REPORT ON THE
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
TO PHYSICAL LIBERTY
Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man
Every human being has the right to…liberty….
No person may be deprived of his liberty except in the cases and according to the procedures established by preexisting laws.
No person may be deprived of liberty for non-fulfillment of obligations of a purely civil character.
Every individual who has been deprived of his liberty has the right to have the legality of his detention ascertain without delay by a court, and the right to be tried without undue delay or otherwise, to be released. He also has the right to humane treatment during the time he is in custody /.
1. A number of communications addressed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, many or them presented during the on-site observation, denounced the violation of the right to physical liberty.
2. According to these communications, arbitrary detention is common in El Salvador, generally followed by a period of incommunicado confinement and disrespect for due process of law. The majority of the cases denounced involved priest or other individuals associated with the Catholic Church, directors a members of opposition political parties, university students and members and representatives of labor and campesino groups.
3. It is very difficult to determine how many people have been arbitrarily detained in El Salvador because, according to the claimants, many people are in the hands of the authorities, even though the latter do not acknowledge that the people in question are being held. When this happens, the family of the victim is, of course, worried and uncertain such things also make possible the commission of other crimes, particularly torture.
4. During its visit to El Salvador, the Special Committee received numerous denunciations alleging the arbitrary detention of leaders and members of political parties. These arrests, the claimants alleged, were acknowledged by the authorities only when the individuals were released. By way of example, some of these cases, which are being processed in accordance with established Regulations of the Commission, are cited:
“Rafael García, a professor and Secretary General of the PD of Quezaltepeque, was arrested by the Treasury Police at the Oriente bus station in San Salvador, during the early morning hours of February 23, 1977. He was not shown any arrest warrant nor was he told why he was being detained. They beat him and forced him into a vehicle and took him to the general barracks of the Treasury Police. Since his arrest was denied, no writ of habeas corpus was ever filed. He was released 30 days after payment of a fine and the detention was justified under the charges of ‘suspicious inebriate without documents.’
“Marco Méndez, a worker and militant member of the Christian Democratic party, was arrested in the vicinity of the City Hall of Delgado. He was beaten, wounded and taken to the cells of the Delgado Security Corps, on February 19, 1977, by the Municipal Police of Delgado. He was not shown an arrest. Continual visits were made to all the security corps, especially the Municipal Police. These actions yielded no results, no security corps claimed responsibility for his detention; the writ of habeas corpus was not processed. He was released six days later, under strong pressure from the PDC and members of this family. The reasons for his arrest were not given and are unknown to date.”
“Manuel Hernández, a worker and militant member of the Christian Democratic Party, was captured in the vicinity of the Delgado City Hall, minutes before being sworn in as a member of the electoral Committee of that city, on the afternoon of February 19, 1977. He was arrested by the Municipal Police, and members of the “Military patrol”, all of whom were in civilian dress; they were accompanied by the Director of the Municipal Police, who hit him and injured him with a sharp weapon. He was taken to the cells of that security corps. A writ of habeas corpus was filed without success. All of the security corps denied his presence; the writ of habeas corpus was not processed. He was released 40 days later, in deplorable physical and psychological condition. The motive of his arrest is still unknown.”
“Joaquín Rodezno, a businessman and member of the National Council of the PDC, was arrested at his home after a search, no order was presented for either of these two actions nor was any reason given, by a group of armed men dressed in civilian clothing in Nueva San Salvador. This occurred in early March of 1977. Those responsible were members of the National Guard. No security corps acknowledged his capture or admitted that he was being held. The writ of habeas corpus was not processed. He was released three weeks later after paying a fine, charged as a suspicious inebriate without documents.”
“Roberto Lorenzo Campos, a worker and militant member of the Christian democratic Party, was captured in the city of Nueva San Salvador in March of 1977, by members of the National Police dressed in civilian clothing. No reason for the arrest was given nor was any arrest warrants shown. No security corps admitted to having arrested him or that he was in their jail. The writ of habeas corpus was not processed. He was released 15 days later after paying a fine; charged as a suspicious inebriate without documents, his physical and psychological condition was deplorable.”
