I.          Background


          During the period covered by the present report (October 1985 to September 1986), the IACHR has continued to monitor the human rights situation in Nicaragua with particular care, and his section reports on the most significant occurrences in the human rights are in Nicaragua during the period. The Commission published one Special Report on Nicaragua in 1981, and in 1984, issued another special report on the Situation of Human Rights of a Segment of the Nicaraguan Population of Miskito Origin. Reference was also made to Nicaragua in the Commission's annual reports for 1981 through 1985 inclusive.


          The central feature of the human rights problem in Nicaragua was the renewal of the state of emergency, to which the Commission will refer in the first instance. It will go on to discuss recent developments with regard to the Miskito population and the Commission's relations with the Government of Nicaragua, and will also refer to certain individual cases that are of particular concern.


          2.          The state of emergency


          The IACHR will begin its examination of the state of emergency declared by the Nicaraguan authorities with a presentation of the rights that have been suspended and a review of how this dovetails into the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Within the framework of the Convention, the Commission will examine the reasons advanced for invoking the state of emergency, and will assess the way in which the Government of Nicaragua has applied the state-of-emergency provisions. We therefore refer, in the first instance, to the pertinent provisions of the American Convention.


          a.          The American Convention and the rights which have been suspended


          Article 27 of the American Convention on Human Rights states:


                   1.       In time of war, public danger, or other emergency that threatens the independence or security of a State Party, it may take measures derogating from its obligations under the present Convention to the extend and for the period of time strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination on the ground of race, color, sex, language, religion, or social origin.


                   2.       The foregoing provision does not authorize the suspension of the following articles: Article 3 (Right to Juridical Personality), Article 4 (Right to Life), Article 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), Article 6 (Freedom from Slavery), Article 9 (Freedom from Ex Post Facto Laws), Article 12 (Freedom of Conscience and Religion), Article 17 (Rights of the Family), Article 18 (Right to a Name), Article 19 (Right of the Child), Article 20 (Right to Nationality), and Article 23 (Right to Participate in Government), or of the judicial guarantees established for the protection of such rights.


          By note dated November 20, 1985, the Ambassador Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the Organization of American States advised the Secretary General of the text of a cable from the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs stating that, by a decree issued on October 15, 1985, the Government of Nicaragua had established a State of Emergency for a one-year period. That decision was ratified by Decree No. 128 of the National Assembly on October 30 of the same year.


          This Decree suspended the following provisions of the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans: Article 8 (right to individual liberty and personal safety, but preserving the right to humane treatment during imprisonment and the right to habeas corpus in the case of crimes not affecting public order and safety); Article 11 (right to due process, but maintaining the principles of presumption of innocence; non-retroactivity of criminal laws; the right not to be compelled to be a witness against oneself; the right of appeal; the right not to be placed in double jeopardy (non bis in idem), and the right to be tried by a court of competent jurisdiction); Article 15 (right to residence and movement); Article 17 (as regards the principle that no person is obliged to do what the law does not require nor prevented from doing what the law does not prohibit); Article 18 (in reference to the protection of private life and the inviolability of the home and private correspondence); Article 21 (freedom of expression); Article 31 (right to assembly); Article 24 (Freedom of association); Article 31 (right to organize in social, professional and trade-union organizations, including labor unions, federations and confederations); Article 32 (right to strike); and Article 50 )The remedy of amparo, which, however, remains in effect for administrative actions by the Executive Branch that violate those provisions of the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans that were not suspended by Decree No. 128).


          The Commission must reiterate the statements made in its previous annual reports over the gravity of the suspension of habeas corpus when it refers to situations affecting the security of the State. The Commission observes that such suspension continues as the result of laws recently enacted by the Government of Nicaragua. This suspension runs counter to the provisions of Article 27(2) in fine of the American Convention on Human Rights and creates conditions in which serious abuses against the security of the individual could occur. The Commission must reiterate to the Government of Nicaragua the need to repeal this measure and to restore the right of habeas corpus for all persons detained by its security service.


          b.          Facts invoked in order to renew the state of emergency


          We shall now turn to the facts invoked by the Government of Nicaragua for renewing the state of emergency. The first paragraph of Article 27 cited above establishes the conditions under which a State Party may suspend some of the rights set forth in the Pact of San José: war, public danger or other emergency that threatens the independence or security of the State Party. Legal commentary, in general, and the Commission, din particular, have elaborated on this list, describing the characteristics that must obtain in these broadly defined situations of “public danger” or “emergency that threatens…”. It is understood that such situations must first be extremely grave, and second, must be actually happening or, in fact, imminent.


          In this context the Government of Nicaragua has maintained that the United States Government has trained, armed, equipped, financed and supplied the forces fighting it and has encouraged, supported and aided in the execution of military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua. The Government of Nicaragua has also maintained that the United States carried out attacks against Nicaraguan territory, and cites those carried out against Puerto Sandino on September 13 and October 13, 1983; against Corinto on October 10, 1983; against the Naval Base at Potosí on January 4 and 5, 1984; against San Juan del Sur on March 7, 1984; against patrol boats at Puerto Sandino March 28 and 30, 1984, and against San Juan del Norte April 9, 1984. According to the Government, these facts were complemented by reconnaissance flights which violated Nicaraguan sovereignty and by the mining of internal waters and waters within the Nicaraguan territorial limits, further aggravating the situation by not having made known the existence of the mines. Also as part of the actions directed against the Government of Nicaragua, the Government has cited the trade embargo decreed by the U.S. Government. The Government of Nicaragua in order to renew the state of emergency has invoked all these facts which have been adjudicated by the International Court of Justice in its decision of June 27, 1986.


          According to the Nicaraguan Government, the facts mentioned above constitute a serious threat to the Security of the Nicaraguan State, and they also satisfy the doctrinal requirement of an “actual emergency”, as has been demonstrated by the U.S. Congress' recent approval of US. $100 million to finance the activities of the armed groups fighting against the Government of Nicaragua.


c. Means of applying the measures adopted in virtue of the state of emergency


          Article 27 of the American Convention states that emergency measures may be taken “to the extend and for the period of time strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” Here, the Convention seeks to limit the extent of the government's discretionary authority, in order to prevent excesses from being committed under the guise of an emergency. Indeed, an emergency situation may cause measures to be taken that go beyond what is necessary in terms of duration of the nature of what is required to deal with the emergency.


