Nº 2/91                          



The Board of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was elected yesterday afternoon.  Patrick Lipton Robinson was unanimously chosen as Chairman.


Mr. Robinson  a distinguished Jamaican jurist, is presently Deputy Solicitor General in the Attorney General's Department of Jamaica and has held the position of legal advisor on international law matters, among other posts in the Government of his country.  He has had broad diplomatic experience and has represented his country in numerous meetings of the United Nations, Latin American Economic System (SELA), the OAS and CARICOM, among others.


Marco Tulio Bruni Celli was elected first Vice-Chairman.  Dr. Bruni Celli, a renowned lawyer and legislator, currently serves as Deputy in the lower house of the Venezuela Congress.  Dr. Bruni Celli previously served as Minister of Interior in his country.


Oscar Luján Fappiano was elected Second Vice-Chairman.  Dr. Fappiano has had a long legal career in his country, Argentina, in the academic and legislative fields, having participated in the draft of several bills in the labor and criminal areas.  He has taught the Law of Criminal Procedure and is Assistant Professor of "Human and Constitutional Rights", the latter in the Law and Social Sciences School of the National University of Buenos Aires.


The Commission also expressed its recognition and gratitude toward its former Chairman, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, who performed his duties with the utmost dedication and efficiency.





  Washington, D.C.

  February 12, 1991





N° 3/91



The 79th session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights came to a close on February 22, 1991.  During this session the Commission elected its new officers as follows:  Patrick Lipton Robinson as Chairman, Marco Tulio Bruni Celli as First Vice Chairman, and Oscar Luján Fappiano as Second Vice Chairman.  Attending the session were its other members, Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Oliver Jackman, Leo Valladares Lanza, and Michael Reisman.


During the course of its meetings, the Commission approved its Annual Report, which will be presented to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.


As for the visit made by a Special Mission to Colombia from December 3 through 7, 1990, the Commission received the corresponding report and decided, in light of the disturbing human rights situation there, to conduct an on-site visit to Colombia this year, thereby accepting the Colombian Government's invitation to that effect.


As for the human rights situation in Cuba, the Commission devoted special consideration to the Cuban Government's harassment, trial and conviction of human rights activists.  The Commission was concerned by the situation of the political prisoners, particularly that of Mario Chanes de Armas, the longest-standing political prisoner in the world, and Ernesto Días Rodríguez.  These two men have been held 29 and 22 years, respectively.  While the Cuban Government must bear the bulk of the responsibility for remedying the human rights problems in Cuba, the Commission believes that it is by means of democracy, with the participation of all Cuban citizens--without exception--that Cuba will succeed in correcting its problems peacefully and at the least social cost to the people.


In the case of El Salvador, the Commission finds that there are still problems that gravely affect the situation of human rights in that country, particularly the violent death of fifteen campesinos and the death of political activists, all recent occurrences.  The Commission is also disturbed by the situation of the political prisoners and the conditions in which political and common prisoners alike are held.  Another concern is the slow pace of the proceedings being conducted to ascertain the identity of and punish those responsible for the many grave violations of human rights, in particular the death of the six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter.  The Commission welcomes the fact that negotiations between the Government and the FMLN continue under auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General.  It hopes that those negotiations will help create the conditions for better observance of human rights, including political rights during the course of the election process now underway.  During this session, the Commission continued its talks with the Government of El Salvador with a view to fixing a date for a forthcoming on-site visit to that country by the full Commission.


In relation to the United States, the Commission noted with satisfaction during its meeting that the death penalty of Joseph Giarratano had been commuted to life imprisonment by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The Commission had asked the Governor to commute the sentence "on humanitarian grounds so as to avoid irreparable harm."  The Commission considered that such an act "would be in the spirit of major human rights instruments and the universal trend favorable to the abolition of the death penalty."  The execution of Mr. Giarratano had been scheduled for February 22 and the matter had been pending before the Commission since June, 1987.