“Rafael Osegueda, an insurance man and member of the national Council of the PDC, was captured in his home after a search, in the city of Santa Ana by a group of armed men dressed in civilian clothing. They forced him into a vehicle and took him to the general headquarters of the national Police. There he was beaten, blindfolded and handcuffed. This happened on Wednesday of Holy Week April 1977. They did not show either an arrest warrant or a search warrant, and did not give the reason for the arrest. The Supreme Court of Justice did not process the writ of habeas corpus. Osegueda was released 35 days later, in a deplorable physical and psychological condition. The charges were suspicious inebriate without papers, and he was forced to pay a fine prior to his release.”
“Ruben Ignacio Zamora Rivas, a university professor and member of the National executive Committee of the PDC, was captured in Colonia Vista Hermosa, San Salvador, at the entrance to the University on the night of April 22, 1977. No arrest warrant was shown and no reason for the arrest was given. The security corps responsible for his capture repeatedly denied that he was being held in their jails. The writ was not processed by the Supreme Court of Justice. He was released 33 days later, charged as a suspicious inebriate without papers, and his state of health was very poor. He was forced to leave the country three days after his release. He is now in exile in London.”
“Eduardo Benjamín Colindres S., a university professor and militant member of the Christian Democratic Party, was captured by the National Police in Colonia Vista Hermosa, San Salvador, at the entrance to the University, at approximately ten o’clock on the night of April 22, 1977. No arrest warrant was not shown, nor was the reason for the arrest given. The security corps that captured him denied that he was being held; the Supreme Court of Justice did not process the writ filed. He was released 33 days later after payment of a fine charged as a suspicious inebriate without papers.”
5. Other cases that illustrate the situation prevailing in El Salvador with regard to the physical liberty of persons were denounced to the Commission alleging that the Salvadoran authorities are holding individuals arbitrarily in secret places of the National Guard, the National Police and the Treasury Police.
6. These confinements in secret places are more serious than those in which the authorities admit that they are holding the individuals in custody. This is so because those held secretly, whom the claimants alleged are arrested as a rule in the presence of witnesses, become missing detainees, since even though, according to the denunciations, members of the family obtain information on the exact place where the individual is being held, the judges appointed by the courts to process the writs of habeas corpus do not carry out their assignments, since the prisoners are transferred to other centers of detention, outside the judges, jurisdiction, in order not to allow them access to the secret cells, or so that they may not know of their existence.
7. Transcribed below is the resolution on Case 2530, adopted by the Commission during this session. This resolution concerns the denunciations of arrest and disappearance of numerous persons whose initials were found by the Special committee that went to El Salvador on the doors of various secret cells located in the headquarters of the National Guard. / The resolution read as follows:
1. A Communication of July 15, 1976 denounced that the residence of Carlos Antonio MADRIZ, a young Salvadoran doctor, was attacked in an attempt to kidnap him. Dr. Madriz, who was wounded while defending himself, was carried away in a vehicle by the group of armed men who had broken into his home, located in the “Colonia Flor Blanca.” These events took place in the presence of his family.
2. In a cablegram of July 28, 1976, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this denunciation to the Government of El Salvador and requested the appropriate information.
3. In a note of August 10, 1976, the Government of El Salvador replied to the request for information in the following terms:
“This is in reference to the denunciation submitted to the Inter-American Commission on an alleged violation of the human rights of the Salvadorian physician, Dr. Carlos Antonio MADRIZ, which violation consisted in his having been abducted from his home.
“With regard to this matter, I wish to inform you that the alleged victim is not being detained by any of the country’s security forces. As you surely know, attacks have recently been made on security forces and police officers, and the delinquents have made off with military equipment, which they then use in criminal activities intended to deceive citizens and create a climate of terror and confusion.”
4. In a letter of September 6, 1976, the pertinent parts of this note were transmitted to the claimant, who was asked to present his observations.
5. The claimant, in a letter dated September 13, 1977, emphatically rejected the Government’s reply and repeated his denunciation in its entirety.