          The preceding paragraphs show that the immediacy requirement is met here, because there is an emergency that is threatening the security of the Nicaraguan State and is occurring now. It is necessary to ask next whether the measures taken are appropriate for dealing with the emergency, or whether they go beyond the exigencies of the situation demanding such measures.


          First, such an assessment necessarily entails making a value judgment about the discretionality with which a Government acts at any particular time. The Commission finds it essential that the assessment be made in those terms, precisely because the situation under review is so difficult and tense.


          The Government of Nicaragua has justified its actions by arguing that it has been the victim of aggression and, therefore, must reduce and even eliminate any sign of internal dissension that may signify a challenge to its policies designed to deal with the attacks of the armed contras. The Government thus maintains that it has been forced to impose ironclad controls to prevent the “opening of internal fronts” that would provide direct or indirect political support for the activities of those armed groups. The strategy includes preventing publication of communiqués that call for a dialogue with those irregular groups, on the theory that the contras lack any political representativity and that the solution will be found in direct talks with the Government of the United States.


          However, significant groups of opponents to the Government of Nicaragua feel that the measures it has taken are consonant with the totalitarian nature of the Sandinista Front's political program in power. They maintain that military pressure therefore must be applied to force the Nicaraguan government to respect the freedoms inherent in a democratic system and to open a dialogue with the political-military opposition living abroad. As stated above, these military pressures in turn become the Government's justification for declaring the state of emergency and for taking repressive measures against the opposition.


          The situation sketched here generates a vicious circle which has a severe, adverse effect on the human rights situation. It is in this tense and contradictory context that the Commission will consider the principal measures taken by the Government of Nicaragua during the period covered by the present Report. A number of the situations described below have been denounced to the IACHR, and are being dealt with according to the procedure set forth in the American Convention and the Commission's Regulations. Without prejudice to the resolutions that it will issue at the appropriate time, the Commission will proceed to describe the points submitted to it in the cases in question.


          During the period covered by the present report, the Government took serious measures against the Nicaraguan Catholic Church. On October 12, 1985, the first issue of an ecclesiastical newspaper called Iglesia was seized. The Government claimed that the paper was not properly authorized, to which the Church replied that the publication was under the responsibility of the Archdiocesan Social Promotion Commission (COPROSA), which had been accorded legal recognition. In fact, the copy of Iglesia provided to the Commission contains no news items that might be construed as having political connotations.


          On October 15, 1985, the premises of COPROSA were raided by a group of soldiers under the command of Commander Lenín Cerna, head of the Bureau of State Security. All the papers and documents on the premises were confiscated, the staff, even Cardinal Obando y Bravo, were forbidden to enter, and the printing press operating in the building was also seized. The building was occupied until July of last year, when it was returned in what church authorities described as a disgraceful state. However, the printing press and many of the papers and documents have not been returned.


          On January 1, 1986, the Government suspended the operations of Radio Católica for an indefinite period of time; this radio station also belongs to the Church. The reason the Government gave for the action was that the radio station had not broadcast, in full, a speech delivered by President Ortega at the New Year. The station managers claimed that it had been the result of human error, which, once discovered, was remedied by patching into the national radio network when much of the President's speech was already over.


          Another Government measure to restrict the Catholic Church's means of expression was the prohibition, by prior censorship, of the column “The Voice of Our Pastor”, containing the Sunday sermon of Cardinal Obando y Bravo, which used to be published in the newspaper La Prensa.


          The Government also censored the publication of the Pastoral Letter issued by the Bishops of Nicaragua at Holy Week. The Letter, dated April 6, 1986, discusses the reconciliation of all Nicaraguans, the Church as an instrument for achieving reconciliation, and dialogue as the means of reaching it. Referring to dialogue, the Pastoral Letter quotes the words of Pope John Paul II during his visit to San Salvador in 1983. It goes on to quote two paragraphs from the Pastoral Letter of April 22, 1984, which say:


         Foreign powers are taking advantage of our situation to foment economic exploitation and ideological exploitation. They see in us support for their power, but do not honor our people, our history, our culture or our right to decide our own destiny.


         As a result, most of the people of Nicaragua are living in fear of the present and are uncertain of the future. They feel a deep frustration and are yearning for peace and freedom. But their voices are not heard; they are drowned out by the warmongering propaganda of both sides.


         The letter went on to say:


         We believe that any type of aid, no matter what its source, that leads to the destruction, pain and death of our families, or to hatred and division among the Nicaraguan people is to be condemned. To choose the annihilation of one's enemies as the only possible road to peace is inevitably to choose war.


          The Government of Nicaragua has viewed appeals for dialogue and reconciliation as backing for positions maintained by the United States, which have made dialogue and reconciliation pre-conditions for ending the aid it is providing to the irregular forces fighting against the Sandinista regime. The Sandinista Government, as stated above, has rejected the possibility of dialogue with these groups.


          The reference to the aid made in the Pastoral Letter has been presented by the Government as contradicting the actions of some senior Church officials, whom it accuses of having gone to Washington to lobby for aid to the contra forces.


          During the entire period covered by the present Report, the police authorities called in priests of various orders, some of whom were fingerprinted and recorded, in order to give them serious warnings that many interpreted as being open threats. Also during the period covered by the Report, eleven seminary students were enrolled in the Patriotic Military Service, over the strong protests of the Church.


          The Commission was further informed during the period covered by this Report that the Government of Nicaragua used unpardonable pressures to prevent Marta Patricia Baltodano from taking up her post as director of a planned office for Justice and Peace that was to work for the defense and promotion of human rights under the Archbishop of Managua. The pressures that the Government put on Ms. Baltodano, and its tense relations with the Church as a whole have meant that the office has not yet been able to operate.


          On June 28, 1986, when the spokesman for the Archbishop of Managua, Monsigor Bismark Carballo, was about to board a plane in Miami to return to Nicaragua, he was prevented from doing so, on instructions from the Government of Nicaragua to the airlines. This case was opened before the Commission and is now being processed. Monsignor Carballo has not yet been able to find out the reasons for such a drastic measure, and is unable to return to the country of which he is a national.


