REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
OF THE IACHR
the period to which this report refers, from September 1989 to May 1990, the
Commission conducted the following activities.
The IACHR held its 76th session from September 18 through 29, 1989. All of its members participated: Oliver H. Jackman, Chairman; Elsa Kelly, First Vice-Chairperson; Leo Valladares Lanza, Second Vice-Chairman; Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano; Marco Tulio Bruni Celli; John R. Stevenson; and Patrick L. Robinson.
this time, the Commission received the reports supplied to it by the Special
Commission that visited Peru in May 1989. Given
the importance of the events under investigation at that time, the Commission
decided to address a note to the Government of Peru, expressing its chief
concerns with respect to the situation of human rights in that country.
It also decided to begin organizing background information with a view to
preparing a report on the situation of human rights in that country.
It also decided to begin organizing background information with a view to
preparing a report on the situation of human rights in Peru.
furtherance of the Declaration by the President of the Twenty-first Meeting of
Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the commission requested the
Panamanian Government’s permission to observe, in situ, the situation
of human rights in that country. The
Panamanian Government acceded to the request and proposed that the visit be made
during November 1989. The
Commission, in turn, proposed that the observation in loco take place
from November 6 through 9, 1989. Nevertheless,
the proposed visit never materialized.
that same session, the Commission continued to consider the situation of human
rights in Panama, and provisionally adopted a report on the subject.
That report was referred to the Government of Panama so that, in
accordance with the Regulations of the Commission, it might present, within a
period of 30 days, such observations as it deemed pertinent.
Taking those observations into account, the Commission adopted its
definitive report, which was forwarded in due course to the corresponding organs
of the OAS and presented to the General Assembly.
this session, the Commission approved its Annual Report, which was subsequently
presented to the OAS General Assembly at its nineteenth regular session.
That report places special emphasis on the developments in Chile, Cuba,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Suriname as regards the
observance of human rights in the preceding twelve-month period.
That Annual Report also includes a special chapter recounting the
Commission’s role in the amnesty declared in March 1989 for people convicted
by the Special Courts in Nicaragua. In
this respect, the Commission reiterated its recommendation to the Nicaraguan
government that the 39 individuals who had been denied the benefit of the
amnesty to be immediately released. In
its Annual Report, the Commission also proposed to the General Assembly that
certain measures be adopted to strengthen the observance of human rights.
this session, the Commission took the necessary measures to enable it to conduct
its observation in loco in Colombia (postponed for a later date) and
Paraguay during the first quarter of 1990.
Those countries had already extended the necessary invitation.
in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the American Convention on Human
Rights, the Statute of the Commission and its Regulations, the Commission
considered a number of petitions that contained complaints of alleged violations
of human rights. In the case of
some of these petition it adopted the corresponding resolutions.
of their particular importance, the Commission began with the cases that
concerned the enforcement of the Argentine laws known as “Punto Final” and
“Due Obedience” and the Uruguayan law on “Caducidad.”
It heard the oral arguments brought by the representatives of the
respective governments and those of the complainants.
At this same session, the Commission also devoted special attention to
the “El Aguacate” case in Guatemala. It
decided to send that Government a note requesting that the personal safety of
certain witnesses be safeguarded and accepting the invitation that the
Guatemalan Government extended to it to investigate this case of Guatemalan
Commission had the pleasure to meet with four judges of the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights. Together, they
studied several matters of mutual interest, which would make it possible to
strengthen further the cooperative ties between the two organs established in
the Pact of San Jose to defend human rights in the Hemisphere.
In this connection, it was decided to hold a joint meeting during the
first half of 1990 to study various problems that have arisen from the
interpretation and application of the American Convention on Human Rights.
is customary at its sessions, the Commission held hearings to receive
individuals and representatives of institutions and organizations that had duly
requested such hearings.
Commission decided that the next session would be held at the headquarters of
the Commission, from May 7 through 18, 1990.
nineteenth regular session of the General Assembly was held at OAS headquarters
in Washington, D.C., November 13 through 18, 1989.
In attendance as the representatives of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights was its Chairman, Mr. Oliver H. Jackman, accompanied by the
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño.
this session, Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano was elected as member of the
Inter-American Commission on Human rights and Mr. Oliver H. Jackman and Dr.
Marco Tulio Bruni Celli were reelected for another four-year period.