6. On September 26, 1977, the claimant was asked to supply additional information.
7. In a letter of October 5, 1977, the claimant submitted additional information on the case of Dr. MADRIZ, based on the testimony of Dr. Alfredo Castro Quezada, a Salvadoran physician, who was a detainee-missing person for five months. The communication stated the following:
OF DR. CARLOS ANTONIO MADRIZ”
“Seized on July 14, 1976, in his home in the city of San Salvador. Case registered with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights under Nos. 2089 and 2071.”
“In the case of Dr. Carlos A. Madriz, we are fortunately in a position to prove that his is in the jails of the Salvadorian National Guard. This contradicts information from the Salvadorian Government, which… informed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in Note 12168 of August 10, 1976, that Dr. Carlos Antonio Madriz is not detained by any of the country’s security forces.
“Irrefutable proof of the presence of Dr. Carlos A. Madriz in the jails of a Salvadorian repressive force up to August 14, 1977.
“We are able to prove the presence of Dr. Madriz in cells of the national Guard by means of the testimony of Dr. Alfredo Castro Quezada, a physician who was also abducted from March 9 to August 14 of this year, that is for a five-month period.
“Dr, Alfredo Castro Quezada is a Salvadorian physician, a graduate of the University of El Salvador, whom I know personally. He practiced his profession in the People’s Clinic (Consultorio Médico Popular), On March 9, 1977, he was seized at 7:00 p.m. one block from his office at the end of the day’s work.
“He was interrogated without being tortured and immediately after interrogation, he was blindfolded and chained to a bed in the crucifixion position for 81 days, during which time he was allowed to get up only for five minutes, at 7:00 p.m. to go to the bathroom.
“Imprisoned in these cells were:
DR. RICARDO ARRIETA
DR. CARLOS ANTONIO MADRIZ
“The families of Lil Ramírez, Sergio Vladimir Arriaza and Carlos A. Madrid and the Salvadorian public believed them to have been killed by the National Guard. All of them were kept nude in their cells, and their daily food consisted of four dry-corn tortillas, two in the morning and two at midday, with approximately 25 grams (dry weight) of beans, and, once a week, 5 grams of cheese. Dr. Castro Quezada was given two eggs in five months, and Carlos A. Madriz ate only one egg in 14 months.
“Dr. Castro Quezada was released in a deplorable state of health, with symptoms of severe malnutrition. Upon his release on August 14, 1977, he weighed 110 pounds whereas he entered prison weighing 160 pounds, this having lost 50 pounds. His blood measured 5 grams of plasma protein and 10.5 grams of hemoglobin per 100 ml. of plasma. His proteins were normal in a check a few days before his detention. He also showed significant symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, consisting of scurvy and bleeding gums.
“Dr. Carlos Quezada talked daily with Dr. Carlos Antonio Madriz because they were in contiguous cells. He can prove Dr. Madrid’ presence there as he knew him personally prior to detention and they talked about medical matters they had discussed previously. In addition, he saw Dr. Madriz directly on one or more occasions through cracks in the door.”
8. In a communication of October 17, 1977, the Commission acknowledged receipt of the additional information supplied by the claimant and requested that he provide information on the exhaustion of the internal legal remedies of the country.
The Claimant informed the Commission “that the local authorities that took cognizance of the case were all of the security forces of San Salvador; Criminal Court Districts 2 and 5, the Office of the District Attorney and the Supreme Court of Justice” and that no positive results were obtained.
The foregoing information of the CIDH was received during the observations “in loco” conducted by the Special Committee en El Salvador from January 9 through 18, 1978.
9. The claimant, on October 21, 1977, forwarded the statement of Dr. Castro Quezada, describing methods of producing physical and psychological exhaustion in the prisoners and the tortures to which they were subjected. He also included information on his detention and the place in which he was imprisoned for five months, during which time he observed the following cases:
CASE OF SERGIO VLADIMIR ARRIAZA:
“Age 21, student, resident of San Miguel.
“VLADIMIR ARRIAZA belonging to a Military Committee of the people’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo ERP) in early 1976. The Military Committees are at the bottom of the structure of that organization. Because of ideological differences, SERGIO had withdrawn from military activities about the time of his capture and shortly before he had even tried to enter the United States illegally, from which he had been deported. His capture took place in September 1976.
