Doc. 9 rev. 1
16 October 1981
Original: Spanish





As a result of the coup of 1980, in Bolivia, several political leaders were either expelled or forced to leave the country, among whom the following should be noted: former president Lydia Gueiler, Juan Lechín and Simón Reyes, as well as several priests, especially of the Salesian Order and the Jesuits.


          In Chile, by virtue of the power conferred on the Executive by the emergency legislation, several important dissident politicians were either expelled or return to their country prohibited by the Government of General Pinochet. Among these, the following should be noted: former Minister of the Treasury and former Senator, Andrés Espinoza, former Minister of the Interior, Carlos Briones, former Minister of Mining, Orlando Cantuarias, former Senator, Alberto Jerez, and the former Minister of Justice and President of the Chilean Commission of Human Rights, Jaime Castillo.


          In Guatemala, as was pointed out by former Vice-President Francisco Villagran Kramer, “Death or exile is the fate of those who struggle for social justice in Guatemala”. Even though the majority of exiles from that country are persons who abandoned the country voluntarily to flee the terror, there have been several cases of forced expulsion. Among the most recent cases to be noted are Carlos Statter, parish priest of the Ixcan region, and the case of bishop Juan Gerardi, President of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala, who upon returning from Rome November 22, 1980, was not permitted to re-enter the country.


          In Haiti, numerous political leaders and journalists were expelled during 1980-1981. Among these, the following should be mentioned: Elsie Etheart, Jean-Robert Herard, Pierre Andre Clitondal, Richard Brisson, Gregoire Eugene, Michele Moltas, Saint Jean Jacques Honorat, Marcus Garcia, Nicole Magloire and Gregoire Eugene, the latter president of one of few political parties in existence in Haiti.


          In Paraguay, Mr. Luis Alfonso Resck, one of the principal opposition political leaders to President Stroessner, was expelled from Paraguayan territory on June 27, 1981.


          The Commission considers that all of these expulsions, that were not subject to control by the judiciary, constitute a serious violation of human rights and, when carried out without the consent of the state to which these persons were transferred, a serious violation of international law. Therefore, the Commission urges all states to put an end to this practice and to limit expulsion of nationals only to those cases that have been reviewed by the judiciary, as an alternative to the penalty of privation of freedom and always for a definite period of time.




          Another of the consequences originating from prolonged states of emergency has been the existence of a climate of fear and insecurity which has not been conducive to the effective exercise of freedom of thought and therefore, of information.


          Whether it is due to the powers granted by these states of emergency, by the exceptional legislation that has been promulgated in its application, or to the precedent created by the abuses carried out by previous governments that had arbitrarily closed down some media or jailed journalists, the truth is that, in practice, in all those countries in which the state of emergency has been imposed the media has applied self censorship due to fear of being sanctioned or of journalists being detained.


          Of course, the Commission considers that in these circumstances authentic freedom of expression cannot be exercised nor can citizens be adequately informed which simultaneously contributes to the violations of other human rights.


          On the subject, there are, in fact, two rights that should be protected. On the one hand, clearly the freedom of thought requires the right to transmit by any means of social communication facts and ideas; but also, on the other hand, such freedom requires the right of every person to receive information without interference of any kind.


          The interdependence of the peoples of America requires greater understanding among them, for its effectiveness and freedom of information, ideas, and news is indispensable. For achieving the objectives previously mentioned, the means of information should be free of al pressures or impositions, and those using them assume a great responsibility before public opinion and should, therefore, be faithful to the facts.


          Freedom of expression is universal and contains within it the idea of the juridical right which pertains to persons, individual or collectively considered, to express, transmit and diffuse their thoughts; in a parallel and correlative way, freedom of information is also universal and embodies the collective rights of everyone to receive information without any interference or distortion.


          On the other hand, the Commission recognizes that there are certain instances in which freedom of expression may be legally restricted and, consequently freedom of information as well. But these limitations should always be clearly and explicitly defined such as to avoid abuses of power on the part of the State.


          The Commission is also aware of the ongoing debate in our continent, as well as in the international community in general, regarding the definition and scope of freedom of thought and information. Without prejudice to the contribution that the Commission can made to this debate at the appropriate time, it cannot fail to point out here that during the period of this report several attempts have been made against the freedom of expression (and, therefore, against the freedom of information) that under no circumstances may be justified.


