The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the
Organization of American States (OAS) has sent a special delegation to
Guatemala at that country's invitation to observe the resettlement and
normalization of the so-called Communities of Peoples in Resistance in
the Department of Quiche.
The delegation, which has been in the country for several days,
comprises the Second Vice Chairman of the IACHR, Mr. Leo Valladares
Lanza; the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla, the
specialist in charge of Guatemalan matters, Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer; and
specialist Ms. Elizabeth Houppert.
The delegation has contacted various national authorities and
representatives of the communities, and will travel to Ixcan and the
Sierra in El Quiche on Wednesday the 9th and Thursday the 10th of this
month. There they will
visit different localities and observe the human rights situation of
the various sectors, accompanied by His Excellency Cesar Alvarez
Guadamuz, Ambassador of Guatemala to the OAS.
D.C., March 8, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights celebrated
its 86th special period of sessions, at its headquarters in Washington
D.C., April 6 and 7, 1994. The IACHR planned this session to coincide
with the presentation of its Annual Report and special reports before
the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent
The IACHR discussed inter alia various points
relating to the presentation of its report to the Permanent Council,
its program of visits in loco and the processing of
Additionally, the Commission approved and confirmed the
carrying out of special studies on themes relevant to the promotion
and protection of human rights. The Special Rapporteurs for these
studies of the Commission are: Michael Reisman (the offense of
contempt against public officials) Alvaro Tirado Mejia, John Donaldson
and Leo Valladares (the situation of prisons in the hemisphere), and
Claudio Grossman (the status of the rights of women).
The special session took place in the framework of activities
planned by the Commission to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its
creation by the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of
Foreign Affairs, conducted in Santiago, Chile in 1959.
D.C., April 7, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was notified
today by the Colombian Government that, on
April 10, Army Major Luis Demetrio Yepes Anaya was kidnapped
somewhere between Cocorná and Santuario in the Department of
Antioquia when, dressed in civilian clothes and unarmed, he was
returning to his post after a visit to his family.
He is the father of two children, aged 3 and 4 years.
The communication expressed concern over his personal safety
because other officers held in similar circumstances have been known
On numerous occasions, the Commission, citing humanitarian
reasons, has asked the Government of Colombia to protect the lives and
guarantee the personal safety of members of the Colombian guerrilla
forces. Adducing those
same reasons, the Commission also urgently appeals in this case to the
members of the People's Liberation Army who have kidnapped Major Yepes
Anaya to respect his life and protect him from harm.
D.C. April 15, 1994
During its 85th regular period of sessions, held January 31
through February 11, 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights of the Organization of American States considered the grave
deterioration of the situation of human rights which continues in
Haiti, and decided to carry out an on site visit in the country.
The purpose of the visit is to continue observing the situation
of human rights in Haiti, and to evaluate the exercise of and respect
for these rights in accordance with the American Convention on Human
Rights, to which Haiti is a party, and to formulate the
recommendations that the Commission considers are necessary.
The Commission will carry out this visit from May 16 through
20, 1994. The Special
Delegation will be composed of the following persons: Mr. Patrick
Robinson, Prof. Claudio Grossman and Ambassador John Donaldson,
Members of the Commission. The Delegation will be assisted by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez,
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy Noro,
Human Rights Specialist, and by personnel of the Commission
Secretariat, and of the Department of Translation of the OAS.
In the course of its mission, the Commission hopes to meet with
and obtain information from representatives of all the sectors of
Haitian society, in order to gain a better understanding of the
reality of human rights in Haiti.
D.C., May 5, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the
Organization of American States considered the human rights situation
in Haiti at its eighty-fifth session (from January 31 to February 11,
1994) and decided to carry out an on-site visit to that country.
The purpose of the visit is to continue to observe the human
rights situation in Haiti and to evaluate the exercise of, and respect
for, those rights in accordance with the American Convention on Human
Rights, to which Haiti is a party, and to draw up any recommendations
the Commission deems necessary.
The Commission will carry out its visit from May 16 to 20,
1994. The Special
Delegation of the IACHR will consist of the following persons:
Dr. Patrick Robinson, Prof. Claudio Grossman, and Ambassador
John Donaldson, members of the Commission.
The Delegation will be assisted by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez,
Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, Human
Rights Specialist (already in Haiti), Dr. Relinda Eddie, Dr. Isabel
Ricupero, Mr. Serge Bellegarde of the Translation Office, and Ana
Cecilia Adriazola, Secretary of the IACHR.
In the course of its mission the Delegation expects to meet
with and obtain information from representatives of all sectors of
Haitian society in order to gain more insight into the human rights
situation in Haiti.
The Commission will stay at Hotel Villa Créole and be
available to anyone who wishes to present individual denunciations of
human rights violations, on Wednesday, May 18, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00
The Commission will end its visit with a press conference to be
held at the Holiday Inn on May 20 at 10:30 a.m.
May 11, 1994
In the face of the worsening situation with regard to human
rights in Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided
during its 84th session held in February 1994 to conduct an on-site
visit to that country. That
visit was conducted from May 16 through 20.
The delegation comprised the following persons: Patrick
Robinson, Amb. John Donaldson, and Prof. Claudio Grossman, members of
the Commission. It was
assisted by Edith Marquez Rodriguez, Executive Secretary of the IACHR,
Bertha Santoscoy, Relinda Eddie, and Isabel Ricupero, attorneys at the
Commission; Serge Bellegarde, OAS interpreter, and Mrs. Ana Cecilia
Adriazola, secretary of the delegation.
Today marks the conclusion of the visit of the IACHR's special
delegation. That visit
was conducted within the parameters of its competence as established
in the American Convention on Human Rights to which Haiti is party.
During its stay in Haiti, the delegation met with Prime
Minister Robert Malval and with Ministers Victor Benoit, Rosemont
Pradel, Louis Dejoie II, Berthony Berry; with Amb. Colin Granderson,
Director of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, and Mr. Tiebile
Drame, a member of that Mission; with papal nuncio Monsignor Lorenzo
Baldisseri; with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Frantz
Robert Mondé, and with the President of the Senate Firmin Jean Louis.
The delegation also asked to meet with the Chief-in-Command of
the Armed Forces of haiti, General Raoul Cedras, and members of the
Chief of Staff as well as the Chief of Police, Lt. Col. Michel François,
but received no response to their request.
The delegation also met with the coordinator of the former
Presidential Commission, Father Antoine Adrien; with representatives
of nongovernmental organizations --grassroots organizations and human
rights groups-- and with leaders of several political parties to learn
about the human rights situation in the country.
It also interviewed representatives of the print and broadcast
media from whom they heard testimony on the state of freedom of
expression in Haiti. The IACHR delegation also met with representatives of the
industrial sector and the churches.
Because they were unauthorized to do so, the delegation was
unable to visit the penitentiary in Port-au-Prince.
They were therefore unable to ascertain directly the condition
of the prisons and the situation with regard to judicial process for
During its stay, the delegation of the IACHR obtained
considerable information and repeatedly heard testimony from victims
of human rights violations.
The delegation was able to confirm the serious deterioration in
the human rights situation in Haiti since its last visit in August
1993. The delegation has
in its possession detailed and reliable information on numerous
violations of the right to life, executions, and disappearances which
have taken place in the past four months.
It has documentation with the names and circumstances involving
133 cases of extrajudicial executions between February and May this
year and more than 210 reports of these types of crimes.
The delegation also received information on severely mutilated
bodies and had direct confirmation in one such case.
Information received by the delegation indicates that the
purpose of these acts is to terrorize the population.
In the face of the tragic scene of human corpses being eaten by
animals the delegation endorses Prime Minister Malval's proposal to
enlist the assistance of the international organizations in removing
corpses given the inaction of those who are in power.
The delegation also received numerous reports of arbitrary
detention, routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beating by
agents of the Armed Forces of Haiti and paramilitary groups,
especially members of the Revolutionary Front for Advancement and
Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), who act in concert with the Armed Forces
and Police. The
delegation saw for themselves victims of torture and noted the circumstances under which such torture had taken place.
It also received documentation on 55 cases of political
kidnapping and disappearances during February and March.
Since then, 20 people have been released and 11 have been found
dead. To date, no
information is available on the fate of the other 24 missing persons.
The delegation received strong evidence that in Port-au-Prince,
armed paramilitary groups have raided neighborhoods, notably in Cite
Soleil, Sarthe, Carrefour, Fonds Tamara, among others, murdering and
pillaging residents who, for the most part, support the return
of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Reports received by the delegation point to an increase in the
number and brutality of human rights violations by the Army, FRAPH,
and other paramilitary groups working in tandem with the military
(attaches) in the country's interior.
They also heard testimony
proving conclusively the liability of the army in massacres of
defenseless groups of the population in Raboteau, Gonaives, Department
of Artibonite, on March 22 last. There, between 15 and 20 residents were executed with no
the delegation also received leads to the conclusion that the army
attacked defenseless groups of the population in the Departments of
the Center (Seau d'EAU) and the North (Borgne).
These attacks bear similar traits:
actual military campaigns where army units, assisted by FRAPH
and other paramilitary groups, surround and burst into certain areas
under the pretext of combatting subversive groups, indiscriminately
beating residents and committing acts of arson, destruction and theft,
followed by arbitrary detentions.
The delegation further observed that most of the violations
reported follow a systematic pattern of repression, indicative of a
political plan to intimidate and terrorize the people of Haiti,
especially sectors that support President Aristide or that have
expressed themselves to be in favor of democracy in Haiti.
According to information received, victims are kidnapped,
forced to get into vehicles and are taken blindfolded to clandestine
places of detention where they are interrogated and tortured.
Some victims have been released, others have succumbed as the
result of severe beating
The delegation received reports of rape and sexual abuse
against the wives and relatives of partisans of the democratic regime
whose wives and children happen to be on the spot when they are being
sought out. These wives and children are abused by the military,
"attaches", or members of FRAPH, when they are unable to
locate the partisans. Thus,
sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political
persecution. Despite the
reticence of the victims in reporting these crimes, the delegation
received conclusive proof of 21 incidents of violations occurring from
January to date. During
its visit, the delegation met directly with 20 victims of this
horrible practice. The international community has repeatedly recognized the
universal character of women's rights as well as the fact that rape is
one of the greatest
crimes against them.
Given the seriousness of this crime, the Commission will give
special importance to rape in the report it will submit to the
upcoming session of the General Assembly of the Organization of
In fulfillment of the functions assigned to it under the OAS
Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, the delegation
observed the status of other rights, in addition to those mentioned
With respect to the right of assembly, the delegation has
concluded that exercise of this right does not exist for those who
support a return to democracy. When
groups of individuals try to exercise this right they are arrested and
brutally beaten by members of the military and police force, and
accused of organizing meetings in support of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. In a recent
incident, 20 participants were arbitrarily arrested at a meeting for
legal training organized by the diocese in Hinche, Department of the
Center, on April 29, and accused of being terrorists.