          On July 4, the Bishop of Juigalpa, Vice President of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, Monsignor Juan Pablo Vega, was arrested, taken to the Honduran border and handed over to the Honduran authorities. The Nicaraguan Government was thus making good on its threat to expel from Nicaragua “any person identifying with the thinking of the U.S. Administration”. After the threat had been made, Monsignor Vega held a press conference in which he stated his disagreement with the judgment of the International Court of Justice, at which he maintained that the Nicaraguan people had a right to defend themselves against, among other things, “Soviet aggression”. The Commission has also opened a case file on this situation.


          Both cases have had major repercussions both inside Nicaragua and abroad. During his visit to Colombia, Pope John Paul II issued a harsh condemnation of Monsignor Vega's expulsion. The President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, has announced that Monsignor Vega may return to Nicaragua “when there is peace”, and has said that it had been decided to expel him in order to avoid imprisoning him, which is what would be appropriate to the Bishop's political actions.


          The Commission must state its deep concern over the serious deterioration in the relations between the Government of Nicaragua and the Catholic Church. The Church has played an important role in defending and protecting human rights, and represents a significant factor in moderating positions that have now become highly polarized. Free-flowing, frank and constructive communications between the two institutions are thus essential if conflicts like the present one are to be avoided.


          The Commission thus finds that the measures taken by the Government of Nicaragua in relation to the Catholic Church do not contribute to forming the proper climate. The prolonged take-over of the COPROSA premises, the seizing of the newspaper Iglesia, the indefinite closing down of Radio Católica, the harassment of priests, the conscription of seminary students, the confiscation of the printing press and the expulsion from the country of two senior Church officials all represent, in the view of the Commission, measures that, overall, are out of proportion to the scale of the events that caused them to be taken. The criterion of proportionality deriving from Article 27 of the American Convention on Human Rights is not satisfied in this situation.


          Another measure of particular importance that was taken by the Government of Nicaragua during the period covered by the present report was the indefinite closure of the newspaper La Prensa on June 26, 1986. It is widely known that La Prensa was the only newspaper that was independent of the Government, and that it had criticized many of the Government's measures. La Prensa had been closed down on previous occasions, and its news items were subject to prior censorship under the state of emergency laws.


          The complaint filed with the Commission over this matter is currently in process. However, the Commission finds in principle that it will be difficult to justify the closing of a communications medium that was already subject to prior censorship. The measure, therefore, restricts freedom of expression. Thus, the prerequisite of proportionality demanded of state of emergency measures would not be honored in this case either.


          Also in connection with freedom of expression, it should be indicated that the Government detained three journalists under the state-of-emergency rules. The journalists, Enrique García Urbina, Alejandro Cordonero Carranza and José Ramírez Artola, who had started to publish a newssheet called Prisma, were arrested on January 16, 1986.


          The Nicaraguan Permanent Commission on Human Rights has also felt the effects of the state of emergency: it was informed that its monthly reports, which lists the complaints received in its offices, was subject to prior censorship by the Ministry of the Interior. This measure caused the publication to be suspended for four months, after which time, it reappeared without the Government having amended the measure nor applied it.


          In the period covered by the present Report, during the state of emergency, the Commission has been informed of numerous actions taken by the Government of Nicaragua against some opposition parties, in particular, against the Christian Social Party and the Conservative Party of Nicaragua. The Commission has observed that the practices noted in its previous report—which it then described as clear harassment of opponents of the Government—still continue. An increase has been noted in the severity of the methods employed by the Government to prevent any opposition activity that the Government interprets as support for the armed attacks against it.


          The Commission finds it necessary here to refer to the case of Mr. Félix Pedro Espinoza Briones, who has filed many applications with the Commission complaining of violations of his human rights, particularly of his political rights. Mr. Espinoza Briones is a member of the Constituent Assembly of Nicaragua for the Democratic Conservative Party, which he also represented in the Council of State. Mr. Espinoza has been brought to court in order to take away his parliamentary immunity; a farm he owned was burned under still unexplained circumstances, his house confiscated and he was subject to acts of aggression by groups bearing arms. Mr. Espinoza Briones recently decided to seek asylum in the Venezuelan Embassy in Managua, in order to protect his physical safety.


          Complaints have also been filed concerning acts of harassment against independent trade unions. The headquarters of the Nicaraguan Workers' Central (CTN) was entered on October 24, 1985 and several of its leaders detained. In response to a plea from former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, during a visit to Managua in early February of last year, the Deputy Secretary General of the CTN, José Altamirano Rojas, was later released, along with a journalist, Luis Mora Sánchez. The Government used a similar procedure against Larry Schoures Rivera, a CTN union member, who had been detained on a number of occasions. He was last arrested on January 16, 1986, and was kept in detention for 20 days. The Commission has been informed that the conditions under which Mr. Schoures Rivera was detained were harsh, and that he was coerced to turn state informer. The IACHR has also been informed that members and leaders of the Trade Union Unification Congress (CUS) have been treated in similar fashion.


          According to information provided to the Commission, the effects of the state of emergency have been felt particularly harshly in rural areas where the armed groups fighting against the Government are operating. Mass detentions of peasants have increased, in an effort to prevent them from collaborating with or being used by those groups. The peasants are pressured to join the various grassroots organizations (organizaciones de base) controlled by the Sandinista Front, and if they do not do so, they become suspect and may be held in prolonged detention during which time, it has been denounced, torture occurs to oblige them to inform about the movements of the armed groups. The Commission has been informed that mass round-ups of peasants have occurred in Nueva Guinea, Nueva Segovia, Jinotega, Matagalpa and Estelí.


          Another area of profound concern to the IACHR during the period covered by the present report has been the constant reports received on the deplorable conditions in Nicaraguan prisons. According to various communications received, the Nicaraguan prison authorities are permitting a situation to develop in which those jailed for political reasons suffer additional privations. Common criminals share jail cells with political prisoners, political prisoners are beaten, sometimes brutally—as was the case of Luis Mora Sánchez in December—and the belongings that their families bring during their rare visits are stolen from them. The Commission has also been informed that the prison food is bard and portions small, and that medical care is poor. The situation has been aggravated by the Government's practice of suspending visits and transfers of prisoners from one prison to another without notifying relatives, who must wait for a long time before the whereabouts of the detainees are revealed.