As for Guatemala, the Commission continues to follow the situation of human rights in that country with great concern and has decided to begin preparing a special report thereon.  The Commission is particularly disturbed by the lack of genuine investigations to identify those responsible for the very serious violations of human rights, in a context characterized by a lack of control over the military, a situation that flies in the face of the basic principles of a democratic system.  In this context, the Commission received testimony regarding the massacre in December of 14 campesinos in Santiago Atitlan, further testimony regarding

its case on the massacre of campesinos in El Aguacate, and testimony regarding the killing of the distinguished Guatemalan anthropologist, Myrna Mack, this past September.  Hence, the Commission hopes that the recently elected Government will be able to adopt the measure so urgently needed to bring peace to Guatemala and respect for human rights.


In the case of Haiti, the Commission was pleased to watch the culmination of the election process and the peaceful transfer of power on February 7, 1991.  This is an extraordinary step in that country's history.  The Commission hopes that the new Government will adopt all measures necessary to guarantee social peace, absolute respect for the human rights of all its people and to strengthen the democratic system.  The Commission will continue to cooperate with the Government of Haiti and to follow the situation closely in order to make whatever recommendations it deems necessary.


The Commission is deeply concerned by the recent development in the human rights situation in Nicaragua.  The Commission appreciates the Nicaraguan Government's willingness to improve respect for human rights in that country, as demonstrated by its deposit of its recognition of the mandatory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  It must, however, point out that throughout the period covered in the annual report, the Commission has observed a disturbing human rights situation in the form of acts committed by members of the security forces.  The recent death of a prominent leader of the Nicaraguan Resistance adds another particularly serious element to the situation in Nicaragua.  It is the Commission's considered opinion that Nicaragua should embark upon the path of peace, democracy and the rule of law once and for all, as these are all essential elements to achieving absolute respect for human rights.


  In the case of Panama, the Inter-American Commission studied at this session the information obtained during the period covered by the annual report including data received during its on site visit in June 1990.  At present the Commission must recognize that the Government is seeking to overcome its human rights problems and that the institutions established by the Constitution are begining to function in Panama as reflected by the elections of January 27.  The Commission also considers it important that the Government address and solve the situation of overcrowding of long term prisoners.  It is hoped that the new Code of Criminal Procedure will help remedy the problem.  In addition the Commission has made a number of recommendations pointing to the need to compensate people who suffered losses due to the United States invasion in December 1989.  The Commission intends to continue working with the Government of Panama to assist it in resolving its problems.


  During its meeting, the Commission studied the request for injunctive relief filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in connection with the case of the journalist, Hugo Bustios Rojas, who died in Peru in 1988.  It also adopted a number of reports on individual cases in Peru  and heard testimony on the human rights situation there.  On the basis of all this, the Commission confirmed its decision to conduct an on-site visit to Peru for the purpose of investigating the grave human rights violations alleged to have occured in that country.


  The Commission has received with consternation reports about the coup d'etat in Suriname that interrupted the democratization process in that country.  The Commission considers of great importance the restablishment of representative democracy in Suriname through the forthcoming elections that must necessarily be preceeded by effective enforcement of human rights and an end to the climate of intimidation created by the security forces.  Only such conditions will persuit authentic elections.  Likewise, the Commission will continue to prosecute the cases of violations of human rights committed by the security forces of Suriname before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.



    February 26, 1991

    Washington, D.C.



N° 4/91



  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is deeply disturbed by the events that transpired in Haiti on September 29, 1991.  Because of those events, human lives were lost and the democratic process launched with the elections held in December 16, 1990, was disrupted.  The Inter-American Commission has been monitoring the human rights situation in Haiti with particular care and believed that those elections were a genuine reflection of the will of the Haitian people, in legitimate exercise of their political rights, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights.  Hence, the coup d'etat that occurred in Haiti is clearly a violation of those political rights and of other fundamental rights and freedoms also recognized in that Convention.  The lawless situation that has been created may well lead to violations of many other internationally guaranteed human rights.


  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights feels this is an appropriate time to recall that in 1990, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States declared that "the system of representative democracy is fundamental for the establishment of a political society wherein human rights can be fully realized and that one of the fundamental components of that system is the effective subordination of the military apparatus to civilian power."


  In response to these events, the Inter-American Commission will continue to monitor the situation of human rights in Haiti with particular care.  It hopes that the democratic system will be quickly restored by reinstating the constitutionally-elected authorities to their rightful offices, in a context of absolute respect for human rights.  It also hopes that special protection will be given to those groups engaged in the protection and defense of those rights.