The delegation wishes to express its concern with regard to
exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Information received would
confirm restrictions endured by representatives of the press and radio
in Haiti. These have led
to self-censorship of the media to the detriment of its functions of
keeping the Haitian public informed.
The delegation heard testimony of acts of intimidation and
repression of journalists exercising their profession.
With regard to the problem of displaced persons (maroons) the
delegation confirmed that political activists, community leaders and
numerous opponents of the de facto authorities have had to live as
fugitives in their own country, forced as they are to abandon home and
family. The delegation
received convincing information that the number of displaced persons
continues to increase at an alarming rate and it therefore behoves the
international community to take a direct interest in this situation.
The delegation received claims from Haitian nationals who have
returned home that they have been subjected to persecution and
violations of their right to physical and moral integrity.
The Commission will open cases concerning these complaints.
One common trait that emerges from these violations reported to
the delegation is the total ineffectuality of the judiciary or other
mechanisms to prevent or punish human rights violations in Haiti.
The result is outright impunity for the perpetrators of these
The delegation wishes to note that as the body responsible for
observing respect for human rights embodied in the American Convention
on Human Rights, it cannot fail to mention the right to participate in
government established in Article 23 of that Convention.
The attempt to install a "government" without the
vote of the people and in breach of the Haitian Constitution is
a flagrant violation of the political rights of the people of
The delegation wishes to note for the record the importance,
seriousness and objectivity of the work and reports of the OAS/UN
International Civilian Mission which it observed throughout its visit. The delegation expresses deep concern in the face of the acts
of intimidation and aggression, on March 23 last, to which members of
the Mission were subjected in the Hinche region (Central Plateau) by a
number of demonstrators acting at the bidding of members of FRAPH. The
delegation condemns the passive stance of the military authorities
there in putting an end to these acts which once again are indicative
of their open complicity with the members of FRAPH.
The delegation feels that given the seriousness of the
prevailing situation in Haiti, the number of observers of the OAS/UN
International Civilian Mission must be increased to more adequately
cover the entire country.
In conclusion, the delegation notes that, based on its
observations, the overall picture with regard to the human rights
situation is one of a very serious deterioration in the most
elementary human rights in Haiti --all part of a plan to intimidate
and terrorize a defenseless people. The delegation holds those in de facto power in Haiti
responsible for these violations.
They have engaged in conduct that make them liable to be
charged with international crimes, which give rise to individual
The delegation will report on the outcome of this visit to the
Twenty-fourth Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, to be held
in Belem, Para, in Brazil this coming June.
The delegation wishes to thank the various sectors and
individuals in Haiti for their cooperation and assistance during their
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will continue to
observe the human rights situation in Haiti.
It will conduct any visits it considers necessary, in exercise
of its functions, and will keep the Organization of American States
and the international community informed accordingly.
May 20, 1994
With the consent of the Government of the Bahamas, the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, ("the
Commission") will be conducting an on-site visit in the Bahamas,
from May 22nd to May 27, 1994. The
object of this visit is to assess the Haitian refugee situation in the
The composition of the Commission's delegation is as follows:
Professor Michael Reisman, President of the Commission,
Ambassador John Donaldson, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Commissioners,
Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla,
Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Relinda Eddie, human rights
specialist, and Mrs. Rosario McIntyre, administrative secretary.
By consenting to this visit, the Government of the Bahamas,
guarantees that the Commission will be able to travel freely
throughout the territory of the country, to communicate freely, and in
private with those who provide the Commission with information,
concerning the Haitian refugee situation, and that no reprisals will
be taken against persons who communicate with the Commission.
During the course of this mission, the Commission anticipates
having meetings with Government Officials, non-governmental human
rights organizations and representatives of the Haitian refugees, and
Haitian refugees in the Bahamas in order to have an honest assessment
of the extent of the Haitian refugee situation there.
The Commission will be staying at the Wyndham Ambassador Beach
of The Bahamas, May 22, 1994
Today, the delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights concludes its on-site visit in The Bahamas.
For the past decade, the Inter-American Commission has studied
and reported on the human rights situation in Haiti.
Its focus has been on both human rights problems within Haiti
and on human rights problems in the Haitian diaspora.
On April 15, 1994, after consultations with representatives of
the Government of The Bahamas, the Commission wrote to the Minister of
Foreign Affairs suggesting that it conduct an on-site visit "in
order to assess the extent of the Haitian refugee situation in The
Bahamas." On May 4, 1994, the Government of The Bahamas agreed to the
The Commission's on-site visit commenced on May 22nd and
concluded on May 27th, 1994. The
delegation of the Commission was composed of the following members:
Professor Michael Reisman, Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Leo
Valladares Lanza, Second Vice-chairman and Ambassador John Donaldson.
The Commission was assisted by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez,
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. David Padilla, Assistant
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Relinda Eddie, attorney and
human rights specialist, Mrs. Rosario McIntyre, administrative
secretary, and Jocelyne Mayas, interpreter.
The Commission is the principal organ of the OAS charged with
reporting on compliance with human rights standards in the hemisphere.
The seven members of the Commission, each serving a four year term,
are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in their individual
capacity and not as representatives of governments.
The authority of the Commission derives primarily from the
American Convention on Human Rights for the 25 states that are
parties, and from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man for those member-states of the OAS that have not yet ratified the
Convention. The Bahamas
is subject to the American Declaration.
The Commission's petition jurisdiction extends to two
categories of human rights problems. Petitions may be brought by or on
behalf of individuals or groups of individuals whose rights are
alleged to have been violated. But
when large numbers of grave violations are occurring in a country,
single petitions are unlikely to help.
For such situations, the Commission may undertake on its own
initiative, a country study of human rights violations.
Whenever the Commission makes an on-site visit the Government
concerned is deemed under the regulations to have given assurances that
the Commission may interview and meet freely, in private, with
Government officials, persons, non-governmental groups, and
organizations, which the Commission deems relevant in assessing this
situation, and that no reprisals will be taken against such persons or
During its stay, the Commission's delegation benefited from the
cooperation of the Government of The Bahamas, its officials, and
agencies, individuals, and representatives of non-governmental
organizations, who interact with the Haitian Refugee population
in The Bahamas on a daily basis.
The Commission's delegation met the following:
Honourable Orville A. Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister;
Honourable Theresa Moxey Ingraham, Minister of Social
The Right Honourable Sir Lynden Pindling, Leader of the
Sir Clement Maynard, M.P.;
Dr. Bernard Nottage, M.P.; and
Independent Senator Fred Mitchell.
Mr. Mark Wilson, Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Public
Safety and Transportation, and representatives of various ministries.
Marina Glinton, Director of the Red Cross;
Winifred Murray, Welfare Officer; and
Major Charles Drummond, Director of the Salvation Army.
The Commission also met with Fred Smith, D'Arcy Ryan and other
members of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association and representatives
of other non-governmental organizations.
The following representatives of the various churches met with
the Commission's delegation: Reverend Dr. N. L. Scott, President of the
Bahamian Christian Council of Churches, and Elder of the African
Methodist Epistle Church; Reverend Dr. Eric Gray, presiding Elder of the
African Methodist Epistle Zion Church and program coordinator; the Most
Reverend Lawrence A. Burke, S.J. Bishop of the Catholic Church of
Nassau; and Pastor Robinson Weatherford, Creole Gospel Church.
The Commission's delegation visited Haitian settlements in Great
Abaco (Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay), Grand Bahama (Freeport), Eleuthera,
and New Providence. The
Carmichael Road Detention Camp was also visited.
During these visits, the delegation obtained useful information
regarding the Haitian refugee situation in The Bahamas.
In the course of its discussions with a wide cross section of
Bahamians and Haitians, the Commission found that although there are a
number of human rights issues concerning Haitians or Bahamians of
Haitian extraction in The Bahamas that overlap, certain distinct and
separable problems emerged. One
issue that has commanded international attention concerns the procedures
for and determination of political refugee status of Haitians who have
fled their country. In addition to this issue is the extent of due process
afforded Haitians when they are apprehended
and expelled because they are without work permits or other
documentation. Related to
this is the question of the conditions under which Haitians are
A different issue concerns the criteria and the consistency of
their application in cases concerning the granting of citizenship to
people whose parents are Haitian but who themselves have been born in
The Bahamas. A still
different human rights issue concerns the complaints about exploitation
of Haitians with work permits. Few of these issues are simple, either
factually or legally. The
Commission will study the substantial information it has gathered with a
view to issuing a report and making such suggestions to the Government
of The Bahamas, as, in its view, would assist in the existing
While many of the governmental programs are laudable, discussions
held during the on-site visit revealed a maze of racial and national
social assumptions. All of
these cannot but impact negatively on the Haitian community in The
Bahamas. In conversations, Haitians were often spoken of as a community
that was an economic impediment in The Bahamas. Haitians were referred
to as a group which merely transfers the wealth of the Bahamas to Haiti,
while their contribution to the economy was not recognized.
One can neither ignore the squalor in which the underpaid,
insecure Haitian community lives, nor the conditions of detention
prevailing at the Carmichael Road Camp.
It must be said, to the shame of the international, hemispheric
and regional community, that while virtually no one in the world can be
unaware of the violence being committed against the people of Haiti in
their own country and virtually all states have condemned it, almost no
states have been willing to accept Haitians who have fled.
The Bahamas is an exception, for, despite its size and limited
resources, it has become the host for proportionately more fleeing
Haitians than any other state in the world.
Moreover, in The Bahamas, Haitians have access to public schools
and to basic social services.
While it is too early for the Commission to express specific
views or to issue recommendations, the delegation was struck by the fact
that while The Bahamas is providing a wide range of services to Haitians
who have fled their country, it is receiving no meaningful international
assistance. It would appear
to be entirely appropriate for the international community, through its
network of organizations as well as on a bilateral basis, to undertake
to cooperate with the Government of The Bahamas in these matters.
The Commission wishes to recall that the solution to the problem
of Haitian refugees is linked, in the final analysis, to the restoration
of democracy in Haiti. In
this task, all the states of the hemisphere must share responsibility.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation it received from
the authorities and different sectors of the Bahamian and Haitian
communities which contributed to the success of this mission.
