REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
On October 4, 1988, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
received the following petition:
We wish to bring to your attention a most unfortunate tragedy that recently occurred in El Salvador, one that involves the State and its agents or officials.
In essence, the facts narrow down to the following: On September 21, 1988, soldiers in appropriate uniformed attire from the Batallion known as Jiboa, of the Fifth Infantry Brigade located in the Department of San Vicente, proceeded to detain, without a court order, and in the absence of any state of emergency, approximately 40 Salvadoran nationals engaged in farm work. They then took them to the premises of the school in the small town of San Francisco, San Sebastian in that Department of San Vicente. These detentions involved physical and psychological abuse and occurred during the morning and early afternoon hours at the homes of the victims and on various streets in the community and at the work place. Some detentions occurred during the night of the 20th of September.
the premises of the small school, some individuals were held in the classroom
and others were put in the sanitary facilities.
Messrs. NICOLAS ALFARO, JOSE ULISES SIBRIAN, ATILIO RIVAS, and JOSE MARIA
FLORES were put in the sanitary facilities.
approximately 12:00 noon on the 21st, the soldiers called each person from a
list they were carrying. If
present, they blindfolded him, took him from the school proper to behind the
school or to a “house” where they held a group of eight persons had been,
including the four in the sanitary facilities.
At that point, the soldiers inside and outside the school accused the
detainees of being guerrilleros or collaborating with them.
At approximately 2:30 p.m., the soldiers started moving the group of eight persons, but strangely enough, moving them in the direction of the Caserio de Cebadia (a hamlet) and not to the city of San Sebastian, Department of San Vicente, which is where they should have been taken since this is where the administrative and judicial authorities responsible for any investigation or punitive action are. At that time, not only were these persons blindfolded, but also they had their hands tied behind them. Approximately one half-hour after the detainees left in the direction of that hamlet, the sound of the explosion of bombs or grenades was heard followed by rifle and machine gun fire. After a brief interval, the firing noise was repeated, but this time “… for about five minutes …”
the soldier on guard at the school gate was asked what time they would be
removed, to which he replied: “when the bird comes,” referring to the
helicopter, “which will bring the order from the Fifth Brigade.”
nearing 5:30 p.m., the helicopter arrived, “descending close to the place
where the shots and bombs had been heard.”
When the persons held in the school were allowed to exit, the soldiers threatened them, telling them not to go toward the area where the shots and explosions had been heard because the troops were circulating there. This happened at approximately 6:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the same day, the 21st, and it was not until the following day, at approximately 6:30 a.m. in the morning when the missing persons’ families, accompanied by members of the Archbishop of El Salvador and the Justice of the Peace of San Sebastian of the Department of San Vicente, went to the place where their relatives had been taken, that they noticed that a massacre of persons singled out had taken place, persons who, as already noted, were totally defenseless. It was observed at that time that there were ten victims involved. The persons who were extrajudicially executed were:
JOSE MARIA FLORES, approximately 40 years of age.
NICOLAS ALFARO, 29 years, accompanied, 3 children.
ATILIO RIVAS, 45 years of age, 5 children.
JOSE FELIX AYALA, 43 years of age.
MARIA ZOILA RIVAS, 37 years, accompanied, 5 children.
JOSE ULISER SIBRIAN, approximately 40 years of age, married, 5 children.
MARIA JESUS SIBRIAN, 27 years of age, single (Jose Uliser Sibrian’s
9. JESUS ZEPEDA, 68 years of age, José Uliser and Maria Jesus’ father.
TERESA ARGUETA, 45 years of age, married to Jose Uliser.
2. On October 21, 1988, the relevant parts of the petition were forwarded to the Government of El Salvador requesting a reply within a 90-day period.
Subsequently, both the petitioner and several nongovernmental human
rights organizations provided the Commission with further information confirming
the events reported in the petition. Among
these was the report on the autopsy of the victims, which established the
On October 5, 1988, on orders from the judge of the Court of First Instance of San Sebastian, the bodies of ten peasants assassinated on September 21, 1988, in the Canton of San Francisco, Jurisdiction of San Sebastian, San Vicente, by members of the Jiboa Batallion, were exhumed, as part of initial formalities. The Supreme Court appointed the following doctors in forensic medicine: Drs. Jose Roberto Maldonado, Oliverio Antonio Arevalo, and Andres Remberto Guzman Barahona, and Juan Arevalo Reinosa, doctor in forensic medicine from San Sebastian. All of the family members summoned by the judge of the Court of the First Instance of San Sebastian were present. First, seven bodies buried in two common graves, seven meters from the chapel of San Francisco Canton, and two buried in separate graves at the General Cemetery of San Sebastian, San Vicente, were exhumed. The tenth body was not exhumed because it was buried on a remote elevation, known as “loma San Francisquito.” The corpses exhumed were the following:
JOSE ULISES SIBRIAN RIVAS, whose autopsy showed the following:
bullet wound with point of entry in the left occipital region, where
there was a noticeable powder mark, and exit point in the temporoparietal region
and on the left side of the face, with extensive destruction to and exposure f
the intra-cranial tissue. Two
bullet wounds, with powder markets at the level of the left subscapular region,
with exit point at the level of the right iliac fossa, exposing viscera, and
exit point at the left nipple. There
is periumbilical echymossis. The
distal phalanx of the fourth left-hand finger is severed. There is echymossis of the middle third of the front right
thigh. The middle third of the
outer side of the thigh shows a glancing wound.
