In March 1982, the Commission held its 55th session,
and considered the invitation extended by the Government of Nicaragua to
visit the Atlantic coast of the country, and also considered the
complaints that it had received with respect to alleged violations of
the human rights of the Miskitos.
The Commission decided to accept the invitation extended by the
Government, in the terms of a cable sent by the Chairman of the IACHR,
Professor Tom J. Farer, to his Excellency, Mr. Miguel D’Escoto
Brockmann, Minister of Foreign Affairs, which is cited below:
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at its 55th session
has taken note of the invitation of the Government of National
Reconstruction for this Commission to carry out and on-site
investigation of the situation of the new settlements of ethnic
minorities on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua.
Commission accepts this invitation in the understanding that pursuant to
its jurisdiction it may carry out the activities that it deems necessary
and advisable to clarify the facts related to the situation of the
ethnic minorities in the Atlantic zone of Nicaragua and to contribute to
the observance of the Human Rights of these minorities. The Commission
has requested me to contact officials of your Excellency’s
distinguished Government in Washington in order to reach agreement with
them as to the details of the timing and duration for this visit, the
schedule of activities that the Commission will carry out in the various
places that it will visit and the facilities that should be provided by
the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure the success of this mission. In
addition to expressing the gratitude of the Commission to you for this
invitation; I reiterate the assurances of my highest esteem and
At the same time, the IACHR authorized its Chairman, in
consultation with the other members, to appoint a Special Commission
which would visit Nicaragua
and instructed the Executive Secretary to obtain authorization from the
government of Honduras to visit the camp of Nicaraguan Miskito refugees
located in the area of Mocoron, Honduras.
In view of the special importance of this case, the Commission
devoted several sessions to its study, and in accordance with its
Statute, held hearings and received testimony from individuals who had
requested them. In addition, it received the representatives of the
Government of Nicaragua who had asked to be heard by the Commission.
who gave testimony to the Commission were Mr. Steadman Fagoth Muller,
Reverend Graham J. Rights and Mr. Armstrong Wiggins.
Mr. Steadman Fagoth, former Representative of Misurasata on the
Council of State, repeated in a written presentation the charges that he
had put forward on other occasions. According to Mr. Fagoth, a large
part of the Indian population of the east coast of Nicaragua had been
massacred, which constituted genocide< the Miskitos who had not fled
to Honduras had been interned in concentration camps, after their
property had been burned or otherwise destroyed; and the compulsory
relocation to these camps had led to the deaths of those who were unable
to survive the harsh conditions of the relocation.
Reverend Graham J. Rights, Executive Director of the Moravian
Church of the United States of America, in his testimony referred to the
religious work carried out by Moravian pastors in that region of
Nicaragua and how they had been affected by the conflict. He
emphatically denied that the Moravian pastors had carried out
counterrevolutionary activities, and stated that if in some cases some
kind of involvement had been proven, those pastors had been suspended
from their official duties. Finally, Reverend Rights requested the
Commission to investigate recent events and to act as a mediator between
the Government of Nicaragua and the Miskito Indians in seeking a
satisfactory solution to this matter.
Mr. Armstrong Wiggins, who had coordinated the regional Misurasat
leadership in the Atlantic region in 1980 and the early months of 1981,
submitted testimony on his own behalf and on behalf of the Us Indian Law
below are parts of Mr. Wiggins testimony:
there has been difficulty in obtaining factual information from that
area, we have now received much reliable information which leads us to
conclude that the Indians of the east coast are presently suffering a
gross violation of their most basic human rights.
of Indians have been forcibly relocated by the Sandinista Government and
are now interned in concentration camps far from their home villages.