“He was placed from the outset in a cell measuring 5 x 3 feet, which he shared with another prisoner, although he was also placed in the ‘dark’ cell which measured 9 squared ft.
“The most serious facet to this case is that in the latter part of July 1977, Mr. Arriaza contracted a fever which continued through mid-august, the last date on which information is available.
“In addition to the fever, he had symptoms of diarrhea indicating possible enterocolitis. During that period, his weak physical condition deteriorated considerably to the point that, when he walked to the bathroom, only 20 feet away, he had to be helped by his cellmate.
“SERGIO was seized by members of the NATIONAL GUARD, dressed in civilian cloths. In taking him from his home, they said they were IMMIGRATION officers.
“Toward mid-August, SERGIO continued to be held, receiving some medication (a few tablets of tetracycline occasionally) at the discretion of the jailers.”
CASE OF JUAN JOSE YANES CARRANZA:
“Age 39, jeweler, native of Santa Ana, seized in June 1976 in a market in San Salvador.
“JUAN JOSE YANES, a member of ERP, was tortured in the early days of his capture with electric shocks and the notorious hood. He also was held without food or water for the first four days in a totally dark cell measuring 9 sq. ft. The only ventilation consisted of several 2-inch holes in the door of the cell. Later he was placed blindfolded in a 5 x 3-ft. cell, shackled hand and foot to a gas tank. The leg shackles were so tight that they produced wounds that later became infested with worms. This produced such deterioration in his condition that he had to be dragged by his jailers to the bathroom. This situation lasted 22 days when they decided to unchain him and take him to the infirmary because the guards could not stand the stench. During this initial period, JUAN JOSE was subjected to repeated interrogation, beaten almost constantly and urged to inform on other members of his organization.
“Thus far he has been subjected to the same treatment as the other prisoners.”
“CASE OF LIL MILAGRO RAMIREZ:
“Age 31, law school graduate, native of San Salvador, seized November 1976 in the city of Sonsonate, during a raid on a house of the National Resistance (RN), to which she belongs.
“On that date, the Salvadorian press reported that an unmarried women had died during the raid. Lil is an unmarried woman who left home six years ago to devote herself to revolutionary activities.
“During the early days of her detention, she was kept blindfolded, shackled hand and foot to a metal bed, completely nude. On three occasions she was interrogated under Pentothal (truth serum) in the presence of a physician. The hood was also applied to her.
“Later she was placed in the same cell that we described for the case of REINA ORELLANA, and was subjected to the regular treatment for NATIONAL GUARD prisoners.”
“CASE OF RICARDO ARRIETA SALAZAR:
“Age 48, physicist, native of San Salvador, arrested in the Ilopango Airport, San Salvador, in February of this year.
“Professor Arrieta Salazar left El Salvador when he was 8 years old, became a physicist in the United States, and taught in the U.S. and México. After the Cuban Revolution, he worked in the Universities of Santiago de Cuba and Havana. In February 1977 he made a trip to San Salvador in order to get to know members of his family and his native country.
“When his documents were examined, he was arrested by the Political Police and transferred to the National Guard. During the first days of detention, he was constantly interrogated about the alleged political intentions of his trip. He was beaten and kept blindfolded for a little over a month, shackled hand and foot to a metal bed. He was then placed in a 9-sq. ft. dark cell until the time of his alleged release on June 7, 1977.”
“RICARDO ARRIETA SALAZAR is over 6 ft. tall, so he was very uncomfortable in his small cell. In addition, he suffered from intestinal problems that cause frequent diarrhea, and he had to use had to use his cell as a place of defecation.”
OF DR. ALFREDO CASTRO QUEZADA:
“Age 42, physician and university professor, native of Santa Ana, seized on March 8, 1977, in the city of San Salvador.