The Commission continues to assess the Haitian refugee situation
in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas May 27, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has published
a special report about the so-called "Communities of
Population in Resistance" (CPRs.) in Guatemala. These communities,
with 25,000 members in the Department of El Quiché, near the frontier
with Chiapas, México, were part of the hundreds of communities
displaced by the internal conflict in 1981-82. While the majority
of the displaced seek refugee in México or the big cities, these
communities disappeared from public view into the high sierra and the
jungles of the Ixcán, in Quiché, from where they reappeared in 1991.
The Report recommends specific actions by the Armed Forces, the
judicial system, the police; as well as in the areas of health,
education, land ownership; and the dissolution of the civil defense
patrols armed by the Army.
Among the more important conclusions, the Report indicates that:
-The CPRs are productive civilian communities, with their
own specific problems and solutions. Their resettlement is a product of
the overall process of pacification in Guatemala and, at the same time,
furthers that process.
-The CPRs are making serious efforts to reinsert themselves
in normal Guatemalan life. Their public decision to resettle in Ixcán
and increase normal relations with their neighbors and the authorities
-The Commission found that there exist attitudes and
specific actions on the part of civilian and military authorities
directed towards reducing the conflict and supporting the return of the
CPRs to normal life. It also found that militating against that goal
were both mutual mistrust and actions claiming to be based on the
existence of an armed conflict, which
in reality is minimal in the CPR areas. Those circumstances and the
quest for peace and an end to historical hatred and social wounds make
it imperative to scrupulously avoid anything that might be interpreted
as harassment and intimidation, which, given the present situation,
constitute an attack on the personal integrity and freedom of the
The IACHR-OAS' report analyzes numerous complaints about
human rights violations against those communities, presenting also the
Government position as well as a series of measures different State
institutions are implementing to facilitate the CPR normalization. This
normalization and the Government attitude is considered a major
indicator for the possibilities of solving the impending issue of
hundred of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people,
consequence of the armed conflict.
D.C., July 1, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has, with grave
concern, learned of the July 18 terrorist attack in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, on the headquarters of the major associations of the
Argentine Jewish community, which has taken dozens of lives, wounded
over one hundred people, and totally destroyed the property, library,
and historic archives of that center.
The Commission reiterates its most vehement condemnation of this
terrorist act which is a threat to the lives and well being of innocent
people, as well as to the stability of democracy.
Such an act therefore represents a permanent threat to the
Argentinean people as they seek to maintain peaceful coexistence and
respect between all persons.
Such an act violates not only international law but also the
Convention Against Genocide. In
this connection, the Inter-American Commission wishes to recall the
concepts set forth in the resolution on "Nondiscrimination and
Tolerance" adopted by the General Assembly in June 1994 in Belém
do Pará, Brazil, which states that "racism and discrimination in
their various forms undermine the principles and practices of democracy
as a way of life and a form of government and unequivocally seek the
In addition to strongly condemning the aforementioned act, the
Commission urges the Argentinean Government to identify and punish, to
the full extent of the law, the persons responsible.
The Commission also urges the Argentine Government to multiply
its efforts to achieve the coexistence and tolerance which are at the
base of democratic convictions, and thus avert situations that
jeopardize the effective exercise of human rights.
D.C., July 20, 1994
The OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, headquartered
in Washington, D.C., has asked the Government of Guatemala, on July 25,
1994, to adopt precautionary measures concerning the lives and safety of
the Magistrates of the Third Court of Appeals, Judges MARIO SALVADOR
JIMENEZ, MARIA EUGENIA VILLASEÑOR, and HECTOR RAUL ORELLANA.
The request for precautionary measures has been issued in
response to reports that these magistrates have been stalked,
threatened, and harassed in recent days, and that such threats are
related to judicial proceedings which they are hearing in that Court and
which pertain to rights protected by the American Convention on Human
In its request to the Government, the Commission has indicated
that the measures requested are intended to prevent irreparable damage
to the magistrates; and that, according to Article 29 of its
Regulations, the request for precautionary measures and their adoption
shall not prejudice the findings on this situation.
July 25, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reaffirms its
profound concern pertaining to the flagrant and systematic human rights
violations occurring in Haiti as a result of the increased repression
carried out by the authorities who illegally hold power in that country.
The commission has conducted three visits and presented three
special reports to the General Assembly of the OAS since the overthrow
of the constitutional government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
which was chosen in an internationally supervised and confirmed free and
fair election. On the basis
of its continuing examination of Haiti, most recently in May 16-20,
1994, the Commission has documented an appalling number of human rights
violations that are directly related to the continuing unlawful exercise
of power by the Haitian military and its appointees.
The Commission confirmed during its last on site visit that the
situation of human rights in Haiti had seriously deteriorated since its
previous visit in August of 1993, and that there had been an escalation
in the number an brutality of human rights violations committed by
members of the military, paramilitary groups and police.
The Commission also confirmed the total ineffectuality of the
judiciary or other mechanisms to prevent or punish human rights
violations in Haiti. As a
result, perpetrators of human rights violations act with outright
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also views with
special concern the expulsion of the UN/OEA International Civil Mission
from Haiti on July 11, 1994. Given
the extremely grave situation of human rights in Haiti, the Commission
notes the importance, seriousness, and objectivity of the work and
reports of the OAS/UN Mission which permitted the protection of some
persons and allowed the flow of information regarding human rights
violations in Haiti. The
facts and cases which the Mission has been able to collect and provide
were important for the work of the Commission.
The expulsion of the OAS/UN Mission deprives the Haitian people
of a witness to the violations and the human rights institutions of a
source of data which is indispensable for their work.
In the light of recent developments, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights considers that it would be advisable to
conduct a visit to Haiti as soon as possible so as to observe the human
rights situation in accordance with the American Convention on Human
Rights, to explore ways to end violations, and to develop alternative
means of gathering information.
D.C., July 27, 1994
Today the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, composed of
members Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Dr. Patrick L. Robinson, Oscar Luján
Fappiano, Ambassador John Donaldson and Professor Claudio Grossman,
assisted by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary, and Dr.
David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, concluded a visit made at
the invitation of the Government of Chile for the purpose of
commemorating the thirty-fifth anniversary of its creation.
The Commission was established by the Fifth Meeting of
Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in Santiago on August
18, 1959. Its principal function, as stipulated in the Charter of the
OAS, is to promote the observance of human rights in the Hemisphere and
serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in the field of human
The visit began with a formal meeting at which President of the
Republic Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle was present.
At that meeting Carlos Figueroa Serrano, Minister of External
Relations, outlined the government's human rights policy, thanked the
Commission for its work pertaining to Chile, and reaffirmed the
government's wholehearted support for the international mechanisms and
institutions working on behalf of human rights.
During its stay in Santiago the Commission had the opportunity to
meet with Carlos Figueroa Serrano, Minister of External Relations;
Marcos Aburto Ochoa, President of the Supreme Court of Justice; M.
Soledad Alvear V., Minister of Justice; Víctor Manuel Rebolledo,
Minister Secretary General of Government; Monsignor Fernando Ariztía
R., President of the Episcopal Conference; and Patricio Aylwin A.,
former President of Chile.
The Commission proceeded to Valparaíso, where it met with
Gabriel Valdés Subercaseaux, President of the Senate, and Juan Carlos
Latorre, alternate President of the Chamber of Deputies.
Joint meetings were held with the external relations and human
rights committees of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
Those meetings assured the Commission of the authorities'
determination to consolidate the rule of law through democratic
institutions and thus ensure the effective exercise of human rights and
fundamental freedoms. The
meetings led to a profitable discussion of experiences which
demonstrated that the branches of government and various sectors of
society wish to perfect the Chilean legal system and structure in the
area of human rights through the adoption of executive, legislative, and
The Commission also held a seminar together with the Andrés
Bello Diplomatic Academy and other institutions, the purpose of which
was to evaluate the inter-American system for the protection of human
rights, and it sponsored a photography exhibit showing the work done by
the commission over the last 15 years.
Finally, the commission held an important meeting with leaders of
nongovernmental human rights organizations at which it acquainted itself
with the position of those organizations and their perspective on the
challenges facing Chile in bringing human rights to full fruition.
As the Commission noted in a letter dated August 11 to President
Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, "the Commission has been observing the
splendid resurgence of constitutional democracy in Chile and is grateful
for the support of the Government of Chile for the cause of human rights
in general and the work of the Commission in particular."
August 19, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been following,
with ever-growing concern, the continuing deterioration of the human
rights situation in Haiti. The
armed forces, in effective control of the country, have continued to
commit murders, forced disappearances, torture, sexual violations,
illegal detentions and other types of violent acts against a defenseless
The situation has been further aggravated by the expulsion of the
Civilian Mission, which provided a flow of information to the world
community and by its mere presence acted as some restraint on the
violence of the military. The
cold-blooded assassination of Father Jean-Maire Vincent this week is
only the latest of this series of gross acts of violence which have been
conducted with impunity.
The Commission intends to devote a part of its upcoming session
in September, 1994 to a detailed examination of the situation in Haiti
and the steps which it can take to contribute to the alleviation of the
continuing pattern of violation of human rights there.
D.C., August 31, 1994
On September 30, 1994, the 87th regular session of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adjourned.
It was attended by its Chairman, Professor Michael Reisman; its
First Vice Chairman, Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía; its Second Vice
Chairman, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza; and members Patrick Robinson, Oscar
Luján Fappiano, John Donaldson and Claudio Grossman.
During this session, the Commission received representatives of
governments and nongovernmental organizations and individuals interested
in human rights. It heard
testimony on the overall human rights situation in various States and on
individual cases now before the Commission.
The Commission received Dr. Soledad Alvear, Chilean Minister of
Justice, and the Permanent Representative of Chile to the OAS,
Ambassador Edmundo Vargas Carreño.
Dr. Alvear spoke about a number of issues, among them the
amendments the Chilean Government is introducing in its laws to make
them consistent with the American Convention and other international
instruments on the protection of human rights.
The Commission also received the Permanent Representative of
Peru, Ambassador Alejandro León Pazos, who was accompanied by the
Academic Advisor from the National Council on Human Rights, Dr. Beatriz
Ramacciotti, and other government officials.
In his remarks, the Representative of Peru reported on the recent
enactment of a law establishing a commission responsible for reviewing
and identifying cases of citizens "allegedly unjustly"
detained under the emergency laws adopted since April 5, 1992.
The Commission hopes that the work of the newly created
commission will help to correct the injustices caused by the
incarceration of innocent persons.
The Commission has commented on these cases in its last three
reports on the human rights situation in Peru.
Mr. Kenneth Rattray, Solicitor General of Jamaica, presented his
Government's views on certain matters of interest both to the Commission
and to the Government.