Many have been killed and injured. An unknown number have been
imprisoned. Many Indian villages have been burned. Indian livestock and
some Indian religious leaders have been imprisoned and others have been
forced to leave the country. There are reports of forced labor by those
held in the camps. The frontier area from which the Indians have been
removed has been completely militarized, and almost all other Indian
villages have been place under direct control by military authorities.
the view of Mr. Wiggins, the relocation of the Indians and the
destruction of their property cannot be justified by the Nicaraguan
Government’s need to control counterrevolutionary activities.
to this line of reasoning, counterrevolutionaries operating out of
Honduras had successfully infiltrated many Indian communities on the
Nicaraguan side of the border and had created a situation where a
“fifth column” of counterrevolutionary Indians was preparing to join
with an invading army from Honduras. To remove this threat to national
security, all the Indians were removed from the area and a military zone
argument would admit that the relocation of Indians and the destruction
of Indian property were at least in part, punitive. Moreover, it
suggests that the entire civilian population in the area is being
punished for what might at most be the crimes of only a few. This
situation is much like the situation which the United States Government
created during World War II when it relocated and interned in
concentration camps the entire Japanese-American community as an alien,
untrustworthy population. It is now generally agreed that the decision
to relocate and intern the Japanese I a shameful chapter in United
States history, and that such treatment of a racial group would today be
recognized as a violation of fundamental rights.
we call on all concerned to investigate closely why there has been
discontent within the Indian communities, and why the central government
now views them as a dangerous, alien presence which must be confined and
controlled. Are we to accept the timeworn cliché that this is merely a
situation where outside agitators are stirring up the happy natives? We
firmly believe that there will be no harmony between the Indians and the
Sandinista Revolutionary Government unless and until there is a good
faith agreement which respects the Indian’s rights to
self-determination and to their property and the resources of their
territories. By taking the opposite approach, by forcibly imposing its
will and denying fundamental Indian rights, the Sandinista Government
has dramatically widened the gulf between itself and the Indians of
Nicaragua and has thereby helped to undermine its own true security.
Mr. Wiggins concluded by stating that in his opinion the
government of Nicaragua had violated articles 1, 6, 7, 11, 15, 16, 21,
and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights, detailing the role of
the Government in the violation of those rights.
Also in the course of its 55th session, the Commission
received a delegation of the Government of Nicaragua which described the
situation of the new settlements given to the Miskito Indians in the
Atlantic region of the country. The delegation was composed of Dr.
Leonte Herdocia, Chairman of the national commission for the Promotion
and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua; Casimiro Sotelo,
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS; Commander
Humberto Campbell, Vice Minister for Atlantic Coast Affairs; Mr. Saul
Arana, Ambassador, Alternative Representative to the OAS; Mr. Sixto
Ulloa, Coordinator of the Evangelical Committee for Assistance to the
Poor (CEPAD) and Reverend John Wilson, bishop of the Moravian Church.
In its statement, the delegation ratified the terms of the
Government’s invitation to the Commission to visit the new settlements
to which the Miskitos who had lived on the banks of the Coco River had
been resettled. In addition, each member of the delegation briefly
presented the reasons which, in the opinion of the Government of
Nicaragua, justified the relocation of that population, and gave details
on the conditions and characteristics of the settlements. In particular,
the delegation referred to the relocation of the communities and how the
evacuation was carried out, and pointed out that it took place without a
resistance from the Miskito tribes and without a single casualty in the
civilian population. They also stated that pregnant women, children and
the elderly were transported by helicopter or trucks, and that the rest
of the population that traveled on foot was given the necessary food and
delegation explicitly acknowledged that Government agents proceeded to
burn down houses, the personal belongings, furniture and other
possessions of these families, and slaughtered their animals and set
fire to their churches and crop fields, in order to leave no shelter or
food for the armed insurgent groups that operate in the zone.
Leonte Herdocia stated that it was quite possible that in the course of
the evacuation some excesses had been committed by the authorities
charged with carrying it out, but that they had been exaggerated by the
international campaign to denigrate the Government of Nicaragua.
respect to the scope of the invitation extended to the Commission to
carry out an in loco visit, one of the members of the IACHR
inquired if that visit would have to be limited to the zone where the
new settlements were located, or if the places inhabited by the Miskitos
prior to their relocation could also be visited. In reply, the delegates
of the Government of Nicaragua considered that it was practically
impossible to visit the places from which the Miskitos had been removed
since it is a high security military zone and they would therefore have
to consult with the government, which would give the definitive reply.