“He was seized by approximately eight men armed with machine guns who intercepted his vehicle. He was taken to the National Guard where he was interrogated while dressed in underwear, blindfolded, and shackled hand foot. The basic accusation was that he had given medical care to guerrillas. During the first 81 days of his detention, he was kept in the above-described conditions and subjected to the same treatment as the other prisoners, which resulted in a considerable loss of weight (50 pounds). Later he was taken to a 5 x 3-ft. cell, where he was kept completely nude for a month and a half. Finally he was given underwear to wear until his release on August 17, 1977.
“On one occasion he was subjected to psychological torture, which consisted of simulating his early release (taking him to bathe, allowing him to sunbathe, and announcing his release).”
10. During its on-site observation, the Commission received the following complaint regarding the disappearance of Luis Bonilla:
“LUIS ALBERTO BONILLA CONTRERAS was arrested by agents in civilian clothes in San Salvador on December 20, 1976. He had gone there to arrange to enter the university. His family knows that he is in the General Barracks of the National Guard but the authorities deny his detention."
The pertinent parts of this complaint were transmitted to the Government of El Salvador on May 9, 1978. The Government acknowledged receipt of this communication on May 19, 1978 but has not as yet submitted the appropriate information.
11. The Special Committee discovered during its on-site observation the five cells, located in the General Barracks on the National Guard of San Salvador, in which these persons reportedly had been seen. The cells fit the descriptions the Commission had received from the claimants, and written on the doors were the name of Dr. CASTRO QUEZADA and the initials R.M.J., J.J.Y., A.G.M., L.B., S.V.L.A., which correspond to Rodolfo Mariano Jiménez, Juan José Yañez, Ana Guadalupe Martínez, Luis Bonilla and Sergio Vladimir Arriaza, as had been reported to the Commission.
12. The Chairman of the Commission cable the Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador requesting the President of that country, through the Foreign Minister, to guarantee the personal security of Dr. Castro Quezada.
The President of the Republic agreed to that request.
13. At its 43rd session, held in Caracas, Venezuela, from January 26 to February 4, 1978, the Commission decided, because of the seriousness of the matter, to take steps with Salvadorian authorities that were considered essential to guaranteeing the personal-security of the persons mentioned in this case. These steps were not successful.
14. At its 44th session, the Commission decided, in view of the fact that more than three months had passed without receiving any response from the Salvadorian authorities, to join the cases of Dr. Carlos A. Madriz (2071) and Luis Bonilla (2810) to case 2530 and to request the Government of El Salvador to reply before October 25, the starting date of its next session.
In compliance with this decision, the Chairman of the Commission sent a note dated July 17, 1978 to the Government of El Salvador. On November 7, the Government replied as follows:
“With reference to case 2530, our Government regrettably is not in a position to give any specific information on the case, as the event happened prior to the present Government as can be seen from the complaint or complaints transmitted. As stated, our Government to the extent humanly possible has placed under the Rule of Law all situations related to Human Rights. In some circumstances or cases, as can be understood, it is difficult and sometimes practically impossible to obtain exact information on a specific act, who were the principals accomplices given the present circumstances, because nobody can be made to do the impossible.”
1. The foregoing background information shows that Sergio V. Arriaza, Juan José Yañez, Lil Milagro Ramírez, Ricardo Arrieta, Carlos Antonio Madriz and Luis Bonilla were detained and tortured by agents of the Government of El Salvador and have disappeared and there are fears for their personal security.
2. During the on-site observation in El Salvador of the Special Commission, the existence was verified of a group of cells in which, according to claimants, several persons were detained in secret and tortured;
3. The name of Castro Quezada and several initials of the individuals mentioned above were inscribed on the doors of the cells, which fully confirms the information the Commission had received in that regard;
4. The Commission decided at its 44th session, in view of the fact that over three months had elapsed without its receiving any reply form the Salvadorian authorities, to set the opening of its next session as deadline for a reply, and
5. To date, the Government of El Salvador has not supplied pertinent information on the case,
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
1. To declare that the Commission has in its possession unequivocal proof that Sergio V. Arriaza, Juan José Yañez, Lil Milagro Ramírez, Ricardo Arrieta, Carlos Antonio Madriz and Luis Bonilla were detained and tortured by agents of the Government of El Salvador and there is fear their personal security.
