation appears to have been eliminated, because the Commission has not had any reports that such actions have been repeated.


          The Commission must also point out that the Nicaraguan Government has granted two amnesties for persons serving various prison terms. The IACHR must state that it is pleased that these amnesties have resulted in the release of Alejandro Pereira Malespín, about whom the Commission had expressed concern in its previous Annual Report. The Commission hopes that the Nicaraguan Government will take the necessary steps to review the case of Silvio Robelo, the other person mentioned in that Annual Report, who is still serving a 30-year prison term handed down by the Anti-Somoza Popular Courts, as requested by the IACHR a number of times.


          In light of the need to get the Nicaraguan Government to review numerous cases being processed by the Commission, most of which involve due process, the then Chairman of the Commission, Dr. César Sepúlveda sent a note, according to the Commission’s decision, to the Government of Nicaragua on March 8, 1985, requesting it to authorize a member of the Commission, accompanied by a Secretariat lawyer, to travel to Nicaragua to conduct the proposed review. The Commission hopes that the Nicaraguan Government will cooperate in this matter, but to date no reply has been received to the note.


          During the period covered by this report, the Commission has received numerous complaints about various human rights violations by irregular armed groups operating in Nicaragua. The Commission considers it appropriate to repeat its views on this subject, which were developed in its report on the status of human rights in Argentina of 1980, that this type of human rights violation is a matter about which the Commission cannot comment, because it was established to control the behavior of governments in the field of human rights and it was for that purpose that the Commission procedures were established.


          Briefly, the human rights situation in Nicaragua during the period covered by this report has been characterized by restrictions on several of these rights because of the emergency legislation the Government of that country has enacted to deal with the situation that is a matter of public knowledge. To restrictions on freedom of expression has been added the suspension of the right to freedom of movement and residence in regions where fighting with irregular forces is more intense.


          In the area of the right to personal freedom and to due process, where the Commission finds that the most irregularities attributable to the Government of Nicaragua have been occurring, the IACHR must reiterate the need to continue to observe the remedy of habeas corpus even in emergency situations, as provided for by the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Nicaragua is a State party. To restrict this remedy not only causes anguish and insecurity for the Nicaraguan people, but also makes it difficult to determine the truth of numerous complaints about mistreatment of persons held by the security agencies. The impossibility of exercising the remedy of habeas corpus by those affected can be a factor, along with others, to conclude that the government may be making it possible for this mistreatment to occur.


          The Commission hopes that the Nicaraguan Government will demonstrate its readiness to continue to cooperate with the IACHR in resolving the individual cases being processed. This requires for proper evaluation a visit to Nicaragua by a Commission member and a Secretariat lawyer, and must be authorized by the Government.



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