At its 55th session, the Commission also studied other
information and testimony that had been submitted to it in writing.
After its 55th session, the Commission continued to
receive complaints and information on this matter. Among these, the
Commission specifically wishes to refer to the presentation made by the
Coordinator-General of Misurasata, Mr. Brooklyn Rivera.
In his written statement of April 8, 1982, Mr. Rivera explained
the origins of the dispute of the Indian populations of the Atlantic
coast with the Government of Nicaragua, and proposed a negotiated
settlement that would allow the Indians use of their lands and autonomy
within the state of Nicaragua. Some paragraphs of his document are cited
principal reason for the Indian rights crisis in Nicaragua is the
antagonism created by the Sandinista government policy which denies the
ethnic identity of our Indian peoples. It follows that the recognition
of Indian rights to their territory and their autonomy is also denied.
The government’s policy requires assimilation of Indians to the
philosophy and culture of those who control the government in Managua,
thus converting us into peasants and mestizos without definition and
basic conflict with Indian rights has been revealed since the triumph of
the revolution in 1979. Immediately after the revolution the revolution
the Indian leadership has great faith in the Sandinista government and
in the process of the revolution. We tried to walk as a people and as an
organization with the current of the revolution and not against it.
Later we learned that the Sandinista leaders never had good intentions
towards our Indian peoples. Despite our efforts to work together as
allies of the revolution, the Sandinista government consistently tried
to impose its own will on MISURASATA and on the Indian peoples in
general. We learned through experience that the government had no
respect for our Indian customs and values, our traditional way of life
and ancient rights.
MISURASATA leaders, including myself, stayed in Nicaragua after our
release from prison and interrogation. We and all Indian leaders other
than Steadman Fagoth had been cleared of all allegations of Somocista
and counterrevolutionary activities. Our hope was to find a peaceful
solution to the growing crisis through negotiations with the Sandinista
government. We were worried that Somocista or other counterrevolutionary
forces would try to use our people for their own ends and we believed
that an agreement could be negotiated which would protect the rights of
our Indian peoples and the security of the Nicaraguan government.
had talks with the Sandinista government and we had the government’s
agreement to go to Honduras and meet with those Indian leaders who had
fled. It became very clear to us at that meeting that there was a great
lack of trust among many of our people in Honduras. The past dishonesty
of the Sandinista government, the many arrest of our people and the
general repression in our Indian communities by military authorities had
generated fear and suspicion among Indian peoples that even we might be
agents for the Sandinista government. Upon our return to Managua, the
Sandinista government openly turned against us and we were accused of
simply fomenting counterrevolution. We were told that we had no choice
but to join the Sandinista government, that we could not be “in the
middle”, that we were either for the revolutionary government or
against it. We were subjected to intimidation, and some of our group
were even threatened at gunpoint. I personally was told that if I did
not take an administrative position with the Sandinista government and
work to carry out the government’s policies, that the government would
not be responsible for my life.
events made clear that denial of true Indian leadership and Indian
self-determination was absolute. At the same time the denial of cultural
rights had become very obvious as the literacy campaign was halted in
our communities, and as the government began its practice of teaching
our Indian children in Spanish rather than their native languages. Here
again we saw the dishonesty of a government which preached bilingual
education but which practiced instruction designed to assimilate our
peoples to another way of life.
