Doc. 10
18 September 1989
Original:  Spanish




          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued monitoring the human rights situation in Nicaragua. This section seeks to provide an account of its observations, thereby supplementing the information supplied in its 1981 Special Report on that country, the report on the status of human rights of the Miskito population, and in the successive Annual Reports issued since 1982.


          The period covered by this Annual Report has been particularly rich in events connected with the enforcement of human rights in Nicaragua. The Inter-American Commission took part in the process that led to the partial release of persons serving prison sentences imposed by Special Justice Tribunals, in view of the importance of this issue—to which a definitive solution has not yet been found—a detailed account is given in Chapter V of this Annual Report.


          This period, moreover, witnessed major international developments, such as the talks held by the Central American Presidents, that had a bearing on the human rights situation, even as Nicaraguan society itself underwent changes that will doubtless affect the immediate future of those rights within the country. This section will deal with these aspects.


          As regards the right to life, the period covered by this Annual Report registers several complaints of violations of the same, chargeable to members of the Sandinista Popular Army and to the Ministry of the Interior's General Bureau of State Security, which took the form of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances. According to the available information, these violations were particularly serious in the Sixth Region.


          The government later reported that as a result of investigations, members of the Sandinista Popular Army had been sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to thirty years for proven violations of the right to life. The Commission hopes for continued investigation and vigorous punishment of these types of violations of the right to life, so as to eradicate this evil practice.


          Also during the period covered by this report, Nicaragua enacted a new constitutional law regulating the application for habeas corpus [`Recurso de Exhibición Personal]. The Commission is pleased to note that this legal action will remain open during a State of Emergency, but believes that including the terms “unlawful arrest” or “illegal detention” [“detención illegal” o “privación illegal de la libertad”] in Article 45 mistakenly qualifies the circumstances under which the application is admissible, for if this action is meant to protect the personal safety of the individual, it should be allowed to operate irrespective of the lawfulness of arrest. The Commission trust that Nicaraguan court decisions will remedy this shortcoming.


          During the period covered by this Annual Report, important developments have also taken place in connection with the exercise of political rights, as defined in Article 23 of the American Convention. The Government of Nicaragua has supplied some information on the rules adopted during this period to organize the current electoral process and insure the effectiveness of certain conditions under which it is to take place.


          In view of the complexity and importance of this point, the Inter-American Commission will deal with it at length, by first addressing the regulatory framework of the American Convention on Human Rights—whose provisions on Political Rights are binding on Nicaragua—and then discussing the legal provisions enacted in the period covered by this Annual Report that have to do with the exercise of political rights or civil rights related thereto. This account will include the manner in which the provisions were adopted, as well as the subsequent political agreements that were worked out in their connection. It will also describe the actual conditions under which such rights have been in fact exercised over the period covered by this Report.


          Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which closely parallels the wording of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is based on Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that elections to express the “will of the people”—in the words of the Universal Declaration—are to be “periodic, genuine, and carried out by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the voters.”


          Accordingly, the act of electing representatives must be genuine, which means that there must be a correspondence between the will of the electors and the outcome of the election. To put it negatively, this characteristic implies an absence of coercion to distort the will of the people. The Inter-American Commission has repeatedly referred to two types of factors affecting the genuineness of elections: on the one hand, those connected with the general conditions under which the electoral process takes place, and on the other, those that have to do with the legal and institutional system that organizes and runs the elections themselves, in order words, matters directly and immediately connected with the casting of votes.


          As to the general conditions for the electoral process, the Commission has pointed out that basically equivalent conditions must apply to the various political groups participating in the electoral process; to put it negatively, this means an absence of direct coercion or unwarranted advantages for one of the participants. As for the institutional system responsible for organizing the casting and counting of votes, the Inter-American Commission has stressed the requirement of credibility that must characterize all decisions adopted under that system; the Commission has also dealt with operational aspects, which must exclude the possibility of influencing the will of the voter at the time the vote is cast.


          Another key factor is the universality of suffrage, as stipulated in Article 23 of the American Convention. The Inter-American Commission has often addressed this point, the object of which is to make certain that there are no exclusions either based on ideological reasons or effectively barring a significant number of those who support one of the contenders in the election. The Commission will now turn to the conditions surrounding the present electoral process in Nicaragua and the elements bearing on the universality of suffrage. To do so, it must first describe the legal regulations adopted during this period, underscoring the role played by political groups in this connection.