    Washington, D.C.

    October 1, 1991



N° 5/91



On October 4, l991, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its 80th Session.  Participating in this session were the Commission's Chairman, Dr. Patrick Robinson; Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Second Vice Chairman, and the other members of the Commission, Dr. Gilda M.C.M. Russomano, Ambassador Oliver Jackman, Dr. Leo Valladares and Professor Michael Reisman.


During the course of this session the Commission held a number of hearings with government representatives, private individuals and representatives of human rights organizations, who voiced their vies on human rights situations in general.  The Commission also held hearings as part of the proceedings being conducted in connection with individual cases.


Specific mention must be made of the Commission's meeting with the Honorable President of the Republic of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  Accompanying the President were the Secretary General of the Organization of American States,  Ambassador Joao Clemente Baena Soares, and the Permanent Representative of Haiti to the Organization, Ambassador Jean Casimir.  During that meeting, there was a constructive exchange of ideas on how the Inter-American Commission could help to defend human rights in Haiti in light of the events that had transpired there since September 29, and what contribution it could make to help get the democratic system and its lawfully elected authorities reinstated.  Views were also shared on how best to implement the request made by the ad-hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in response to President Aristide's request that the Inter-American Commission take immediately all measures within its competence to protect and defend human rights in Haiti.


During this session, the Commission issued a press communique, dated October 1, to the effect that it was deeply disturbed by the coup d'etat that had occurred in Haiti on September 29.  It deplored the events that had caused the loss of life and disrupted the democratic process that began with the elections of December 16, l990.  The Commission went on to say that the coup d'etat was a clear violation of the political rights and other fundamental rights and freedoms upheld in the American Convention on Human Rights.  It stated that the lawless situation that had been created might well lead to violations of many other internationally guaranteed human rights.  It expressed the hope that the democratic system  could be quickly restored by reinstating the constitutionally-elected authorities to their rightful offices, in a context of absolute respect for human rights.  In response to the events, the Inter-American Commission resolved to continue to monitor the human rights situation in Haiti closely.


During this session, the Commission also examined a number of requests for on-site visits to countries whose governments have indicated their willingness to receive those visits, specifically the Governments of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Nicaragua.  At the end of the session, the Commission decided that the on site visits to Colombia and Guatemala will take place in the first semester of next year and that the on site visit to Peru will begin October 28 of this year.


At this session, the Commission examined the information provided by the special delegation of the IACHR that visited the Dominican Republic from August 12 through 14, 1991.  The Commission decided to continue to monitor the situation of the Haitian citizens and to request the Government's permission to conduct an on-site visit in the near future.


The Commission also examined the situation of the Yanomami indigenous people of Brazil.  The Commission decided to reiterate the request--already made three times--to the Government of Brazil to grant permission for an on-site visit.


Another matter of concern discussed at this session was the question of the human rights of indigenous peoples, both in individual cases in various countries and in relation to the preparation of an inter-American legal instrument thereon.  It received information from government representatives and from indigenous organizations.


The Commission examined the general human rights situation in the members States; considered reports concerning pending cases; adopted pertinent decisions; and analyzed the situation of the cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


It devoted particular attention to the measures that should be taken to enhance the autonomy and independence of the judiciary to make it more effective.


Finally, the Commission agreed that its 81st Session will be held from February 3 through 14, 1992.







No. 6/91



Monday, October 28, 1991, is the first day of the visit that the full membership of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is making to Peru, at the invitation of that Government, to observe the human rights situation in the country.  The visit will continue until Thursday, November 31.  Participating in the visit are the Commission's Chairman, Dr. Patrick Robinson, its First Vice Chairman, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, and Second Vice Chairman Oscar Luján Fappiano, as well as members Dr. Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, and Professor Michael Reisman.  Ambassador Oliver Jackman was unable to be present.  During its visit, the Commission will be assisted by its Executive Secretary, Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, and the following attorneys from the Executive Secretariat:  Dr. Luis F. Jiménez, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, and Dr. Jorge Seall Sasiain.  Marcelo Montesinos will serve as the Commission's interpreter, and Gabriela Hageman, Elsa Eregueta and Nora Anderson will provide administrative support.  The Inter-American Commission will be staying at the Hotel El Pardo.


