For over three months, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly asked the de facto government of Haiti to consent to a visit to that country to investigateon site the numerous complaints received pertaining to human rights violations attributed to repression by the armed forces, the police, and auxiliary civilian groups operating on their orders. The IACHR advised the Government of its intention to conduct two visits: an exploratory one to be carried out from December 13 to 15, 1992, and an on-site visit to be conducted from January 11 to 15, 1993. The de facto government still has not given such consent. On the contrary, on December 8, the IACHR received a message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Haiti advising that the dates on which such visits were to take place would be reported in the following days. But it was not until one month later that the de facto authorities replied that "the visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights did not seem necessary to the Haitian government".
The complaints lodged by the victims themselves and accounts from reliable sources indicate that numerous people have been executed summarily, illegally detained, abused, and tortured by members of the Armed Forces and the police. In most cases, the victims have been supporters of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Other victims have simply been suspected of supporting him. Demonstrations and meetings have been violently suppressed, and journalists have not been allowed to report the facts. Many of the victims of these violations are leaders or members of people's or humanrights organizations, students, journalists, merchants, peasants, and members of the Catholic church.
In rural areas, repression and violence have escalated with the reinstatement of "section chiefs," who act with the acquiescence of the military and absolute impunity. Both in the capital and in the provinces, the population is subjected to the corrupt practices of the de facto authorities. And soldiers extort money from civilians as protection against detention and abuse, or simply for improvement of the conditions under which they are held in detention centers, or sometimes even for their release.
The climate of fear and uncertainty in the country has led a large part of the population, especially those who support the return of President Aristide, to migrate to the country's interior seeking refuge, forced to abandon their homes and stay in hiding. This situation has also compelled a large number of Haitians to flee the country in precarious boats to request asylum in the United States.
The practice of "preventive repression" used against the civilian population and the deterioration of the political situation have given rise to continual violations of individual rights, such as the right to life, the right to humane treatment, the right to personal liberty, freedom of thought and expression, the right of assembly, and freedom of association, all of which are protected by the American Convention on Human Rights, to which the Republic of Haiti is a state party.
The Commission should point out that the American Convention on Human Rights remains in effect regardless of the political situation prevailing in a state party. Consequently, the Commission stresses that those who exercise power in a state, even in a de facto manner, are obligated to observe the individual rights recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.
The ad hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs adopted, on December 13, 1992, the Resolution "Reinstatement of Democracy in Haiti" (MRE/RES.4/92), in which it decided to "instruct the President of the Ad Hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the. Secretary General of the OAS to cooperate in the efforts of the Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in light of the serious and continuing human rights violations in Haiti and the refusal of the current de facto authorities to allow the Commission to conduct an on-site visit as soon as possible."
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights remains steadfastly determined to travel to Haiti to investigate on site the grave violations reported. In view of the de facto government's refusal to cooperate with it, the Commission renews its appeal to all nongovernmental human rights organizations, particularly those operating in Haiti, to the victims and their relatives, and in general to all those whose individual rights have been violated in any way because of the political crisis, to forward their complaints to the IACHR.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues an appeal to the de facto government, and especially to the Armed Forces, to cease their systematic human rights violations, of which the Haitian people are the victim.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is disturbed by the most recent wave of brutal terrorist acts in various places throughout Colombia. These acts leave the Colombian people in a state of constant anxiety and directly violate their rights to life, security and personal integrity. The combination of attacks by organized crime and political violence has made the Colombian people the victim of one of the cruelest and most unjust onslaughts of aggression. The Commission reaffirms the principle that no person, group or State may infringe the rights recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
Yesterday, car-bombs were parked in various places in downtown Bogota, precisely at that time of the day when vehicular and pedestrian traffic are heaviest. Each was loaded with 50 kilos of explosives. As the authors had intended, when the carbombs were detonated tremendous material damage was done; more importantly, however, hundreds of defenseless people who live or work in the area of the explosions or were simply passing by, suffered irreparable injury. This development has left the Colombian people in mourning once again, especially the families of the victims, as people have been injured, mutilated or permanently disabled. Moreover, one of carbombs was placed near a court building for the obvious purpose of intimidating this institution and its members.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights vigorously condemns this and any other criminal acts that add to the Colombian people's suffering and trigger understandable indignation and protest among the Colombian public and the international community. It is the Commission's view that acts such as these, which are the work of individuals or irregular armed groups working for the drug cartels, must not go unpunished. It also condemns actions targeted at those public institutions that are the guardians of Colombian justice.
In addition to strenuously repudiating the acts in question, the Commission urges the Government of Colombia to afford the public with the maximum security and protection to which it is entitled and to prosecute and sanction, with the full force of the law, the authors of these acts.
