At its twelfth regular session, held in Washington, D. C., November 15 through 21, 1982, the General Assembly of the OAS adopted Resolution AG/RES. 618 (XII-0/82), on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in which, among other points, after expressing its regret at the serious violations of human rights that had occurred or might occur in the hemisphere and taking note of the observations and comments made by the governments of member states and of information about the measures they had taken and would continue to implement to ensure human rights in their countries, it urged the governments of member states that had not yet done so to adopt and implement the necessary measures to preserve and ensure full effectiveness of human rights, particularly the right to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty, and to reaffirm the fact that summary execution, torture, and detention without due process constitute most serious violations of human rights.  It also recommended that the government of the member state, within the context of a democratic system of government, ensure that the exercise of power is predicated on the free and legitimate manifestation of the will of the people in accordance with the specific circumstances and characteristics people in accordance with the specific circumstances and characteristics of each country.  It reiterated the need, in those states were prisoners have disappeared, for their situation to be clarified and for their families no be notified.  It recommended that the governments of the member states set up central detention registries containing a record of all persons who have been subject to imprisonment, and that detention be carried out exclusively by competent and duly identified authorities, and that persons detained be kept in custody in the places established for that purpose.  It reaffirmed that effective protection of human rights should also extend to social, economic, and cultural rights, emphasizing the responsibility incumbent upon the governments of the member states in the process of promoting cooperation for development in the hemisphere.  It urged the governments to provide the Commission with the cooperation necessary for it to carry out its work, particularly through timely response to the Commission’s requests for information regarding individual cases.  It also emphasized the need for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to continue to observe the situation of human rights in the member states and to present a report on this subject to the thirteenth regular session of the General Assembly.


In accordance with the recommendations made by the General Assembly, the Commission has continued to observe the situation of human rights in the member countries of the Organization and must report to the General Assembly at this session that not all the countries have considered and observed the recommendations of the General Assembly and that, in some states, situations have continued to occur in which respect for human life, for the dignity of man, for personal security and integrity, and for the essential rights and guaranties, as well as the fundamental values of democracy, have been trampled upon.


I some states, governmental repression has continued or has increased; but also in certain countries there has been an improvement in the situation regarding human rights, reflected mainly in the tendency toward and opening for democracy in the short or medium term offered by the government authorities.


The principal situations in regard to human rights during the period covered by this report will be analyzed separately, here following, citing some cases in particular, for the purpose of better informing the General Assembly, taking as a guide for its study the rights to which the Commission should pay particular attention in conformity with its Statute, namely the right of life; the right to personal freedom and protection against arbitrary arrest; the right to justice and to due process of law; the right to freedom of religion and worship; the right to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination.  Also the urgency that has affected political rights will be analyzed, since this Commission is convinced that many of the violations of the aforementioned rights and freedoms were caused precisely by the lack of those political rights.




The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has on several occasions stressed the importance of creating a climate that favors respect for this basic right and a restoration of its worth wherever it has been disregarded.  Regrettably, the Commission is obliged to report to the General Assembly that there have been grievous violations of this human rights in the period covered in this report.


In Guatemala, fifteen persons were executed after having been sentenced by secret Courts of Special Jurisdiction, in utter disregard of the basic guarantees of due process, under illegal procedures in violation of the fundamental tenets of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Guatemala is a party, for offenses not subject to capital punishment under the laws in effect on the day on which that country’s ratification of the Convention went into force.  This grave event is extensively examined in the special report on the situation regarding human rights in Guatemala that the IACHR is presenting to this session of the General Assembly.  It should be pointed out that despite all the Commission’s efforts and the repeated repudiations of such a member of proceeding, the government presided over by General Efrain Ríos Montt acted in disregard of the standards of the Convention.


The IACHR trusts that the decision of the new government headed by General Oscar Humberto Mejia to put an end to the Courts of Special Jurisdiction will signify a definitive banning of this legal monstrosity, and that the convictions of persons condemned to death by these Courts will be adequately reviewed.  Likewise, the Commission recommends that the new Government inform the relatives of the persons who were executed, the place or places they are buried, and that it delivers to them the remains so that they might be properly interred.


In Suriname, on December 8, 1982, fifteen leaders of that country were arrested under government orders and sent to Fort Zeelandia, where they were illegally executed.  The vast amount of evidence gathered by the Commission on this grave event indicated that some of those fifteen leaders were subjected to brutal torture before being murdered, and that ranking government officials directly participated in these acts.  A further point of distress to the Commission is the lack of investigation and punishment of those responsible, since, as it points out in its report to the General Assembly on that country, the minimum conditions for carrying forward legal action for that purpose in the manner in which such an event warrants do not exist.


The Commission has serious misgivings in regard to the continued climate of violence prevailing in El Salvador, where illegal executions and disappearances of persons have continued.  As it pointed out in earlier reports, most of these acts are the work of security forces who are able to act outside the law with impunity, and of paramilitary groups who, in the absence of an effective and appropriate investigation of these crimes, would seem to be acting with the Government’s tacit consent.


According to information the Commission has obtained from various reliable sources, more than 2,000 Salvadorans have perished in the period covered by this report.  These figures are still alarming and validate the Commission’s insistent concern to have this violence ended and to see that agreements are reached to ensure lasting social peace.