          In the case of Roberto Amador, the Commission has received many complaints about the deficient care provided by the prison authorities. Mr. Amador is serving a thirty-year prison term and suffers from a painful spinal condition. For a number of months, his family tried to send medicine and an orthopedic belt to alleviate the pain. At the request of the family, the Commission intervened, through its Executive Secretariat, in an effort to obtain information about Mr. Amador's state of health. In spite of the fact that the Government replied promptly, the family has informed the Commission that six months later, Mr. Amador had received neither the medicine nor the orthopedic belt. Recently the Government of Nicaragua again responded to the IACHR with information that Mr. Amador is receiving the medical attention required by his situation. This case demonstrates the need for the Nicaraguan Government to allow the Commission to verify—on-site—certain facts in order to clarify in an independent manner the controversy that may envelop them.


          The prison situation is alarming, particularly in light of information from the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a Government organ, which states that 2,386 former National Guardsmen and 1,044 persons sentenced by the anti-Somocista People's Courts are serving sentences in Nicaragua's prison system. Recent cable traffic states that the Minister of Interior in Nicaragua has stated that 34% of the Nicaraguan prison population has not yet been submitted to a fair trial due to the lack of resources.


          The Commission cannot but state its profound concern over the serious human rights situation in Nicaragua. The escalation of armed actions and the increase in the consequent repressive actions under the state of emergency necessarily translate into greater suffering for the Nicaraguan people, the deterioration in relations between the country's basic institutions must be halted in order to preserve areas in which peaceful coexistence is possible within a framework of respect for human rights and personal dignity. A serious effort is thus called for to mend relations between the Catholic Church and the Government of Nicaragua.


          From this standpoint, a substantial improvement in the prison conditions for those jailed for political reasons is essential, halting the type of practices described in the present report which add further punishment to an already harsh situation. Obviously, it is extremely important for the right of habeas corpus to be restored, particularly for cases in which the accused is suspected of having committed crimes against State Security. Restoring habeas corpus is necessary to provide an effective means of guaranteeing the personal integrity of detainees and of contributing to counter the reiterated allegations of torture and mistreatment imputed to government agents.


          3. Recent events, which have affected the indigenous population of Miskito origin


          The Commission will now turn to recent developments in connection with the Indian population of Miskito origin, to which it had referred in its previous Annual Report. In that report, the negotiations between the Government of Nicaragua and the Misurasata leader Brooklin Rivera, and the authorization to the people resettled in 1982 to return to the Rio Coco villages were regarded as positive developments.


          During its 67th session, held in April 1986, the Commission granted hearings to persons concerned over the recent events that had precipitated the exodus of a large contingent of Miskitos into Honduras. According to information received at that time, as well as in the weeks preceding the session, a new exodus of Miskito Indians was again leaving the villages on the Rio Coco and heading for Honduras. According to information presented, the exodus was taking on the proportions comparable to those of 1982 and 1983, and was caused by the armed conflicts in which the Sandinista People's Army had committed serious abuses, such as summary executions, indiscriminate bombings and machine-gunning civilians when they were attempting to cross the River Coco into Honduras.


          During the month of May 1986, the Commission continued to receive requests for an investigation of what had happened. The President of the IACHR therefore instructed the Executive Secretariat to seek the necessary consent from the Governments of Nicaragua and Honduras to a visit by a staff attorney who would visit these countries and investigate the situation to determine whether human rights was involved in the exodus of the Miskito Indians.


          The request for consent received a favorable response from the Honduran Government, but the Nicaraguan Government denied consent to a Commission staff lawyer to visit the country for the above-mentioned purpose. The designated lawyer traveled to Honduras, where all the necessary facilities were accorded to him by that Government, and in particular, by the Representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and his colleagues.


          The visit to Honduran Mosquitia from June 3-6 facilitated interviews with newly arrived refugees from Nicaragua and with persons who have received them and who are familiar with the situation. The settlements visited for this purpose were those of Mocoron, Tapamlaya, Musawas, Ahuas and Layasiksa.


          The information gathered indicates that since the massive arrivals of Miskitos in 1982 (approximately 12,000) in 1983 the total influx registered by the UNHCR was 3,500 and in 1984, approximately 1,500. While the flow of arrivals to Honduras was diminishing the repatriations of Miskitos to Nicaragua began to increase from 57 in 1984 to 586 in 1985. As was mentioned in the previous Annual Report, in August 1985 the return of the population resettled in Tasba Fri began to return to the Rio Coco, while Misurasata took place and achieved a cease-fire with some groups of the organization Kisan.


          This situation began to change in October 1985 and some movement from Nicaragua to Honduras began in November according to information provided to the Commission. Rumors of a new exodus began to circulate in Honduras in December 1985 and took on the character of official information in January and February 1986.


          In January, and without apparent connection with the rumors mentioned, the leader of Misurasata, Brooklin Rivera, entered the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua clandestinely accompanied by Canadian and U.S. Indian leaders. According to the facts as presented by Mr. Rivera, during a visit to the Executive Secretariat of the Commission in February, after having visited several bases of his organization in the Department of South Zelaya and finding himself in North Zelaya, the Sandfinista Popular Army carried out several attacks as a result of which four persons who were accompanying him were killed and six wounded.


          Mr. Rivera and his companions were able to elude government forces and fled to the Island of San Andres where they were received by the Colombian Government. The Nicaraguan Government interpreted this action of Mr. Rivera's as a provocation, arguing that he had traveled twice before to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua without authorization. Mr. Rivera, for his part, argued that it was indispensable for him to travel freely throughout the Atlantic Coast in order to meet with his people and to obtain first hand information on what was going on, which would be impossible if the trip were to be carried out with government escorts. The effect of the situation was to increase the tensions in the region.


          In this context of tension and rumors of exodus, new contingents of Miskitos continued to arrive in Honduras. Thus, from January until mid March 1986 the High Commissioner registered approximately 2,000 Miskitos coming from Nicaragua. Nevertheless from March 26 this number increased dramatically with the arrival of 7,000 Miskitos in a 15-day period.