During its visit in Peru, the Commission will hold talks with government authorities, officials of State institutions, representatives of human rights organizations, with individuals and members of institutions representative of the various sectors of society, and with those who feel their human rights have been violated in some way and wish to file cases with the Inter-American Commission.  The Commission will be receiving those cases at the Hotel El Pardo on Tuesday, October 29, and Wednesday, October 30, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.


The Commission believes it should visit the interior of the country.  Therefore, two subcommittees will be traveling there, one to Ayacucho and Huancayo, on October 29 and 30, and the other to Tarapoto, on October 28 and 30.


The Inter-American Commission's visit is being made in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, an international instrument to which Peru is a State party, and in accordance with the rules and regulations by which the Commission is governed.  In keeping with those provisions, the Government of Peru has undertaken to accord every guarantee to the individuals, groups, agencies and institutions that wish to speak with the Commission, and to provide all the facilities that the Commission may require to perform its mission of observing the human rights situation in the country.


At the end of its visit, the Commission will hold a press conference at the Hotel El Pardo, scheduled for Thursday, October 31, at 8:30 p.m.


Lima, October 27, 1991  





No. 7/91



Today, October 31, 1991, marked the end of the visit that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made to Peru, at the Government's invitation, to observe the human rights situation in the country.  The visit was made by the Commission's full membership, including Dr. Patrick Robinson, its Chairman; Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, its First Vice Chairman; Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, its Second Vice Chairman; and members Dr. Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza and Professor Michael Reisman.  Ambassador Oliver Jackman was unable to take part in the visit.  The Commission was assisted by its Executive Secretary, Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, and by attorneys from the Commission's Executive Secretariat--Dr. Luis F. Jiménez, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, and Dr. Jorge Seal Sasiain.  Mr. Marcelo Montesinos served as the Commission's interpreter, while Mrs. Gabriela Hageman, Elsa Ergueta and Nora E. Anderson provided administrative assistance.


During the visit, the Inter-American Commission met with Ing. Alberto Fujimori, President of the Republic; with Dr. Carlos Torres y Torres Lara, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Council of Ministers; with Dr. Augusto Antonioli Vásquez, Minister of Justice; with Peruvian Army Division General Víctor Malca Villanueva, Minister of the Interior; Peruvian Army Division General Jorge Torres Aciego, Minister of Defense; with the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, under Air Force General Arnaldo Velarde, and the General Commandant of the Navy, Admiral Alfredo Arnaiz Ambrossiani, and the Commander General of the Army, Peruvian Army General Pedro Villanueva Valdivia; with Dr. César Fernández Arce, President of the Supreme Court; with Dr. Pedro Méndez Jurado, Attorney General of the Nation, and with Dr. Clodomiro Chávez, Prosecutor for Human Rights and Public Defender.


During the visit, two subcommittees journeyed to the interior, one to Tarapoto and Tocache, and the other to the cities of Ayacucho and Huancayo.  In Tarapoto, the subcommittee met with the Political-Military Commander of the emergency zone, with representatives of the Moyobambo Prelate's Office of Social Work and with members of the San Martin Peace Commission, with relatives of disappeared detainees and with clergy from the Pastoral Center.  It also visited Cordesan, the National Police, and the Tarapoto Prison, where it spoke with a number of those being held in confinement.  In Tocache, the subcommittee met with military, political, judicial and police authorities.  The subcommittee that traveled to Ayacucho and Huancayo met with government, military and judicial authorities and with representatives of the Catholic Church and of human rights institutions.


  The Commission also met with members of Congress and with institutions whose purpose is to defend and promote human rights:  the National Coordinator for Human Rights; the Andean Commission of Jurists and the Episcopal Social Work Commission.  The Inter-American Commission also received individuals and members of institutions representative of Peruvian society, the Commission of Relatives of the Disappeared (COFADER), journalists and officials of press agencies, and the Association of Peruvian Lawyers for Democracy.  It also visited the Castro Castro Penal Center.