we made our last efforts to negotiate with the Sandinista government in
June, July and August 1981, it also became clear that the government has
decides to deny us our basic Indian land rights, the most important
matter in the crisis. We told the government in June that a solution to
the dispute over Indian land rights would be the key to resolving the
Indian crisis. The government agreed that we would present a written
statement of our position in July, but while we were in the process of
preparing that documents the government decreed it Agrarian Reform Law
which announced that the government would “give” to Indian people
defined parcels or sections of land which each village would hold under
an “agrarian title”. This decree denied Indian ownership of all the
lands of the Indian territory of the east coast of Nicaragua and set in
motion a process which would promote confrontations between individual
Indian communities. Once again Indian rights had been denied in a policy
dictated by the government in Managua.
after the Agrarian Reform Law decree, we presented our own document
which contained three principal points:
Indian land rights in Indian Territory must be recognized as a
whole and not as parcels or sections granted by the government.
Indians must be guaranteed their right to the natural resources
of their territory.
The Indian right to self-determination or autonomy within their
territory must be recognized.
three points were flatly rejected by the Sandinista government at a
meeting in the first week of August. Our demands were criticized as
counterrevolutionary demands of Steadman Fagoth and as separatism. We
were unable persuade the government that these demands are not those of
any individual but of all Indians of the Americas and that the autonomy
or self-determination which we sought did not mean separatism or
little more than two yeas time the relationship of Indians to the
Sandinista government deteriorated from harmony to extreme crisis. Today
all the legitimate Nicaraguan Indian leadership is either in exile or
underground. The unprecedented destruction of our communities and the
undeniable assault on our peoples and their way of life has led to
despair and anger. Some of our people have already engaged in
confrontations with Sandinista forces, and many others are prepared and
willing to flight for their fundamental rights.
a fight would, of course, compound the suffering and the tragedy already
experienced. It must be avoided if at all possible.
hope and my sincere intention is to convince all interested people of
the gravity of the crisis and of the urgent need for sincere
negotiations between our Indian leadership and the Sandinista
government. The participation support and encouragement of international
human rights organizations and others will be necessary to make such
talks a reality and to guarantee the implementation of the agreement
which we will seek. We firmly believe that the basis for a comprehensive
solution of the problems and struggle necessarily should begin with an
honest compromise policy which includes FSLN recognition of the
existence of Indian nations and their land base, aboriginal rights and
the right to an Indian national personality. We continue to believe that
we can arrive at an agreement which will protect the basic Indian rights
to land and self-determination. Such an agreement would bring an end to
the Indian crisis in Nicaragua, and just as important would serve as a
model for other Indian peoples throughout the Americas who have been
closely watching our struggle.
In accordance with the scheduled program, a special Commission of
the IACHR began the planned in loco visit to Nicaragua on May 1,
1982. The members of that Special Commission were Mr. Tom J. Farer,
Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Cesar
Sepulveda and Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro. The Special Commission
was accompanied by Drs. Christina Cerna and Manuel Velasco Clark,
attorneys of the Executive Secretariat, and Messrs. Juan Carlos Goldie
and Marcelo Montecino, the former as administrative support staff and
the second as the interpreter for Mr. Farer.
During the course of its stay in Nicaragua, the Special
Commission held interviews with the members of the Junta of the
Government of National Reconstruction, with the Minister of the
Interior, with members of the Supreme Court of Justice and the
Bluefields Court of Appeals, with the National Commission for the
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, with authorities of Nicaraguan
Institute for the Atlantic Coast (INICA), and with other civilian and
military, national and departmental authorities, as well as with the
head of the Seventh Military Region of the Atlantic coast.
The Commission also met with representatives of various
religious, humanitarian and professional institutions of the country,
from which it received important testimony with respect to the problems
involved in the case considered in this report.