          Pursuant to information gathered by the Executive Secretariat, the immediate origin of such a high number of people is due to the combat which took place between the Sandinista People's Army and the armed group, Kisan, which forms part of the Democratic Nicaraguan Force (FDN). The combat took place during the night of March 25, when troops of the Sandinista Army attacked Bilwaskarma, Wasla and Kum, towns in which combatants of Kisan were to be found.


          The persons questioned coincided in pointing out that a large contingent of soldiers of the Sandinista Army was on the move; they coincided also in pointing out that the towns had been subject to bombing attacks and that tanks had entered Bilwaskarma. The information gathered indicated that three members of a family with the surname Williams, from Wasla were killed when a shell fell on their house, shot by the Sandinista Army. A refugee stated that her cousin David Williams died in Wasla but it was not stated that any other person in the family had died. It is necessary to point out that the Secretariat's attempt to find persons who had actually seen the dead proved to be fruitless.


          Another refugee informed that he was in Kum when the combat began, for which reason he fled into the mountains with a group of people from the town. When the battle ended, the witness testified, he and six persons decided to return to evaluate the situation, when they were detained by soldiers of the Sandinista Army, tied up, bound and rudely transported to Puerto Cabezas where they remained in detention for 27 days and incommunicado. The refugees stated that they were released following a decision by Commander Tomas Borge, Minister of the Interior, when he visited Puerto Cabezas. He got to the refugee camp in Honduras on foot since he was prevented from getting there by other means by soldiers of the Sandinista Army that he meet on the way.


          The investigation did not produce any information confirming the denunciations, except as regards the combats between the Sandinista People's Army and groups from the Kisan organization, which is allied to the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN). The Nicaraguan Government's lack of cooperation in denying authorization for an on site investigation of the events denounced prevents the Commission from issuing a firm judgment on the matter. However, the Commission must at this time restate that this situation demonstrates that an assured peace in the region is a basic condition for guaranteeing the human rights of the Miskito population.


          4.          Relations between the IACHR and the Nicaraguan Government


          In conclusion, the Commission wishes to refer to its relations with the Government of Nicaragua, which have been characterized by a lack of cooperation on the Government's part. This is an issue to which the Commission had occasion to refer to in its previous Annual Report. During the past year, the Commission reiterated the request first made in March 1984 that a member of the IACHR and a Secretariat attorney be invited to Nicaragua for working meetings to resolve many individual cases in the pipeline, since the cases are such that something more than the usual procedure—basically an exchange of correspondence—is required.


          In response to repeated requests by the IACHR, the Acting Representative of Nicaragua to the Organization of American States advised the Commission that his Government would be ready to receive the requested visit, but that “the aggression by the current North American Administration of which my country is a victim does not make the present time the most propitious for such a visit, and my Government would subsequently therefore choose a mutually convenient date…”.


          The Commission must state the deep frustration it has been caused by this attitude of the Government of Nicaragua. The IACHR does not find the Government's grounds for refusing its consent to the visit to be valid, since there is no relationship whatever between the alleged aggression and the examination of individual cases that must be clarified. In the case of the Miskito Indians, the Government of Nicaragua permitted representatives of various agencies and a number of different countries to visit the area.


          During its 68th session, the Chairman of the Commission received the visit of representatives of the Nicaraguan Government with whom he had a frank interchange of opinions with respect to the relations between the Government and the Commission. The Commission hopes that the Government of Nicaragua will revise its stance and permit more positive relations to develop with the Commission. This would facilitate the solution of cases presented to the Commission and enable it to investigate situations related to the observance of human rights in the country.




          Since its last Annual Report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to observe developments in the human rights situation in Paraguay with particular attention. It also decided to begin a special report on the human rights situation in Paraguay, and again requested the Government's consent to a visit on a date certain, as soon as possible.


          These decisions were officially conveyed to the Government of Paraguay by the President of the Commission. In its earlier 1983-84 Annual Report, the Commission had noted that the decision on the date for a visit had been in abeyance since 1977 when the Government had consented to a visit but without specifying a date.


          Subsequently, in its 1984-85 Annual Report, the Commission again reminded the Government of the commitment it had formally undertaken and emphasized that the date must be set as soon as possible. It noted that any other response by the Paraguayan Government would be taken as evidence that it was not prepared to meet its commitment. Regrettably, as of the date of the approval of the present report, the Government's consent to the visit has still not been formalized.


          Some changes have been made in the human rights area in Paraguay during the period covered by the present report, even though the Commission has not yet noted any significant steps being taken to lead to an effective democratization of the country.


          One can cite the unconditional release, on October 23, 1985, of the peasant leader Marcelino Corazón Medina, President of the “Agricultural Producers' Coordinating Committee”, who had been on a hunger strike for almost a month, since his arbitrary arrest at the end of September 1985.


          Also during the period, Luis Alonso Resck, President of the Christian Democratic Party, was authorized to re-enter Paraguay from his exile in Argentina, and returned on April 20, 1985; the distinguished writer Augusto Roa Bastos was also allowed to return. Both had been expelled from the country under administrative regulations decreed in June 1981 and April 1982, respectively.


          As regards the massive and most serious violations of the right to life and humane treatment, which were frequent in Paraguay in earlier decades, it is to be pointed out that during the period covered by this report there were no cases of disappearances; the incidence of torture committed by the police authorities has diminished, as well as assassinations for political reasons, although at least one major exception occurred during this period that must be mentioned here.


          Reference is made to the case of Rodolfo González, a young Law school student who, according to those filing the complaint, died as the result of torture inflicted on him on April 10, 1986. It was stressed that the police had reported in the press that González had died as a consequence of the injuries he sustained in a “traffic accident”, while the autopsy by the forensic doctor, Dr. José Ballasai, showed that the body had a bullet lodged in the cranium, that it bore another bullet wound, and showed signs of having been tortured. Dr. Ballasai was arrested on April 23, after conducting the autopsy. As of the date of the approval of the present report, the Government has merely reported that the case is heard in secret summary proceedings.


          Constant violations still occur in Paraguay of important rights recognized by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. These violations affect, in particular, the right to a fair trial and due process; personal liberty and safety; recognition of legal capacity and other political rights and civil liberties, such as freedom to organize, freedom of association, residence and movement, and freedom of thought and expression.