2. To point out to the government of El Salvador that such acts constitute very severe violations of the right to personal security (Art. I), the right to a fair trial (Art. XVIII); the right of protection against arbitrary arrest (Art. XXV) And the right to due process of law (Art. XXVI) Of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
3. To recommend that the Government of El Salvador immediately free the above-mentioned persons.
4. To recommend that the Government of El Salvador: a) punish under Salvadorian law, those responsible for the actions denounced and b) inform the Commission on the action taken within a maximum of 30 days.
5. To communicate this Resolution to the Republic of El Salvador and to the claimants.
6. To include this Resolution in the Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (Art. 9 (bis), c, iii of the Statute).
8. These unjustified and prolonged detentions, which have not been acknowledged by the Government of El Salvador, are not only a serious violation of the right to the physical liberty of individuals, of the right to a fair trial, of the right to protection against arbitrary arrest, and of the right to due process of the law, buy may also provoke other crimes, particularly torture and assaults.
9. It is important to emphasize the danger facing a large number of individuals detained by the authorities, whose arrest has been denied subsequently and who, technically, could be classified as missing persons. These cases include the following individuals:
10. Subsequent to its visit to El Salvador, the Commission received a publication from the Archdiocese of San Salvador, dated June 30, 1978, which contains a list of 99 individuals who, according to the Archdiocese, have disappeared after having been arrested by some security corps of El Salvador.
This publication defines missing persons as follows:
“We use this category for those people who, having been captured by some security corps, have not been brought before any court nor released, which gives good reason to suspect that they are still being held or have been murdered arbitrarily by the security corps. The security corps, in turn, systematically denies that they have taken the individuals in question, despite the fact that some of them had been seen in the jail. The judicial remedy of habeas corpus has not been effective in these cases.
11. Transcribed below is the list in its entirety:
1. Eduardo Morales Torres
2. Jorge Adalberto Pérez Gonzalez
3. Adan Portillo
4. Teresa de Jesús Vásquez Ramírez
5. Julián Flores Mejía
6. José Remberto Sosa Hernández
José Domingo Aldana
Sonia Estela Ramírez
Manuel de Jesús
Juan José Yañez
Julián López Pablo
Danilo Balmore Vásquez
Rafael Vásquez Ramírez
Manuel Alberto Rivera
Lil Milagro Ramírez
Manuel de Jesús
Rodríguez (known by the name of
Julio Ayala Mejía
Víctor Manuel Rivas
Ramón Guardia Mena
Miguel Angel Ordoñez
Reinaldo Sosa Cañaz
José Eduardo Alas
José Gonzalo Menjívar
Santos Aguilar Aragón
Domingo de Jesús
Noe Nunfio Sanchez
Reynaldo Cruz Menjívar
Julio César Mendoza
José Manuel Beltrán
José Dolores Aleman
Lino Cruz Campos
Margarito de Jesús Vásquez
Hernández de Blanco
Rosa María Díaz
American convention on Human Rights
Every person has the right to personal liberty and security.
No one shall be deprived of his physical liberty except for the
reasons and under the conditions established beforehand by the constitution
of the State Party concerned or by a law established pursuant thereto.
No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or imprisonment.
Anyone who is detained shall be informed of the reasons for his
detention and shall be promptly notified of the charge or charges against
Any person detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other
officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled
to trial within a reasonable time or to be released without prejudice to the
continuation of the proceedings. His
release may be subject to guarantees to assure his appearance for trial.
Anyone who is deprived of this liberty shall be entitled to recourse
to a competent court, in order that the court may decide without delay on
the lawfulness of his arrest or detention and order his release if the
arrest or dentition is unlawful. In
states parties whose laws provide that anyone who beliefs himself to be
threatened with deprivation of his liberty is entitled to recourse to a
competent court in order that Ir. may decide on the lawfulness of such
threat, this remedy may not be restricted or abolished.
The interested party or another person in his behalf is entitled to
seek these remedies.
No one shall be detained for debt.
This principle shall not limit the orders of a competent judicial
authority issued for nonfulfillment of duties of support.
Chapter III, page 65.