In Guatemala, the violence that prevailed in the urban centers has lessened as a result of the policies of General Rios Montt’s Government, which abolished the use of paramilitary groups in Guatemala City and other urban centers.  However, in rural areas and in conflict zones, according to the government, where evidently the rebel forces have committed serious acts, severe violations of the right to life chargeable to the Guatemalan Army continue to occur, including the destruction and sacking of villages and bloody killings of both combatants and innocent civilians, particularly among the Indian and farm communities.


Several incidents took place in Chile in which approximately forty persons were killed and a large number injured, as a result of inordinately severe repressive actions by the Army and the Carabineros.  These incidents took place in the days of the national protest organized by the opposition to the government.  The legitimacy of those protests has been recognized by the highest ecclesiastical and judicial authorities of the nation.


The events at the fourth national protest rally, held August 11, 1983, deserve special attention.  That day twenty-four people perished among them María Angélica Marchant, 8 years of age, Jaime Rojas, 9, and Jaime Cáceres, 10.  Several people were killed in their homes.


The Commission is concerned by the irrationality with which the force of order behaved during the demonstration.  This occurrence may have its explanation in the words of the President of Chile, who, the day before, Wednesday, August 10, had warned the citizenry over national television that he was aware that a rally was being organized; that he had taken the necessary steps, and that in his capacity as President he had given orders that those who called the protest and signed it would be held responsible, although they said it would be peaceful.  He affirmed that they would suffer the consequences and to be careful.  He affirmed that they would suffer the consequences and to be careful, because he would not yield an inch.  Moreover, he said, Santiago would be covered by 18,000 men with strict orders to act harshly.


A further matter that affects or may eventually have a direct effect on the right to life and on which the IACHR has repeatedly expressed itself before the General Assembly, because at its seriousness and its social and legal consequences, in that of the disappearance of detained persons.  This cruel procedure is undoubtedly the most expedient way to flout the law and particularly the standards that guarantee protection from arbitrary detention and the right to personal security and integrity.


This extremely grave problem, which is an undeniable fact in some countries of the hemisphere, cannot be fairly solved unless a clear accounting is provided, giving all the circumstances, of the status and whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared.  The Commission cannot but insist on this recommendations to the Governments of Argentina and Chile; these have been reiterated in special resolutions to clarify the denunciations made by the Commission, and are included in another sections of this report.


In Argentina, for example, at the end of April 1983, the government published a document purporting to be the final report on the fight against subversion and an answer to the enduring hopes of the thousands of relatives of disappeared persons to obtain a clear word on their loved ones.  This report was totally rejected by the relatives of the lost persons, as well as by human rights groups, and ranking Argentine political leaders.  The IACHR has no knowledge that the document in question clarifies the situation of a single case of the thousands that have been denounced.  With equal concern the Commission has learned of the amnesty law promulgated on September 23, 1983 which, if kept in force, would make it impossible to identify and punish those who participated in the disappearances of thousands of Argentine citizens as well as the effectuation of “anti-subversive” measures that provide broad authority to the Security Forces allowing them to search homes, tape telephone conversations, detains  suspects and open mail during a 48 hour period without judicial permission.


Special mention must be made of the fate of the disappeared children who were apprehended with their parents or who were born during the time of their detention.  The IACHR has been informed that some have been located, which allows us to assume that others are still alive. The Commission must insist that the Argentine Government give urgent priority to the investigations of these cases, and not allow lower authorities to hinder the work and harass the relatives who have a natural right to try to find those children.


On the other hand, it would seem that a para-official structure allowing disappearances still exist in Argentina; this may be gathered from the death of Peronist leader Osvaldo Cambiaso, who was recently freed, then arrested and killed on May 14, 1983, under circumstances that have not been clarified.  Similarly, knowledge of the Commission as of this date, the death of labor leader Dalmiro Flores, on December 16, 1982, the date of the People’s March for Democracy and National Reconstruction, who was gunned down in plain view of numerous witnesses by a gunman from a police car that was on security duty in the Plaza de Mayo has not prompted an investigation or punishment of the offender.


The Commission has no knowledge that the Government of Chile has taken any steps towards clarifying the status of persons who have disappeared particularly in the years 1973 through 1978.  Quite the opposite, it has been informed that a witness to the events, extremist Marcia Alejandra Merino Vega, who later crossed over to cooperate with the security services and was detained together with persons who are now listed as disappeared, was arrested on June 16, 1983, and freed on June 22 by the Military Administration, despite the fact that there was a warrant out for her arrest.


By contrast, the Commission is obliged to recognize the efforts of the Government of President Hernan Siles Suazo of Bolivia in speeding up an investigation on the disappearance of 130 persons during the previous regimes of General Hugo Banzer, Colonel Alberto Natush, and General Luis García Meza.


The Commission has also received reports and denunciations about disappeared persons from other countries, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.  Without wishing to prejudge some of the cases being processed the Commission wishes to express its concern over such events, particularly the cases of arrests and subsequent incommunicado detention for unreasonably long periods of time and in regard to which the authorities, especially the police and security authorities, deny having made such arrest, even in their replies to the judges hearing writs of habeas corpus.


