REPORT ON THE
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The First Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Human Rights in
1. This is the second report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has prepared on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. The first “Report on the Situation of Human Rights is Nicaragua” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.45 doc. 16) was the result of the on-site observation that the Commission conducted between October 3 and 12, 1978. The present report is unique in that it is the first time the Commission has returned to a country to observe the performance of a government.
2. Two years elapsed, almost to the day between the Commission’s first and second missions to Nicaragua, in October 1978 and October 1980. Ten months of that two-years period were characterized by a popular attempts ended abruptly on July 17, 1979, as General Somoza left Nicaragua for exile in Miami, and the national Guard dispersed in a panicked scramble to find refuge.
3. The Commission’s 1978 report deals with the situation of human rights, during the last years of the administration of General Anastasio Somoza Debayle. And devotes particular attention to the events that occurred during the month of September 1978 when the Sandinista National Liberation Front attacked the National Guard detachments in the principal cities of Nicaragua. That Report states that the Government retaliated with an intense and indiscriminate bombardment of civilians and combatants alike in the cities of León, Masaya, Chinandega and Estelí. The Report also states that the Somoza Government succeeded, in suppressing the insurrection after eleven days of fighting, and once the Government had reestablished control. The Commission confirmed the reports of numerous atrocities committed by the National Guard, including mass murders of minors and summary executions of civilians during house-to-house searches.
B. The Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs
1. At the request of the Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the Organization of American States, the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was convoked on September 18, 1978, to consider the events that had occurred in Central American which threatened the peace of the entire region. On September 23, 1978, the XVII Meeting of Consultation adopted a Resolution which, inter alia, urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct its planned visit to Nicaragua as soon as possible.
2. Following its October 3-12, 1978, visit, the Commission expedited the preparation of its report, which was issued on November 17, 1978, and presented it to the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on December 18 of that year, when that bode reconvened.
3. On June 23, 1979, the XVII Meeting of Consultation approved a resolution which, for the first time in the history of the OAS, and perhaps for the first time in the history of any international organization; deprived an incumbent government of a member state of the Organization of legitimacy, based on the human rights violations committed by that government against its own population. / The test of the resolution reads as follows:
The people of Nicaragua are suffering the horrors of a fierce armed conflict that is causing grave hardships and loss of life, and has thrown the country into a serious political, social, and economic upheaval.
The inhumane conduct of the dictatorial regime governing the country, as evidenced by the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, is the fundamental cause of the dramatic situation faced by the Nicaraguan people and;
The spirit of solidarity that guides Hemisphere relations places an unavoidable obligation on the American countries to exert every effort within their power, to put an end to the bloodshed and to avoid the prolongation of this conflict which is disrupting the peace of the Hemisphere;
THE SEVENTEENTH MEETING OF CONSULTATION OF MINISTERS
OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
That the solution of the serious problem, is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the people of Nicaragua.
That in the view of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs this solution should be arrived at on the basis of the following:
1. Immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime.
2. Installation in Nicaraguan territory of a democratic government, the composition of which should include the principal representative groups, which oppose the Somoza regime and which, reflects the free will of the people of Nicaragua.
3. Guarantee of the respect for human rights of all Nicaraguan, without exception.
4. The holding of free elections as soon as possible, that will lead to the establishment of a truly democratic government that guarantees peace, freedom, and justice.
1. To Urge the member states to take steps that within their reach to facilities an enduring and peaceful solution of the Nicaraguan problem on the bases set forth above, scrupulously respecting the principle of non-intervention and abstaining from any action that might be in conflict with the above bases or be incompatible with a peaceful and enduring solution to the problem.
2. To commit their efforts to promote humanitarian assistance, to the people of Nicaragua, and to contribute to the social and economic recovery of the country.
3. To keep the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs open while the present situation continues.
C. The establishment of the Government of National Reconstruction
1. On June 17, 1979, from San José, Costa Rica, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLC) announced the formation of a five person Junta, or governing council, of the Provisional Government of national Reconstruction. Less than one month later, the FSLN appeared assured of a military victory; it controlled the cities of León, Chinandega, Estelí, Matagalpa and Masaya.