          Of course, as was already pointed out, in those regimes subject to states of exception, it is the climate of terror and insecurity that has made possible self-censorship. Other states have gone further by prohibiting or reiterating the prohibition of publishing new publications not officially authorized, as in Chile by virtue of temporary prohibition 24 of the new Constitution or in Haiti in accordance with the press decree of March 31, 1980, which, in addition, provides for previous censorship of all publications and a series of other formal limitations to freedom of the press.


          In other states, during the period covered by this report, there have been also concrete acts or attempts against the freedom of thought and expression. Among these, the following should be emphasized: the indefinite closing by the Grenadan Government of the Journal “The Torchlight” and the Church Bulletin “Grenadan Voice.”


          After the publication of the Commission's report on Nicaragua, that is within a period of approximately three months, the independent journal “La Prensa” of Nicaragua has been closed for period of two and three days on six different occasions: twice in July, once in August, twice in September and once at the beginning of October of 1981.


          These events Motivate the Commission to reaffirm that freedom of expression is an essential right of every means of social communication, so as to safeguard it from governmental abuses; the Commission would also like to reaffirm the right of every person to be fully informed without arbitrary interferences from the state or international structures that deliver distorted information.




          The American States have reaffirmed in the Charter of the Organization of American States that one of the guiding principles upon which their solidarity is based requires that the political organization of those States be based on the effective exercise of representative democracy. Other international instruments on Human Rights, such as the Pact of San José of Costa Rica, have recognized the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters.


          At the same time, the General Assembly of the OAS at its tenth regular session, reiterated to its member states that have not yet done so to reestablish or perfect the democratic system of government, in which the exercise of power derives from the legitimate and free expression of the will of the people, in accordance with the particular characteristics and circumstances of each country.


          For its part, the Commission has maintained that within the alternative forms of government that constitutional law recognizes, the framework of a democratic regime should be the fundamental structure for the full exercise of human rights.


          In this context, governments have, in the face of political rights and the right to political participation, the obligation to permit and guarantee; the organization of all political parties and other associations, unless they are constituted to violate human rights; open debate of the principal themes of socio-economic development; the celebration of general and free elections with all the necessary guarantees so that the results represent the popular will.


          As demonstrated by historical experience, the denial of political rights or the alteration of the popular will may lead to a situation of violence.


          Unfortunately, during the period covered by this report several governments have not taken the necessary steps to reestablish or perfect the democratic representative system of government. This system implies the election of authorities resulting from elections in which citizens participate freely in a fully informed way and whose realization is carried out through procedures that guarantee that the results truly correspond to the expression of popular will.


          On the other hand, the Commission is pleased to point out that in some States, although few, measures necessary for the holding of elections by the end of 1981 or during 1982 are being implemented which will permit the establishment of democratic regimes. The Commission trusts that in these countries a consensus will also be achieved in so far as the electoral mechanisms and procedures are concerned, as well as the purity of the elections themselves, otherwise the legitimacy of the governments that result shall inevitable be questioned.


          Likewise, the Commission has taken due note of the declaration of the authorities of non-democratic regimes of their intent to move gradually towards a political opening, to initiate a dialogue with the different political sectors of the country and to convoke elections within a reasonable period of time. Although the Commission considers these efforts positive and recognizes the goodwill of these authorities, the IACHR urges them to seek every way to create the circumstances which permit holding elections within the shortest possible time.


          That which is unacceptable, in the eyes of the Commission, is the desire of some governments to maintain themselves in power indefinitely, to continue prohibiting the exercise of political rights and to repress arbitrarily any dissent.


          The previous considerations motivate the Commission to insist on its previous recommendations, in the sense that the member states should respect the political parties, and that those countries that have not done so should reestablish or perfect the democratic system of government so the exercise of power derives from the legitimate and free expression of the popular will.




          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers of great importance the activity carried out in the American countries by those institutions working in the field of human rights. That is why it has been a consistent policy of the Commission to stimulate the creation of such institutions and to foster and to promote their work, which may lend a valuable service to the task of protecting and promoting human rights in the hemisphere.


          It should be pointed out that at the present time there are several countries where these institutions have been established and are functioning. Likewise, it should also be noted that all of them have been able, in one way or another, to carry out their functions, even in those countries where there have been allegations of detentions, threats and harassment against members or officials of these entities. However, during the period covered by this report, the Commission has considered a number of cases which must be pointed out and which represent unjustifiable obstacles to the fulfillment of the functions of these organizations.