          Electoral Law Nº 43 was promulgated on October 18, 1988 and subsequently amended by Law Nº 57 of April 18, 1989 in order to fulfill the commitment made by the President of Nicaragua at the meeting of Central American Presidents. On both occasions, the proposals put forward by the opposition parties were not included in the law, prompting the opposition to walk out of the Assembly when the amendments were passed.


          This led the parties grouped into the “Civic Opposition” to issue, on April 25, 1989, a press release stating that the amendments of the Electoral Law had been unilaterally approved by the Sandinista Front majority in the National Assembly without considering the essence of the proposals made by the opposition or the recommendations from the Electoral Commissions of Costa Rica and Venezuela. The flaws they point to are: the subordination of the Supreme Electoral Council to the dictates of the Executive, the absence of a reliable system of voter registration, the absence of provision for absentee balloting by Nicaraguan residents abroad, the fact that no moratorium was set for military service recruitment, the failure to establish a fair system of funding for political parties or to authorize them to receive donations from abroad, and the failure to provide fair access to the media, to let mayors be elected by the direct vote of the people, and to establish the electoral police.


          Thereafter, on August 4, 1989, on the eve of his trip to the Tela meeting with the other Central American Presidents, the President of Nicaragua reached with the opposition parties a series of accords that supplemented the amendments adopted by the Assembly and took account of many of the above points, which are to be corrected through the proper legislative process.


          On the subject of regulation of the media, the General Law on the Media was enacted on April 21, 1989. It too failed to reflect concerns regarded as fundamental by the opposition parties, for which reason the opposition boycotted the voting on the law. This topic was also addressed in the agreements reached after the talks of August 3 and 4, 1989, between the President of Nicaragua and the opposition parties. For methodological reasons, these aspects will be discussed when dealing with the exercise of the right to free expression.


          Furthermore, and still in the area of regulatory action during the period covered by this Annual Report, the Commission is also pleased to note that the state of emergency has not been reintroduced in Nicaragua—except for a short time last October, and this owing to hurricane Joan--, which in turn, underscores the progress achieved in the Central American peace process.


          Even so, the opposition parties have continued to press for amendment of the Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security, on the grounds that it grants excessive powers to the Nicaraguan authorities and has been, in practice, the key instrument used by those authorities to control and curb its opponents. This is a longstanding demand, as explained by the Commission in its previous Annual Report (p. 330), where it was pointed out that some sectors of the opposition did not attach great importance to the lifting of the state of emergency so long as the law on Preservation of Public Order and Security remained in effect.


          During the period covered by this Annual Report, the demand to amend this law continued to be heard. It was included, on April 5, 1989, in the document addressed to the President of Nicaragua by the “Nicaraguan Civil Opposition.” On August 4, 1989—the day before the Meeting of Central American Presidents in Tela, Honduras—the opposition parties and the President of Nicaragua signed a series of commitments, one of which calls for the President to “place immediately before the National Assembly a bill to repeal Decree 10-74 (Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security).” The Commission hopes that the new law will be modified in such a way as to provide effective protection for Nicaraguan citizens.


          Mention of this law leads to one of the general requirements that tend to insure the genuineness of electoral processes, namely the crucial aspect of the right to personal liberty. In Nicaragua, two kinds of persons are in jail in connection with political situations: those sentenced by the Special Justice Tribunals and those sentenced or tried by the Anti-Somoza Popular Tribunals.


          The Inter-American Commission has long insisted on the need to settle the status of persons jailed for reasons originating in situations of a political nature, emphasizing that this solution must come about within the framework of the American Convention on Human Rights, the international instrument by which Nicaragua is bound as a Contracting State. The opposition parties and major figures and institutions of Nicaraguan society have all along insisted on the need to resolve these problems through a general amnesty, whereas the government, while accepting the need for such a measure, has made it subject to various political conditions.


          The situation of persons sentenced by Special Justice Tribunals, as well as the role played in that matter by the Commission, is dealt with in a special chapter of this Annual Report. Here, it is enough to note that although the pardon of the 1.894 individuals released last March 17 is a step in the right direction, the process through which this measure was adopted was not based on legal considerations; accordingly, by denying a pardon to 39 persons, the Government of Nicaragua continues to be in violation of the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. It should be pointed out, furthermore, that Decree Nº 44 of March 14, 1989 granting the pardon was issued over the objections of the opposition parties. At this stage, and considering how the process has been conducted by the Government of Nicaragua, the only reasonable solution, in the eyes of the Commission, is to release those 39 persons immediately.