Lastly the Commission urges all the member states of the Organization where this occur to ban the practice or to avoid its use because of the irreparable loss that this abusive and unlawful conduct causes and because, as already pointed out earlier, if this practice continues to go unpunished, it may become a widespread procedure among lower authority and a handy tool for political or personal vengeance, with its logical consequences to the detriment of the right to life.  In view of the foregoing, and in the intend to contribute toward abolishing this heinous practice, the Commission deems it appropriate for the General Assembly of the OAS to declare the forced disappearance of detained persons to be a crime against mankind.





In the period covered by this report, again, the largest number of human rights violations was in the nature of arbitrary arrests without due process of law.  As was indicated in the last year’s Annual Report, such violations were made possible by the too broad and arbitrary powers granted under the states of emergency, which unable the political authority to arrest, without cause or due process of law, all those persons who, in its judgment, may constitute a danger to internal security.


The Commission is greatly concerned by the utter defenselessness against arbitrary arrest of whole sectors of the civilian population in some countries, who must live under the constant effects of the absence of guarantees and in the natural insecurity that such a situation engenders.


In Argentina, the state of siege declared in 1974 is still in effect, although the reasons that caused it to be imposed no longer exist.  Moreover, although arbitrary arrests are no longer made, and in a considerable number of persons who had been detained were freed under surveillance, there still are a large number of Argentines imprisoned on the specific orders of the Executive Power.


In Chile, under the country’s exceptional legislation, there were still restrictions on personal liberty in the period covered by this report, as evident from numerous individual and mass arrests and administrative relegation ordered on the basis on the vast powers that transitional Article 24 grants to the Executive.  According to information received by the Commission, in the first half of 1983 there were 267 individual arrests for political reasons, and 2,557 mass arrests, figures that are considerably above those of the preceding periods, not including the nearly 14.000 persons who were detained in a military mop-up operation in several working-class areas on the southern part of Santiago on may 14, 1983.  On that day, members of the Armed Forces, carrying automatic firearms, cordoned off the area and for nearly 15 hours surrounded and broke into homes, and made numerous arrests; many of the adult women among them were subjected to unlawful and degrading treatment.  In December 1982, 25 persons were sent, under the existing administrative relegations order, to small communes in the interior of the country, and by the first half of 1983, that figure of domestic exiles had increased to 45.


On the other hand, in regard to personal freedom, the Commission is pleased to note that, according to government figures, 3,090 Chileans who had been denied entry into their homeland are now free to return.  While the Commission considers this to be a positive step, it cannot fail to maintain that the right to live in one’s own land is universally recognized human right that cannot be denied administratively as the Government of Chile has been doing in the case of some of its dissidents.  The solution to enforced exile in Chile should be general and not restricted to partial lists.  While these lists have been numerous recently, until objective criteria are established, this process imposes further suffering on those whose names do not appear on them.


In El Salvador, the Constitutional Assembly extended the state of siege to its entire territory on a continuing basis, a measure the government deems necessary to deal with extremist activities.  In these circumstances, constitutional guarantees are considerably curtailed, paving the way for arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, home searches, and random searches.


While no state of siege is in force in Haiti, in actual practice constitutional guarantees and human rights are not in effect.  Any individual may be arbitrarily arrested, beaten, kept incommunicado, and held for undetermined periods of time by the police or the volunteers of the national security known as the Tonton Macoutes.


In Nicaragua, likewise, the declared state of emergency was continued in the period covered by this report.  This, in addition to the laws that confer discretionary authority on the Executive Power, gave rise to abuses in regard to political dissidents, many of whom were arbitrarily arrested, held incommunicado, and imprisoned for periods in excess of the time allowed under the laws covering the subject.  The cases that cause the most concern to the Commission--aside from the hundreds of Miskito Indians whose plight is covered in a special report of the IACH--are those of the leaders of the Democratic Conservative Party, all prominent citizens: Mario Castillo Mendoza, Juan Noguera Payan, Edgar Holman and Alejandro Pereira.  They were arrested on June 5, 1983, for offenses against state security and remanded to the popular tribunals for “formal Judgment.”  Another case of concern to the Commission is that of the Secretary General of the Christian Social Revolutionary Youth, Francisco Jose Rodriguez Guevara, a former student leader, who in 1981 earned the distinction of being the best literacy instructor in Granada.  According to complaints received by the Commission, Rodriguez Guevara was arrested in June 1982 for purely political reasons.  However, almost a year later, in March 1983, according to government sources, he was condemned to serve two years in prison “ on narcotics charges.”


In Paraguay, the government continued to arrest citizens, particularly opposition leaders, who were imprisoned for indefinite periods of time without being charge with any offenses or delivered to any competent authorities, under Article 79 of the National Constitution, which institutes the state of siege.  The case of journalist Ramon Santiago Moreno, among others, deserves mention, since he had been under arrest, by virtue of the aforesaid article, from August 3, 1982, until December 24 of that year.  Other cases concerned the situation of Mr. Ruben Varon, who was arrested on August 3, 1982, and nor released until February 18, 1983, and Mr. Eugenio Ocampo Llama, who was arrested, brought to trial before competent court that dismissed the case, but continued under detention from September 14, 1981, until December 10, 1982, by virtue of article 79 of the National Constitution.  The most exceptional case is that of Sergeant Guillermo Escolastico Ovando, who, having served the fifteen years of the jail term imposed by a military tribunal has continued in detention since December 1977, under the provisions of Article 79.  Moreover on some occasions the Government of Paraguay resorted to the expediency of Article 79 for purposes of arresting political opposition leaders, holding them for some time, and then expelling them from the country, denying them permission to return.  There are the cases, among others, of Mr. Domingo Laino, a writer and university professor; Mr. Luis Alfonso Resk, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, and Mr. Augusto Roa Bastos, a writer.  This is especially noteworthy since the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Sabino Augusto Montanaro, declared on February 21, 1983, after the general elections, that all exiles would be allowed to return to the country, except for Messrs. Laino, Resk and Bastos.  He alleged that the first-named had been deported for having painted street walls with political slogans that amounted to a government destabilization campaign.  The second-named was said to have been deported for inciting to rebellion, and the third, according to the Minister, for having maintained relations with Soviet elements.