The Colombian Presidential Adviser for Human Rights, Dr. Carlos
Vicente de Roux, spoke to the Commission about the institutional
measures the Colombian Government has already adopted and those it is in
the process of adopting pursuant to the recommendations made in the
Commission's Second Special Report on the Situation of Human Rights in
Colombia. These included
the law that criminalizes and penalizes the forced disappearance of
persons; the establishment of a commission that will propose amendment
of the rules governing the military criminal courts;
the action taken on the Commission's recommendations for payment
of compensation deriving from the reports the Commission issued pursuant
to the American Convention; the institution of formal judicial
procedures for detaining individuals suspected of subversive acts and
terrorism, and police reform based on respect for human rights.
With respect to Cuba, the Commission received information
regarding the increasingly grave situation of human rights violations in
that country. The
deterioration in the standard of living, the repressive control
exercised by State security agencies against sectors not supportive of
the regime, and the acute economic predicament of the Cuban people are
of special concern to the Commission. The Commission must reiterate that "the constant refusal
of the Cuban regime to recognize the fundamental rights of persons, plus
a deep economic and social crisis in the country, creates a dangerous
potential for social conflicts."
Regarding Honduras, the Commission was informed by the attorneys
of the families of two victims of forced disappearances that occurred in
Honduras in 1981 and 1982, cases 7920 and 8097, that the present
Honduran government has agreed to pay the compensation awarded by the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the judgments it handed down on
those cases. The Commission
has written to the Government of Honduras expressing its satisfaction at
During this session, the Commission gave high priority to the
deterioration in the human rights situation in Haiti and the steps that
must be taken to alleviate the continuing effects of the systematic
violations that the majority of the Haitian people are suffering at the
hands of the military dictatorship.
The Commission heard testimony from a woman who was the victim of
an unprovoked attack by Haitian police wielding machetes.
Among the serious injuries she sustained in that murderous
assault was the loss of her right arm and the hearing in her right ear.
The Commission received the Permanent Representative of Haiti,
Ambassador Jean Casimir, who reiterated his Government's invitation to
the Commission to conduct early on-site visits to his country.
Accordingly, the Commission has decided to conduct two visits to
Haiti to observe developments in the human rights situation there. The first visit is planned for October 24 through 28 of this
year, and the second for late November.
The Commission met with the United Nations Human Rights
Committee's Special Rapporteur for Haiti, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli,
who spoke, among other things, about the need to increase cooperation
between the IACHR and the United Nations organizations for the
protection of human rights.
A friendly settlement accord was reached between the Government
of the Republic of Argentina and the petitioners in the case filed with
the Commission regarding the journalist Horacio Verbitsky.
In the Commission's report on this settlement, it said how very
gratified it was that provisions in the Argentine Penal Code making
defamation of public officials a crime had been removed.
With this change, the Argentine Government has complied with
Article 2 of the American Convention.
The Commission considers the settlement to be an important
milestone in the progressive development of the inter-American system to
protect human rights.
Argentina has also settled a complaint filed by the Commission
with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Mr.
Guillermo Maqueda. By a
decree of September 27 of this year, the Argentine Government commuted
the petitioner's sentence, which resulted in his immediate parole.
The Commission decided to accept the Guatemalan Government's
invitation to conduct an on-site visit to that country.
In addition, the Government of Guatemala informed the Commission
that, among other measures, it had designated a ministerial-level
commission to find a settlement to a labor dispute in a rural area.
The Commission had the opportunity to exchange information on the
observance of human rights in Guatemala with the Special United Nations
Rapporteur for that country, Dr. Mónica Pinto, who spoke about the
importance of cooperation and communication among the various
intergovernmental organizations for the protection of human rights.
The Commission received Colombia's Ombudsman, Dr. Jaime Córdoba
Triviño. On behalf of all
the ombudsmen of Latin America, who held a meeting in San José, Costa
Rica, in July of this year, he conveyed the intentions of the members of
this new institution to maintain close cooperative ties with the IACHR.
The Commission continued its review of the observance of
economic, social and cultural rights and women's rights in the
hemisphere, freedom of expression, prison conditions, and the draft
inter-American instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples, which
will be sent to the governments for their comments in 1995.
Finally, the Commission decided to hold its next regular session
February 1 through 17, 1995.
D.C., September 30, 1994
At its 87th session (September 19-30, 1994) the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American
States considered the human rights situation in Haiti and decided to
accept the Government's invitation to visit the country.
The Commission will make the visit between October 24 and 27,
1994. The Commission's
special delegation will consist of the following persons: Prof. Michael
Reisman, Chairman of the IACHR; Dr. Patrick Robinson and Prof. Claudio
Grossman, members of the Commission; Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, Human
Rights Specialist, in charge of Haiti; and Drs. Relinda Eddie, Isabel
Ricupero, and Meredith Caplan (already in Haiti).
The purpose of the visit is to continue to observe the human
rights situation in Haiti, to assess the exercise of and respect for
those rights in terms of the American Convention of Human Rights, to
which Haiti is a party, and to make any recommendations the Commission
In the course of its mission, the delegation hopes to meet with
representatives of all sectors of Haitian society so as to come to a
better understanding of developments in the human rights situation in
The Commission will be at the disposal of anyone wishing to lodge
individual complaints of human rights violations on Tuesday, October 25,
from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Hotel Villa Créole.
At the conclusion of its visit, on October 27 at 9 a.m., the
Commission will hold a press conference at the Holiday Inn.
October 19, 1994
At its 87th period of sessions, (19 to 30 September 1994), the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted the invitation by
Haiti's Constitutional Government to carry out an on-site visit to
observe the human rights situation in the country.
The on-site visit was conducted between October 24 and 27, 1994.
The Commission's special delegation was composed of Professor
Michael Reisman, President of the Commission, Mr. Patrick Robinson,
Professor Claudio Grossman, Members of the Commission, Doctor Bertha
Santoscoy-Noro, Human Rights Specialist, in charge of Haiti, and Doctors
Relinda Eddie, Meredith Caplan and Isabel Ricupero, staff attorneys.
Serge Bellegarde served as translator.
Gloria Hansen and Cecilia Adriazola provided secretarial and
The IACHR special delegation's visit, which concludes today, was
carried out in accordance with its mandate set forth in the American
Convention on Human Rights, to which Haiti is a party.
During its visit in Haiti, the Commission met with the President
of the Republic, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to whom it expressed the
Commission's profound satisfaction with the restoration of the
democratic regime in the country. The
Commission reiterated its interest in continued collaboration in all
matters that fall within its mandate.
The Commission interviewed the Chief of the Armed Forces, General
Jean-Claude Duperval about the changes that are being effected within
the Armed Forces.
The Commission met with Ambassador Colin Granderson, head of the
OAS/UN Civil Mission, and Mr. Tiebile Drome, and with the diplomatic
representatives of the five Friends of Haiti: Argentina, Canada, The
United States, France and Venezuela. Furthermore, the Commission met
with members of the Parliament, with the coordinator of the former
Presidential Commission, Father Antoine Adrien, and with the Mayor of
Port-au-Prince, Mr. Evans Paul.
The Commission also met with representatives of human rights
groups, grassroots organizations and leaders of political parties to
collect information on the human rights situation in the country.
The Commission interviewed representatives of the oral and
written press, who expressed their opinion on the situation of freedom
of expression in Haiti. The
Commission also met with representative of the International Committee
of the Red Cross, representatives of labor-unions, the Chamber of
Commerce, the industrial sector and various churches.
The Commission visited the National Penitentiary Center in
Port-au-Prince and went to the cities of Saint-Marc and Gonaives, where
it met with victims of human rights violations which were committed
during the military dictatorship. The
Commission visited the prisons in both locations, to collect direct
information on the legal situation, conditions of hygiene and nutrition
of the prisoners, and on general prison conditions.
During its stay in Haiti, the Commission received information and
numerous complaints from victims of human rights violations during the
Beginning on September 19, 1994, the date of the arrival of the
Multinational Force (MNF), a process of fundamental change has commenced
in Haiti. The change is
especially dramatic in contrast with the situation observed by the
Commission during its prior visit in May of this year.
The termination of the dictatorial regime and the return of the
constitutional President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, are essential steps in
the process of ending the general atmosphere of terror and human rights
deprivations which prevailed in Haiti.
The President's return has initiated many other important
changes. In Port-au-Prince
and in some other important urban areas, the population is now free to
express, its support for the constitutional regime.
Freedoms of speech, of the press, and of association are reviving
after their systematic suppression during the dictatorship.
The Commission has observed a resumption of political activities
in many parts of the country.
significant progress recorded in the country, however, serious problems,
inherited from the military dictatorship, persist.
A critical challenge for the transition to a civil society with a
constitutional culture, is disarming the paramilitary groups.
During the military dictatorship, paramilitary groups were armed
and were responsible for many violations of human rights. In the weeks leading up to the arrival of the Multinational
Force, the military dictatorship stated publicly that it intended to
distribute arms to irregular forces.
Until now, the MNF has collected what appears to be a relatively
small number of the arms at large and there are reports of arms caches
that have not yet been identified.
The MNF destroyed the heavy weaponry of the Haitian military that
had been used in the coup. Yet,
the arms and the apparatus of the dictatorship continue to be critical
factors in parts of the country, where the MNF has not yet established a
presence. The Commission
has received evidence that a state of insecurity still prevails in parts
of Artibonite, in Jacmel, in Petit-Goave and in Desdunes, to name only a
few examples. One
manifestation of the insecurity is "Marronage", as well as the
continued internal displacement of persons.
In some departments, chefs de section continue to operate despite
the fact that they were involved in human rights violations.
Witnesses who appeared before the Commission and who represent a
wide range of positions and views agreed that disarming the paramilitary
groups is an essential step and a prerequisite for establishing a civil
society based on the rule of law. The
Commission appreciates the difficulties involved in finding hidden arms
caches, but urges a redoubling of efforts and a most vigorous
prosecution of the disarmament process.
The Commission would note that the possession of fire arms is
regulated in the Haitian Constitution, which requires holders of such
weapons to declare them to the police.
There is still no legitimate police force in Haiti nor an
adequate and efficient judiciary. Public
order relies on the presence of the multinational force.
Although the moderation and civility demonstrated by the Haitian
people thus far have been extraordinary, the MNF, on occasion, has found
itself drawn into a police function for serious and urgent situations.
There has also been an anomalous situation in which known
Attaches and Macoutes have been apprehended by the MNF and turned over
to the Haitian police, who have released them.
As a result, the system has not yet been able to begin to deal
with those who might have been implicated in international crimes and
crimes against humanity.
The establishment of a neutral, professional and efficient police
is, by common acknowledgement, an indispensable step.
The Commission has noted with satisfaction the plans for a police
academy as a means for training a professional corps.