          The Commission once again regrets the continuous and indiscriminate application of the emergency laws contained in Laws Nos. 294 of 1955 and 209 of 1970 on “Defense of Democracy” and “Defense of Public Order and Individual Liberty”, as well as the permanent state of siege established in Article 79 of the Constitution, which without fail has been extended, without interruption, every three months.


          The absence of a truly autonomous judiciary has been evidenced by a paralysis of the investigations and the failure to bring to trial senior officials and authorities who may be involved in crimes. This happened, for example, with important government authorities who were presumed to have participated in the theft of several hundred million dollars in foreign exchange from the Central Bank, which was reported at the end of 1985. Initially, the courts had sentenced more than a dozen individuals supposedly implicated in the fraud to jail, but all are currently free.


          Habeas corpus, a right that is guaranteed under Article78 of the National Constitution does not function in practice and is not an available remedy; the Supreme Court has continued to abdicate its functions by disqualifying itself from hearing writs of habeas corpus filed during the state of siege.


          In the area of political and civil rights, the Government continues to regard the opposition parties that make up the “National Accord” as being “illegal” or “irregular”. They are not allowed to participate in elections, nor were they permitted to organize ever since the time they were founded in 1970. The Government has also flatly rejected the planned National Dialogue that the Episcopal Conference of the Paraguayan Catholic Church encouraged in early 1986 in an attempt to gain the participation of all political and social sectors in a common, unified effort to facilitate a political transition by peaceful change towards full democracy.


          In that context of lack of conditions for the exercise of democracy, the ruling Colorado Party again won municipal elections in October 1985 by an 88% majority of all votes cast in the country. At the same time, notable members of the militant wing of the Colorado Party floated President Stroessner's candidacy for an eight presidential term in 1988-1993.


          As indicated below, there has been a new wave of mass arrests and attacks on opposition leaders, and a move by the Government and para-police forces to contain and repress demonstrations by the political opposition and the popular demands and protests of the various segments of the population seeking grater democracy in the country.


          Among those detained are, on November 4, 1985 the editor-owner of the paper ABC-Color, which had been shut down, and Miguel Abdón Saguier, Secretary of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA) in March 1986, who had been arrested in September 1985 and was again detained one month later, on April 13, 1986, in San José de los Arroyos.


          On April 23, 1986, a public demonstration for higher wages by staff of the Hospital de Clínicas was broken up, and Dr. Aníbal Carillo, Dr. José Bellasai, Dr. Juan Massi and Dr. Ursino Barrios, among others, were arrested. On April 25, 1986, Mr. Quintín González Escobar, a distinguished member of MOPOCO, was arrested on his return to Paraguay from Argentina. On April 27, 1986, another PLRA demonstration to promote the candidacy of its leader, Mr. Saldivar, was broken up, and the journalist José Luis Simón, of the opposition weekly El Pueblo, and a group of journalists from the West German state television who were covering the event, were arrested.


          On May Day, a street demonstration was broken up of more than one thousand members of the Inter-Union Workers' Movement (MIT), who had gathered in the Parish of Cristo Rey after a mass organized to celebrate May Day. Among those arrested were Marcelino Corazón Medina, the peasant leader, who had previously been arrested in September 1985; Mr. Adriano Yegros, and Mr. Alberto Alderete, a student and member of the PLRA. The representatives of CLAT and of the CMT, Messrs. Dante Oberlín and Alfredo Ferraresi were brutally beaten. On May 2, 1986, the President of the Medical Association of the Hospital de Clínicas, Dr. Carlos Filizzola, was arrested in an attempt, it was said, to intimidate him and end the strike for higher wages that had been going on for several days.


          It should be noted that in most of the cases described here, the detentions lasted for a few hours or days, after which the persons arrested were freed or brought before the appropriate court authorities.


          The persons filing the complaints stated that the police and para-police authorities acted with unjustified violence when they broke up the group of demonstrators, firing their weapons practically over the heads of the marchers and beating them with knuckle-dusters and the butts of their rifles. They also used water cannons and extraordinarily potent, asphyxiating tear-gar.


          Freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom to publish have continued under severe restrictions, in an atmosphere of an increased number of arrests, threats and intimidation of journalists, newspaper publishers and editors, and managers of radio stations and news agencies.


          It is now just two and a half years since the newspaper ABC-Color was closed down; the printing and distribution of the paper had been suspended “for an indefinite time” by Resolution No. 227 of the Minister of the Interior, Sabino A. Montanaro, on March 22, 1984, and despite all the efforts, there appears to be not the slightest possibility that it will reopen in the near future. The harassment of many of its former reporters, who are now working in other print and radio media, has continued. The owner-editor, Mr. Aldo Zucolillo, was again arrested on November 4, 1985, this time for some ten hours, by the “office of investigations”, when he returned from New York after receiving the Mary Moors Cabot journalism prize from Columbia University for his contribution to freedom of the press. According to the official Government communiqué, his statements during the award ceremony were incitement to subversion as a means of changing the country's political structure. When the Chief of Police, General Francisco Brites Borges, informed him that he was being released, he “advised” him to leave the country if he was not in agreement with the Government of President Stroessner.


          Radio Ñandutí, accused of contributing to creating “social discord” was again closed down in January 1986. This time, the suspension lasted for only 15 days. The manager of the radio station, Humberto Rubín, had also been arrested in the first week of December 1985 for a few hours and held in the Central Police Station in Asunción. He was warned by the Director of the Department of Public Order, Carlo Schreirer, that he should change his editorial position or they would throw him out of the country. In April 1985, Rubín complained that the police had refused to provide him with protection after repeated death threats against him, his family and his co-workers at the radio station. Official spokesmen had accused the station of being responsible for the street demonstrations that had taken place in recent weeks and in the early hours of April 30, a horde of some 50 government sympathizers stoned the outside of the radio station, firing into the air with cries of “down with Communism” and “death to the bearded Marxist” (alluding to the manager of the station, Mr. Rubín). They destroyed almost all the outside windows of the building. A few days later, on Saturday, May 3, another group of five or so armed men in masks again assaulted Radio Ñandutí, destroying the premises and transmitters, some pieces of which they stole. On Monday, May 5, the radio station found all its communications and telephones cut. Since then, the station has been subject to constant interruptions due to “radio interference”, and has been prohibited from broadcasting news or commentary critical of the Government. The manager of the station announced publicly that because of this, and because businesses were being forced to withdraw their advertising from the station, it appeared practically inevitable that the station would have to close down.