In Uruguay, the state of emergency has been kept in effect by virtue of the national security law, enacted by the National Congress in July 1972, which suspended certain constitutional guarantees of persons identified as carrying out subversive activities and for whom it was also established that military tribunals would hear their cases.  Decrees issued subsequently by the military government and broadened the emergency powers.  In August of this year, police arrested hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting against the government’s decision to ban all political activities in the country, a ban that threatened to interrupt compliance with the political time schedule that would lead to a democratic process in Uruguay.  A communiqué of the Uruguayan police announced that 83 persons have been arrested and that most of them had been released, with four being turned over to the civil courts for having assaulted a police officer.  The Commission has received information from various sources that the detainees had been mistreated by the police officers.  Likewise, the Commission is concerned about the situation in which many imprisoned persons, having served their respective sentences, are not released, and the fact that some of them have even been re-sentenced and are currently serving additional sentences for offenses supposedly committed against state security while they were serving their original sentences.




The guarantees and rights to a fair trial and due process, recognized both in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the American Convention on Human Rights, are still suspended in several countries (Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay,) under internal legal measures enacted prior to September 1982.  In other cases, such as Guatemala, those rights and guarantees were suspended after that date, and in still others, the rights and guarantees, although not suspended, have not been duly observed.


The Commission regrets that, although neither the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man nor the American Convention on Human Rights authorizes the suspension of the legal guarantees essential to the protection and defense of the fundamental rights contained in those international instruments, during the period covered by this report, hundred of persons were subjected to police investigations and judicial procedures that were inadequate because the individuals were not given due process nor afforded the minimum guarantees that are essential to ensuring fair and proper investigative procedures and trials.


The most significant of all the cases of violations of the right to a fair trial and due process took place in Guatemala, when the Government headed by former president Efrain Ríos Montt issued Decree Nº 46-82 of July 1, 1982, which created and put into operations the Courts of Special Jurisdiction to try persons charged with subverting or destroying the country’s legal, political, social and economic structure.  These Courts of Special Jurisdiction, truly courts-martial, sat in secret, and followed procedures, standards and methods that were military in nature.  In the course of their existence, it was impossible to find out where they were based, who their members were, how many members they had, or how frequently they met.  On the occasion of its on-site visits to Guatemala, the Commission was able to ascertain by reading and examining the files kept by those Courts, and in interviews with some of the persons brought to trial, that absolutely no legal guarantees were observed in the proceedings, trials or sentencing of the accused, many of whom were found guilty solely on the basis of self-incriminatory statements, which in most cases, were extracted through torture. The accused were not allowed counsel, nor even the most elementary means of defense.  By order of these Courts three sets of, executions were carried out in Guatemala on September 17, 1982 and March 3 and 22, 1983, with a total of 15 people being brought before the firing squad.


After the ouster of General Efrain Ríos Montt on August 8, 1983, the first measure announced by the new Chief of State of Guatemala, General Oscar Humberto Mejía Vitores, was the immediate abolition of these Courts.  When he took over the government, he made a statement to the press to the effect that “the Courts were secret tribunal established by Ríos Montt to hand out death sentences to alleged ‘subversives’ and ‘common criminals’.”


In Nicaragua, the Sandinista Government issued Decree Nº 1233 on April 11, 1983, establishing the Anti-Somoza People’s Courts.  While the preamble to the Decree states that the People’s Courts are intended to bring to trial the country’s own nationals for war crimes or crimes against humanity, such an aim is negated by Article 1 of the Decree itself, which establishes that the offenses that shall be dealt with by the People’s Court are those contemplated under Decree Nº 1074, Articles 1 and 2, in other words, those established in the Law on the Maintenance of Order and Public Safety.  This means that the People’s Courts will be used almost exclusively to try persons accused of political dissidence.


In the opinion of this Commission, the Anti-Somoza Courts are tainted from the very start by that undisguisable prefix “anti”, which conveys or conditions their lack of impartiality, independence and autonomy.  It must also be borne in mind that far from being judicial courts, they are administrative tribunals that are subject to the Ministry of Justice and are composed of members of the militia, reservists and militants or supporters of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, in other words, the political enemies of the accused.  As a result, their impartiality, fairness and independence of judgment are seriously compromised.


In regard to El Salvador, the Commission adopted a resolution at its 60th session held June 27-30, 1983 deploring the delay and denial of the length of time that has gone by, to bring to trial and punish those members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces who tortured and murdered the American religious workers.  Sisters Ida Ford and Maura Clark of the Maryknoll Order, Dorothy Koesel of the Ursulines, and Jean Donovan, during the course of a military operation.