Bullet wound with entry and exit points ten centimeters apart on the
posterior aspect of the left thigh. Echymossis
and hematoma on the front of the middle third of the left thigh.
Direct cause of death, severe inter-cranial trauma.
JOSE MARIA FLORES, who had a type of nylon tape tied to the right wrist. The
autopsy showed: bullet wound with
entry point in the left occipital region, with powder mark, and exit point in
the right front temporoparietal region, with bullet wound with entry point on
the lateral aspect of the middle third of the right thigh and exit point on the
front upper third of the right thigh. There
is a fracture to the femur; there are various noticeable echymosses on the fight
and left rib cage. There was a
black nylon tape attached to the right wrist.
The direct cause of his death was severe inter-cranial trauma.
JOSE FELIX ALFARO, whose autopsy showed:
bullet wound with point of entry in the temporal region behind the right
ear, and point of exit in the right temporoparietal region, with destruction of
bone and exposure of intra-cranial tissue.
Bullet wound with entry point in the right interscapular region, and exit
point in the right iliac fossa where the viscera is exposed.
Wound with lacerations and echymossis in the left dorsal rib cage and
right and left lumbar fossa. Bullet
wound with point of entry on the posterior aspect and point of exit on the
lateral aspect of the distal third of the left arm.
Shows powder mark at entry point. There
is a bullet wound with point of entry on the anterior aspect of the upper third
of the left forearm and exit point on the posterior aspect of the middle third
of the same forearm. Cause of
death, severe inter-cranial trauma caused by trauma.
JOSE ATILIO RIVAS whose autopsy showed:
bullet wound with point of entry on the right side of the neck and exit
point in the left occipital region. There
are fractures to both wrist joints and to the left ankle.
The cause of death is severe inter-cranial trauma caused by wounds
inflicted by a firearm.
NICOLAS FLORES ALFARO who showed the following at the time of exhumation
and autopsy: bullet wound with entry point behind the left ear and exit
point in the atloido-occipital region; bullet wound with entry point in the
posterior axillary line, without powder mark, and exit point in the right
scapular region which caused the fracture to the right shoulder, elbow, and
forearm; bullet wound with entry point in the third inner aspect of the left
thigh and exit point on left leg with internal destruction and exit point on the
later aspect of the middle third of the left thigh.
The cause of death was due to severe inter-cranial trauma from wounds
inflicted by a firearm.
JESUS ZEPEDA RIVAS who showed the following at the time of exhumation and
autopsy: bullet wound with entry point on the posterior aspect of the
middle third of the right arm with powder mark. There is a fracture to the humerus. The exit point is in the middle third of the right forearm,
causing it to sever and fragment. Multiple
wounds in the posterior region of the thorax (6) and lumbo-sacral area and lower
limbs caused by fragments from an explosive device, with entry point on the back
of the middle third of the right thigh, without exit point, causing a fracture
to the femur. The area was examined
and small fragments found. The
direct cause of death was hemorrhagic shock caused by the injuries described.
MARIA JESUS SIBRIAN whose autopsy showed:
bullet wound with entry point in the atloido-occipital region, with
powder mare, and exit point in the posterior pharynx with fracture to the upper
incisors; bullet wound with entry point in the region of the right side of the
neck and exit point in the right axillary pectoral region, with widespread
destruction of soft tissue; glancing bullet wound, soft tissue on the right
anterior superior iliac process. The
direct cause of death was caused by severe inter-cranial damage.
MARIA ZOILA RIVAS SIBRIAN whose autopsy showed:
two bullets with entry point in the right temporoparietal region, four
centimeters apart, with powder mark, and exit point in the left temporoparietal
region with extensive damage to bones and exposure of intra-cranial tissue;
bullet wound with entry point on the back of the lower third of the right thigh
and exit point ten centimeters below. The
cause of death is severe inter-cranial trauma caused by injury described.
TERESA DE JESUS ARGUETA whose autopsy showed:
two bullet wounds with point of entry in left region, one of which bears
a powder mark, and point of exit in right parasternal region and right fifth
intercostals space ribs. They are
ten centimeters apart. The other
wound has its exit point in the right middle axillary region; bullet wound with
entry point in the right naso-labial region and exit point on the right side of
the neck. The cause of death was
hemorrhagic shock caused by the injuries described.
examinations show: a. that all the
individuals were killed by a heavy-caliber firearm (possibly M-16) fired at
close range to the back of the head; b. it is possible that they were ordered to
lie down on the ground face down, and were then shot; and c. the forensic
medical report bears out the investigation by the Oficina de Tutela Legal
(Office for Legal Protection) of the Archbishop of San Salvador.