Washington, D.C., February 17, 1993
Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights elected its new officers. Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano was elected Chairman, Professor Michael Reisman First Vice Chairman, and Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía Second Vice Chairman.
Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano is a distinguished Argentine jurist and university professor. He has practiced in the Federal Capital and in the Provinces of Buenos Aires and Formosa. Dr. Fappiano has participated in a number of congresses and seminars on procedural law in the Argentine Republic and has served on committees drafting laws on such topics as minors, labor procedure and officers of the court and magistrates. Dr. Fappiano has also been a consultant on various bills of amendment. He is the author of a number of books and articles on various issues in Argentine law and international cooperation.
Dr. Michael Reisman is an eminent United States jurist specializing in international law. He has participated in a number of missions and in 1987 was a member of the Independent Counsel on International Human Rights, Peshawar, Pakistan, and of the OAS Observation Team that witnessed the elections in Suriname that same year. Dr. Reisman has extensive experience in his profession and has served as a consultant. He has written a number of books, analyses and studies on the question of human rights at the international level. Dr. Reisman has been a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 1990. He is presently a professor at Yale Law School.
Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía, a Colombian jurist, received his doctorate in history at the University of Paris in 1975. He has served as a member of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Colombia, President of the Center for Studies on the Colombian Reality (CEREC), and as Presidential Advisor for the Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Colombia (1987-1989). He has been Colombia's delegate at a number of international events organized by the United Nations and other organizations. A journalist and university professor, Ambassador Tirado has contributed to several newspapers and journals in Colombia and has lectured at several universities in the United States and Europe. He is the author of a number of books and publications, among them La Reforma Constitucional de 1936 and Introducción a la Historia Económica de Colombia.
Washington, D.C., March 1, 1993
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is deeply disturbed by the systematic human rights violations that continue to victimize the Haitian public. It strenuously condemns, in particular, the events that took place in front of the Port-auPrince cathedral on February 25, 1993.
The Commission was informed of the unlawful arrests and abuse inflicted upon those who participated in the mass celebrated on February 25, in memory of the victims lost with the sinking of the ferry Neptune. According to reports, as he walking out of the cathedral Monsignor Willy Romélus, Bishop of Jeremie, was beaten and his surplice torn by armed men. Among those arrested were Edride Jean and Julienne Charles, members of the grassroots ecclesiastical communities (TKL), and Pharnes Jan, who was beaten and then taken away to the National Penitentiary. According to the information it has received, Mr. Pharnes had been so severely beaten that he was in urgent need of medical attention. Mrs. Arlette Josué, a journalist from Signal FM and the Voice of America, was also detained, along with a seminarian, as she was leaving the cathedral. She was mistreated during her interrogation at the Anti-Gang Investigation Service.
The Commission has also learned of the repression by the military in Jeremie in early March. According to reliable sources, a number of young people were arrested and beaten by the military; only a handful were released. Mr. Patrick Bourdeau was so badly beaten while in custody that he was unable to walk. The detainees are still in prison, in violation of the 48-hour limit that the Haitian Constitution stipulates in cases of preventive detention.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asks the de facto authorities to immediately release the individuals who are being unlawfully held and to respect their physical integrity. It once again calls upon the Armed Forces, pursuant to the American Convention on Human Rights, to stop the systematic human rights violations being committed against the Haitian people and to respect the individual freedoms upheld in that international agreement, of which Haiti is a State Party.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is still determined to go to Haiti for an on-site investigation of the grave violations denounced.
Washington, D.C., March 5, 1993
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is pleased to report that a friendly settlement as provided for in the American Convention on Human Rights has been achieved in cases 10,288, 10,310, 10436, 10,496, 10631 and 10,771. The cases stemmed from petitions filed with the Commission denouncing serious violations of the human rights of thirteen victims, by the military regime that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. The violations consisted in a large number of arbitrary detentions under the decree law known as the "National Executive Power" which permitted the encarceration of persons for indefinite periods without trial.
The petitioners proposed--and the Government of Argentina so agreed--that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should serve as the organ of friendly settlement. In 1990, the Government enacted a law ordering the payment of the payment of indemnities to the victims or their next-of-kin as compensation for damages suffered as a result of the human rights violations. Since the petitioners have accepted the compensation provided by the Argentine Government and as both parties asked that the friendly settlement procedure be considered finalized and that the respective cases be closed, the Commission has prepared its Report thereon in keeping with the procedure stipulated in the American Convention on Human Rights.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights would like to thank the petitioners in these cases for their invaluable contribution and the Government of the Argentine Republic for its constructive attitude, which allowed the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights to be used in a creative way in keeping with the spirit of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights. The Commission must point out that this is the first time that a friendly settlement has been successfully concluded and it hopes that this precedent will inspire more frequent recourse to this procedure, for the sake of those persons whose human rights have been violated in the hemisphere.