That resolution was duly forwarded to the Government of El Salvador so that it might make such observation as it deemed pertinent, but to date, no reply has been received on the matter.  Nevertheless, the Commission is aware of the efforts the President of the Republic has made to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.


Despite the limitation that have been noted and the absence of a truly independent judiciary in many countries, some progress has been made to the administration of justice in the period covered by this report, which the Commission wishes to emphasize.


In Argentina, federal judges are beginning to participate more actively in investigations of the crime of unlawful arrests, in which they have called ranking military officers to testify.  Some judges, in fact, have contacted the Commission requesting information on cases of arrested persons who have disappeared.


In Chile, likewise, although there has been no formal change in the judicial system, the Appellate Courts are changing their attitude and, in some instances, have revoked the charges against persons indicted for breaking the law of state security.  They did so in July 1983, in the case of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Gabriel Valdés, and other political leaders, who had been arrested and held incommunicado.  They were released as a result of a ruling by the Court of appeals of Santiago, which was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court.  It should also be mentioned in this report that Dr. Rafael Retamal was elected President of the Supreme Court.




This freedom, established in Article 12 of the American Convention and in the constitutions of most of the American nations, is intended to guarantee every person’s right to hold, maintain, or change his beliefs or religion as well as to manifest them in public or in private, individuals or together with others, unimpeded.


Generally speaking, the Commission has not discerned any marked violations of this rights in the period covered, although it has been concerned about some unjustified hindrances, such as harassment, threats, expulsions from the country, and detentions, which had had an effect on the full effectiveness of freedom of conscience and religion.


As the Commission noted in its report on that country, the Catholic Church in Guatemala under the Government of General Ríos Montt was subjected to continuous harassment in its efforts to fulfill its pastoral mission, particularly in the rural and Indian areas.  Many priests, nuns and missionaries had to leave the country to save their lives, after having been branded as “channels of information” for the guerrilla groups.  Some did not receive reentry permits and in other instances, the immigration service only granted them permits to live and work in their respective zones for periods of three months.  The Quiché Department is a case in point: some of the places of worship, rectories, convents, and other properties of the church were burned and, in other cases, confiscated and occupied by the Army. The Ríos Montt Government announced its decision to grant indemnification for and repair the damages to these religious communities.  The Commission trusts that the present Government will honor that pledge.


The Commission as also been especially concerned in regard to the polarization in Guatemala of the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations on the one hand, and on the other, of the fundamentalist sects, particularly the Church of the Word, which came to have preponderance not only in Guatemala society but also, and especially, in high government offices.  Statements made by the new President, General Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores, on assuming the presidency, underscoring the religious fanaticism’ that enveloped ranking government officials, including the deposed President, reinforce the Commission’s apprehension on this delicate point.


The Catholic Church and its clergy in Nicaragua have continued to have difficulties in their relations with the government.  The polarization of the followers of the traditional Catholic Church and the Popular Catholic Church is well known.  The IACHR considers it vital that the government adopts an irreproachably neutral stance and enjoins this upon all those in its service, to avoid an aggravation of the situation and to pave the way for an ongoing dialogue between the Catholic hierarchy and the government in an effort to surmount the present difficulties.


          Additionally, the predominant religion on the Atlantic Coast, the Moravian faith, most of whose members are Miskitos, is encountering the most serious difficulties in pursuing its religious activities.  Although some of the problems have been solved, such as a prohibition against some of the pastors’ endeavors, were allowed to do so.  In this sense, the Commission trusts that the steps undertaken by the National Commission for the Prevention of infringements against and the Protection of Human Rights to obtain a pardon, pursuant to Decree 858 of the Clemency Law, for the Moravian leaders Emilio López Smith, Higinio Morazán Dison, Angel Bello Lackwood, Adrian Pasquier Ramos, Sandalio Patron Doroteo, and Heculano Edward Salomón, may be granted.


The Catholic Church in Chile, which has traditionally shown its concern for the protection of human rights by denouncing abuses of power by the civil and police authorities, and by assuming the legal defense of persons whose rights had allegedly been violated, has encountered difficulties in carrying out its pastoral mission this year.  The Catholic Church made public denunciations, national and internationally, of the illegal arrest and subsequent expulsion in March 1983 of three Catholic priests without formal charges or trial.  His Eminence Cardinal Silva Henriquez, then Archbishop of Santiago, stated:  “The church cannot permit the political power to judge by itself and before itself the pastoral activities of the Church.”  He further stated, “The expulsion of Catholic clergymen from the country is detrimental to the relationship between the Church and the State at all levels.  This attitude infringes on freedom of religion.” Monsignor Juan de Castro Reyes, Vicar of the Solidarity of the Archbishopric of Santiago, noted, “The basic fact … is that the Church is being harassed, these events confirm that the Church is being mistreated.”  Adding to this, the Commission was advised that Rev. Pablo Fontaine Aldunate and Rev. Jeremiah Healy Kertrins were detained on March 26, 1983, as they left a memorial service for the late Archbishop of El Salvador, César Arnulfo Romero.  The authorities accused them of participating in political demonstrations and in conspiring against the security of the State.  The archbishop of Santiago denounced this as an arbitrary measure.  Furthermore, on September 14, 1983, several priests and nuns were detained for publicly protesting the use of torture in Chile, although they were subsequently released.