2. On July 13, 1979, at a press conference held in Costa Rica, the Junta announced that it was convinced that the “people’s armed forces could take Managua and annihilate the National Guard.” However, at the same time, the Junta put forward a “Plan to Achieve Peace.” One day earlier, on July 12, 1979, the Junta, seeking OAS support, sent a copy of the plan to the Secretary General of the Organization, Alejandro Orfila, to be transmitted to the member states. The text of this document is as follows:
Mr. Secretary General:
As we are doing with the Foreign Ministers of the members countries of that Organization, it is our pleasure to place in your hands the document that contains our “Plan to Achieve Peace” in our heroic and long-suffering homeland, now that the people of Nicaragua have established their political and military victory over the dictatorship.
We have developed that plan on the bases of the resolution adopted by the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on June 23, 1979, a Resolution that is historic in every respect, as it demands the immediate replacement of the genocidal Somoza dictatorship, which has now met its end, and backs the installation in our country of a broad-based, democratic government of the kind we ourselves are establishing.
Further, in stating that the solution to the serious problem is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the people of Nicaragua, that Resolution calls for hemispheric solidarity in preserving our people right to self-determination.
In our “Plan to Achieve Peace,” we are presenting to the community of nations in this hemisphere the purposes that have inspired our Government since its establishment and as set forth in our documents and policy statements, some of which we would like to ratify here:
I. Our firm intention to establish full respect for human rights in our country, in accordance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of the Rights and Duties of man and the Charter on Human Rights of the OAS. That respect has already become evident in the treatment that the Sandinista National Liberation Front has given to hundreds of prisoners-of-war. Our Government therefore extends an invitation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to visit our country as soon as this new Government is installed.
II. In order that our installation in Nicaragua come about through a peaceful and orderly transition, the Government of National Reconstruction would view a visit to our country by the foreign ministers of the hemisphere as a gesture of solidarity, and we extend a warm invitation to come.
III. Our decision to enforce civil justice in our country and to try incriminated of crimes against our people according to the pre-existing laws. By their heroic struggle, the people have won the right to let justice prevail for the first time in half a century, and will do so within the legal framework and without revenge or indiscriminate reprisals.
IV. Those who have collaborated with the regime and who wish to leave the country, and who are not responsible for the genocide that we have suffered or for other serious crimes that demand trial by the civil courts, may do so with all necessary guarantees, guarantees which the Government of national Reconstruction will demonstrate now and henceforth. The departure of these individuals may be supervised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by the International Red Cross.
V. The Plan to call Nicaraguans to the first free elections that our country will have in this century, so that they may elect their representatives to the city councils and to a constitutional assembly, and the country’s highest-ranking authorities.
Now, Mr. Secretary General the government of this hemisphere have their opportunity to publicly declare their solidarity with the fight that our people have waged to bring democracy and justice to Nicaragua.
With the request that you convey the text of this letter to the foreign ministers of the OAS, we present our compliments.
JUNTA OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION
VIOLETA DE CHAMORRO, SERGIO RAMIREZ MERCADO, ALFONSO ROBELO CALLEJAS, DANIEL ORTEGA SAAVEDRA, MOISES HASSAN MORALES.
PLAN OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION
TO ACHIEVE PEACE
Our premise is that while it is true that the solution to Nicaragua’s serious problem, is the exclusive competence of the Nicaraguan People. Hemispheric solidarity, essential for this plan to take hold, will be accorded in fulfillment of the Resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OAS, approved on June 23, 1979.
The following steps will ensure the immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime. Already destroyed by the heroic and combative people of Nicaragua and their vanguard, the Sandinista national Liberation Front. Rejection of this plan in favor of a political solution would leave military destruction of Somocismo as the only recourse; this could go on for weeks and would lead, unnecessarily, to many more deaths and destruction.
STAGES OF THE PLAN:
I. Somoza submits his resignation to his Congress, which in turn accepts it and turns over the reins of power to the Government of National Reconstruction in recognition of the backing it has received from all sector of Nicaraguan society.
II. Installation of the Government of National Reconstruction. This Government is made up of representatives of all sectors of Nicaraguan politics and has received the official support of all.
III. Immediately after the Government of national Reconstruction has installed itself in Nicaragua, the member countries of the OAS, especially those that sponsored or voted in favor of the Resolution, will then recognize it officially as the legitimate Government of Nicaragua.
IV. The Government of National Reconstruction will immediately do the following:
1. Repeal the Somoza Constitution.
2. Decree the Fundamental Statute, which shall provisionally govern the Government of national Reconstruction.
3. Dissolve the National Congress.
4. Order the National Guard to cease hostilities and immediately confine them to barracks with the guarantees that their lives and other rights will be respected. The officials, noncommissioned officers and soldiers of the National Guard that so desire may joint the new national army or civilian life.
