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 deems necessary.
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 Haiti.
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.
Port-au-Prince, October 19, 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 administrative support.
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 dictatorial regime.
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.
Despite the 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 Constitution. The 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.
Port-au-Prince, 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. Rosario McIntyre.
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 rights situation.
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.
Quito, 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 Missions.
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 Rights.
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 Convention.
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 obligation.
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:
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 important obligation.
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 immediately.
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 problem immediately.
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 requirement. However, 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 minorities.
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.
Quito, 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 support.
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.
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 mountanous areas.
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.
Guatemala City, December 9, 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 Enr 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 Mauricio Rodr 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 n (Quich ) 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 Chajul (Quich ) 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 human rights.
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 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 Guatemala.
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 recommendations.
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 compensated.
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 ndez Garc 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 ndez Garc 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 ndez Garc 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 Guatemalan government.
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 impunity.
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.
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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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 Guatemalan courts.
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 incidents.
8) 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.
Guatemala, 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.
The Commission's 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 Convention.
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 Convention.
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 entities.
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:
Article 7, paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7 provide:
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 prisoners."
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 imprisonment. But 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.
Kingston, Jamaica, December 9, 1994