The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of the Man establishes this right and states that it can be exercised by any medium whatsoever.


Upon establishing freedom of though and expression, the American Convention on Human Rights did so in the broadest fashion, indicating that this right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other procedure.  It also establishes that the exercise of this right cannot be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law in order to ensure respect for the rights or reputations of others and the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.


During the period analyzed in this report, in those American countries with prolonged states of emergency, an atmosphere of fear and insecurity prevailed.  This was due to the legislation itself as well as the abusive control by the governments, which have arbitrarily suspended or threatened to suspend or close mass communication media, all of which has led in practice to self-censorship by such information media.  Under these circumstances, the exercise of such an important right has been seriously restricted.


The IACHR also wishes to stress the fact that, when this principle is injured, the nation’s thought and political activities are not the only things affected.  Cultural development also suffers; artistic freedom is restricted; and cultural expressions as important as the theater, and literary production and books, which show the characteristics of the countries with their virtues and shortcomings do not find a favorable environment for working freely and thus progressing.


Prior censorship of the press, books and artistic productions in general, and the occasional banning of writers and artists are expressions most typical of totalitarian societies, which should be removed from our hemisphere.


One aspect worthy of special attention is the matter of academic research, especially in the university centers.  Universities lacking autonomy in the guidance, determination and management of research programs in the economic, political and social fields can make little progress and take little advantage of the resources offered by contemporary advanced technology.  Governments where this occurs, rather than intervening in, controlling and censoring activities of this kind, should foster them, encourage them and provide them with financial support.


In some countries of the hemisphere, there have been attacks against this right, which the Commission wishes to point out.


The Commission has reports from Argentina according to which in the period covered by this report mass communication media, such as the magazines “La Semana,” “Quorum” and “Linea,” were suspended or temporarily closed.  Also, on occasion, all the communication media have been prohibited from publishing specific news items on various topics, including some political items and others related to matters of public order.  Several Argentine journalists have also been subjected to questioning, threats and harassment over these last 12 months.


In Brazil, under the National Security Act, the Law of the Press, and Decree Law 1077 of January 6, 1977, which provide for restrictions on freedom of the press, certain journalists, such as Julio de Mesquita Neto, Omar Bessio Trindade, Carlos Rafael Guimaraes, Elmar Bonnes de Costa, Rosuita Saveressig Laux, Paulo Roberto Ferreira and Juvencio Mazzarollo, were indicted and tried.  The Commission has taken note of public declarations by government authorities announcing the government’s willingness to amend the law on National Security to allow for exercise of this right.


In March 1983, the military authority of the Catholic University in Chile refused to grant time on that university’s television channel to the Cardinal, Archbishop of Santiago.  In May 1983, the news programs of the “Cooperative Vitalicia” radio station were suspended for nine days.  On the other hand, although various restrictions against this right have continued.  In June of this year the government provided for an end to prior censorship of book publication, which is a step forward with regard to the previous situation whereby the government had presented the entry of or had censored various books.


In countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, the prevailing atmosphere of violence and insecurity has led those responsible for the communication media to censor themselves, which keeps public opinion from having duly informed.


In Haiti, the 1980 Law of the Press, which establishes prior censorship, continues in effect.  The communication media which were closed in 1980 remain closed and the large majority of the men and women of the written and spoken media who were jailed or expelled from the country continue to be detained or in exile.


In Grenada, Leslie Pierre, editor of the “Voice”, has been under arrest without charges since 1981 because of the government’s opposition.  Likewise, following the Grenadian government’s closing of the newspaper “The Torchlight” and the Church Bulletin “Catholic Focus,” the Commission, in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights, has been acting as an agent for peaceful solution in order to reach a solution to this case based on respect for human rights, taking into account that the parties in dispute have accepted its participation.


On of the most serious cases of restriction of this right is occurring in Nicaragua.  Prior censorship, particularly of the daily “La Prensa,” exercised thus far partially and unfairly, has repeatedly held that paper from circulation due to the obstacles placed in the way by the government; or in other instances it has led to its temporary suspension.  This arbitrary behavior by the government and the restrictions it also imposes on radio broadcasts, especially on newscasts and programs involving opinions, which express a view different from the government’s policies, go beyond the limits a government can reach even in a state of emergency.


In Paraguay, despite the fact that the existence of the state of siege and of Law 209 on “Defense of Public Peace and Individual Freedom” maintains a constant threat over the communication media, such media were enjoying considerable freedom to publish news and commentary through the use of self-censorship.  Nevertheless, beginning in May 1983, the repression against the communication media appears to have started up again.  Free distribution of the daily newspaper “ABC Color” began to be hindered early that month through detention of the trucks carrying the paper.  It’s Director, Aldo Zucolillo, who was arrested for allegedly violation the Special Law on Privileges.  Mr. Zucolillo who was freed on bond, is being tried for having committed that crime.  Moreover, the Paraguayan authorities decided to punish the local station “Radio Ñanduti” by closing it for one month and also prohibiting use of the open mike in the country’s broadcasting stations.  Previously, on December 30, 1982, the weekly “La República” had been closed by order of the Executive Branch for having published, as reported by the government, a subversive manifesto aimed at the armed forces.  Likewise, on December 9, 1982, the police confiscated a shipment of books entitled “The Merchant General,” by Dr. Domingo Laino, which were to come out on December 10.  Dr. Laino, his wife and the publisher-owner of the printing plant were the book was printed, Mr. Enrique Velilla, were jailed at that time.  Mrs. Laino and Mr. Velilla were set free and Mr. Laino was expelled from the country.