The Sandinista Army will enforce the cease-fire to facilitate fulfillment of these agreements by maintaining the positions won as of the time of the Decree.
5. Maintain order by means of those sectors of the National Guard which have honored the cease-fire and were appointed to these functions by the Government of National Reconstruction, a task that they will carry out in coordination with the combatants of the Sandinista Army.
6. Decree the organic law that will govern the institutions of the State.
7. Implement the program of the Government of National Reconstruction.
8. Guarantee the departure from the county of all those military personnel, Somoza’s functionaries who wish to leave and who are found not to have been involved in serious crimes against the people.
APPENDIX I. Resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OAS.
APPENDIX II. Law on Guarantees
APPENDIX III. Organic Law
APPENDIX IV. Program of the Government of National Reconstruction.
Kindly acknowledge receipt of this message.
Press Office JUNTA OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION.
3. On July 16, 1979, General Anastasio Somoza tendered his letter of resignation to the Nicaraguan Congress, the text of which reads as follows:
Honorable National Congress
People of Nicaragua
Having consulted the governments that truly have an interest in bringing peace to the country, I have decided to respect the decision of the Organization of American States and do hereby resign the Office of the Presidency to which I was elected by popular vote. My resignation is irrevocable.
I have fought against communism and believe that when the truth emerges history will vindicate me.
President of the Republic
General Somoza left Managua for Miami, at 5:10 a.m., on July 17, 1979.
4. As a constitutional formality, in the early morning hours of July 18, the Nicaraguan congress unanimously elected Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, to replace Somoza and to facilitate the transfer of power to the Junta once it reached Managua from Costa Rica.
However, the newly elected President refused to relinquish the Office of the Presidency and announced that he intended to complete General Somoza’s term in other words, to serve until May 1981. Instead of arranging a speedy transfer of power, Urcuyo delivered an address in which he praised the National Guard and demanded that “all irregular forces lay down their arms.” Next, he proceeded to fill all the key posts in the National Guard with young colonels and lieutenant colonels, following the departure, with General Somoza, of almost all the senior military officers. The new Director of the National Guard, Lt. Col. Federico Mejía González, called on the National Guard “to redouble… their efforts in the current fight.”
5. Wednesday morning, July 18, three members of the Junta, Sergio Ramírez, Alfonso Robelo, and Violeta Chamorro, left San José, Costa Rica, for León, Nicaragua, where they joined fourth Junta member, Daniel Ortega, and declared León to be the new provisional capital. Interim President Urcuyo fled to Guatemala, leaving the new National Guard Director in charge. According to information received, Mejía, now promoted to General, began negotiations with a Sandinista representative and with Archbishop Obando y Bravo in the “bunker” of General Somoza, regarding the terms of National Guard surrender. In view of the posture that Urcuyo had assumed, the negotiations were no longer possible on the original cease-fire-terms; as a consequence, the FSLN now demanded the unconditional surrender of the National Guard. After the meeting, on e of the participants stated that the talks had reached an impasse because the Sandinistas insisted on a surrender rather than a cease-fire in place. At approximately 2:00 a.m., General Mejía presented a list of the National Guard’s demands, which included retention of all property belonging to individual officers in exchange for a surrender. The sandinista refused to accept these conditions and all communications broke off. Shortly before dawn on July 19, General Mejía, the General Staff of the National Guard, as well as most of the high-ranking officers, left Nicaragua by plane.
6. After a night of chaos, which some observers called “the worst night in the seven weeks of battle,” the Nicaraguan civil war ended early on the morning of July 19, as Sandinista guerrillas took control of Managua and called for a cease-fire. At approximately noon that same day, the last of the commanders of the National Guard, Lt. Col. Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, ordered his soldiers to surrender. The text of his communiqué is as follows:
Attention, Nicaraguans, attention: To the Commands and headquarters, officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the Nicaraguan National Guard:
In the name of the General Staff of the Nicaraguan National Guard and with the approval of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction, I, Lt. Col. Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, do hereby inform you of the following:
1. The withdrawal of the General Staff of the National Guard, under the command of General Federico Mejía has led to the disintegration of our armed corps.
2. The victorious position that the Sandinista Front has held and continues to hold throughout the entire national territory has brought an end to the war waged against the Sandinista Front and the defeat of the National Guard.