          Attacks on and harassment of the press and representatives of the press denounced during this period included the following: Nicolás Arguello and Miguel Angel Arguello, of the newspaper La Tarde and Radio Ñandutí, were beaten when they were covering a student demonstration in the Law School of the National University on April 24, 1986; Osvaldo Fonseca and Roberto Bazán, of TV Channel 13, and Martín Ciccano of the Diario de Noticias were beaten up on April 2; José Luis Simón of the weekly El Pueblo, the news organ of the opposition Febrerista Revolutionary Party, and four correspondents from a team from Channel One of the West German state television, Nikolaus Brender, Peter Wendt, José Antonio Vulín and Eduardo Johnson, and the Press and Cultural Attaché of the West Germany Embassy, Armir Stever, who was accompanying them, were all beaten up when they were covering the peaceful demonstration organized by the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party on April 27. While the Germans were released a few hours later that day and their equipment returned (estimated damages were US$40,000), José Luis Simón was kept under arrest, incommunicado, for two days before being released.


          It should also be mentioned that on July 2, Celso Velásquez, a journalist from Radio Charitas, was detained by the police in the town of Villarica for more than five days. He was not informed of the reason for his arrest. The manager of the radio station, Rev. Javier Arancón, a Spanish priest of the Franciscan order—who some weeks earlier had been warned by the Minister of Education and Worship, Carlos Ortíz Ramírez, “to change the line of the station and dismiss the senior broadcaster, Mr. Guillermo Yaluff, if the wanted to stay in Paraguay”—was detained in Puerto Falcón when he was returning from Argentina. All his Paraguayan papers were confiscated and he was then forced to leave the country.


          As to the right to residence and movement, the Commission duly recorded its satisfaction over the amnesty granted in 1983, which permitted political exiles to return to Paraguay. The Commission notes that the Government has lifted the restrictions on two out of the three cases excluded from the amnesty: the President of the Christian Democrat Party, Luis Alfonso Resck, who returned on April 20, 1986 and has been living in Paraguay without experiencing any problems, and the writer Augusto Roa Bastos.


          However, despite the repeated requests, the PLRA leader, Domingo Laino, has still been denied permission to return. At the moment, he is the only opposition leader against whom this prohibition is maintained. His wife, Mrs. Rafaela Guanes de Laino continues to be refused her passport, for no reason. On his fourth attempt to return to Paraguay, December 23 and 24, 1985, through the Clorinda area, Puerto Falcón, Laino was again refused entry “on order from above”.


          The Commission deplores his forced exile, and the excessive use of force and the brutal way in which his recent fifth attempt at re-entry was prohibited recently. The foreign legislators and well-known figures accompanying him in the place from Montevideo to the international airport at Asunción on June 24, 1986, were verbally and physically mistreated.


          Freedom of religion and worship continues to be formally respected and it appears that, with the exception of Father Javier Arancón's expulsion from the country, no other cases of persecution of priests or lay officers of the various social and humanitarian institutions have occurred. However, during the period covered by the present report, a hardening of relations has been noted between certain official government sectors and notable members of the Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy.


          In large part, these difficulties have been due to the support that, at the end of last year, the Catholic Church gave to the plea by the top leaders of the “National Accord” to serve as mediator of the planned “National Dialogue” between the various political and opinion sectors. The Church also took a more active role in social issues and in criticizing the corruption and injustice that abounds.


          Members of the Paraguayan Catholic hierarchy blamed the Government for the assaults and aggression of pro-government paramilitary groups, and for the excesses of the police in repressing the marches, demonstrations and acts of protest that have been taking place in the country recently. Monsignor Ismael Rolón, the Archbishop of Asunción and President of the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference said: “the Paraguayan people are becoming tired of so many lies and so much suffering”, and in a communiqué condemned the “indiscriminate use of violence to stifle the just claims of the people”.


          A number of deputies and members of the pro-government sector used slanderous language and threats against prominent members of the clergy, accusing them in the government media of being infiltrators, destabilizing elements and promoters of violence. They went to far as to describe the Church's mediation efforts in the National Dialogue, led by Monsignor Jorge Riviera Banks, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference, as a “fascist proposal”.


          Lastly, the Commission wishes to note that it has been receiving timely responses from the Government, to its requests for information, and to note the authorization granted during this year to a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations (such as the United Nations, the ILO, Americas Watch and Amnesty International) to carry out investigations in the country; the Commission, therefore, reiterates its request that the Government of Paraguay will officially confirm a date for the planned in loco observation of the IACHR the purpose of which will be to find out the facts about the human rights situation in Paraguay as faithfully and objectively as possible.




          The Commission has carried out two on-site observations in Suriname since 1983 and, as a result, has prepared two special reports on the situation of human rights in that country. The first report derived from a complaint lodged with the Commission, which urged it to investigate the death of fifteen prominent citizens who died at the hands of the military authorities of Suriname. The investigation in situ of this case, and the analysis of the state of human rights in general, were carried out from June 20-24, 1983. Thereafter, the Commission approved its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Suriname” on October 5, 1983 concluding that high Government officials were responsible for the death of these 15 persons.


          After conducting a second study in loco from June 12 to 17, 1985, the Commission approved its “Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Suriname” on October 2, 1985.


          In the latter report, the Commission again reiterated to the Government of Suriname the fact that despite the recommendation stated in the first Report to investigate the tragic events of December 8, 1982, the investigation had not been done and the high government officials responsible for those acts had not been sanctioned.


          The Commission again reiterated to the Government of Suriname the need to establish “as soon as possible a system of representative democracy, which, as stated by the Commission in several occasions, is the soundest guarantee for respect of all human rights stated in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”


          Since this Report was published, the Commission has continued to follow the development of events related to human rights in Suriname.


          As of October 1985, the Government of Suriname has been taking several political measures, which might represent steps toward the country's democratization, which, at present, is absent given the concentration of power in the hands of the military, especially in the Military Council headed by Colonel Desiré Bouterse.


