OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77 rev.1
doc. 7
17 May 1990
Original:  Spanish







During the period to which this report refers, from September 1989 to May 1990, the Commission conducted the following activities.


1.                  SESSION


The IACHR held its 76th session from September 18 through 29, 1989.  All of its members participated:  Oliver H. Jackman, Chairman; Elsa Kelly, First Vice-Chairperson; Leo Valladares Lanza, Second Vice-Chairman; Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano; Marco Tulio Bruni Celli; John R. Stevenson; and Patrick L. Robinson.


At this time, the Commission received the reports supplied to it by the Special Commission that visited Peru in May 1989.  Given the importance of the events under investigation at that time, the Commission decided to address a note to the Government of Peru, expressing its chief concerns with respect to the situation of human rights in that country.  It also decided to begin organizing background information with a view to preparing a report on the situation of human rights in that country.  It also decided to begin organizing background information with a view to preparing a report on the situation of human rights in Peru.


In furtherance of the Declaration by the President of the Twenty-first Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the commission requested the Panamanian Government’s permission to observe, in situ, the situation of human rights in that country.  The Panamanian Government acceded to the request and proposed that the visit be made during November 1989.  The Commission, in turn, proposed that the observation in loco take place from November 6 through 9, 1989.  Nevertheless, the proposed visit never materialized.


At that same session, the Commission continued to consider the situation of human rights in Panama, and provisionally adopted a report on the subject.  That report was referred to the Government of Panama so that, in accordance with the Regulations of the Commission, it might present, within a period of 30 days, such observations as it deemed pertinent.  Taking those observations into account, the Commission adopted its definitive report, which was forwarded in due course to the corresponding organs of the OAS and presented to the General Assembly.


At this session, the Commission approved its Annual Report, which was subsequently presented to the OAS General Assembly at its nineteenth regular session.  That report places special emphasis on the developments in Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Suriname as regards the observance of human rights in the preceding twelve-month period.  That Annual Report also includes a special chapter recounting the Commission’s role in the amnesty declared in March 1989 for people convicted by the Special Courts in Nicaragua.  In this respect, the Commission reiterated its recommendation to the Nicaraguan government that the 39 individuals who had been denied the benefit of the amnesty to be immediately released.  In its Annual Report, the Commission also proposed to the General Assembly that certain measures be adopted to strengthen the observance of human rights.


At this session, the Commission took the necessary measures to enable it to conduct its observation in loco in Colombia (postponed for a later date) and Paraguay during the first quarter of 1990.  Those countries had already extended the necessary invitation.


Again, in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Statute of the Commission and its Regulations, the Commission considered a number of petitions that contained complaints of alleged violations of human rights.  In the case of some of these petition it adopted the corresponding resolutions.


Because of their particular importance, the Commission began with the cases that concerned the enforcement of the Argentine laws known as “Punto Final” and “Due Obedience” and the Uruguayan law on “Caducidad.”  It heard the oral arguments brought by the representatives of the respective governments and those of the complainants.  At this same session, the Commission also devoted special attention to the “El Aguacate” case in Guatemala.  It decided to send that Government a note requesting that the personal safety of certain witnesses be safeguarded and accepting the invitation that the Guatemalan Government extended to it to investigate this case of Guatemalan territory.


The Commission had the pleasure to meet with four judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  Together, they studied several matters of mutual interest, which would make it possible to strengthen further the cooperative ties between the two organs established in the Pact of San Jose to defend human rights in the Hemisphere.  In this connection, it was decided to hold a joint meeting during the first half of 1990 to study various problems that have arisen from the interpretation and application of the American Convention on Human Rights.


As is customary at its sessions, the Commission held hearings to receive individuals and representatives of institutions and organizations that had duly requested such hearings.


The Commission decided that the next session would be held at the headquarters of the Commission, from May 7 through 18, 1990.





The nineteenth regular session of the General Assembly was held at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., November 13 through 18, 1989.  In attendance as the representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was its Chairman, Mr. Oliver H. Jackman, accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño. 