This visit to Peru follows an earlier visit made by two members back in May 1989.  Individual cases have also been processed and decisions adopted thereon.  The contacts during this visit enabled the Inter-American Commission to get a firsthand look at the complex and sensitive human rights situation in Peru and to compile valuable information that will be used for the Special Report now being prepared.


  The Commission saw the evidence of the violence of the conflict afflicting Peru and received abundant testimony demonstrating how much the people have suffered, especially those caught in the middle between the conflict's chief protagonists.  The Commission was informed of the utterly reprehensible tactics used by those persons, groups or institutions that would achieve their political ends even at the cost of the individual's inalienable rights.  Subordinating the individual's inalienable rights to political ends is the distinctive feature of those who operate in this way.  Hence, the Commission would again assert what it said in the press communique released at the end of its 1989 visit:  neither the struggle to conquer poverty and build a new State nor defense of democratic institutions can, under any circumstances, justify recourse to selective assassination, summary execution, destruction of the means of production, torture, forced disappearance of persons and the use of terror as a method of public control.  Those willing to work for a political settlement, at as little cost to the public as possible, will find this difficult to accomplish so long as such vile tactics are being used.


By the same token, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finds that there is an overriding need to humanize the conflict.  Working within its basic legal framework, provided by the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission will continue to examine, with ever increasing scrutiny, the acts of violence committed by groups of armed irregulars and the blame that follows therefrom.  In this regard, the Commission's premise is that no individual, group or State can, by its conduct, violate any of the rights recognized in the American Declaration and the American Convention on Human Rights.  The Commission is calling upon all Peruvians to respect the rights guaranteed by those instruments.


The Commission paid close attention to the comments describing how the living conditions of the Peruvian people have severely deteriorated and the negative impact this has had on the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.  It was deeply disturbed to hear how this situation is exacerbating the social conditions linked to the evolution of the present conflict.  The Inter-American Commission believes that one of the key elements in the policies adopted to correct the economy must be satisfaction of the economic, social and cultural rights, especially among those sectors most severely affected.  The Commission expresses its full support for the work being conducted by humanitarian organizations to correct the poor social conditions, organizations that have become the target of a cruel terrorist campaign.


The Commission has received information on the measures recently adopted by the Government to deal with the existing human rights problems.  The Commission hopes that those measures will be applied in practice and will be coupled with other measures to develop a positive, comprehensive and sound policy.  The Commission believes that a fundamental part of that policy must be recognition of the laudable and at times even dangerous work that institutions engaged in defending and promoting human rights perform.  Accordingly, it believes that such institutions and their members should be accorded every guarantee necessary to enable them to perform their functions, as the Commission has repeatedly emphasized and as the General Assembly of the Organization of American States has recommended.  It is the duty of the Government of Peru and the obligation of its highest ranking authorities to ensure that such organizations will be able to perform their functions.  The Commission will continue to cooperate with all the institutions and with the Peruvian Government so as to further the measures adopted to protect human rights.


The Inter-American Commission has found the high ranking military authorities to be responsive to its suggestions.  It has also been informed of forms of cooperation recently instituted between military and police forces and nongovernmental human rights groups.  The Commission hopes that cooperation will be reinforced and that it will serve to make respect for human rights a permanent factor in any measures taken in connection with the conflict in the country.  The Commission is aware that for the military and police engaged in a conflict with those who believe themselves to be above the law, application of a serious human rights policy will be difficult.  As the Chairman of the Commission told the then Foreign Minister of Peru back in 1989, the Armed Forces are called upon to defend the Constitution and the laws and that noble calling cannot be betrayed by recourse to methods specifically prohibited by those very laws.


It is the Commission's opinion, moreover, that an essential element of the human rights policy must be to identify and punish those responsible for human rights violations, thus making examples of them.  It is encouraging to see that recently individuals operating in the emergency zones and who may be implicated in human rights violations are being identified.  This would help to eliminate the disturbing problem of impunity that, according to reports received by the Commission, has been typical of the conduct of the security forces in Peru and is reflected in the absence of any convictions on charges of human rights violations.  Here, the Commission paid close attention to the arguments in favor of removing human rights violations from the military jurisdiction, so that they would be tried in the regular courts.


