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 prisoners.
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 justification. Information 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 American States.
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 above.
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 violations.
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 Haiti.
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 liability.
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 visit.
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.
Port-au-Prince, 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 Bahamas.
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 Hotel.
Commonwealth 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 visit.
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 entities.
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:
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 detained.
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 circumstances.
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.
Nassau, 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 confirm this.
-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 civilian population.
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.
Washington, 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 destruction thereof."
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.
Washington, 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 Rights.
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.
Guatemala, 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 impunity.
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.
Washington, 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 rights.
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 judicial measures.
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."
Santiago, 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 people.
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.
Washington, 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 this development.
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.
Washington, D.C., September 30, 1994