4. Not having received a reply, and since January 27, 1989, the statutory deadline, had expired, the IACHR renewed its request for information to the Government of El Salvador, granting it an additional 30-day period for the purpose.
The extended deadline expired, once again without reply from the
Government of El Salvador, and minus a request for an extension of the deadline.
Accordingly on June 19, 1989, the Government of El Salvador was asked
once again to furnish, within an additional 30-day period, the pertinent
information bearing on the case, and informed that failure to reply in
accordance with Article 42 of the Regulations, would incur a presumption, by the
Commission, of veracity of the facts reported in the position, in light of the
substantial information confirming their occurrence.
The extended deadline granted to the Government of El Salvador has long
passed and until now, no reply of any kind nor any request for an additional
deadline for the purposes at hand has been forthcoming from the Government of El
Subsequently, in March of 1989, the IACHR learned, through various
sources, of the public statement made by General Eugenio Vides Casanova,
Minister of defense of El Salvador, who in referring to the events, recognized
the responsibility of the Armed Forces of El Salvador in the assassination of
1. That the claim meets the formal admissibility requirements set forth in Article 46.d of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 32 of the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;
That in the present case, clearly, the petitioners have been unsuccessful
in prevailing upon the judicial authorities to obtain effective protection and,
therefore, the requirements concerning the exhaustion of domestic remedies under
Article 46.2.b of the American Convention are inapplicable;
That the friendly settlement procedure referred to in Article 48.f of the
American Convention and Article 45 of the Regulations of the Commission are not
applicable to this case;
That the claim is not pending any other international settlement
procedure and, therefore, is not barred by Article 47.d of the American
Convention and Article 39.c of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission;
That the claim is not a replica of a previous petition examined by the
Commission and, therefore, is not barred by Article 47.d of the Convention and
Article 39.c of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission;
That in the present case, all steps have been taken to obtain from the
Government of El Salvador information on the assassination of the persons
mentioned and the legal and statutory procedures stipulated in the Convention
and the Regulations of the Commission have been exhausted;
That furthermore, in the present procedure all of the pertinent
applicable requirements established in Article 48 of the American Convention on
Human Rights and Articles 34 et, seq. of the Regulations of the
Commission have been observed and met;
That despite repeated requests, the Government of El Salvador has not
once replied to the requests for information addressed to it by the Commission,
neither has it taken any action to negotiate additional deadlines to comply with
That in light of the absence of an investigation, due heed and an
adequate response, the provisions of Article 42 of the Regulations of the
Commission are therefore applicable:
facts reported in the petition whose pertinent parts have been transmitted to
the government of the State in reference shall be presumed to be true if, during
the maximum period set by the Commission under the provisions of Article 34
paragraph 5, the government has not provided the pertinent information, as long
as other evidence does not lead to a different conclusion.
10. That Article 42 of the aforecited Regulations authorizes the Commission to presume the facts reported in the petition to be true as long as other evidence does not lead to a different conclusion, which does not occur in this case;
That, on the contrary, in March of 1989, in public statements made known
to the press, the Minister of defense of El Salvador, General Eugenio Vides
Casanova admitted the responsibility of the armed Forces of El Salvador in the
death of ten peasants from the town of San Francisco, San Sebastian, of the
Department of San Vicente, and expressed the view that the perpetrators should
be brought to justice;
That despite the time that has elapsed since the date of the last request
for information, the Commission has received no information regarding
prosecution of any of those responsible for these events nor of any sanctions
having been imposed.
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
the exercise of the powers vested in it,
To declare that, by virtue of its responsibility in the detention, abuse
and torture, and extrajudicial summary execution of Jose Maria Flores, Nicolas
Alfaro, Atilio Rivas, Francisco Alfaro, Jose Felix Ayala, María Zoila Rivas,
Jose Uliser Sibrian, María Jesus Sibrian, Jesus Zepeda, and Teresa Argueta, the
Government of El Salvador violated Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (humane
treatment), 7 (personal liberty), and 8 (right to a fair trial) as well as
Article 1 (1) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
To recommend to the Government of El Salvador that it order a thorough
investigation into the serious facts reported in this petition in order to bring
to light the responsibility of the members of its Armed Forces who participated
directly or indirectly in these events so that they may be punished according to
the law, that fair compensation be granted to the families, and to advise the
Commission of compliance with the measures adopted within a period of 90 days.
To forward this resolution to the Government of El Salvador and to the
4. To include this resolution in the Annual Report of the Commission to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, should the information not be received from the Government of El Salvador.