On Monday, May 3, 1982 at 2:00p.m., the Commission visited the
“Héroes y Mártires de Nueva Guinea” penitentiary, formerly the
Zona Franca prison, and following a tour of the installations where
approximately 125 Miskitos of both sexes were in detention, proceeded to
select a large group of prisoners to speak with them, in private. For
assistance the Commission contracted the services of a Miskito
On Tuesday, May 4, 1982 at 7:00 a.m., the Commission traveled in
a Nicaraguan Air Force plane to the mining center of Bonanza, and from
there to Rosita, accompanied by Drs. Julio Cesar Aviles and Orlando
Matus del Carmen, of the National Commission for the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights, Father Edgard Parrales, Ambassador of
Nicaragua to the OAS, Moravian Bishop John Wilson, the legal adviser of
the Ministry of the Interior, Dr. Melvin Wallace, and 2 delegates from
CEPAD and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively.
In Rosita, Mr. Julio Rocha, Vice Minister of the Nicaraguan
Institute for the Atlantic coast, explained to the Special Commission
the scope of the “Tasba Pri” project and how the settlements in
Wasminona, Truslaya, Sahsa, Columbus and Sumubila had been planned and
organized and how they currently operate.
Continuing its tour by land from Rosita, in the Central Zone of
Nicaraguan territory, to Puerto Cabezas on the Atlantic coast, the
Commission visited the new settlements of Sahsa and Sumubila. On that
occasion, it spoke with relocated Miskitos in order to hear directly
from them their own versions of the events, the reason for the
relocation and how it had been carried out; the Subcommission also
sought to inform itself as to the reaction of the Miskitos population to
the resettlement and their current circumstance, and on the conditions
pursuant to which they carry out their activities.
After spending the night in Puerto Cabezas, the Special
Commission visited the Chief of the Seventh Military Region of that
area, commander Manuel Calderon –Comandante Rufo- and later visited
the Detention Center of that military region where 47 Miskitos were
detained, in order to obtain information on the conditions of their
detention, their state of mind, and to speak with them directly about
the events that took place on the banks of the Coco River. Following
other scheduled interviews, the Commission traveled by air to
At noon on Wednesday, May 5, 1982, the Special Commission arrived
in the city of Bluefields, and interviewed members of the Court of
Appeals in order to obtain information on developments in the
proceedings against the Miskitos whose cases were pending before that
court at the time of this visit.
The Special Commission also spoke with the defense attorneys for
the accused, and discovered that none of them has met with clients or
even spoken with them.
Finally, while still in Bluefields, the Special Commission held
private talks with Monsignor Salvador Schlaefer, Apostolic Vicar of
Bluefields and co-author of the message issued on February 18, 1982 by
the Conference of Bishops of Nicaragua.
In Managua, on May 6, 1982 the Commission took leave of the Junta
of the Government of National Reconstruction, represented by its member,
Dr. Rafael Cordoba Rivas, to whom the Commission submitted a document
containing the preliminary recommendations that the Commission
considered should be implemented immediately
and thus concluded its in loco visit. The Commission subsequently
gave a press conference in which it expressed it thanks to the official
authorities, the press, and the various representative institutions of
the Nicaraguan community and to the people of Nicaragua for the
facilities and hospitality offered to it.
On May 7, 1982 at 6:45a.m., a Special Subcommission left
Nicaragua for the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in order to continue
its investigation. The Subcommission consisted of Dr. Luis Demetrio
Tinoco Castro, who was assisted by Dr. Christina Cerna, Dr. Manuel
Velasco Clark and Mr. Carlos Goldie.
After arriving in Tegucigalpa, the Subcommission, accompanied by
the general counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Ernesto Paz, was taken
immediately in a Honduran Air Force plane to Puerto Lempira, capital of
the Gracias a Dios Department, the zone corresponding to the Honduran
It was received by the Military Commander of that region, major Leonel
Luque, who personally drove the members of the Subcommission to Mocoron.
The Subcommission toured the refugee camp of Mocoron, which at
that time sheltered 8,154 Miskitos, and held various interviews with the
Nicaraguan Miskitos, whom it visited in their homes, churches and
communal meeting centers.
The Subcommission also held a two hour meeting with a group of
individuals representative of the Miskito community in the communal
meeting room of the camp, where it received testimony on the events that
took place on the banks of the Coco River. In addition, the
Subcommission had an opportunity to question several Indians on the
possibilities of reuniting the Miskito family and on their interest in
returning to Nicaragua.