          In Argentina, a search of the office of the Center of Legal and Social Studies—CELS—was carried out on February 27, 1981, as well as of the domicile of its President. The offices of the Center were closed, documents were seized as well as other belongings and six of its members were detained: Emilio Fermín Mignone, Augusto Conte MacDonell, José Federico Westerkamp, Boris Passik, Marcelo Farrilli and Mrs. Carmen Aguiar de Lapacó. The initial judicial process was begun by a Federal Judge and was later passed to another judge since objections were raised against the first one. The persons detained were kept “incommunicado” until March 4, 1981 and subsequently set free; at the same time, the judicial decision ordered that the proceedings be definitively suspended. This act, in the opinion of the Commission, was designed to intimidate.


          In Bolivia, as the Commission points out in its special report on that country, several officials and members of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights were detained, threatened, and expelled, among them its former President, Father Julio Tumiri, a man of advanced age, who at the present time has been banished.


          In Chile, Dr. Jaime Castillo Velasco, President of the Chilean Commission on Human Rights was again expelled from the country on August 11, 1981.


          In El Salvador, the offices of the Socorro Jurídico of the Archdiocese of San Salvador were searched on July 1980. The operation was carried out by combined forces of the Army and the National Police. The military operation ended with the theft and seizure of documents and files. The Salvadoran Government has not given a satisfactory explanation of these events. Likewise, in September of the same year, the offices of the Salvadoran Commission were bombed. The damage was considerable and the bodies of three unidentified youths were found in the main door of the office, bearing marks of having been subjected to brutal torture. The IACHR has not received any information indicating whether an investigation has been carried out.


          In Nicaragua, the Chief of Police of Managua, accompanied by another person, broke open the door, entered and occupied the office of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights of Nicaragua (CPDH) on February 11, 1981, seizing their files and ordering the suspension of all activities until the authorities verified the legitimacy of its existence and activities. The Commission was informed by the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS on the situation of the CPDH after the return of the office and its belongings. Notwithstanding the reply of the Government, that the CPDH could function and operate normally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed that on February 19, 1981, José Esteban González, National Coordinator of the CPDH was detained. The Commission transmitted the communication to the Government which in turn invited the IACHR to observe the trial of Mr. González. On March 3, 1981, the Commission was informed that Mr. González had been acquitted and had been set free.


          The Commission feels that it is its duty to recommend to all governments of the hemisphere that they adopt the necessary measures instructing governmental authorities on the necessity of duly guaranteeing and respecting the activities of these entities.




          In its previous annual report, the Commission emphasized the importance of economic, social and cultural rights for the integral development of the person.


          In that respect, the Commission stated, inter alia, that the essence of the legal obligation incurred by any government in this area is to strive to attain the economic and social aspirations of its people, by following an order that assigns priority to the basic needs of health, nutrition and education. The priority of the “rights of survival” and “basic needs” is a natural consequence of the right to personal security.


          The Commission added that efforts to eliminate extreme poverty have been made under radically different political, economic and cultural systems.


          In turn, those efforts have produced spectacular results as has been shown in those countries that have expanded public health care services at the lowest level of society, that have tackled the problem of mass illiteracy systematically, that have undertaken comprehensive agrarian reform programs or that have extended the benefits of social security to all sectors of the population.


          To date, there is no political or economic system or individual development model that has demonstrated a clearly superior capability to promote economic and social rights; but whatever the system or model may be, it must assign priority to attaining those fundamental rights which permit the elimination of extreme poverty.


          These considerations, which were shared by the General Assembly, which reaffirmed in its resolutive paragraph 8 of Resolution 510 (X-0/80) the conviction of the IACHR that effective protection of human rights should also extend to economic, social and cultural rights, and, in that regard, emphasized to the governments of economically more developed member states the responsibility to make every possible effort to participate fully in cooperation for hemispheric development, since it is a fundamental means of helping alleviate extreme poverty in the Americas, especially in the most needy countries and regions.


          The Commission considers that the next General Assembly should reinforce this commitment by adopting specific measures for the effective fulfillment of the above-mentioned resolution.





          In last year's annual report, the Commission observed the organic relationship existing between the violations of the rights to physical security on the one hand, and neglect of economic and social rights and suppression of political participation, on the other. Neglect of economic and social rights—the extreme poverty affecting vast parts of the population—has been the fundamental cause of the terror prevailing in several countries of the hemisphere.