In Suriname there is no free exercise of this right.  The government controls all the information media and censors the news.  Freedom of opinion is also seriously threatened by provisions adopted by the Council of Ministers, which prohibit the possession, distribution, sale and importation of any article, which could be considered a threat to national security and public order.


In Uruguay, on August 2, 1983, the government, in addition to prohibiting all political activity, also banned the publication of news items on politics.  By applying the same decree, in September 1983 the Government closed the weekly papers “Aqui” and “Opinar” because of their reporting the steps being taken by the European Economic Community to obtain the release of General Liber Seregni, who has been in prison for the last ten years.


Due to the facts set forth, the Commission reaffirms the needs to respect this right and, because of the consideration set forth, to allow its full exercise, thus protecting those who conscientiously carry out the function of reporting and those who have the right to be informed without arbitrary interference.




In its 1980-81 Annual Report to the General Assembly, the Commission pointed out that the government have the obligation vis-à-vis these rights and the right to political participation to allow and guarantee the organization of all political parties and other associations.  The states must also protect the free exercise of political activities, which must include, among other thing, peaceful opposition, free discussion of topics related to socio-economic-development, and access to and conduct of free election with the guarantees indispensable for the results to express the people’s will.


It was not in vain that the states, upon signing the Charter of the Organization, reaffirmed as guiding principle of the system the fact that American solidarity requires political organization based on the effective exercise of representative democracy.  At its eleventh and twelfth regular session, the General Assembly itself, upon taking up the reports of the IACHR, pointed out that the democratic structure is an essential factor in establishing a political society in which human values can be truly fulfilled, and it agreed with the Commission regarding the urgency of making political rights respected and that in those countries which have not yet done so, the democratic system of government should be reestablished or improved so that the exercise of power will stem from the legitimate and free expression of the people’s will.


In view of the turmoil in the region, achievements of these persons makes it necessary to promote programs with much imagination and effort that will strengthen the democratic institutions by making them more functional and by establishing mechanism whereby the citizens will participate increasingly in the great decisions of the state.  Of course, the governments cannot strengthen the democratic institutions to the hemisphere by themselves.  The political parties are currently responsible for improving their working systems, researching social problems more thoroughly in order to offer the best alternatives, modernizing their methods of actions and putting them on a technical footing and, above all, upon exercising the right of opposition, seeing that this is done through peaceful and legal means.  It is important, especially in those countries, which have reinstituted democratic systems, generally after painful experiences, that the political parties understand their enormous responsibility in upholding and preserving democracy.


Governments’ respect for political parties and dialogue as a means of preserving social peace, together with specific programs that will develop some of the concerns indicated here, may be the basis for a sounder and more participatory democracy in our hemisphere.


That is why the Commission looks with approval upon the measures some countries have been taking to hold elections and to establish democratic systems, which in 1984 and 1985 will enable a return to constitutional normality in those countries.  On the other hand, in other countries, the Commission observes with great concern how current governments, in order to remain in power, deny any participation by the people in choosing their authorities, thus bringing about, as the Commission has observed in previous reports, extreme positions which can only lead to a worsening of human rights situations and to acts of terrorism by and against the governments.


In Argentina, the political process has been developing within a broad and complete framework of guarantees.  General elections have been set for October 30, 1983, and the takeover by the new Constitutional Government has been set for January 1984.  The Commission has observed all of this with great satisfaction.


The Commission is pleased to put on record the installation of the current democratic government in Bolivia.  At the appropriate time, the General Assembly of the Organization had the opportunity to express itself on the interruption of that country’s constitutional process and instructed the Commission to act.  Therefore, upon reconfirming its satisfaction with the change that has occurred in Bolivia, the IACHR urges the Organization of American States to give all the support necessary to strengthen and preserve its democratic form of government.


National, state and country election was held in Brazil in November 1982, and election of the new President of the Republic by the Electoral College is expected in November 1984.  The process of democratizing Brazil proposed by President Joao Figueiredo thus will be carried out, with full guarantees for the participating political groups.


The Commission has taken due note of the statements made by the senior authorities of the Chilean Government with regard to engaging in a dialogue with the democratic opposition groups and initiating a political opening.  Although this dialogue is currently suspended, this year’s events show more than ever the urgency and need for a change in position by the government, establishing conditions favoring exercise of the political rights of all Chileans and allowing, as soon as possible, the establishment of a democratic system stemming from free, secret and informed elections with equal access by all participants to the mass communication media and reflecting the people’s will.   If the strong desire of the Chilean majority to achieve such a democratic system—shown by the monthly peaceful protests, among other actions—is frustrated, this could lead that country to very regrettable consequences, including a high cost in human lives.  This explains the statements by high religious authorities speaking of the need to restore democracy in Chile as the only way to avoid violence and to consolidate a stable and lasting social peace.


With respect to El Salvador, the Commission repeats its recommendations regarding the need to find a political solution that involves all sectors, that on the basis of that agreement a date be set for general elections to which all political groups have access with the necessary guarantees to assure that the results truly reflect the will of the people.