The Commission was able to confirm that the state of emergency remains in effect in a number of regions in the country; even in places where the state of emergency has been lifted, certain problems persist, the kind usually associated with a preponderance of military power.  The Commission also found that an increasing number of campesino bands have been formed, depicted as a voluntary method that enables a rural community to defend itself.  According to information the Commission received, some of those bands were not set up on a volunteer basis and the creation of still more bands would lead to violations of the people's rights.


As for the right to life, the Commission has been informed that although the number of violations of this most basic of all human rights is said to be on the decline, the number of summary executions and forced disappearances is still very disturbing.  Indeed, according to informed sources, Peru still has the highest number of forced disappearances in the world.  The way this phenomenon develops in the immediate future will be a meaningful indicator of what effects the Government's measures have had in practice.


As for the rights to personal liberty and due process, which have a close bearing upon the right to humane treatment, the Commission has received reports to the effect that serious problems persist, having to do with the absence of formalities at the time of arrest, the inefficacy of the remedies of amparo and habeas corpus, and the slow pace of proceedings.  As a result, a large percentage of those now confined to penal institutions have never actually been convicted of a crime.  On this point, the Commission hopes that the directive that allows prosecutors to enter the military facilities to which persons are taken at the time of their arrest will bring about a significant improvement in the problems that have figured so prominently in the human rights picture in Peru.  As the Commission suggested, that measure should be coupled with others calculated to reinforce the independence and effectiveness of the Judiciary and with efforts to give public prosecutors and judges the means they must have if they are to perform their functions properly, to overcome the serious crisis that was particularly apparent in the country's interior.  The Commission was also told that there is a veritable public outcry to have the National Police again made the guardians of the rights of the citizenry.  The Government is already working on this.


The Inter-American Commission saw the difficult circumstances in which the prison population serves its sentence.  It was pleased that the highest ranking prison officials are committed to improving conditions in the prisons.  The Commission was also told of the measures recently adopted in connection with the prisons in downtown Lima, especially the declaration of the state of emergency in those prisons, with the result that they came under the authority of the Political-Military Commander.  Considering Peru's recent experience, this could pose serious risks.  It also listened closely to the scenarios suggested in connection with the eventual effects of the information recently published by the news media reporting uprisings of conflicts that never occurred.  The Commission has duly noted the commitment voiced by the ranking authorities of the prison system to guarantee the basic rights of the prison population, in the climate of order and respect that every prison system has the duty to guarantee.  The Commission hopes that the right to self defense and the activities performed by attorneys to that end will be fully guaranteed.


Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ends its visit, which will be followed by others in the near future.  At this time, it would like to express its special thanks to those people and institutions who gave of their time to present the problems in the area of human rights.  It would also like to express its appreciation to the Government of Peru for the many courtesies it provided to enable the Commission to conduct its activities.  The Commission is convinced that its activities will help strengthen democracy in Peru which, as has been said so many times before, is the system that best guarantees the exercise of human rights.

Lima, October 31, 1991



No. 8/91



On November 21, 1991, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and considered with profound concern reports according to which the human rights situation in Haiti has been deteriorating since the coup d'etat of September 19, 1991, and that more than 1,500 human lives have been lost to date.


The Commission has also been informed of the repression being meted out by the facto authorities to some segments of the Haitian population, particularly to those in favor of legitime President Jean Bertrand Aristide.  It is further known that every protest or expression of dissent against the present authorities has been repressed with large casualties in dead and wounded.


The complaints lodged with this Commission relate many cases of arbitrary detention, maltreatment, torture and harassment committed by members of the Armed Forces and the Police against the mass media consisting in the destruction of transmitter equipment and in death threats and the killing of reporters.  The Commission is also profoundly distressed by the discovery on November 12 of two burial pits in which 60 corpses of men, women and children were found.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is firmly resolved to travel to Haiti to investigate without restraints, on the ground the serious situations reported, to interview persons who wish to speak without fear of reprisals to those persons, and to travel to the interior of the country, where according to information received harsh violations of human rights are taken place.  The Commission will send out an exploratory mission for this purpose as soon as the minimum necessary operating conditions are present.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on all nongovernmental rights organizations, especially those operating in Haiti, on the families of the victims, and on all those whose individual rights have been violated in any way because of this political crisis to present their complaints so that it may begin to act on them and responsibilities may be assigned once the legitimate Government of Haiti has been reinstated.