But there is an immediate need for an independent and efficient
police force and judiciary. Hence
it is essential that, in addition, to the efforts to develop permanent
institutions, a force be deployed immediately on a provisional basis.
That force must enjoy legitimacy and must meet the population's
needs for order. The most
stringent criteria should be applied by the Haitian Government in
selecting these police personnel.
Needless to say, the police in a constitutional system must be
subordinate to civil authority.
Equally, while the plans to restructure the judiciary are being
put in place, there is an urgent need for training programs to establish
an interim judiciary. The emphasis must be on human rights, personal
integrity and commitment to constitutional government and justice.
The prison situation that the Constitutional Government has
inherited is in crisis. The
National Penitentiary should be closed, for it is far below the minimum
international standard. In
its place, the Government may wish to invite international prison
experts to transform one of the military camps into a model national
prison, as such camps will no longer be necessary in light of the
proposed reduction in the size of the armed forces.
International assistance will be required and the Commission
urges the international community to assist in this effort.
The Commission applauds plans to transfer jurisdiction of the
prisons from the military to a civil authority.
But the most urgent problems in the prison system have to be
addressed immediately. In
two of the three prisons the Commission visited, prisoners are not fed
by the authorities. In the other, they are provided one meager ration per day.
The state must feed those it has imprisoned.
The Constitutional Government has inherited a prison system in
which hundreds of people have been kept, in some cases up to twenty
months, without ever having been presented to a judge.
This is a violation of the American Convention and the Haitian
Commission deems urgent the establishment of a special commission as
soon as the Minister of Justice is confirmed, to review immediately the
status of persons detained in prisons.
An accounting of exactly what happened during the military
dictatorship and, in particular, a detailed review of the human rights
violations suffered by the Haitian people is necessary, if Haiti is to
rebuild its society and Government.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights have held that where there have
been violations of human rights, a government has a duty to investigate,
establish responsibility, and publish its findings.
The absence of legal procedures for accomplishing this is not
only a violation of the American Convention but also a serious obstacle
to the healing of society through truth and reconciliation.
There are many models for fulfilling this obligation, both
national and international, and the Commission does not suggest any one
in particular. The Commission would repeat, however, that investigation of
human rights violations is an obligation that cannot be waived.
The Commission would hope that the Haitian Government moves
quickly to establish by law, a domestic compensation committee, composed
of Haitian jurists of repute, to hear claims of Haitians who allege that
they have suffered violations of their human rights.
Some individuals involved or closely associated with the military
are alleged to have engaged in confiscation and unlawful seizure of
private property, a right also recognized by the American Convention.
The claims these events have given rise to should be heard and
compensated as soon as possible. Any
new commissions, as well as the reconstructed court system, should make
Creole an operational language.
The Commission would like to thank President Aristide for his
invitation to visit Haiti. The
Commission would also like to thank all the authorities, organizations
and persons who have worked with it during its visit.
In accordance with its functions under the OAS Charter and the
American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will continue its
activities of protection and promotion of human rights in Haiti.
The Commission offers its fullest cooperation to the
Constitutional Government of the Republic of Haiti.
October 27, 1994
On November 7, 1994, at the invitation of the Government of the
Republic of Ecuador, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
of the Organization of American States will begin its visit to that
country in order to observe the human rights situation prevailing there.
The Special Commission will be composed of Prof. Michael Reisman,
Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía and Dr. Leo
Valladares Lanza, First and Second Vice-Chairmen of the Commission, and
Ambassador John Donaldson. During
its visit, the Commission will be assisted by Dr. David J. Padilla,
Assistant Executive Secretary; Dr. Domingo Acevedo, Special Adviser to
the Commission; Dr. Elizabeth Abi-Mershed; Ms. Gabriela Hageman; and Ms.
During the course of the visit, which will last until November
11, the Commission will meet with officials of the Executive Branch,
representatives of the National Congress and the Judiciary, high-level
officers of the Armed Forces, officials of the Government and public
institutions, representatives of organizations for the defense and
promotion of human rights, and other sectors representative of
Ecuadorian society. The
Commission will also visit various penal institutions.
During its stay, the Commission also intends to travel to the
city of Guayaquil and to Amazonia to have a broader vision of the human
As is customary during these visits, the Commission will receive
complaints of alleged human rights violations from the parties concerned
from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. during its
stay in Quito, at its offices in the Hotel Colón.
The Commission's visit is taking place in accordance with the
American Convention on Human Rights and the Commission's Regulations,
whereby the Government of Ecuador has pledged to grant full guarantees
to the individuals, groups, and entities wishing to meet with the
Commission and to furnish the Commission with all necessary facilities
for carrying out its mission.
At the conclusion of its visit, the Commission will hold a press
conference in the meeting room of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana,
Avenida 6 de Diciembre 794, on Friday, November 11, 1994.
November 4, 1994
Today, November 11, 1994, was the final day of the visit that the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made in response to an
invitation from the Government of Ecuador.
The purpose of the visit was to observe the human rights
situation in this country. Participating
were the Commission's Chairman, Professor W. Michael Reisman; the First
Vice-Chairman, Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía; the Second
Vice-Chairman, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, and Ambassador John Donaldson,
a member of the Commission. It
was assisted by Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr.
Domingo E. Acevedo, Special Advisor of the Commission, Dr. Elizabeth
Abi-Mershed, Mrs. Gabriela Hageman and Mrs. Rosario McIntyre.
During its visit the Commission met with the Vice President of
the Republic, Dr. Alberto Garzozi Dahik; the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court, Dr. Francisco Acosta Yepes, and the Chief Presiding Judge
of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, Dr. Hugo Ordoñez
Espinosa; the Speaker of the National Congress, Dr. Heinz Moeller; the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Galo Leoro Franco; the Minister of
Mines and Energy, Dr. Gustavo Galindo; the Attorney General of the
Nation, Dr. Fernando Cazares; the Minister of Defense, General José
Gallardo Román; the Minister of Government and Police, Dr. Marcelo
Santos, and that Ministry's Director of Social Rehabilitation, Dr. Juan
José Páez; the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Human Rights,
Deputy Juan José Castelos, and with other members of the National
Congress; and the General Commandant of the National Police, General
Miguel Rocero Barba.
The Commission also met with representatives of the Ecumenical
Human Rights Commission (CEDHU), Sister Elsie Monge and Sister Laura
Glynn; representatives of the Latin American Human Rights Association (ALDHU),
Dr. Gloria Maira and Dr. Javier Mena; the representative of CONAIE, Mr.
Luis Macas; the representative of COICA, Mr. Valerio Grefa; the
representative of CONFENIAE, Mr. Edmundo Vargas, and representatives
from ECUARUNARI, FICI, FOIN and OINAE.
Spokesmen of other nongovernmental organizations such as
Ecological Action, Ecociencia, CEDENMA, and the Fundación Natura spoke
with the Commission, as did other individuals and institutions
representative of Ecuadoran society, such as the Commission for the
Defense of Human Rights, the Children's Forum, the Latin American
Council of Churches, the Committee to Assist Refugees and Those
Displaced by the Violence, the Ecuadoran AIDS Assistance, Education,
and Prevention Foundation, the Ecuadoran Commission on HIV-AIDS
Human Rights, the Afro-Ecuadoran National Confederation, and the
Permanent National Forum of Ecuadoran Women.
The Commission also received relatives of detainees and of the
disappeared and representatives of people who filed a considerable
number of complaints in accordance with the terms of the American
Convention on Human Rights. It
also met with other persons and institutions interested in the human
rights situation in Ecuador.
In Quito, the Commission visited Rehabilitation Centers No. 1
(García Moreno Prison), No. 2 (the Ambato Street Prison), and No. 3 and
No. 4, and the Women's Social Rehabilitation Center (El Inca Prison).
At each facility the Commission met with the prison authorities
and a number of inmates.
One delegation from the Commission went to Guayaquil to examine
the situation at the Coast Prison and the Women's Prison.
It spoke with the Governor of the Province, Dr. Angel Duarte
Valverde, with the Chief Justice of the provincial Supreme Court, Dr.
Cristóbal Orellana, and with other officials of Guayas Province.
It met with representatives of the Ecuadoran Human Rights Defense
Front (FEDHU) and the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ).
Another delegation from the Commission went to Lago Agrio,
Shushufindi, and then to Coca. Near
these places the delegation inspected a number of oil wells and well
wastepits and their effect on the local environment.
It met with representatives of the Cofan, Siona-Secoya, Shuar,
Achuar, Quichua and Huaorani peoples and with representatives of several
groups, among them the Amazonian Defense Front, the Federation of
Communities, the Parliament of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadoran
Amazon (PANIAE), the Federation of Communities Union of Natives of the
Ecuadoran Amazon (FCUNIAE), the Francisco de Orellana Human Rights
Commission, peasant farmers with the organization La Delicia and from
Primavera, and with representatives of the Carmelite and Capuchin
The observations and contacts made in these days of intense
activity have given the Commission a broad picture of the human rights
situation in Ecuador. Abundant
and valuable information was compiled and will be used to put together
the report that the Commission will prepare on the visit.
The Commission was informed of legislative and administrative
measures either already or about to be adopted to prevent human rights
violations. The Commission
is of the view that these measures should be coupled with a number of
others that will effectively protect
the rights and guarantees recognized in the American Convention on Human
The Commission is fully aware of the problems and social tensions
that structural adjustments engender.
Then, too, high-ranking government officials told the Commission
of the problems that drug trafficking has caused in Ecuadoran society.
Virtually everyone with whom the Commission spoke, including
government officials and members of the judiciary, said that the
performance of the courts was in itself a very serious problem and the
cause of other problems that affected application of the American
The Commission found that most of the prison facilities it
visited are seriously overcrowded.
The Guayaquil Women's Prison, for example, was built to
accommodate 80 prisoners, but now houses 209, as well as 70 children who
are confined with their mothers because other family members are unable
to care for them.
The Commission was interested in the innovative experiments being
conducted at the present time at certain rehabilitation centers in
Quito, under the auspices of private persons and foundations, and has
requested additional information on these projects and their effects on
the prison population.
Because of excessive delays in bringing people to trial and
because there is no proper system for release on bail, over half the
prison population are people who have languished in prison for long
periods without having their guilt or innocence determined in a court of
law. That delay is a
terrible injustice for those people who can spend several years in
prison only to be found innocent when finally brought to trial, and for
those who remain incarcerated for longer than the maximum period that
the law allows for the crimes in question.
The Commission is currently processing cases of petitioners who
have not yet stood trial but have already been held longer than the
maximum sentence that he or she could have received under the law.