Also, the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
was considered, as was the special report on the situation of human rights in
Panama. The Report of the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights was also considered.
should also be noted that the General Assembly congratulated the Inter-American
Commission on Human rights on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary.
of its importance, the text of the General Assembly’s resolution on the Annual
report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and on the special
report on the situation of human rights in panama is quoted here in its
OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
adopted at the ninth plenary session,
on November 18, 1989)
On-site observation in
the invitation of the Guatemalan Government, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights visited the Republic of Guatemala from January 29 to February 3,
1990, to conduct on-site observation. The
participants were: Dr. Leo
Valladares Lanza, Vice-Chairman of the IACHR and chairman of the Special
Commission, and member John R. Stevenson. From
the staff of the executive Secretariat were Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant
Executive Secretary and Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark, Principal Specialist in charge
of Guatemalan affairs. The purpose
of the visit was to conduct, pursuant to Articles 44, 55 et. Seq. of the
Regulations of the Commission, an on-site investigation into joint Case No.
10.400 concerning events that transpired in the town of “El Aguacate” and to
apprise themselves of the investigations that the competent Guatemalan
government agencies have had conducted into this unfortunate incident.
the time it extended its invitation to the Commission to conduct this on-site
visit, the Government of Guatemala gave ample assurances that the Commission
would have unreserved freedom to visit the country and be able to interview any
persons or institutions that the Special Commission should deem necessary.
It also gave guarantees that those persons or institutions wishing to
speak with the Special Commission would be able to do so without encountering
obstacles of any kind, and that no reprisals would be taken against them.
During its stay in Guatemala, the Special Commission confined its
activities to its investigation of this particular case and spoke with the
President of the Republic; with the President of the Supreme Court; with the
Human Rights Defender; with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and the
Interior; with the Director General of the National police; with the survivors,
widows, relatives, and witnesses; with other civilian and military authorities,
both at the national and departmental levels; and, with the Forensic Physician
and legal authorities.
Special Commission also met with representatives of various political,
humanitarian, professional, and other types of institutions, all of which
supplied it with important information concerning the events under
investigation. The Commission’s
delegations also made two visits to the Chimaltenango zone, San Andres Itzapa,
El Aguacate, the Zone 302 command post, and reconnoitered the mountain paths
where the kidnapping incidents and the searches occurred and where the graves
and bodies of the victims were located.
the confidential nature of the matters that the Special Commission studied
during the time of its visit, and since the purpose of that visit was not to
review the situation of human rights in Guatemala in general, no member of the
Commission’s delegation or of the Secretariat staff made statements to the
press, as long as their opinions had not been conveyed to the full Commission,
which is scheduled to hold its 77th session in May in Washington, D.C., to hear
the members of the Special Commission present their report.
In its press release of February 3, the Commission thanked the Government for the facilities it had provided to help the Special Commission discharge its function. It also expressed its appreciation to the authorities and other persons who supplied valuable testimony, the various institutions interviewed, which were representative of the Guatemalan community, for the cooperation, facilities, and hospitality that they provided to the Special Commission.
Visit to Paraguay
the invitation of the Government of Republic of Paraguay, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights conducted a visit to that country on February 7, 8,
and 9, 1990. The purpose of the
visit was to analyze, in conjunction with public and private institutions, the
situation of human rights in Paraguay and the progress made since the new
government, under the presidency of General Andres Rodriguez, took office.
visit had been requested repeatedly, both by the Commission itself and by the
General Assembly of the OAS. Accordingly,
on this occasion the Commission was quick to say how gratifying it was that the
present Paraguayan government had granted its permission to conduct the visit.
delegation of the Special Commission that conducted the on-site observation was
composed of members Dr. Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli,
and Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano; by the Commission’s Executive secretary, Dr.
Edmundo Vargas Carreño; the Executive Secretariat’s Principal Specialist, Dr.
Osvaldo Dreimer; and by Mrs Gabriela Hageman, Administrative Assistant.
Special Commission was very active during its three-day stay in Asuncion.