Washington, D.C., March 10, 1993
On March 12, 1993, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its 83rd session, where it elected as its new officers: Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Chairman; Professor Michael Reisman, First Vice Chairman, and Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Second Vice Chairman. The other members of the Commission are Mr. Oliver Jackman, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni-Celli, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza and Mr. Patrick Robinson.
The Commission examined and approved the Annual Report that will be presented to the General Assembly at its twenty-third regular session.
Pursuant to recommendations from the General Assembly, the Commission continued with its analysis of the observance of economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of children in the hemisphere. Along those same lines, it began to study the rights of women and other groups in special circumstances.
The Commission approved a Special Report on the situation of human rights in Haiti, wherein it states that in the last year human rights violations have increased markedly in that country. The Report mentions a number of violations attributable to the Armed Forces, such as extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, mistreatment and torture. The Report also states that in Haiti, there are severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the right of assembly.
The Commission issued a Declaration on the situation of the Haitian refugees, where it called upon the governments of the member states, pursuant to the obligations established in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights, as appropriate, and in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, to take the emergency measures necessary to prevent the dangers and suffering experienced by those Haitians who, although forced to flee their country because of their repression and persecution by agents of the de facto authorities, have been or are being repatriated.
During the course of its session, the Commission received the Honorable JeanBertrand Aristide, Constitutional President of Haiti, who spoke of the human rights violations being committed by the military who unlawfully seized power in his country. President Aristide stated that the Commission's presence in Haiti was essential and asked that the Commission make the necessary overtures to obtain the member states' support to compel the Haitian military regime to accept the Commission's presence there.
The Commission also received Uc. Dante Caputo, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General and the OAS Secretary General for Haiti, who described the Haitian situation in detail.
With regard to Peru, the Commission decided to publish the Special Report titled "Situation of Human Rights in Peru: Summary since April 5, 1992", aporoved at its 82nd session and sent to the Government of Peru in November of that y so that the latter might make the observations it deemed necessary. After that provis - 1 report was forwarded to the Government there were new developments that the Commission considered important. It therefore decided to include a brief summary of these new developments in Chapter IV of its Annual Report. The Commission also decided to publish the report on the Cayara case, whose submission to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was ruled extemporaneous.
The Commission received an invitation from the Government of Peru to make a visit to that country, which was accepted in principle. The Commission will set the date for the visit and approve its program of activities in due course.
The Commission considered and adopted a Special Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, which will be forwarded to the Government of that country.
The Commission will make an on-site visit to Guatemala to apprise itself of the situation of the communities of peoples in resistance.
The Commission approved a special report based on its on site visit to Colombia in May of 1992, which shall be sent at the appropriate time to the Government of that country.
Acting upon an invitation from the Government of El Salvador, the Commission decided to make an on-site visit to that country sometime in the near future.
The IACHR will continue to follow events in El Salvador closely and is confident that the parties will comply fully with the Truth Commission's Report, scheduled to come out on March 15 of this year, and with the obligations stipulated in the American Convention on Human Rights and any other agreements that have not yet been executed.
The Commission must again point out that the political agreements concluded by the parties do not in any way relieve the State of the obligations and responsibilities it undertook with ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments on the subject.
The Chairman of the Commission also received and accepted on behalf of the IACHR the Brazilian Government's invitation to visit that country.
During this session, the Commission received representatives of governments and nongovernmental organizations interested in human rights. Testimony was heard in connection with both the general situation of the basic rights in various States and specific individual cases now being processed by the Commission.
The Commission received the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, Dr. Bernard Pallais, and Nicaragua's Permanent Representative, Ambassador José Antonio Tijerino. It took note of the progress made in promoting and protecting human rights in Nicaragua. However, it was also disturbed by the deteriorating political situation and by the escalation in certain types of violence there. The Commission believes that the failure to prosecute and punish serious human rights violations is a contributing factor, as is the spread of the serious institutional crisis.
During this session, the Commission examined, with great concern, the negative human rights situation in Cuba, largely the result of the restrictions imposed against those who in any way take issue with the ruling political regime in that country. The Commission was of the view that very profound changes are urgently needed in Cuba, the kind that will gradually make it possible to establish a genuine representative democracy in that country, which it does not have at the present time. Once again the Commission calls upon the Cuban Government to allow authentic freedom of expression and complete reestablishment of the rule of law.
The Commission also stated how very grateful and pleased it was with the friendly settlement agreement reached between the Argentine Government and the petitioners in thirteen cases involving individuals who had been detained and held on orders from the Executive Power during the military regime that toppled the Constitutional Government in 1976. Under that agreement, the Argentine Government paid pecuniary damages to the petitioners, to their complete satisfaction. It should be pointed out, once again, that this is the first friendly settlement agreement successfully concluded since the Commission's establishment in 1959.