These delays are an obvious breach of the American Convention
since they are a violation of the principle that an individual is
presumed innocent until proven guilty; these delays also deny these
people their freedom without due process of law.
Under the American Convention, judges are obligated to try the
accused without delay or otherwise order his or her release.
Given the commitment it undertook when ratifying the American
Convention, the Ecuadoran State is responsible for violating this
But the problem of the judiciary goes beyond criminal law.
The Commission has received reports of long delays in cases
involving property rights and in others where the rights of indigenous
peoples are at stake. There
have also been charges of corruption.
A number of individuals and institutions criticized the judiciary
for being ineffectual in controlling the police forces and a number of
cases were filed with the Commission alleging impunity on the part of
members of the police force. Representatives
of indigenous peoples present at one of the Commission's hearings said
they did not have confidence in the courts.
An independent and effective judiciary is an essential element of
a modern democratic system and, indeed, of a modern free-market system.
It is an important part of what makes any modern system of
government legitimate in the eyes of the people.
Under the American Convention, the inhabitants of the States
Parties to the Convention are entitled to an impartial and independent
judicial system. Article
25 of the Convention provides that:
1. Everyone has
the right to a simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective
recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts
that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or
laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such
violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of
their official duties.
2. The States
a. to ensure
that any person claiming such remedy shall have his rights determined by
the competent authority provided for by the legal system of the state;
b. to develop
the possibilities of judicial remedy; and
c. to ensure
that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.
The Commission has come to the end of its visit in Ecuador with
certain doubts as to whether the Ecuadoran State is complying with this
Another side of the judicial problem is the fact that many people
charged with crimes have no attorney to defend them.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that this is a
basic right. Nevertheless,
the Commission has received complaints from many people accused of
crimes that they have been unable to secure legal representation and
have been told that there are only four public defenders in the Quito
court jurisdiction. The
Commission is of the view that the Ecuadoran authorities must move
quickly to have the Statute of the Judiciary amended to correct this
defect. The situation in
rural areas is even worse. The
Commission believes that this question can and must be remedied
People living in the provinces complained to the Commission that
there were organized bands of criminals operating in rural areas with
the obvious acquiescence of local authorities.
The environmental pollution caused by the oil drilling has been
widely publicized in the Ecuadoran and international media.
The Commission visited five sites in eastern Ecuador.
At one such place, the water being discharged into the river
appeared to be clean, while at another the water was being purified
under a contractual arrangement. At another site, Dureno, no effort whatever to treat the
water before discharging it into the river was observed. At the Petro Ecuador facilities in Shushufundi Norte, highly
contaminated water was being discharged into a tributary river.
If one considers that water is being treated at only 30 of the
more than 200 estimated wastepits in the country, the percentage of
untreated wastepits is indeed alarming. Decontamination is needed to correct mistakes that ought
never to have occurred. Both
the State and the companies doing the oil exploration should be
responsible for these anomalies.
Thus far, the State has not taken any effective measure to
correct this problem. Water
is life and in eastern Ecuador the people drink, bathe in and water
their animals from the same source.
If water is adversely affecting life and health, government
inaction could constitute a violation of Article 4 of the Convention.
The Commission is urging the Ecuadoran Government to correct this
Under Article 27 of the American Convention, any government that
declares a state of emergency must so inform the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights immediately.
The Ecuadoran Government has failed to comply with this
during its visit the Commission was informed that this oversight will be
corrected promptly. There
are international standards for determining the lawfulness of a state of
emergency. It is relevant
to note here that while the Convention authorizes suspension of certain
rights, it does not authorize the suspension of the judicial system.
The Commission is concerned by Article 3 of the Presidential
Decree on the state of emergency, because it could be construed as an
upfront license for impunity. Under
no circumstances can the State suspend the fundamental guarantees or
"the judicial guarantees essential for the protection of those
rights". It is evident
that agents of the State who abused their authority when carrying out
the activities to which the Presidential Decree on states of emergency
refers must be brought to trial.
The American Convention protects the rights of minorities and
prohibits minority discrimination.
Representatives of religious minorities told the Commission how
troubled they were by the legislative bill under which there would be
religious instruction in a faith other than those professed by these
Representatives of gay-rights groups told the Commission that
homosexuality is considered a crime and that some homosexuals have been
imprisoned simply because of their sexual preference.
That practice is contrary to the provisions of various articles
of the American Convention and must therefore be corrected.
The IACHR met with representatives of various indigenous groups
and with representatives of the Afro-Ecuadoran Federation. The human rights issues raised in the complaints filed by the
indigenous peoples are complex. While
in some parts of the country they are issues only for the indigenous
populations, elsewhere peasants whose economic level is comparable to
the indigenous peoples share some of the same issues. The Commission wishes to congratulate the Ecuadoran
Government for establishing the Secretariat of Indigenous and
Afro-Ecuadoran Peoples and believes that this is an important step.
Its success, however, will depend to a large extent on the
support it receives from the Government.
The problems that plague the indigenous peoples are only
exacerbated by the flawed judicial system referred to earlier.
The Commission has been told of the ways in which government
representatives and nongovernmental human rights organizations are
cooperating. It is
confident that the cooperation will continue, considering the important
and at times risky work that organizations that defend and promote human
rights in Ecuador perform.
The Commission would like to thank the Government of Ecuador for
its hospitality and for the facilities it made available to enable the
Commission to carry out its activities.
It is grateful to the authorities for the cooperation it received
during the visit, and to the Ecuadoran people for their courtesies and
for the climate of openness in which the Commission was able to operate.
It is confident that the relations established will become
stronger in the future, with a view to achieving the full enforcement
and protection of human rights and so strengthen the democratic life
that the Ecuadoran people enjoy.
The Commission is also grateful for the interest shown by the
press, which gave its visit extensive coverage.
November 11, 1994.
With the consent of the Government of Jamaica, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, will be conducting an on-site visit to the
prisons and detention centers in Jamaica, from December 7th to December
9th, 1994. The object of
the visit is to assess the conditions of detention, and all matters
relating to prison
conditions, detention centers, and their operation in that country.
The Commission's delegation will be composed of Professor Michael
Reisman, Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador John Donaldson,
Commission Member, and support services will be provided by Dr. Edith Márquez
Rodríguez, Executive Secretary, staff attorneys and human rights
specialists Dr. Relinda Eddie, and Dr. Isabel Recupero.
Mrs. Gloria Hansen will provide administrative and secretarial
By consenting to this visit, the Government of Jamaica, is deemed
under the Regulations to give assurances
that the Commission will be able to travel freely throughout the
territory of Jamaica, to communicate freely, and in private with those
who provide the Commission with information, concerning matters relating
to the conditions of detention, conditions of the prisons and detention
centers, and all matters pertaining to the same, and that no reprisals
will be taken against persons who communicate with the Commission.
During the course of this mission, the Commission anticipates
having meetings with Government Officials, non-governmental human rights
organizations, representatives of prisoners, and incarcerated persons,
in order to have an honest assessment of prison conditions and detention
centers in Jamaica.
The Commission will be staying at the Pegasus hotel in Kingston,
Jamaica, December 5th, 1994
At the invitation of the Government of Guatemala, the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of
American States (OAS) will be conducting an on-site visit to that
country from December 12 through 15, 1994.
The IACHR will send a special delegation to observe the current
human rights situation there, as a follow-up to the visit they made last
March. A summary of the
activities and findings of that visit is contained in a special report
focusing in particular on refugees and on villages in the Ixcán and
The IACHR delegation will comprise Prof. Claudio Grossman, a
member of the Commission and Dean of graduate programs at the Law School
of The American University in Washington, D.C.; Dr. David Padilla,
Assistant Executive Secretary of the IACHR; and Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer,
IACHR Principal Specialist in charge of Guatemalan affairs.
In order to prepare the ground for their official activities, the
delegation is already making arrangements with various government
authorities and representatives of nongovernmental organizations in
Guatemala City and in the country's interior.
During its stay, the delegation will be headquartered at the
Hotel Princess in the capital, where they will receive petitions and
information. As is appropriate in such cases, the Government has given
assurances of respect under the law and guarantees to prevent reprisals
against those who contact the Commission as it carries out its mandate.
City, December 9, 1994
PRESS COMMUNIQUE OF THE
DELEGATION OF THE
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON
Visit to Guatemala
December 12-15, 1994
A delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(IACHR) completed its visit to Guatemala today, Thursday, December 15th.
The visit was made at the government's invitation to observe the
situation of human rights, in order to report to the full Commission,
and, especially, to gather information on cases presently before the
Commission, which are based on individual petitions alleging violations
of the rights established in the American Convention on Human Rights, to
which Guatemala is a party.
The IACHR delegation was composed of Professor Claudio Grossman,
a member of the Commission; Dr. David Padilla, Deputy Executive
Secretary; and Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, Principal Specialist. Mrs. Cecilia
Adriazola provided administrative support.
In Guatemala the delegation carried out an extensive program,
which included interviews with widely diverse sectors in the government
and private sphere. The Commission met with the President of Guatemala,
Ramiro de Le
n Carpio; the President of the
Judicial Branch and Supreme Court, Oscar Barrios Castillo; the President
of the Legislative Branch, Arabella Castro de Comparini; the Chief
Justice of the Constitutional Court, Gabriel Larios Ochaita; the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gladys Marithza Ruiz de Vielmann; the
Minister of Defense, Gen. Mario Ren
quez Morales; the Minister of
Government, Danilo Parrinello; the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare,
Gladys Anabella Morf
n; the Minister of Public Health,
Dr. Gustavo Hern
ndez Polanco; the President of the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Mario Guerra Rold
n; the Attorney General, R
mses Cuestas G
mez; the Prosecutor General, Acisclo
Valladares; the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights, Ricardo Alvarado
Ortigoza; the Chairman of the Presidential Commission for Coordination
of Executive Policy on Human Rights (COPREDEH), Jorge Cabrera Hurtate;
the Chairman of the National Commission for Assistance to Repatriated
Refugees and Displaced Persons (CEAR), Jos
guez; and the Deputy Executive
Director of the National Fund for Peace, Danilo Cruz Morales.
The Commission also visited various departments in the interior
to assess the situation in Sierra and Ixc
) of the Communities of Peoples in
Resistance (CPR) and of the returnees in Los Cimientos and the area of
Cuarto Pueblo. In Coatepeque it examined the situation concerning
conflicts at the San Jos
del Horizonte Plantation and other
estates in the region and La Colomba. It also observed the situation in
) and Chupol, and made contact with
military authorities at several bases, including Playa Grande and Santa
Cruz del Quich
The Commission also met with many persons and institutions
concerned with human rights and received testimony and statements from
representatives of religious, labor, peasant, refugee, indigenous,
displaced person, returnee, and student groups.