The Commission wishes to note that no prevailing political situation in any State Party can suspend the force and effect of the American Convention on Human Rights.  Consequently, the Commission stresses that those who exercise power in a State, if only de facto, are obliged to respect the individual rights recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is hopeful that the efforts of the OAS Civilian Mission to generate political negotiations that can avert a violent confrontation may bear fruit as quickly as possible.


Finally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on the de facto authorities in Haiti, and particularly on the Armed Forces, to desist from repression and systematic violations of human rights, the victims of which are the noble Haitian people, and to restore as soon as possible to full operation the democratic institutions provided for in the Constitution in a setting of respect for the rights and guarantees recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.




Washington, D.C., November 21, 1991



No. 1/92


Today, the new officers of the Commission were elected.  Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli was elected Chairman by a unanimous vote.


Dr. Bruni Celli is a distinguished attorney and Venezuelan lawmaker, and has served as his country's Ambassador to a number of specialized agencies of the United Nations in Geneva.  He has been Director General of Venezuela's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is presently a Deputy in Venezuela's National Congress.  Dr. Bruni Celli is a university professor and has published a number of books and articles on political and social issues.  He has been a member of the IACHR since 1986.


Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano was elected Vice Chairman.  Dr. Luján Fappiano is a distinguished Argentine jurist and university professor.  He has practiced in the Federal Capital and in the Provinces of Buenos Aires and Formosa.  Dr. Fappiano has participated in a number of congresses and seminars on procedural law in the Argentine Republic and has served on committees drafting laws on such topics as minors, labor procedure and on officers of the court and magistrates.  Dr. Fappiano has also been a consultant on various bills of amendment.  He is the author of a number of books and articles on various issues in Argentine law and international cooperation.


Dr. Michael Reisman was elected Vice Chairman.  Dr. Reisman is an eminent United States jurist specializing in international law.  He has participated in a number of missions, and in 1987 was a member of the Independent Counsel on International Human Rights, Peshawar, Pakistan, and of the OAS Observation Team that witnessed the elections in Suriname that same year.  Dr. Reisman has extensive experience in his profession and has served as a consultant.  He has written a number of books, analyses and studies on the question of human rights at the international level.  Dr. Reisman has been a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 1990.  He is presently a professor at Yale Law School.



Washington, D.C., February 3, 1992




No. 2/92



The 81st session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights closed on February 14, 1992.  At this session, the Commission elected its new officers:  Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli as Chairman; Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano and Dr. Michael Reisman as First and Second Vice Chairmen, respectively.  The other members of the Commission are Ambassador Oliver Jackman, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Dr. Patrick Robinson, and Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía.


During the course of its deliberations, the Commission discussed and approved its Annual Report, which will be presented to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States at its next regular session.


In response to an invitation from the Colombian Government, the Commission decided to make an on-site visit to that country during the first week in May.


The Commission took note of the agreements reached, with United Nations mediation, between the Government and insurgent groups in El Salvador and decided to announce how very gratified it was that these agreements had been concluded.  The peace agreements are an extraordinary achievement in terms of creating the conditions needed to safeguard the human rights and freedoms of the Salvadoran people.  The Commission hopes that this new situation will foster new and close cooperation between the Salvadoran Government and the IACHR in furtherance of the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which El Salvador is a State Party.


The IACHR authorized its Chairman to reiterate to the Government of Guatemala its request for permission to conduct an on-site visit between April 27 and May 1 of this year, to observe the human rights situation in that country.  The Commission also decided to request the Government of Guatemala to take precautionary measures to safeguard the security and physical safety of 12 persons, members of the Runujel Junam Ethnic Communities Council (CERJ), their relatives, and judicial authorities, plaintiffs and investigators in cases related to the assassination of members of human rights organizations in Chunimá.


The Commission received extensive information from the special mission--composed of two members of the Commission and staff of the Secretariat--that traveled to Haiti, December 4 through 7, 1991, on an exploratory visit.  It decided to continue to monitor the situation and to make another on-site visit as soon as possible, so as to inform the political organs of the grave situation of human rights in Haiti.