The Commission addressed the Argentine Government requesting precautionary measures for minors born in captivity during the last military regime.
The Commission approved a report wherein it calls upon the United States Government to re-examine, as a matter of urgency, the practice of intercepting on the high seas boats carrying Haitian citizens bound for the United States, who are then taken back to Haiti without being given the opportunity to prove whether they qualify as refugees under the Protocol on the Status of Refugees, or as asylum-seekers under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The Commission also asked the Government of the United States not to repatriate any Haitian citizens who are already on United States territory without first determining whether they qualify as refugees under the aforementioned instrument.
The Commission continued to discuss some issues that would be included in the draft inter-American legal instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. A document was approved that contains a summary of the observations presented by eleven member states of the Organization and by a number of intergovernmental and indigenous organizations, based on the questionnaire prepared by the Commission. The IACHR is now preparing the first draft of an instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Finally, the Commission decided to hold its next session in October of this year.
Washington, D.C., March 12, 1993
During its last in loco visit to Guatemala in November 1992, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had planned to visit the Quiché area, where the Communities of the Population in Resistance reside. The visit did not materialize at that time. Nonetheless, Guatemala's authorities agreed that the Commission could conduct a future visit to that area. In its final press communique of the November mission, the Commission announced that the future visit would take place during the first quarter of 1993.
Subsequently, the Commission proposed to the Government that the dates of April 23-24, 1993 be set for that visit. On March 31, 1993 the Government informed the Commission that it wished to postpone the visit, as it was not considered prudent to hold it at this time in consideration of the negotiations taking place with the URNG (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union) in Mexico within the framework of the peace process.
The IACHR is continuing its discussions with the Government of Guatemala in order to arrange a visit to those Communities as soon as possible, consistent with the Government's assurances. The Commission would like to be in the Quiché area soon in order that the goals of the visit are not frustrated. In this way the Commission may fulfill its mandate to promote and defend the enjoyment of human rights, the role assigned by the American Convention to which Guatemala is a party.
Washington, D.C., April 16, 1993
In response to an invitation from the Government of El Salvador, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made arrangements for an on-site visit to El Salvador from 26 to 29 April, 1993. The visit was to take place pursuant to the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, of which El Salvador is a State Party, and had been previously approved by the Government through a note of March 18, 1993.
Under the pertinent statutory provisions, the Government of El Salvador had undertaken to grant the Commission all facilities necessary for its mission. Accordingly, on March 30, 1993, the Commission dispatched a draft schedule of meetings to the government authorities, in which it suggested the names of persons who would be interviewed by the Inter-American Commission, without prejudice to the Government putting forward additional names.
However, one week before the Commission's visit was due to begin, and after the entire schedule of meetings with the nongovernmental sector had been confirmed, the Government of El Salvador, in a letter dated April 19, 1993, claimed that the interviews and meetings requested had not been confirmed since most of the officials in charge of the Offices of the institutions to be visited had previous engagements, either at home or abroad, that could not be canceled. The letter ended with a proposal that the Commission's on-site visit be postponed to a date to be determined later on.
This attitude certainly constitutes a failure on the part of the Government to meet previously accepted commitments, and conduct that is at variance with the repeated declarations of good faith and cooperation with the Commission.
The Commission is deeply saddened by the Government's unexpected cancellation of the visit, and trusts that all sectors concerned with the situation in El Salvador would support the task of the Commission, which will shortly be preparing a special report on the human rights situation in El Salvador.
Washington, D.C., April 21, 1993
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States expresses its satisfaction for the recent verdict of the Supreme Court of Bolivia, which severely condemned the military and civilians who executed the coup in Bolivia in 1980, and committed grave human rights violations during the period of their government.
The historical verdict by the Supreme Court of Bolivia on April 21st, of this year, following a trial which lasted almost a decade, sentenced the "de facto" ex President, Luis Garcia Meza, to 30 years imprisonment, as well as his ex-Minister of the Interior, Colonel of the Army, Luis Arce Meza, and imposed tough sentences on the majority of his cabinet members. Sentences of 20 and 30 years of imprisonment were imposed on members of the paramilitary forces, for the commission of, as well as aiding and abetting, murders and sedition. In addition, their assets were frozen and fines were imposed.
The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States opportunely deplored the coup and the human rights violations committed there. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for its part, published an extensive special report on the human rights situation in Bolivia in 1981, which denounced the numerous violations carried out by that government and its agents, demanding an investigation, and condemnation "with full rigor of the law" for those responsible and the prompt restoration of democratic institutions.
The Commission believes that the Courts of Bolivia have demonstrated their capacity and will to defend the principles of democracy by way of this historic judgment. The Commission also wishes to underscore the importance of the joint actions of its various branches of the Organization in defending the principles contained in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.
Washington, D.C., May 11, 1993