          This epidemic of violence has also produced a secondary effect that is truly alarming in its magnitude. The phenomenon of the displacement of persons has converted 10% of the population of one country into refugees. In others, the lack of political participation has caused massive flight in boats and ships (boat people) of thousands of persons. Such massive migrations are a challenge for the nations of the Hemisphere, which are unprepared for the permanent integration of so many people into their countries.


          The Organization of American States has an obligation to contribute to the solution of problems deriving from the displacement of persons and to support the observance of international legal principles such as non-refoulement and, a derivative there from, the prohibition of rejecting people in flight at the border, which have been recognized as fundamental by several international instruments and recently reiterated by the colloquium on asylum and international protection of refugees in Latin America, held in Mexico City from the 11 through 15 of May, 1981.


          By virtue of the aforementioned, the Commission recommends to the General Assembly that it establish the necessary mechanisms so that the corresponding organs of the OAS, including the IACHR, define the juridical norms which are required for the assistance and protection of refugees.


          Another are that requires the attention of the states is that related to physically or mentally handicapped persons. Due to this condition precisely, in many countries these persons have been marginalized from the rest of society, forming a sector whose rights no one defends, and whose needs receive scant attention on the part of the states.


          Of course, states must establish priorities in the pursuit of a balanced development which tends to solve the most pressing social and economic problems; but this should not be an obstacle to the inclusion of legislative measures as part of the general programs of development of the countries that will affect in a positive way the marginalized situation in which most handicapped persons are found.


          Many of these people, especially when they are of humble origins and of limited means, are the forgotten ones in the development plans and do not know the meaning of forming part of a community or society that attends duly to their welfare. In fact, they are also in many cases excluded from the legal system, since there are no State mechanisms that protect or listen to their anguish or problems.


          These handicapped persons who do not generally form part of the active sector of the economy could be incorporated into the productive sphere within their limitations and capabilities. The IACHR would like in this year dedicated to the handicapped, to call attention to their problems and to request member states which have not yet done so, to adopt the legislative measures which will incorporate them fully to the benefits of society.




          In view of the foregoing considerations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in addition to reiterating its previous recommendations, requests that the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, at its eleventh regular session, adopt the following measures:


          1.          To urge those member states in whose countries such events have occurred, to put an immediate end to the very serious practice of summary executions committed by security forces or paramilitary groups that act with the consent of the government. To that end, besides the preventive measures considered opportune, including those that bring an end to violence by means of peaceful and democratic procedures, it is necessary that investigations and subsequent punishment of those responsible for summary executions are carried out by an independent judiciary acting with sufficient powers.


          2.          To again urge states in which there have been disappearances of persons after detention, to undertake the necessary efforts to determine the whereabouts of such persons.


          3.          That, concerning disappeared persons, member states are again asked to establish central registers of all persons detained, and that detentions be carried out only by duly authorized and identified persons, and that the detainees be held only in places designed for such purpose.


          4.          To recommend to those member states that maintain extended states of emergency to limit such periods of exception to the time strictly necessary, and to terminate them as soon as the circumstances permit, and that, during the state of emergency the judiciary be allowed to function so that it may check abuses by government authorities.


          5.          To urge member states to limit the exercise of executive branch detentions carried out in accordance with the powers granted by the state of emergency to a brief period of time and always subject to judicial review.


          6.          To urge member states to permit the return of exiles and to refrain from decreeing new expulsions of nationals in violation of domestic and international law.


          7.          To reaffirm that freedom of thought and expression should be enjoyed by all forms of social communication as a safeguard against governmental abuses, and also to reaffirm the right of every person to be fully informed without distortion of the truth.


          8.          To reiterate to member states their obligations to respect the political rights of their citizens, including the right to form and participate in political parties, as well as, in those states that have not yet done so, to reestablish or perfect the democratic system of government so that the exercise of power derives from the legitimate and free expression of the will of the people.


          9.          To recommend to the governments of the member states that the autonomous activities of national human rights entities be guaranteed, as well as the safety and liberty of the officials of those organizations.


          10.          To reaffirm that the effective protection of human rights also extends to economic, social and cultural rights, and that it is the duty of the governments of the member states to cooperate as fully as possible in the task of hemispheric development, in order to alleviate extreme poverty, and to adopt specific measures which permit fulfillment of this objective.


          11.          To establish the necessary mechanisms so that the corresponding organs of the Organization, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, may adopt adequate measures for the assistance and protection of refugees.


          12.          To urge member states to adopt the necessary legal measures to extend the full benefits of society to all physically or mentally handicapped persons.

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