          The other category of persons jailed in Nicaragua for reasons originating in political situations is that of individuals sentenced by the Anti-Somoza Popular Tribunals under the provisions of the Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security. The Inter-American Commission has repeatedly called attention to the absence of procedural safeguards in the trials conducted by those Tribunals. The Government of Nicaragua itself has acknowledged the need to resolve these situations and has enacted amnesty laws at various times.


          Thus, on November 19, 1987, the National Assembly passed an Amnesty Law whose entry into force was made contingent on an end to the use of the territory of Central American countries for the purpose of attacking other countries, as well as end to the aid from the United States to the Nicaraguan resistance. On March 26, 1988 a new Amnesty Law was passed by the Assembly in the wake of the Sapoa Agreements. This time the release of persons sentenced or tried under the Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security was made subject to completion of the operative stages established in those agreements, the removal of resistance forces to specific areas, and the signing of a definitive cease-fire.


          As mentioned, on August 4, 1989 the President of the Republic of Nicaragua and the opposition parties reached a series of political agreements. Concerning the release of persons tried or sentenced under the Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security, the Government of Nicaragua made three commitments. First, it undertook to enact a broad and unconditional Amnesty Law “which will take effect upon execution of the Voluntary Demobilization, Relocation or Repatriation Plan” for the Nicaraguan resistance forces. Secondly, it bound itself immediately to release those persons tried under that Law “who are in a valetudinarian state, upon a finding from the Human Rights and Peace Commission of the National Assembly or in the manner established by the Criminal Code.” Lastly, it was agreed that the “Government of Nicaragua shall consider releases based on a list supplied by the undersigned political parties showing that the prisoners are members of those political parties and are in jail for political activities.”


          The encouraging presence of the peace process now under way in Central America and the beneficial effect of that process on Nicaraguan society justify the assertion that the political stipulations conditioning the entry into force of the amnesty are no longer warranted. This is the more true considering the electoral process now actively in progress, the fact that many individuals have been in jail for a long time, and that some of them are seriously ill. Such are the cases, for instance, of Jorge Ramírez Zelaya and Eliécer Rivera Ubeda, both suffering from serious physical handicaps as a result of the wounds they sustained when captured, the former in 1985 and the latter in 1988. It must not be forgotten, moreover, that the 1987 amnesty was granted within the framework of the Esquipulas agreements and was complied with by countries such as El Salvador, which are racked by internal armed strife; Nicaragua, on the other hand, despite persistent pleas from Nicaraguan public figures, continues to make the granting of amnesty contingent on new political conditions, without resolving the problem in the end.


          In the judgment of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and in view of the current status of the peace process and the desire to land credibility to the electoral process now under way, and for reasons of justice and equity, the Government of Nicaragua should set free all persons now jailed for reasons originating in situations of a political nature, in other words, those sentenced and tried under the Law on Preservation of Public Order and Security as well as the 39 individuals sentenced by the Special Justice Tribunals. Indeed, if the genuineness of the elections is to be gauged by the establishment of conditions allowing for equal participation by the various groups vying for office, this requirement cannot be met so long as many members of some groups remain jailed and all others are menaced by the use of that Law at any time.


          The Inter-American Commission therefore feels that the genuineness of the forthcoming elections hinges largely on the prior settlement of the problem of persons jailed for political reasons. Owing to the seriousness of problems that have beset Nicaragua, the only way to settle this issue and lend credibility to the current electoral process is by releasing all those persons, including the 39 who were arbitrarily excluded from the pardon last March.


          Another element regarded as essential to the credibility of the electoral process and the genuineness of elections is the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. This condition presupposes the existence of not only a regulatory structure adequately protecting that right, but also practices that do not entail unfair advantages in the use of the media, particularly the media available to the governing party.


          It bears noting that on October 13, 1988—during the period covered by this Annual Report—the news program of the Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada (COSEP) [Private Enterprise High Council] known as the “El Nicaragüense” [The Nicaraguan] on Radio Mundial, was ordered off the air for broadcasting an interview with Wilfredo Montalbán, a leader of the Resistance, who made statements about high Nicaraguan authorities that were considered libelous by officials of the Media Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. The order was issued under the provisions of the Media Law.