The Commission's visit occurred at a critical moment in the
history of the hemisphere. The
Summit of the Americas in Miami had just ended on Sunday, the 11th. At
that meeting 34 freely elected heads of government approved a
declaration of principles that reaffirmed their commitment to preserve
and strengthen democracy and cement the connection between democracy and
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, C
sar Gaviria, reflecting the
sentiment of the hemisphere, said at the summit's plenary session:
The hemispheric community has accepted the collective
responsibility to defend democracy and its institutions, human rights,
and pluralism in the Americas. The totalitarian nightmare experienced by
many of our countries will at last be consigned to history.
Coup plotters know that the nations of the hemisphere will not be
abandoned to defend their freedoms alone. The most important thing of
all is that no other region on the globe embraces so many millions of
people whose individual and collective freedoms are protected in the
II. PROGRESS IN
THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN GUATEMALA AND IN OVERCOMING IMPUNITY
The IACHR noted advances in the democratic process in Guatemala,
which are threatened by the persistence of violation of human rights in
a framework of impunity.
The IACHR endorses with satisfaction the opening up of democratic
political dialogue in Guatemala. An essential element in the process of
democratic transition is the establishment, expansion, and consolidation
of opportunities for exchange of ideas, dialogue, and tolerance in the
private sector. These are
indispensable for moving forward with respect for and promotion of
human rights. During its stay in Guatemala, the Commission observed the
existence of a permanent debate on governance and transformation of the
state, the electoral system, military service, the tax system, the role
of political parties, human rights, and the relationship between human
rights and civil order and security. The IACHR noted the participation
of the media in the process of democratic opening. They reflected
divergent and critical concepts and viewpoints, which is fundamental for
strengthening democratic development and protecting human rights.
The Commission also observed a vital process of institutional
reform--stimulated by the new democratic dialogue--which in turn creates
conditions for even more expansion of democracy and protection of human
rights. As the Commission
already noted in its visit in September 1993, it attaches great
importance to the establishment of the Human Rights Prosecutor's Office,
which is carrying out an invaluable labor of observation and
recordkeeping concerning human rights. The Commission also welcomes the
adoption of new judicial and penal standards, and the separation of the
functions of indictment, trial, and representation by the state. If
these are properly implemented, they will strengthen the rule of law in
Without exception, the
broad spectrum of persons and groups consulted by the Commission in
Guatemala expressed their desire to promote, expand, and consolidate a
viable, democratic political system that will satisfy the needs of the
people, with full protection for human rights. In this regard the
Commission appreciates the commitment of President Ramiro de Le
n Carpio and members of his
government. They want to strengthen human rights and they recognize that
deficiencies persist in the democratic transformation of Guatemala, a
nation with a tragic history.
Notwithstanding the progress noted, the Commission expresses its
deep concern over the persistence of serious violations of human rights
which have been brought to its attention, and over the framework of
impunity within which they occur.
The Commission is currently considering cases in which
petitioners allege violations of the rights to life, personal integrity,
personal security, freedom of association, and due process.
Pursuant to treaties freely ratified by Guatemala, especially the
American Convention on Human Rights, the state has the obligation to
protect a series of internationally recognized rights. Individuals have
recourse to the Commission when those rights are violated.
With ample procedural safeguards, the Commission decides on
admissability of petitions, establishes the facts, seeks friendly
settlement, and if that is not possible, approves a final report with
The Commission, or the state involved if it disagrees with the
Commission, may take the case to the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights. The Commission may also decide to publish its reports and submit
them to the OAS General Assembly.
Cases against Guatemala that have been presented to the
Commission are based on the petitioners' conviction that there is
impunity for human rights violators in the context of extremely serious
defects in the judicial and police systems. As a result of the impunity,
complaints of human rights abuses are not properly investigated,
responsible parties are not identified or punished, and victims are not
Despite the government's efforts, while the Commission was in
Guatemala it received concrete complaints that demonstrate continuing
impunity, some of which involve acts against those striving to enforce
the law. By way of example, the Commission notes the following:
In the case of the assassination of Jorge Carpio Nicolle, the
President's cousin (a case in which the primary suspects are members of
the PACs of the town of San Pedro de Jocopilas, Quich
Department), Prosecutor Abraham M
a has been the object of harassment
and direct assaults from persons in suspicious vehicles, which he
reported to the authorities on November 25.
In a statement to the Commission, Mr. M
a said that on November 14, 1994,
while he was examining the crime scene at Km. 139 near Chichicastenango,
three men in a pickup truck without identification acted with impunity
to search his vehicle and examine his registration, despite his position
as a legal officer. Ten days later, at 7:30 p.m. in the town of Amatl
n, the prosecutor's car was harassed
and blocked by a white Mazda 323 while shots were fired at him from a
pickup that approached from the right. Harassing actions have continued
in blatant defiance of an officer of the state, by persons who feel
authorized to act openly against him.
The Commission praises Mr. M
a for continuing to perform his
duties despite the intimidation. We
appeal to the Guatemalan government, judges, prosecutors, and officials
in general to promote his type of behavior and uphold it as an example. They should afford adequate protection to him and all those
who risk their lives in performance of their duties.
In another case, the Commission notes that a witness in a
petition under review, Oscar V
squez, was assassinated together
with his son on September 11 of this year. During the Commission's visit
to Guatemala another of the victim's sons, Marvin V
squez Solorzano, was detained,
beaten, and warned to stop complaining to authorities about human rights
abuses. The Commission
visited him at the Zone 18 jail, where he is being held on the basis of
unsubstantiated charges. The Commission has taken steps to protect his
rights and has reported the situation to the highest levels of the
Impunity has consequences that go beyond the rights of the
victims to create a climate that impinges on citizen security, fosters
corruption, and is incompatible with the rule of law.
The Commission recognizes the difficulties inherent in a
democratic transition in the context of the serious problems that have
afflicted Guatemala for some time. It also appreciates the democratic
spirit that motivates the government and the most diverse sectors of
society. However, the
Commission notes that in the framework of Guatemala's democratic opening
there is an imperative challenge to comply fully with the obligations
the state has freely accepted concerning human rights. The prevailing
impunity threatens those obligations. Democracy cannot coexist with
The delegation of the IACHR will stress to the full Commission
the need to give the most effective cooperation possible to the
Guatemalan government to strengthen instruments and actions for putting
an end to impunity, within the framework of its mandate.
III. TOPICS OF
SPECIAL IMPORTANCE FOR THE DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
During its visit to Guatemala the Commission also had the
opportunity to consider a series of especially important topics relating
to human rights, on which it makes the following observations:
1) In view
of next year's elections and the central role of the electoral process
in democratic development, the Commission recommends that steps be taken
as soon as possible to guarantee and promote the exercise of the right
to political participation and ensure the integrity of the electoral
process. Such steps include development of a reliable system of
identification documents; centralization of the voting registers in the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal while empowering it to supervise municipal
registers; development of voter education programs to ensure greater
participation; placement of security forces under the control of the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal during the election; and assurance that all
individuals and sectors of public opinion, without exception, can
present candidates for public office in accordance with rules designed
to encourage their participation. The Commission urges the government to
respect and preserve the independence of the organs that supervise the
election and give them adequate resources.
Machinery for peaceful, legal settlement of labor disputes is a sine
qua non for a democratic society.
Based on information received concerning labor disputes, the
Commission sees a need to strengthen the Labor Ministry's monitoring,
mediation, and negotiation procedures, as well as the labor justice
system and other legal organs. The Commission does not condone the use
of extralegal means to solve disputes, and considers that they can
best be prevented by improving the operation of those institutions,
which the Commission found to be weak and ineffective. The Commission is
currently considering an extremely serious case involving the
assassination of three workers on the La Exacta estate as a result of
police action. During this
visit the Commission received information from national authorities
refuting the initial version that the victims had first inflicted
gunshot wounds on several police officers. In this area of concern to
the Commission, it recognized some exemplary cases in which actions by
state agencies with the Prosecutor General's Office have led to positive
solutions. There should be more of these and they should built upon.
Adequate training, equipment, and compensation for police, under
civilian control, is indispensable for the security that the state must
promote and guarantee for its citizens. The Commission takes note of the
various reform plans under consideration by authorities for creating a
modern, effective police force that offers security to the citizens and
respects human rights. During its visit to Guatemala the Commission had
the opportunity to observe the willingness of the government and
congress to increase funding for this purpose. There is widespread
consensus that current funding is inadequate.
The Commission found that the prevailing impunity arises in large
measure from the inefficiency of police, judges, prosecutors, and legal
aides in functions that are indispensable for order and general
security. Positive measures such as increased resources for these
agencies, reform of the penal code, and the new configuration for the
justice system are hampered by serious and even fatal attacks on judges,
police, and other authorities who try to carry on their work as provided
by law. In a meeting with
the President of the Supreme Court the Commission learned of the
intentions and advances in the reform of the courts with a view to
strengthening their integrity, their service to the public, and the
timely consideration of cases. In
the Declaration of Principles of the Summit of the Americas, the
hemisphere's chiefs of state said: "Deeming it essential that
justice should be accessible in an efficient and expeditious way to all
sectors of society, we affirm that an independent judiciary is a
critical element of an effective legal system and lasting
democracy." In that vein, the Commission considers that the
judicial function is the cornerstone of democratic governments, whose
importance cannot be overstated. Successful completion of judicial
reform, allocation of adequate resources, and constant concern with
matters of justice will be essential for the future of the rule of law
and human rights in Guatemala.
The Commission welcomes the establishment and role of Guatemala's
Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor, which has been a safeguard for
the rights of Guatemalans. The
Commission feels that the Office deserves greater support because of its
autonomous organization and competence. The Commission expresses concern
for the lack of compliance with the Prosecutor's recommendations, and
urges that they be accepted and honored.
As it said during its pervious visit in September 1993, the
Commission remains seriously concerned over the existence of about half
a million people in Civilian Self-Defense Committees (PACs), equipped
for armed action with no effective control by the state. The Commission
considers it necessary that they be dissolved or made to conform with
the laws of a democratic society. Experience in other countries
demonstrates that when insurgencies that give rise to this type of
organization are finished, the groups can become serious obstacles to
peace because they are instruments of chaos and illegality.
The Commission verified the situation of the Communities of
Peoples in Resistance (CPR), taking into account its own recommendations
in the report published in June 1994. The Commission noted improvement
in the absence of raids and destruction, and increasing respect for the
communities' freedom of movement, trade, and expression.
According to information received by the Commission, there is
continued progress toward the normalization of these communities.