          In the first place, on November 23, 1985, representatives of the Government and of the three principal political parties of the country—NPS (National Party of Suriname), VHP (Progressive Reform Party) and Kaum Tani Persuatan Indonesia (KTPI)--, reached an agreement by which those parties would integrate the country's highest political organ, that is, the Supreme Council (Topberaad).


          Subsequently, on February 25, 1986, the Government of Suriname, by decree A-21, put an end to the state of emergency in force throughout the country since September 1980. The Commission, which had recommended such a measure in its 1985 Report, notes this change because it represents a positive step towards reestablishing the rule of law and the civil rights of the Surinamese people.


          In May 1986 the three principal political parties the NPS, the KTPI and the VHP accepted the invitation of Colonel Bouterse to participate in the top deliberating council as agreed to in the November 1985 accord. Their participation was limited to political and administrative affairs. The political parties continued to demand general and secret elections before the transitional phase is completed.


          On July 16, 1986, Colonel Bouterse named a new government led by Prime Minister Pretapnaarian Radhakishun, a businessman and member of the Progressive Reform Party (VHP). The new government under Radhakishun will remain in office until March 31, 1987, when the transitional phase, which began with the appointment of Udenhout’s cabinet in 1985, will end. The Government program presented by the New Prime Minister on July 24 made no specific mention of elections and gave few details on the planned April 1987 return to civilian rule. According to the program, further discussions will take place concerning the substance of the political and administrative order. It does not indicate if the military will continue to play a preponderant role in the executive branch of the government.


          In an interview given to Agence France Presse on July 23, 1986, Colonel Bouterse maintained, “I have always been the promoter of the revolutionary process, and that has a special meaning … The military must determine how long their Commander should serve the country.” He promised, “In the next nine months the Constitution will be finished and the Surinamese people will hold a referendum deciding whether they want elections.”


          In compliance with a United Nations recommendation that the member countries establish institutions which warrant the protection of human rights, the Government of Suriname also created the National Institute for Human Rights by Decree A-18 of March 24, 1986. This official institution, staffed with personnel with direct links both to the Government and the military, has among its functions those of investigating and determining responsibility for violations of human rights; submitting the results of its investigations to the pertinent juridical authorities; promoting the teaching of human rights and adapting national legislation so as to conform it to international human rights instruments.


          It should be pointed out that the Government of Suriname has recently amended Article 21 of Decree A-11 related to the Basic Statute of Rights and Duties of the People of Suriname as a prior step towards its planned accession to the Pact of San José, Costa Rica of 1969.


          Furthermore, and in compliance with a program for full transition to a civilian government expected to take place in April 1987, the Government of Suriname has pledged that the transition will bring about a democratic and just society; that the rule of law will be guaranteed; that the National Assembly will meet its goal of concluding the transition phase towards a full democracy no later than next April; and a Constitution and the composition of the organ representative of the people be established in accordance with the principles of a true democracy.


          However, in spite of this progress, the Commission considers that the right to freedom of opinion, expression and thought dissemination is still severely limited in Suriname. Decree No. 310 of May 7, 1984, mentioned in the Commission's 1983 and 1985 reports, is still in force; it prohibits importation, transportation, distribution, sale, possession, production or reproductions of certain written material.


          Since June 1986, the Government of Suriname has been considering a new bill to regulate the freedom of the press. In December 1985 the group comprising the Surinamese Assembly, with the exception of the February 25 Movement of Col. Bouterse, spoke out against state control of the country's media, as proposed in the recently published “political framework” which is to form the basis of a new Constitution. These guidelines state that the media must be to a significant extent State property in order to guarantee the right of freedom of expression.


          On June 12, the authorities arrested Gerad Wessel and Pieter Storms of the Dutch magazine Nieuwe Revue in the Marowijne District and held them for two weeks before expelling them from the country. The two were arrested because they were considered spies but the Court of Justice found that there was not enough evidence to detain them. Suriname's Minister of Justice, Judge Funwasi, however, criticized the Court, revoked its judgment and broadened the charges against the journalists, accusing them of entering the country under false pretenses and providing a government opponent with a false passport. On June 28, the two journalists were expelled.


          The Dutch Union of Journalists said that the charges against Wessel and Storms were unfounded and that they were in Suriname with the consent of the authorities.


          Although the Commission has no knowledge of arrests being made for political reasons during the period in which this Report has been written, it does know of a case in which a person was arrested for possession of reports on human rights of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Indeed, Dr. Linus Rensch was arrested with his family on February 3, 1986, at the Zanderij airport in Suriname after having found in his baggage a copy of the OAS 1985 Report on Suriname and a UN report on summary executions. Dr. Rensch was taken to Fort Zeelandia, military police central command, where he was interrogated. After having remained in detention for one day without being given anything to eat he was permitted to leave but instructed to report daily to Major Aalspeer of the Military Intelligence Service. Although Mr. Rensch was not permitted to leave the country he now lives abroad.


          Since July 22, a group of guerrilleros led by former Army private Ronnie Brunswijk has been waging armed attacks against military installations in the Commewigne and Marowigne Districts of Easter Suriname. In videotapes sent to Holland, Brunswijk claimed his aim was to restore democracy and pressure the Government to hold elections. During the heavy fighting along the French Guiana border, the Commission has received reports of military raids of several Bushnegro villages such as Moengotapoe and Morakondre with those suspected of assisting the guerrilleros being rounded up and transported to Surinamese military barracks. After the guerrilleros' August 23 demands for the release of the villagers and the withdrawal of the Army from Easter Suriname were not met by the Government, they renewed their attacks on the frontier town of Albina. On September 9, the Suriname Army announced that it had “decided to take the offensive in the battle against the Brunswijk band”.


          Data gathered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during the last year allows it to take note of certain measures being taken for the return of civilian and democratic rule in Suriname but that it still fells short of securing the effective exercise of the rights and freedoms recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          The Commission hopes that in the next year, according to the goals the Government has committed itself to reach, the State's structure, characterized at present by the concentration of power in the Military Council headed by Colonel Bouterse, will be modified so as to establish an actual democratic government through free, secret and informed elections, that will guarantee the full exercise of human rights.


[ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]