It met with the President of the Republic; with the Ministers of Foreign
Affairs, the Interior, Justice, and Labor; with the members of the National
Congress; magistrates on the Supreme Court; with the National Rural Coordination
Council; with officials of the Paraguayan Indian Institute; with religious
officials of various creeds; with human rights organizations; leaders of
Paraguay’s political parties, women’s organizations; newspaper publishers;
leaders of labor organizations; Indian leaders and other Paraguayan
personalities from whom the Commission received valuable information on the
present observance of human rights in Paraguay.
interviews enabled the Commission’s delegation to supplement the information
it had on the situation of human rights in Paraguay subsequent to February 3,
1989. Prior to that date, the
Commission had repeatedly expressed gave concern over the disregard for and
serious limitations upon human rights and fundamental freedoms in Paraguay.
Commission’s delegation did not issue any value judgment on the present
situation of those fundamental rights and freedoms during the presidency of
General Rodriguez, since its report must first go to the full Commission, which
will meet in Washington, D.C. in May. The
foregoing notwithstanding, the Commission’s delegation did not note the
efforts that government authorities and various sectors of Paraguayan society
are making to overcome the obvious obstacles and difficulties with regard to the
full observance of human rights in Paraguay today and, within the framework of
democratic institutions, to endeavor as best as possible to guarantee the
observance of those rights, be civil and political, or economic, social, and
the Commission’s delegation expressed its deep appreciation to the Government
of Paraguay for the facilities it was given to enable it to carry out is mission
effectively and its thanks to all those sectors or Paraguayan
society–especially religious, political, news, union, indigenous, and
humanitarian and human rights officials and leaders–for the cooperation they
afforded to make this mission a success.
On-site visit to Haiti
Pursuant to Permanent Council resolution 537 adopted on February 23, 1990, by that body, following the deterioration in the human rights situation in that country, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Haiti, between April 17-20, 1990, in the exercise of its functions. Under that Permanent Council resolution, the Commission was to look into the human rights situation in Haiti and prepare a full report to be submitted to the General Assembly of the OAS. The delegation was composed of Mr. Oliver H. Jackman, Chairman of the Commission; Mr. Leo Valladres L., Vice Chairman; and Mr. Patrick L. Robinson, member of the IACHR; Mr. David J Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Mr. Luis F. Jimenez and Mrs. Bertha Santoscoy, human rights specialists from the Commission’s Executive Secretariat, and Miss Gloria Sakamoto, Administrative Assistant.
its mission to Haiti, the delegation met with President Ertha Pascal Trouillot,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, the Minister of the Interior, the
Minister of National Defense, the Minister of Social Affairs, the Chief of Staff
of the Armed Forces, the Minister of Justice and the Council of State, and other
delegation also met with representatives of human rights organizations and
political parties to hear about the political situation as it relates to
representative democracy. It also
met with media representatives, both press and radio, to get a status report on
the freedom of expression. The
delegation held meetings with Haitian jurists, union representatives,
representatives of the industrial sector, Chamber of Commerce, the Church, and
other forces active in the country.
delegation visited two prisons where it interviewed those in charge:
Pénitencier National, in Port-au-Prince, and the Centre de Détention,
in Delmas. It also gathered
information on the investigation of several cases that had been brought before
it, notably, cases of arbitrary arrests that had been brought before it,
notably, cases of arbitrary arrests and murders committed during President
Prosper Avril’s government.
Pont Sondé, St. Marc, and Piatre, the delegation obtained information on human
rights violations, and was able to observe serious inflicted on the latter
community. It also gave hearings to
persons from various social strata from whom it received complaints,
communications, and reports concerning respect for human rights.
to its arrival in the country, the delegation had spelled out what the
objectives of its visit were, and announced its intention of gathering all
possible information on respect for, and the promotion of, human rights in
Haiti. The Government gave the delegation every assurance that there
would be no reprisals against persons or groups meeting with the delegation.
the many depositions it received the delegation was able to establish several
common threads. First was mention
of the need to create conditions of security that would enable the population to
exercise its political rights during the electoral process, soon to start.
These conditions, according to those depositions, involved two factors:
respect for basic human rights, namely, personal freedom, rights of
association and of assembly and the right to freedom of expression, among
others. Next, linked to security,
was the need to bring to trial persons accused of committing very serious human
rights violations, as in the case of the massacres of November 29, 1987 and the
Saint Jean Bosco Church of September 11, 1988.
delegation noted that there was a consensus among major sectors of Haitian
society as to the lack of any serious investigations, legal proceedings, and
appropriate punishment of persons responsible for gross human rights violations,
which, it is felt, would prevent the candidates from waging their electoral
campaigns and would create a climate of mistrust and fear in the electorate.