In the area of La Sierra the Commission received some complaints
about the hostility of self-defense patrols and the conduct of some
military personnel. The Commission presented those complaints and
received assurances from the military authorities that the rights of the
communities will be respected.
Returnees in the zones visited by the Commission described their
current economic and social situation and emphasized the need to have
farm tools and equipment, financial resources, and access to education
and primary health care.
The Commission learned of land problems, aggravated by
uncertainty as to legal ownership and displacement of communities during
the conflict. The Commission discussed the matter with CEAR, FONAPAZ,
and COPREDEH with a view to finding appropriate solutions to the
conflicts, so that the affected communities can be fairly compensated
for their damages.
The Commission was invited to meet with the Higher University
Council of the USAC. On that occasion the Commission received a
complaint concerning events that resulted in the death of a student
during protests over increases in urban bus fares. The death occurred at time when the transportation conflict
was virtually resolved. The petitioners say that the student, wounded by
a bullet, received brutal blows from his captors while still alive. The
Commission also learned of subsequent acts of intimidation against other
participants in the protest.
The Commission will process this case in accordance with its
Regulations, which require exhaustion of domestic remedies or evidence
that they are ineffective.
Without prejudice to any subsequent decision to accept the case,
the Commission took note of the observations and recommendations made by
both the Human Rights Prosecutor and the Attorney General.
The Commission was informed that the case is pending in the
The Commission also received information that a police officer
was wounded by lead fragments and an unspecified number of police
suffered bruises when stones were thrown at them. It also heard
complaints of property destruction.
The Commission will comment in due course on these regrettable
During its stay in Guatemala, the Commission received various
reports on the peace process and the widespread hope that it will
succeed. Mindful of the recent exhortation of the Presidents of the
hemisphere, the Commission urges the parties to conclude the peace
process as soon as possible.
The aspiration for peace has taken concrete form in the presence
in Guatemala of the United Nations Mission for the Verification of Human
Rights (MINUGUA), pursuant to the important Global Agreement on Human
Rights, signed by the government and the URNG on March 29, 1994. MINUGUA
was established on November 29 and is being deployed to cover the
Guatemalan territory. Because
of its important role in verifying compliance with the Agreement, the
Commission urges the parties and all sectors of the Guatemalan people to
cooperate closely with the members of this important mission.
Under its own mandate, the Commission proceeded to establish
direct cooperative relations with MINUGUA.
Various sectors of Guatemalan society have indicated that success
in the peace process will bring about better conditions for the
promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission underscores
that the absence of peace must not become a pretext for impunity or
violation of human rights treaties.
States have a genuine opportunity to maintain public order within
the framework of the rule of law.
The Commission wishes to express its appreciation for the
facilities offered to it for the successful completion of its mission by
the government of President Ramiro de Le
n Carpio, and to thank the
authorities, the people who presented valuable testimony, and the
various institutions representative of Guatemalan society for their
cooperation, facilities, and hospitality.
December 15, 1994
At the invitation of the Government of Jamaica, the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to
Jamaica from December 7 to December 9, 1994, in order to assess the
conditions of detention and all matters relating to prison conditions,
detention centers and their operation in that country.
Today, the delegation of the Commission concludes its visit.
delegation was composed of Professor Michael Reisman, Chairman of the
Commission, Ambassador John Donaldson, Commission Member, and support
services were provided by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive
Secretary, staff attorneys and human rights specialists Dr. Relinda
Eddie, and Dr. Isabel Ricupero. Mrs.
Gloria Hansen provided administrative and secretarial support.
Since this is the first visit by the Commission to Jamaica, it
may be useful to explain the institution and its functions.
The Commission is the principal organ of the OAS charged with
reporting on compliance with human rights in the hemisphere. The seven members of the Commission, each serving a four year
term, are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in their individual
capacity and not as representatives of governments. The authority of the Commission derives primarily from the
American Convention on Human Rights for the 25 states that are parties,
and from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man for
those member-states of the OAS that have not yet ratified the
Jamaica ratified the Convention on July 19, 1978, and upon
deposit of its instrument of ratification, the Government of Jamaica
also recognized the competence of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights to receive and examine communications in which a State Party
alleges that another State Party has committed a violation of human
rights set forth in the Convention, pursuant to Article 45 of the
The Commission'_ petition jurisdiction extends to two categories
of human rights problems. Petitions
may be brought by or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals
whose rights are alleged to have been violated.
When large numbers of grave violations are occurring in a
country, single petitions are unlikely to help.
For such situations, the Commission may undertake, on its own
initiative, a country study of human rights violations.
Whenever the Commission makes an on-site visit, the Government
concerned is deemed under the regulations to have given assurances that
the Commission may interview and meet freely, in private, with
Government officials, persons, non-governmental groups, and
organizations, which the Commission deems relevant in assessing the
situation, and that no reprisals will be taken against such persons or
During its stay, the Commission's delegation benefited from the
cooperation of the highest levels of the Government of Jamaica, its
officials, and agencies. Individuals
and representatives of non-governmental organizations, who concern
themselves with the prison population, persons in detention, and prison
authorities also provided great assistance.
In the course of its visit, the Commission's delegation met the
Honourable Benjamin Claire, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Foreign Trade; the
Honourable K. D. Knight, Minister of National Security and Justice; and
Colonel John Prescod, Commissioner of Corrections.
The Commission also met with Monseigneur Richard Albert, Mr.
Denis Daly, Attorney at Law and Chairman of the Jamaica Council for
Human Rights, and Ms. Florizelle O'Connor, Coordinator for the Jamaica
Council for Human Rights.
The Commission's delegation visited the following places of
detention and correction: Tower
Street Adult Correctional Centre (General Penitentiary); South Camp
Adult Correctional Centre (Gun Court); St. Catherine Adult Correctional
Centre; Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre; Rio Cobre Juvenile
Correctional Centre, St. Andrew Juvenile Remand Centre; Half Way Tree;
Remand Centre and Hunts Bay.
During these visits, the delegation obtained useful information
regarding the prison population, conditions of correction and detention,
and the general condition of these facilities.
The Commission was also apprised of governmental policy
initiatives underway and other alternatives currently under discussion.
The American Convention on Human Rights establishes a number of
general principles with regard to detention.
Article 5 of the Convention
specifies some of the dimensions of the "right to humane
treatment," in the following terms:
Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and
moral integrity respected.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or
degrading punishment or treatment.
All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with
respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the
Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be
segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate
treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons.
Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated
from adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as
possible, so that they may be treated in accordance with their status as
Punishments consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an
essential aim the reform and social readaptation of the prisoners.
Article 7, paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7 provide:
Anyone who is detained shall be informed of the reasons for his
detention and shall be promptly notified of the charge or charges
Any person detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or
other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be
entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to be released without
prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings.
His release may be subject to guarantees to assure his appearance
Anyone who is deprived of his liberty shall be entitled to
recourse to a competent court, in order that the court may decide
without delay on the lawfulness of his arrest or detention and order his
release if the arrest or detention is unlawful. In States Parties whose laws provide that anyone who believes
himself to be threatened with deprivation of his liberty is entitled to
recourse to a competent court in order that it may decide on the
lawfulness of such threat, this remedy may not be restricted or
abolished. The interested
party or another person in his behalf is entitled to seek these
No one shall be detained for debt.
This principle shall not limit the orders of a competent judicial
authority issued for nonfulfillment of duties of support.
Article 8 guarantees a presumption of innocence and the right to
a hearing "within a reasonable time."
Article 29 is also pertinent to detention, for it requires that
the provisions of the Convention be interpreted in ways that do not
restrict the enjoyment of rights guaranteed under other conventions,
rights that are inherent in the human personality or rights in
international human rights declarations.
These various Convention-based rights come into operation at the
moment a person is detained and continue until that person regains his
or her liberty. They do not
purport to guarantee that imprisonment will be a pleasant experience,
but insist that it not violate the rights guaranteed in the Convention
and that it lead toward "reform and social readaptation of the
For governments whose resources are limited, fulfillment of the
obligations of the Convention is often difficult.
In examination of the situation in respect of prisons in Jamaica,
the Commission is acutely aware of the financial constraints within which the Government of Jamaica must operate.
The lack of a sufficient social safety net increases the
instances of criminal activity. This
in turn imposes further pressure on the courts
and correctional institutions.
These are factors which the Commission takes into account in its
appraisals and recommendations.
Some of Jamaica's prisons would appear to meet international
standards. Others present
some very disquieting features, though, on balance, the Commission was
greatly encouraged by steps being taken and attitudes expressed by the
Ministers and Commissioner of Prisons.
All of the institutions of criminal justice are stressed by an
epidemic of drug-related crime, which leads to crowding of prison
facilities. But part of the
problem of overcrowding is due to the presence of a large group of
detainees who have been remanded while they await trial.
Numbers aside, this group presents an acute human rights problem,
for it is composed of individuals who are being deprived of their
liberty while they enjoy a presumption of innocence.
Yet, they are not given many of the recreational facilities that
are available to prisoners who have been convicted.
The problem will be alleviated if trials are accelerated and if,
in accord with Article 7 (5) of the Convention, a bail system is applied
which releases accused persons, subject to some form of surety, while
they await trial as long as they pose no threat to the community or are
unlikely to flee the jurisdiction.
The Commission is concerned about reports of corporal punishment
of juveniles, which appears to have been systematic yet is not subjected
to any judicial controls.
The Commission was pleased to learn that the instruction
curriculum for correction officers now includes a component on human
rights. The Commission was informed that a Jamaican non-governmental
organization has conducted seminars on human rights for police.
The Commission indicated to the Government its willingness to
assist in these important educational endeavours.
The "essential aim of the reform and social readaptation of
prisoners" of Article 5 (6) of the American Convention has
necessary implications for sentence and parole regimes.
Long term sentences without any prospect of parole or reduction
would render "reform and social readaptation" meaningless.
They also exacerbate the administration and control of prison
populations, since there are no incentives for good behavior.
These principles of the Convention sometimes run against views
long entrenched in judiciaries and correction bureaucracies.
The Government of Jamaica has renamed its prisons
"correction centres" and some correction officers the
Commission interviewed expressed very progressive philosophies of
sentencing and parole policies will have to be reviewed, a process which
appears to be underway at several levels of government.
The Commission would hope that the international interest in
assisting through multilateral and national modalities with the
correction and rehabilitation burden in developing countries be
recognized and acted on.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation it received from
the authorities and different sectors of the Jamaican community, all of
which contributed to the success of this mission.
The Commission continues to study and
assess prison conditions and conditions of detention in Jamaica
in the light of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Jamaica, December 9, 1994