During this session, Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano was elected as member of the Inter-American Commission on Human rights and Mr. Oliver H. Jackman and Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli were reelected for another four-year period.  Also, the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was considered, as was the special report on the situation of human rights in Panama.  The Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was also considered.


It should also be noted that the General Assembly congratulated the Inter-American Commission on Human rights on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary.


Because of its importance, the text of the General Assembly’s resolution on the Annual report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and on the special report on the situation of human rights in panama is quoted here in its entirety:


AG/RES. 1022 (XIX-O/90)




(Resolution adopted at the ninth plenary session,

held on November 18, 1989)





HAVING SEEN the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human rights and the special report on the situation of human rights in Panama; and




That, in the Charter of the Organization of American States, the member states have declared that respect for the fundamental rights of the individual, without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex, is one of the basic principles of the Organization;


That the main purpose of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in all the member states and, in the case of the states parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, to see to the observance of the human rights enshrined in that instrument;


That a democratic structure is an essential element for establishment of a political society wherein human rights can be fully realized;


That it is the obligation of the American states to hold free elections, in accordance with the provisions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the 1959 Declaration of Santiago, and the American Convention on Human Rights;


That, in its Annual Report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stressed the return to representative democracy in a number of states, and the measures adopted in other countries to establish and restore the system of representative democracy, which constitute significant contributions toward observance of the rights contained I the American declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the American Convention on Human Rights;


That, despite the foregoing, the Annual Report of the Commission points out that serious violations of basic rights and freedoms persist in certain countries;


That, in its Annual Report, the Commission has also made reference to the progressive development and codification of the international law governing human rights and has proposed several measures intended to strengthen and encourage that process; and


That the Commission has proposed that, in 1992, on the occasion of the celebration of the Quincentennial of the Discovery of America:  Encounter of Two Worlds, a legal instrument be adopted in regard to the human rights of the Indian peoples,




1.                  To receive, with great interest, the Annual Report and the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human rights, as well as its special report on the situation of human rights in Panama, and to express appreciation and congratulations for the serious and vital work it is doing in the area of protection and promotion of human rights.


2.                  To strongly urge the governments mentioned in the Annual Report to espouse the corresponding recommendations of the Commission in accordance with the requirements of their constitutions and domestic legislation, in order to guarantee faithful observance of the human rights set forth in the American declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.


3.                  To express its concern over the persistence of serious violations of basic rights and freedoms in several countries of the region, particularly of cases that infringe upon the full effectiveness of the civil and political rights recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the American Convention of Human Rights.


4.                  To express its support for and solidarity with the sister people of Panama and to express its grave concern over the serious violations of basic rights and freedoms in Panama, especially the full effectiveness of civil and political rights as noted by the Commission in its special report on that country presented to the General Assembly at this session.


5.                  To reiterate to those governments that have not yet reinstated the representative democratic form of government the urgent need to implement the pertinent institutional mechanisms, consistent with the circumstances and characteristics of each country, to restore such a system in the shortest possible time through free, genuine, and pluralistic elections by secret ballot, without outside interference, since democracy is the best guarantee of the full exercise of human rights and is the firm foundation of solidarity among the states of the Hemisphere, and of the preservation of the regional American system based on the existence of democratic, pluralistic, and representative states.


6.                  To recommend to the government of the member states that they grant the necessary guarantees and facilities to enable nongovernmental human rights organizations to continue contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights, and that they respect the freedom and person of the leaders of such organizations.


7.                  To energetically condemn the practice of forced disappearances as a crime against humanity and the use of torture as an abomination that is an affront to the very nature of the human being.


8.                  To take note of the comments and observations received from the governments of the member states and of the information received on the measures that they have taken and will continue to implement in order to better ensure the observance of human rights in their countries.


9.                  To note with satisfaction the decision of the governments of the member states that have invited the Commission to visit their respective countries, and to urge the governments of the states that have not yet agreed to or set a date for such visits to do so as soon as possible.