On this same subject, the Commission studied with concern the situation of the boat people, i.e., those Haitian citizens who are being returned to Haiti, particularly from the base at Guantanamo.  It asked its Chairman to address a letter to the Secretary of State of the United States asking that the return of Haitian citizens to their country be suspended on humanitarian grounds, so long as the danger and systematic human rights violations by now known to exist in that country persist.


The Commission authorized its Chairman to send a communication to the Government of Honduras expressing its concern and requesting prompt and full compliance with the judgment handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on August 17, 1990, in the Velásquez Rodríguez and Godínez Cruz cases.


In the course of the deliberations, it was decided to remit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the petition against the Government of Peru in connection with the events that began in the district of Cayara, Department of Ayacucho, on May 14, 1988.


The Commission accepted the Nicaraguan Government's invitation to conduct an on-site visit to that country in April, at which time it will have an opportunity to apprise itself of the overall human rights situation, especially the climate of uncertainty to which some sectors have been subjected, and the serious irregularities committed in violation of the right to property.  These issues pose serious obstacles for the Government, which it will have to overcome if it is to be able to guarantee the climate of freedom that the people of Nicaragua enjoy today.


In the case of Panama, the Commission focused on the problems of the Judiciary, especially the independence and the tenure of judges and the difficulties in ensuring that the accused enjoy judicial guarantees and their right to judicial protection.  It examined the case involving delays and difficulties in the trials of the civilians and military arrested on the occasion of the events of December 1989.  It repeated its request for special treatment, on humanitarian grounds, for an accused man who is suffering from a serious heart condition.


The Commission was pleased to note the elections held in Suriname on May 25 last, which resolved the serious political crisis created by the coup d'etat of December 1990.  It is, however, disturbing that so many cases denouncing individual human rights violations have not been settled, especially the cases involving the Maroons and the Amerindians.  The Commission is pleased with reports that a constitutional amendment currently underway will strengthen civilian power and prevent any future military take-over such as the one that disrupted the democratic process in Suriname in 1990.


The Commission examined the report presented to it in connection with the mass deportations of Haitians by the Government of the Dominican Republic.  It decided to include that report as a special chapter in its Annual Report to the General Assembly.


The urgent need for progress in the direction of democratization and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba means that the Government must announce and implement a policy of political liberalization.  Once again, the Commission is ready, with the help of the inter-American community, to help create those conditions so that the Cuban people, too, might have a democratic system of government and full enjoyment of human rights, without incurring the high cost of violence.  The Commission again calls upon the Cuban Government to allow a free and open exchange of opinions and full restoration of the rule of law.


In the course of its deliberations, the Commission held hearings where it received the legal representatives of the petitioners in a number of Argentine cases and the representatives of the Argentine Government.  The Commission noted that those cases had been favorably resolved with enactment of Law 24,043, of December 23, 1991, which granted benefits to persons who had been arrested on orders from the Executive Branch during the military regime that took over when the constitutional government was toppled in 1976.  At that hearing, the Government turned over to the Commission all the documents wherein payment of the damages corresponding to the petitioners is authorized.  It is important to underscore the fact that this is the first friendly settlement reached during the Commission's existence with both parties consenting.


Because in many countries of the hemisphere minors are at grave risk and in consideration of the reports that the member states of the OAS have presented in this regard, the Commission decided to recommend to those states that they take the necessary measures on the domestic front and through international cooperation, to guarantee the observance of the rights of children in accordance with the principles set down in the American Convention on Human Rights and in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In related matters, the Commission also examined the economic, social and cultural rights, especially the rights of indigenous peoples, as part of its discussion and analysis of a draft international American instrument on the subject.  The Commission has already started an extensive inquiry with all the governments of the member countries and with indigenous organizations participating, based on a questionnaire that was approved during the course of this session.


The Commission expressed its concern over the most recent threats to the democratic governments of the hemisphere and condemned the bloody attempt coup d'etat in Venezuela.  It confirmed its position that democracy is the climate most conducive to full enjoyment of human rights and that one of the fundamental rights, from which all the others follow, is respect for the will of the people, which is achieved only when the military apparatus is effectively subordinated to civilian power.



Washington, D.C., February 14, 1991