Despite the enormous population congregated in this refugee camp,
the Subcommittee noted that it had no wire fences or control posts for
the entry or exit of the Nicaraguan Miskitos, and that they had total
freedom of movement; it also noted that the military control personnel
assigned to maintain order among the refugees consisted of only 7
The Subcommission stayed in Mocoron until after 10p.m. to
continue its personal interviews with members of the Miskito Community
and the officials of the Christian Churches working in that area. It
also met with staff members of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees and with personnel from the World Relief
Services that work in that camp.
On Saturday May 8, 1982, the Subcommission returned to
Tegucigalpa and held an interview with the Director of the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guy Prim. The
Subcommission also met with Mr. Tom Hawk, Director of World Relief
Services in Honduras. Matters related to the situation of the Nicaraguan
Miskito refugees in the Mocoron camp and possible solutions were
discussed at both meetings.
On Sunday, May 9, 1982, the Subcommission concluded its
activities in the Republic of Honduras and through the good offices of
the Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its
gratitude to the Government of Honduras and in particular to its Foreign
Minister, Dr. Edgardo Paz Barnica, for the facilities and full support
extended to it in carrying out its mission.
As stated above, at the conclusion of its visit to Nicaragua, the
Commission submitted to the Junta of the Government of National
Reconstruction a document containing preliminary recommendations aimed
at improving the situation of human rights of the ethnic groups of the
The text of the document is cited below:
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterates, first, its
gratitude to the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction for
the invitation extended to it to visit Nicaragua and observe in situ the
situation of human rights of the ethnic groups of the Atlantic coast of
that country. It also acknowledges the cooperation and support offered
throughout by the governmental authorities to assist the Commission in
carrying out its mission.
Commission takes this occasion to set forth some preliminary
considerations and recommendations.
concluded this visit at its next session in June, the Commission will
have occasion to submit to the Government of Nicaragua its final
recommendations, after studying in greater detail the situation that
gave rise to this visit.
The problem of the ethnic groups in the settlements
appears to the Commission that the populations that were relocated have
been affected in very different ways by the resettlement. In particular,
not a few of them have suffered the loss of their homes, livestock and
Commission considers that the injury they have suffered could be
substantially reduced in two ways: a. by assurances that in the near
future, when there is no longer danger in the border zone, those who
wish to return to their former homes may do so; and b. by assurances
that those involved will receive adequate compensation for the damage
done to their private property.
Reunification of families
the basis of interviews held with various members of the communities
that were visited, it is clear that they are deeply concerned for their
family members located in Honduras.
Commission considers that there is a deep desire to bring about the
reunification of the Miskito family, and that many Indians located in
Honduras would return if they had the necessary guarantees and
is therefore recommended that the Government of Nicaragua make use of
intergovernmental agency channels to facilitate the return of the
Miskitos to their own country, through the coordinated action of the
Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua, with the participation of an
international agency in a supervisory role.
Conditions of detention
Commission visited the Miskitos who are detained in the “Héroes y Mártires
de Nueva Guinea” prison, the former Zona Franca in Managua, and the
detention center in Puerto Cabezas.
Commission considers that there are three aspects to be noted with
respect to “Héroes y Mártires de Nueva Guinea” prison. The first
is what appears to be frequent punishment, consisting of being stripped
and left naked in groups for prolonged periods. The second is
restrictions on visit; they are kept almost entirely incommunicado, a
situation which deserves special consideration due to the fact that
family members who come from Managua must make enormous sacrifices in
time and money to come visit them. Third, the Commission also recommends
that sick detainees be given immediate and competent medical care.
respect to the Miskitos confined in the detention center of Puerto
Cabezas, the Commission considers that the conditions under which they
are detained are restricted and inadequate in view of the fact that it
is a provisional detention center, despite the fact that improvements
have recently been made due to the efforts of the Chief of Operations of
the Center. It is also recommended that sick detainees be given
immediate and competent medical care.