3. To prevent further bloodshed and useless loss of innocent lives, National Guard noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel are to obey the following orders:
A. Immediate cease-fire at all command posts and on all war fronts.
B. Deposition of weapons in your respective headquarters or posts at the following shelters: Red Cross stations, churches and embassies. All these places will be respected by the victorious forces of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
C. White flags are to be displayed wherever armed soldiers are to be found; this will be regarded as a sign of unconditional surrender.
D. Once the orders issued by the joint National Directorate of the Sandinista national Liberation Front and the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction have been carried out, the life and physical safety of every soldier who surrenders will be guaranteed.
This call does not constitute a betrayal of anyone or of anything. To the contrary, it represents the dignity invested in the National Guard, on behalf of the wellbeing of our long-suffering people. This I swear before the altar of country and of God, our Lord.
The present communiqué has been drafted jointly and with the authorization of Commander Humberto Ortega Saavedra, on behalf of the joint National Directorate of the FSLN and of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction.
(Signed) Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, Chief, of the General Staff of the Nicaraguan National Guard.
7. On July 20, the Junta of the Government of national Reconstruction was installed in Managua.
8. On July 31, the then Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Andrés Aguilar, sent the following cable to the Nicaraguan Junta concerning its invitation to the Commission to visit Nicaragua once the new government was installed in power:
ANDRES AGUILAR M.
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
D. Ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights
1. On September 25, 1979, three members of the Junta, Daniel Ortega, Sergio Ramírez and Alfonso Robelo deposited the instrument of ratification of the American Convection on Human Rights, on behalf of the Government of national Reconstruction of Nicaragua.
2. Decree Law No. 174, published in La Gaceta on November 26, 1979, gave the American Convention on Human Rights the force of internal law in Nicaragua. /
3. On March 3, 1980, the entire text of the American Convention was published in “La Gaceta.”
E. The invitation from the Government of Nicaragua
1. On July 12, 1979, in a communication sent from San José, Costa Rica, to the Secretary General of the OAS, the Junta of the Government of national Reconstruction invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit Nicaragua.
2. Later, on September 25, 1979, during their visit to Washington, D.C., three members of the government Junta, Revolutionary Commander Daniel Ortega, Dr. Sergio Ramírez and Ing. Alfonso Robelo, accompanied by the Foreign Minister of the Republic, Miguel D’Escot, in addition to depositing the instrument of ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José), again extended the invitation to the Commission.
3. Later, and for the third time, the Government of National Reconstruction sent as Special Ambassador Dr. Leonte Herdocia Ortega to visit the Commission and reconfirm the invitation to conduct the on-site observation in Nicaragua.
4. During its forty-eight session, in December 1979, the Commission received the Special Ambassador of the Government of Nicaragua.
5. The Commission accepted the invitation, and later agreed on October 6, 1980, as the starting date of the visit.
F. Activities of the Commission during the on-site observation
1. In accordance with Article 51 or the Regulations of the Commission, a Special Commission was appointed to conduct the on-site observations in Nicaragua. The Special Commission was composed of the following members of the Commission: Professor Tom J. Farer, Chairman; Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Second Vice chairman; Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches; Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro and Dr. César Sepúlveda. Because of previous commitments, Dr. Andrés Aguilar excused himself.
 The Following countries voted in favor of the resolutions: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, México, Panamá, Peru, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela; the countries that voted against the resolution were as follows: Nicaragua, and Paraguay; Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Uruguay abstained. Trinidad and Tobago did not take part in the voting.
 The text on this Decree law reads as follows: “That the Somoza Dictatorship’s systematic contempt for the fundamental human rights of the Nicaraguan people and of the human person led to barbaric acts that outraged the conscience of humanity, that freedom, justice and peace are based on recognition and affirmation of the fundamental human rights of the individual and of the collectivity, thereby making it essential that those rights be protected by the Government of national Reconstruction; in the exercise of its powers, it decrees the following Law and approves and ratifies the American Convention on Human Rights, concluded in San José, Costa Rica, 1969:
Article 1. That having signed the American Convention on Human Rights, the Pact of San José, Costa Rica, on November 22, 1969; at the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human rights in San José, Costa Rica, the Government of Nicaragua hereby accepts it and makes it a law of the nation, pledging the national honor to its observance.
The present law shall enter into force today, as of its publication in any mass communications medium, its subsequent publication in La Gaceta, Diario Oficial, notwithstanding.”