          Also during the period covered by this Report, on November 2, 1988, the news program “Seis en punto” [Six o'clock sharp] broadcast by Radio Corporation was suspended until further notice, under Article 46 of the Media Law then in effect, for airing—according to the Ministry of the Interior responsible for the measure—false news reports contrary to national security.


          It is worth mentioning, moreover, that during the first part of the period covered by this Annual Report the news programming of Radio Católica remained suspended; broadcasting resumed on March 27, 1989, pursuant to the agreements signed by the Central American Presidents, as reported by the Nicaraguan Government to the Inter-American Commission.


          Bearing in mind this recent record as well as a long practice by the Government of Nicaragua, it is not to be wondered at that the opposition has long and persistently asked for the amendment of the Media Law. The Law has been often denounced for leaving it to the Ministry of the Interior, through its General Bureau of the Media, to decide how freedom of expression will be exercised, to impose such penalties as it sees fit, and to review such measures at the request of the affected parties.


          As a result of persistent complaints from opposition parties, on February 14, 1989, in the El Salvador Declaration of the Central American Presidents, the Government of Nicaragua undertook to guarantee:


         … the free operation of means of communication by reviewing and amending the Media Law, and equal access-as to hours and length of broadcasting—to State television and radio by all political parties. The Government of Nicaragua will authorize all media to obtain either within the country or abroad, as may suit their convenience, all materials, articles and equipment needed to fully discharge their task.


          In response to repeated requests from opposition sectors and consistently with above commitment, on April 15, 1989, the Government of Nicaragua sent to the National Assembly a bill to amend the Media Law. Law Number 56, the General Media Law was passed on April 21, 1989 by the governing party's majority in the National Assembly. The law was challenged by the opposition parties, the newspaper La Prensa—which described the new law as “Nazi-Fascist”—the Association of Nicaraguan Journalists, and other independent entities of the Government. Furthermore, by a communiqué issued on April 25, 1989, fifteen opposition parties registered their disapproval of the new General Media Law, which they described as “totalitarian in nature”.


          The main objections to the law have to do with the government monopoly on television, the ambiguity of certain expressions such as “national interest,” and the direct subordination of Nicaraguan Media to the General Bureau of the Media under the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for issuing licenses and imposing penalties.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights believes, in regard to this point, that the new law grants excessive and counterproductive powers to the Ministry of the Interior, for it removes a matter as sensitive as freedom of expression from the jurisdiction of the civil court and places it under a ministry, which is a political agency. Not surprisingly, therefore, on the following August 4 the President of Nicaragua promised the opposition parties to:


         Immediately lay before the National Assembly a bill to amend the Media Law, so that during the electoral process the application of the law may be directly supervised by the Supreme Electoral Council in all matters within its purview.


          It is the view of the Inter-American Commission that, in light of Nicaragua's history, freedom of expression safeguards must be made a part of the legal framework and must be enforced by the country's courts. Political commitments on the eve of international meetings are not sufficient to guarantee the effectiveness of a human right as fundamental as freedom of expression.


          Bearing in mind the control exercised over the media by the Ministry of the Interior and the close ties between the machinery of government and the political party in power, it is scarcely encouraging to find that the new Media Law preserves the government monopoly over television. The Commission trusts that the conduct of the Government of Nicaragua shall be guided by the agreements it signed with the opposition parties as to times and ways in which their viewpoints may be aired, and that no unfair advantage will be gained from news coverage or such other means as government management of the news media can procure wherever the media are subject to a government monopoly.


          The Inter-American Commission is pleased to find that the provisions of the new law reflect those of the American Convention on Human Rights as regards the prohibition of prior censorship. Also praiseworthy are the provisions on women, the role of the family, and the education of children and the young, as well as those concerning participation by ethnic groups on the Atlantic Coast.


          Another fundamental element found by the Inter-American Commission to have a bearing on equal participation in the electoral process is the use of government resources and monies to benefit one of the contenders in the election. As regards Nicaragua, heated debate was focused on two elements: the campaign use of government resources by the ruling party, and the channeling of resources from abroad.


          As background to the first aspect, it is interesting to recall that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in its Annual Report for 1983-1984, did itself note that:


         … it has verified that during the electoral process now under way (1984), the Sandinista National Liberation Front has made wide use of all resources placed at its disposal by the power of the State, which gives it an advantage over the other contenders.


          It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the opposition parties have repeatedly asked for a specific provision on this matter to be included in the amendments to the Electoral Law. This demand, in the form of a new provision to follow Article 115, found its way into the proposals made by those parties to the President of Nicaragua on April 9, 1989, but it was not considered when the amendments to the Electoral Law were enacted on April 18, 1989.