In Grenada, the government announced on June 4, 1983, the appointment of a five-person committee entrusted with drafting a new constitution to replace the current one, which has been suspended since the 1979 coup d’état.  According to a statement by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, if the constitution is approved by a plebiscite, elections will be called within 18 to 24 hours thereafter.


In Guatemala, the government headed by General Mejia Victores, which assumed power in August, has indicated that it will adhere to the political schedule offered by the previous government.  In this regard, election of a constituent assembly is set for July 1984.  According to the law on convocation, which its aims and objectives.  As announced, the constituent assembly would begin its work on September 15, 1984.


A new electoral law was enacted in Haiti on December 15, 1982.  This law includes provisions for the election of community representatives and councilmen.  The law assembles the various legislative acts, laws and decrees on election and introduces certain specifications and changes deemed appropriate.  In keeping with this law, municipal elections (the first since 1957) were held from April to July 1983.  Nevertheless, these elections were carried out in an atmosphere of insecurity and fear due to the virtual existence of a state of siege, and the lack of individual guarantees, and while the main opposition leaders were imprisoned or in exile.  Included among these were Gregoire Eugen, Chairman of the Christian Social Party, exiled; Silvio Claude, Chairman of the Haitian Christian Democratic Party, under house arrest, Marie France Claude, Secretary of the aforementioned party, exiled, and Frantz Denise, whom the Haitian Christian Democratic Party had nominated for Mayor of Port-au-Prince in place of Silvio Claude, imprisoned in May 1983.  Other members of the PSCH were imprisoned in June 1983, as follows: Duplex Jean Baptist, attorney; P. Andre; Paul Theodat; Augustin Auguste, Jacques Perard Bertulien, Emilius Bernet, Jacques Joseph and others.  Enactment of the electoral law and the holding of elections, even in the aforementioned circumstances, which the Commission would like to interpreter as signs that the initial steps might have been taken in Haiti toward a political opening, have vanished due to the adoption of the new constitution.  This, as has been stated elsewhere in this report, confirms Jean Claude Duvalier as President of the Republic for life, gives him the right to designate his successor, and grants powers over the affairs of the Nation during the recess of the legislative branch.


With regard to Nicaragua, the Commission should repeat its observations let forth in the Annual Report for 1981-82 that the exercise of political rights is one of the most sensitive and serious factors in that country’s human rights problem.  There is no atmosphere of respect and tolerance for persons who profess other tan official beliefs and ideologies.  Such persons, during the period covered by this report, have not been free to exercise their political rights, which is the only way to ensure true ideological pluralism.  The Commission is not unaware of the difficult situation Nicaragua is experiencing at the present time.  Nevertheless, in the Commission’s judgment, the Government has the obligation to respect the legitimate rights of the peaceful opposition and to seek to hold general elections without subjecting them to conditions which, as the Commission indicated, are evaluated subjectively by the government authorities.  In this regard, the Commission has taken note of the State Council’s approval on August 17, 1983, of the bill on political parties, which must be approved by the Government Junta to become law.  Its prompt issuance and full observance by the parties and authorities could constitute a substantial political opening, if it is complemented by an electoral law setting forth the conditions and circumstances for holding free, secret and informed elections within a short period, open to all Nicaraguan political sectors.  In this regard, the Commission wishes to recall that the June 23, 1979, resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs sets forth as a basis for solution of the serious problems of the Nicaraguan people in paragraphs 3 and 4 “guarantee of the respect for human rights of all Nicaragua without exception” and “the holding of free elections as soon as possible, that will lead to the establishment of a truly democratic government that guarantees peace, freedom and justice.”  In turn, the Nicaraguan Government Junta, in its “plan to achieve peace,” invited all the government of America to call all Nicaraguans to hold free elections to choose their representatives to the municipalities and to elect the country’s highest authorities at a constituent assembly.


During the period covered by this report, an electoral process was developed in Paraguay, which resulted in general elections on February 6, 1983.  Here General Alfredo Stroessner was elected President of the Republic for the sixth consecutive time.  Even though the state of siege, which had existed in the country since 1954, was lifted for Election Day, it is a fact that the successive and uninterrupted renewal of the state of siege through decrees issued every 90 days has caused an exceptional situation to become permanent.  This, and the existence of Law 209 on “protection of public peace and freedom of individual” caused the entire electoral process to be carried out in an atmosphere of restriction on public freedoms, fear and insecurity, while the leaders of the opposition, as has been stated elsewhere in this report, were persecuted and imprisoned or made to leave the country.


In Suriname, the present government’s program does not guarantee the principles established in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man to maintain a democratic system based on universal, free and secret suffrage and the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs.  The establishment of people’s committees or militias and other similar organizations constitutes a serious restriction on participation by citizens of Suriname in their country’s government.  In the opinion of the IACHR, the current process of institutionalization, which is under way in Suriname, does not allow the free exercise of political rights.


In Uruguay an announcement by the government of the desire to return to a democratic system has been a good sign.  The schedule announced provided for national elections by November 1984 and turnover of authority to the new government by May 1985.  However, these favorable measures have been contradicted by the massive arrests in July, August and September 1983 of peaceful demonstrators who basically call for a seed-up in attaining a democratic system; by the decree of August 2 prohibiting the activities of the political parties; and by declaring illegal certain civic organizations, especially the Service of Peace and Justice, the only human rights entity which functioned freely in Uruguay.


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