10.              To recommend to the member states that are not parties to the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights “Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica” that they ratify or accede to that instrument; in the case of those states that do not recognize the competence of the Inter-American Commission on Human rights to receive and examine international communications pursuant to Article 45 (3) of the Convention or that do not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human rights, in accordance with Article 62 (2) of the aforementioned Convention, that they do so.


11.              To recommend to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it begin a study on the practical observance of the rights included in the American Convention on Human Rights and of the legal obstacles to the application of that Convention; on the impediments to the enjoyment of those rights; on the advisability of including new rights, both individual collective, and on the possibility of modifying the present procedures and mechanisms in the Convention to make them more effective so as to ensure better protection of human rights.


12.              To recommend to those states that have not yet done so that they ratify or accede to, as the case may be, the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights “Protocol of San Salvador.”


13.              To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to prepare a juridical instrument relative to the rights of the Indian peoples, for adoption in 1992.


14.              To encourage the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its sustained effort to defend human rights in the region, for which it enjoys the resolute support of the democratic governments of the Organization.


15.              To recommend to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it begin a study on the measures necessary to enhance the autonomy, independence, and personal integrity of the members of the judicial branch so that they may investigate violations of human rights properly and perform their functions to the fullest.


16.              To declare that the best guarantee of human rights is effective exercise of representative democracy.




a.                  On-site observation in Guatemala


At the invitation of the Guatemalan Government, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited the Republic of Guatemala from January 29 to February 3, 1990, to conduct on-site observation.  The participants were:  Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Vice-Chairman of the IACHR and chairman of the Special Commission, and member John R. Stevenson.  From the staff of the executive Secretariat were Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary and Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark, Principal Specialist in charge of Guatemalan affairs.  The purpose of the visit was to conduct, pursuant to Articles 44, 55 et. Seq. of the Regulations of the Commission, an on-site investigation into joint Case No. 10.400 concerning events that transpired in the town of “El Aguacate” and to apprise themselves of the investigations that the competent Guatemalan government agencies have had conducted into this unfortunate incident.


At the time it extended its invitation to the Commission to conduct this on-site visit, the Government of Guatemala gave ample assurances that the Commission would have unreserved freedom to visit the country and be able to interview any persons or institutions that the Special Commission should deem necessary.  It also gave guarantees that those persons or institutions wishing to speak with the Special Commission would be able to do so without encountering obstacles of any kind, and that no reprisals would be taken against them.  During its stay in Guatemala, the Special Commission confined its activities to its investigation of this particular case and spoke with the President of the Republic; with the President of the Supreme Court; with the Human Rights Defender; with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and the Interior; with the Director General of the National police; with the survivors, widows, relatives, and witnesses; with other civilian and military authorities, both at the national and departmental levels; and, with the Forensic Physician and legal authorities.


The Special Commission also met with representatives of various political, humanitarian, professional, and other types of institutions, all of which supplied it with important information concerning the events under investigation.  The Commission’s delegations also made two visits to the Chimaltenango zone, San Andres Itzapa, El Aguacate, the Zone 302 command post, and reconnoitered the mountain paths where the kidnapping incidents and the searches occurred and where the graves and bodies of the victims were located.


Given the confidential nature of the matters that the Special Commission studied during the time of its visit, and since the purpose of that visit was not to review the situation of human rights in Guatemala in general, no member of the Commission’s delegation or of the Secretariat staff made statements to the press, as long as their opinions had not been conveyed to the full Commission, which is scheduled to hold its 77th session in May in Washington, D.C., to hear the members of the Special Commission present their report.


In its press release of February 3, the Commission thanked the Government for the facilities it had provided to help the Special Commission discharge its function.  It also expressed its appreciation to the authorities and other persons who supplied valuable testimony, the various institutions interviewed, which were representative of the Guatemalan community, for the cooperation, facilities, and hospitality that they provided to the Special Commission.


b.                  Visit to Paraguay


At the invitation of the Government of Republic of Paraguay, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a visit to that country on February 7, 8, and 9, 1990.  The purpose of the visit was to analyze, in conjunction with public and private institutions, the situation of human rights in Paraguay and the progress made since the new government, under the presidency of General Andres Rodriguez, took office.


