doc. 18 rev. 1
17 November 1978
Original: Spanish




(Findings of the “on-site” observation in

the Republic of Nicaragua

October 3 – 12, 1978)


          In the light of the foregoing, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in plenary, has arrived at the conclusion that the Government of Nicaragua has incurred responsibility for the following serious, persistent and generalized violations:  

          a)      The Government of Nicaragua is responsible for serious attempts against the right to life, in violation of the international humanitarian norms, in repressing, in an excessive and disproportionate manner, the insurrections that occurred last September in the main cities of the country. In fact, the bombing of towns by the National Guard was done in an indiscriminate fashion and without prior evacuation of the civilian population, which caused innumerable deaths of persons who were not involved in the conflict, and, in general, a dramatic situation;


          b)      Likewise, the Government of Nicaragua is responsible for a large number of deaths which occurred after the combats, because of abuses perpetrated by the National Guard during the so-called “Operation Mop-up” and other actions several days after the cessation of hostilities, in which many persons were executed in a summary and collective fashion for the mere reason of living in neighborhoods or districts where there had been activity by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN); and young people and defenseless children were killed;


          c)      The Government of Nicaragua has obstructed the work of the Red Cross by not allowing it to carry out its responsibilities during the combat: caring for the wounded, picking up bodies, and its humanitarian mission in general. Moreover, the Government is responsible for the death of two Red Cross corpsmen and the improper use of local ambulances and the emblem of the Red Cross;


          d)      The Government of Nicaragua is also responsible for the death and serious abuse, arbitrary detention and other violations of the human rights of peasant groups;


          e)      In the events of last September and even earlier, there were serious violations to the right to personal security, by means of tortures and other physical abuses which were inflicted on numerous detainees;


          f)       A special situation, which deeply concerned the Commission, is the one dealing with minors. Aside from the many youths who are being detained in jails, along with common delinquents, the Commission was able to prove a general repression by the National Guard against any male youth between 14 and 21 years of age;


          g)      The physical liberty of the people is seriously affected, as is evidenced by the many arbitrary detentions that occurred early in September, the number of which increased after constitutional guarantees were suspended. This situation, furthermore, is aggravated by the administration of the judicial system which exists in Nicaragua, and by the powers enjoyed by Police Judges, some of whom are also Commanders of the National Guard, who may impose penalties of up to six months of jail, without any procedure other than listening to the accused, and by the powers of the military courts to judge civilians during periods of emergency. The foregoing shows that there have been violations to the right of protection against arbitrary detention and to due process, and, in particular to the right to an adequate defense;


          h)      The freedom of expression of opinions is severely restricted when in fact information about events occurring in Nicaragua is limited to newspapers, radio and TV stations which are controlled, either directly or indirectly, by the Government. In the case of the written or spoken media independent of or in opposition to the Government, even when there was no censorship, their owners, directors or journalists were subjected to serious attempts or threats to their lives, freedom or security;


          i)       Although there is a formal respect for the freedom of conscience, worship and religion, in practice these cannot be fully enjoyed due to the abuse, in words and deeds, to which priests and ministers of the various Catholic congregations have been subjected;


          j)       At present the right to assembly cannot be exercised. Even before the emergency regime came into effect, the right to association, in general, and those of political and trade union associations, in particular, had been seriously limited;


          k)      The right to vote has been hindered by various obstructions of a practical and legal nature which limit its free exercise.


          The violations to human rights included in this report have affected all sectors of the Nicaraguan population. Its victims are and have been especially those persons of limited economic resources and young people between the ages of 14 and 21.

          The damage and suffering caused by these violations have awakened in a very forceful way, an intense and general feeling among Nicaraguan people for the establishment of a system which will guarantee the observance of human rights.


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