Right to due process
Commission has found that there is a substantial number of detainees in
Puerto Cabezas who have not yet been submitted to the process
established by law. They have been imprisoned for over two months in
unsuitable conditions. In this regard, the Commission hopes that the
Government will act expeditiously immediately to submit them to due
process or release them, as appropriate.
conformity with the principle of the presumption of innocence, the
Commission recommends that the statements of self-incrimination made by
the accused be taken in the presence of a judge and a defense attorney
in accordance with the law that governs criminal proceedings in
Nicaragua. By taking measures to ensure that all confessions are taken
in conformity with the law, the government would reduce the risk of the
occurrence of mistreatment during the interrogation process. The
Commission therefore considers it improper to televise the incriminating
testimony given by the defendants themselves before a final decision is
handed down in the trials. Television broadcasting of these statements
leads public opinion to pre-judge the culpability of the defendants.
the Miskitos have to remain in detention form a greater period of time
as a result of the final judgments reached in their cases, the
Commission recommends that they be transferred to places near their zone
of origin to serve their sentences.
June 15, 1982, the Commission received a cable from the Acting Minister
of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Victor Hugo Tinoco, addressed to the Chairman of
the Commission, in which he refers to the implementation by the
Government of Nicaragua with these preliminary recommendations. That
document reads as follows:
am honored to greet Your Excellency to refer to preliminary
recommendation submitted Junta of Government of Reconstruction May 7 on
invitation extended by my Government to IACHR to visit Nicaragua and
observe situation of the human rights of the Nicaraguan citizens of
Miskito origin residing in Zelaya Department (north).
With respect to the first recommendation, the Government of
Nicaragua guarantees, as was stated by member of the Junta Dr. Rafael
Cordoba Rivas, assurances that when border danger passes, those who wish
to return to their places of origin may do so and that the Government of
Nicaragua has provided more than the adequate compensation suggested by
giving these Nicaraguan citizen lands, homes seeds, fertilizers, farm
tools, food and medical attention, totally without charge.
With respect to reunification of families, the government
guarantees assurances for the return of Nicaraguans in Honduran
territory and to this effect lists are being updated of all families
residing in the Tasba Pri settlements to be transmitted by the UNHCR and
the International Committee of the Red Cross to those Nicaraguans who
moved to Honduras so that they may verify false statements that their
families have been killed.
With respect to the conditions of detention, instructions have
been given to give full respect to the dignity of these Nicaraguan
citizens explaining that in the penitentiary system the only times when
they may be fully searched (without clothes) is when entering or leaving
workshops due to the danger of their taking with them scissors, knives,
razors, pocket knives or sharp instruments that are used in the
workshops for shoemaking, saddlery carpentry, tailoring, etc., but
offering to reduce insofar as possible these searches, while
safeguarding the security of the detainees and guards. The penitentiary
reports that the family members have the right at any time to visit
their detained relatives and this rule will be institutionalized by
order. Also, medical care has been reinforced and measures are being
taken to make improvements in the detention center.
All detained persons are submitted to due process and their cases
are on appeal and awaiting decision in the Court of Appeals of
Bluefields. The Government of Nicaragua has fully prohibited
presentation by radio or television of the statements given by the
defendants prior to a final verdict in the trials. Both the Supreme
Court of Justice and the National Commission for the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights are actively working on these matters, and
the latter has sent two attorneys to observe the work of the defense
Should the final verdict in these cases require longer detention
of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin, every effort will be made,
within the severe economic constraints experienced by the country as a
result of the recent disaster caused by floods, to have the sentences
carried out in places close to where they lived previously.