          The following August 4, on the eve of President Ortega's trip to the Meeting of Presidents, an agreement was concluded to bar “the use of public buildings for electoral campaigning” and “to effectively enforce the prohibition of using government property and resources in partisan electoral campaigning.” It was also agreed at that time that there was a need to guarantee “that public employees do not carry on partisan activities during working hours. No public or private employee may force its employees to take part in political campaigning.” Again, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights points out that these kinds of provisions should be made a part of Nicaraguan law rather than be left to impermanent political agreements.


          The use of government resources encompasses not only the allocation of goods and services in favor of one participant in the campaign but also the absence of pressures applied against opponents. Nicaragua's history is very rich in this kind of government behavior inconsistent with democratic requirements. Prominent opponents of the government have repeatedly charged, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has had occasion to observe, that groups of militants from the governing party openly harassed those who did not share the official position. The Inter-American Commission has repeatedly indicated the need for the government to prevent this type of behavior, in keeping with the duty prescribed by Article 1.1 of the American Convention, according to which governments have a duty not only to respect the rights and freedoms defined therein but to guarantee their exercise.


          This use of resources against opponents also prompted the opposition to repeatedly ask the government to stop recruiting youths for the Patriotic Military Service. This was one of the general conditions mentioned in the letter of April 5, 1989 from the opposition parties to President Ortega, which led to the agreement of August 4. The Commission hopes that this agreement will be put into practice so as to include reserve troops of voting age.


          The Commission must express its profound concern for the reiterated complaints regarding the harassment of persons who have been released from prison by means of a pardon last March. The Commission hopes that such behavior ceases immediately and reminds the Government of Nicaragua of the commitment it made to grant a broad pardon to fully restore the exercise of civil and political rights to hose benefited by the pardon.


          In a similar effort to curb the use of government resources by the party in power, the opposition asked for the repeal of the Law on Jurisdictional Functions of the Sandinista Police, about which the Inter-American Commission stated in its previous Annual Report that proceedings before the police judges established by that Law “do not adequately safeguard due process.” Again, this very sensitive aspect of Nicaraguan political practice was covered by the agreement of August 4, 1989, under which the President of Nicaragua undertook to “immediately place before the National Assembly a bill to amend the Law on the Jurisdictional Functions of the Sandinista Police, repealing the sections that grant it jurisdiction.”


          Sectors of the opposition have also asked the Government of Nicaragua to cease confiscating property. This demand was included in the letter of April 5, 1989 sent by the “Civic Opposition” to President Ortega. On June 22, 1989 the government proceeded to expropriate the land of three major coffee producers connected with the Private Enterprise High Council, arguing that the three were sabotaging production plans. Members of the opposition, on the other hand, have labeled this an intimidating maneuver of the part of the government. The agreements of August 4, 1989 between the President of Nicaragua and opposition leaders state that:


         The Government reaffirms the guarantees covering the various forms of property established by the Political Constitution, which shall not be subject to confiscation, expropriation or seizure for purely political reasons.


          Another problem had to do with the financing of campaign activities and, in particular, resources obtained abroad. The proposal from the opposition parties was to allow such aid without limitation, whereas the government preferred to bar it altogether, and it was so enacted in Electoral Law Nº 43 of October 18, 1988. When amendments to this law were discussed in April of this year, it was decided to establish a system according to which fifty per cent of any amount originating in a donation abroad is to go to the recipient, while the other fifty per cent is credited to a common fund for the use of the Supreme Electoral Council.


          It should be noted, moreover, that the agreement between the opposition parties and the President of Nicaragua appealed to governments with interests in the region to refrain from carrying out covert activities in the electoral process, including funding, which is to be channeled in accordance with Nicaraguan law. The Inter-American Commission attaches special importance to the strict heeding of this appeal.


          The other element mentioned by the Inter-American Commission as bearing on the genuineness of elections has to do with the agency responsible for organizing the electoral process and conducting the elections themselves. Various formulas were proposed by the opposition camp and by the governing party to set up the Supreme Electoral Council, which is the fourth branch of government under the Nicaraguan Constitution.