This situation could in all likelihood be the cause of a poor turnout at
delegation found it necessary to repeat, on several occasions, that it was
absolutely vital that there be a separation between Police and Armed Forces in
order to give the police a professional character and provide the necessary
training for it to respect human rights.
delegation was pleased to hear of the commitment made by the Commander-in-Chief
of the Armed Forces of Haiti to accentuate professionalism in those Forces,
subordinate them to civil authority, and make of them a disciplined tool under
the Ministry of Justice, and the guardian of security in the electoral process.
significant amount of documentation gathered during this visit will be the
subject of careful analysis by the delegation, and during the course of its next
session, the delegation will adopt a final report containing conclusions and
recommendations. The delegation was
most pleased at the expression of good will manifested by high Government
officials who are anxious to realize the effective exercise of political rights
and strengthen the protection of basic human rights.
delegation stated once again that, as a party to the American Convention on
Human Rights, the Haitian State had not only an obligation to respect those
rights but also to ensure the full and unrestricted exercise of them.
The delegation, therefore, trusted that in the course of the upcoming
elections these rights will be exercised under security conditions that enable
all political forces and the Haitian population in general to express themselves
and to act quite freely and without fear so that the election per se will fit
into the process of democratization under way and into a broader framework of
genera, basic human rights. These
rights would include economic, social, and cultural rights, the observation of
which is an indispensable element in meeting the legitimate aspirations of the
Haitian people and strengthening the democratic system.
The delegation has said that this system is the best guarantee for the
protection of human rights.
delegation also had an opportunity to receive depositions from members of the
first Provisional Electoral Board who were elected in that capacity in 1987, in
accordance with the Constitution. They
were recently appointed to that Board again after being removed from office by
the de facto government of General Henri Namphy.
They told the delegation with considerable force that the task of
organizing and conducting free, fair, and democratic elections could prove to be
extremely difficult if the Government did not take immediate and positive
measures to ensure the security of the vote and that of the members and
personnel of the Board itself and thereby avoid a repetition of the disastrous
events of November 29, 1987.
delegation has also received specific requests from all sectors that the
electoral process be monitored by international experts from its inception to
presence of these international experts will instill greater confidence in the
population and will reinforce the authority of the electoral board.
recurring theme in the course of the statements made before the delegation was
that of the role of the armed groups in Haiti.
Several witnesses explained the inherent dangers in the activities of
former military officers and the rest of the civil militia known as Tontons
Macoutes, accused of systematically terrorizing the population.
In the eyes of the public, some were involved in the many atrocities
committed after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s departure in 1986, especially the
massacre of November 29, 1987. It
was brought to the delegation’s attention that the immediate and full
disarmament of these groups should be the immediate priority of the provisional
Government. Persons who appeared
before the delegation insisted that such an atmosphere prevented witnesses from
coming forward to file complaints about such acts.
and time again, religious and political representatives said that one of the
chief causes of insecurity in the country was the activity of the Chefs de
section (Section Chiefs) in the rural areas.
The belief is that these persons who are appointed by the Armed Forces
and belong to them grossly overstep their authority as rural police officers,
and that they are responsible for numerous arbitrary acts violating the rights
of the Haitian citizenry. It has
been said that a restructuring of this policing system was a sine qua non
for the protection of human rights in the rural areas and for ensuring that
adequate conditions are set in place for an unfettered electoral campaign and a
free ballot at the upcoming elections.
representatives further shared with the delegation their fears that the
prevailing insecurity could jeopardize the lives of journalists wishing to give
full coverage of the electoral process.
delegation presented a report on the status of human rights in Haiti, which
discussed further its mission to that country.
The Commission completed the report in the course of its 77th
session, between May 7 to 18 1990, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Pursuant to Resolution 537, this report is to be submitted to
the General Assembly of the OAS at its twentieth regular session in June, in
accordance with Article 90.f of the Charter.
delegation wished to underline the cooperation that was extended to the
delegation in the discharge of its mission and thanked the Government and people
of Haiti as well as the media for their cooperation.
special Commission noted that it will continue to observe developments in the
human rights situation in Haiti during further visits, which will take place in
the near future.
Joint Meeting of the
Commission and the Court
From May 2-4, 1990. the Commission met with the judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to discuss the harmonization of their respective Rules of Procedures. In addition, the two organs considered common criteria for improved coordination of their work.