Government of Nicaragua reaffirms its will to maintain an ongoing and
fruitful dialogue with the Honorable Commission and to this end would be
grateful for information on the result of the visit made to Honduras by
the IACHR and on the interviews held with the Nicaraguan residents with
respect to desires expressed to return to Nicaragua. We maintain contact
with Mr. Philippe Sargisson, a senior official of the UNCHR and with the
help of the local headquarters in coordination with the Government of
Honduras and the Office in Tegucigalpa; provisions can be implemented
with respect to their return.
On June 26, 1982, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
at its 56th session, adopted the “Special Report on the
Situation of Human Rights of the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua”.
The Report extensively analyzes the various problems that arose
on the Atlantic coast with respect to the sector of the Nicaraguan
population of Miskito origin, following the events of late 1981 and
the above-mentioned report, the IACHR particularly studied the existence
and observance of the following human rights that affect this sector of
Nicaraguan: a. the right to life; b. the rights to liberty, personal
security and due process; c. the right to residence and d. the right to
property. The Commission also extensively studied in this report whether
the Miskito Indians could invoke special rights as an ethnic group.
Upon provisional adoption of these conclusions, which were
transmitted to the Government of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua
together with the Report, the Commission proposed the following
To allow Misurasata or another Indian organization chosen by the
Indian communities themselves to function, and to authorize the return
of is leaders to Nicaragua, with guarantees of their security and
To continue to seek an agreement with the Government of Honduras
to guarantee peace on the common border in order to prevent potential
To investigate all matters related to the violation of the right
to life of the Miskito Indians and to bring to trial and sanction with
the full force of the law those who are found to be responsible.
To consider the relocation of the Miskito Indian in Tasba Pri as
a provisional measure, to be limited to the time required by the current
Once the emergency has ended to allow the return of the Miskito
Indian who wish to do so from Tasba Pri to their homes by the Coco
To facilitate, if possible, the voluntary repatriation the
Miskitos of Mocoron, with the assistance if possible of the Government
of Honduras and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
To facilitate, while the emergency lasts, the exchange of
information through the International Red Cross and the UNHCR between
the Miskitos residing in Tasba Pri and those in Mocoron to contribute to
family reunification and voluntary repatriation;
To facilitate, under the auspices of the UNHCR, the voluntary
resettlement of any Miskito of Tasba Pri to Mocoron or from Mocoron to
Tasba Pri, to rejoin the family group, for the duration of the
To permit, during the emergency, the return of the religious who
serve the Misikito population of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua so that
they may perform religious services for their people;
To consider the possibility of an amnesty for the pastors of the
Moravian Church who have been tried or detained;
To guarantee freedom of association and assembly, without
interference, in the camps of the new settlements, to allow the Miskito
community to maintain its cultural identity, preserve its traditional
structure and facilitate its participation in the decisions of the
To clarify the number and location of detained Miskitos, to
publish a complete list of their names and the detention centers where
they are held;
To declare null and void the decisions made by Judge Casaya in
the Cases of the Miskito Indians who were accused of
“counterrevolutionary” activities, and to retry the accused in
accordance with the guarantees of the right to due process;
To study a just solution to the problem of the Indian Lands that
will fulfill both the aspirations of the Indians as well as the economic
interest and the territorial unity of the Republic;
To compensate the Miskitos of the Coco River as soon as possible
for the loss of their homes, crops, animals and other belongings;
To include, on the basis of their merits, representative figures
of the Miskito community in important positions in the administration of
the Atlantic coast region.
 The composition of that Special Commission is discussed in
Section H of Part I of this report.
T The Government of Honduras, by a note dated April 26, 1982,
consented to the request for a visit, and offered its cooperation to
the IACHR in carrying out its mission.
 These preliminary recommendations figure in Section J of Part
I of this Report.
 In 1960, a decision of the International Court of Justice of
The Hague established the limits that separate the Honduran Moskitia
from the Nicaraguan Moskitia.
 OEA/Ser.L/V/II.56, doc. 11, rev. 1. This is a reserved
 The updated study of the observance of these rights appears
in the second part of this Report.