          It must be borne in mind, in this regard, that because of the importance of the functions assigned to the Supreme Electoral Council, the opposition wanted the Council to be made up of very qualified and independent individuals. In the Declaration issued by the Central American Presidents in El Salvador on February 14, 1989, the President of Nicaragua expressed his government's willingness to set up “the Supreme Electoral Council with balanced participation from representatives of opposition political parties.”


          The appointment of members of the Electoral Council and its chairman is in the hands of the National Assembly, from three-name slates put forward by the President of the Republic in accordance with Article 6 (as amended) of the Electoral Law. In June 7, 1989 the Assembly made the following appointments to the Supreme Council: two members of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, Messrs. Mariano Fiallos Oyanguren and Leonel Arguello Ramírez; two members of the opposition parties, Messrs. Aman Sandino Muñoz—from the Democratic Conservative Party—and Guillermo Selva Arguello—from the Independent Liberal Party--; Mr. Rodolfo Sandino Arguello was appointed as a “notable.” As alternate members the Council appointed Julian Corrales Munguia, Rosa Marina Zelaya, Julio Ruiz Quezada, Nidia Reyes Castañeda and Ernesto Salazar Elizondo. The chairman selected by the National Assembly of Nicaragua was Dr. Mariano Fiallos, who had held the same post in previous elections for President, Vice President and Representatives to the 1984 Assembly. This appointment, over which voting split along government and opposition party lines, was considered a poor choice by those who would have preferred to see the chair held by the “notable.” It was further objected that the make-up was not balanced, because there were two representatives from the Sandinista Front.


          In light of these objections, the matter was dealt with in the agreements of August 4, 1989 between the President of Nicaragua and the opposition parties, who agree that “the Supreme Electoral Council shall establish an advisory body composed of seven members selected on a pluralistic basis in accordance with Article 202 of the Electoral Law.”


          Another characteristic of elections under the American Convention is their universality. Article 23(2) regulates political rights according to residency, but because of the peculiarities of recent Nicaraguan history, a significant portion of the country's voting-age population is abroad. It is for this reason that the opposition has been asking for a provision enabling citizens abroad to vote. No such provision was included in the law of October 18, 1988, but an article in the Amendment Law of April 18, 1989 partly reflects this demand from the opposition by providing that Nicaraguans who reside abroad may register at the proper Consulate but must vote in Nicaragua.


          Another matter connected with the universality of elections, and of special importance to the electoral process now in progress in Nicaragua, is the return of major leaders from abroad. The Inter-American Commission takes the view that this return is a positive development, and hopes that the Government of Nicaragua will extend all facilities to make that return as positive as possible.


          The universality of elections takes on a special significance for the region of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. In that region, the turmoil that affected the population until 1981—and which led the Inter-American Commission to intervene as a friendly mediator—has caused a significant proportion of the population to move to areas adjoining Nicaragua. Some major leaders have taken up residence abroad but have indicated their desire to return.


          On June 27, 1989, Brooklin Rivera and other Miskito leaders tried to return to Nicaragua in order to participate in the current process. According to statements he later made, the conditions that the Government of Nicaragua set for their return were unacceptable. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights believes that the presence of the Miskito leaders in Nicaragua should contribute to peace, national reconciliation and democracy in that country, and therefore hopes that they will be given facilities to return as soon as possible.


          It is worth mentioning that the Unión Nicaragüense Opositora (UNO) appointed Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the Director of the newspaper La Prensa, as its candidate for the presidency, and Mr. Virgilio Godoy as its candidate for Vice President. Subsequently, the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) designated Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra as its candidate for the presidency and Mr. Sergio Ramírez Mercado, its candidate for Vice President.


          In sum, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hopes, in regards to the right to life, that the Government of Nicaragua will continue investigating and punishing those responsible for the violations reported and will refine current law with a view to protecting the personal safety of detainees.


          As for the exercise of political rights in the current electoral process, the Commission believes that it is imperative for the Government of Nicaragua to settle the status of individuals jailed for reasons originating in political situations by releasing them all, including, of course, the 39 persons arbitrarily excluded from the benefit of the pardon granted last March. The Inter-American Commission further believes that guaranteeing the exercise of political rights under conditions insuring the genuineness of elections requires the inclusion of such safeguards in the Nicaraguan legal system rather than in transitory political agreements. For this reason, the Commission hopes that the legal amendments envisaged by the agreements of August 4, 1989 between the President of Nicaragua and the opposition parties will be made a part of Nicaraguan law, thereby helping to establish favorable conditions for the current electoral process and improving the system of protection of human rights in that country.


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