This visit had been requested repeatedly, both by the Commission itself and by the General Assembly of the OAS.  Accordingly, on this occasion the Commission was quick to say how gratifying it was that the present Paraguayan government had granted its permission to conduct the visit.


The delegation of the Special Commission that conducted the on-site observation was composed of members Dr. Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, and Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano; by the Commission’s Executive secretary, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño; the Executive Secretariat’s Principal Specialist, Dr. Osvaldo Dreimer; and by Mrs Gabriela Hageman, Administrative Assistant.


The Special Commission was very active during its three-day stay in Asuncion.  It met with the President of the Republic; with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Interior, Justice, and Labor; with the members of the National Congress; magistrates on the Supreme Court; with the National Rural Coordination Council; with officials of the Paraguayan Indian Institute; with religious officials of various creeds; with human rights organizations; leaders of Paraguay’s political parties, women’s organizations; newspaper publishers; leaders of labor organizations; Indian leaders and other Paraguayan personalities from whom the Commission received valuable information on the present observance of human rights in Paraguay.


These interviews enabled the Commission’s delegation to supplement the information it had on the situation of human rights in Paraguay subsequent to February 3, 1989.  Prior to that date, the Commission had repeatedly expressed gave concern over the disregard for and serious limitations upon human rights and fundamental freedoms in Paraguay.


The Commission’s delegation did not issue any value judgment on the present situation of those fundamental rights and freedoms during the presidency of General Rodriguez, since its report must first go to the full Commission, which will meet in Washington, D.C. in May.  The foregoing notwithstanding, the Commission’s delegation did not note the efforts that government authorities and various sectors of Paraguayan society are making to overcome the obvious obstacles and difficulties with regard to the full observance of human rights in Paraguay today and, within the framework of democratic institutions, to endeavor as best as possible to guarantee the observance of those rights, be civil and political, or economic, social, and cultural.


Finally, the Commission’s delegation expressed its deep appreciation to the Government of Paraguay for the facilities it was given to enable it to carry out is mission effectively and its thanks to all those sectors or Paraguayan society–especially religious, political, news, union, indigenous, and humanitarian and human rights officials and leaders–for the cooperation they afforded to make this mission a success.


c.                  On-site visit to Haiti

Pursuant to Permanent Council resolution 537 adopted on February 23, 1990, by that body, following the deterioration in the human rights situation in that country, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Haiti, between April 17-20, 1990, in the exercise of its functions.  Under that Permanent Council resolution, the Commission was to look into the human rights situation in Haiti and prepare a full report to be submitted to the General Assembly of the OAS.  The delegation was composed of Mr. Oliver H. Jackman, Chairman of the Commission; Mr. Leo Valladres L., Vice Chairman; and Mr. Patrick L. Robinson, member of the IACHR; Mr. David J Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Mr. Luis F. Jimenez and Mrs. Bertha Santoscoy, human rights specialists from the Commission’s Executive Secretariat, and Miss Gloria Sakamoto, Administrative Assistant.


During its mission to Haiti, the delegation met with President Ertha Pascal Trouillot, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of National Defense, the Minister of Social Affairs, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the Minister of Justice and the Council of State, and other government officials.


The delegation also met with representatives of human rights organizations and political parties to hear about the political situation as it relates to representative democracy.  It also met with media representatives, both press and radio, to get a status report on the freedom of expression.  The delegation held meetings with Haitian jurists, union representatives, representatives of the industrial sector, Chamber of Commerce, the Church, and other forces active in the country.


The delegation visited two prisons where it interviewed those in charge:  Pénitencier National, in Port-au-Prince, and the Centre de Détention, in Delmas.  It also gathered information on the investigation of several cases that had been brought before it, notably, cases of arbitrary arrests that had been brought before it, notably, cases of arbitrary arrests and murders committed during President Prosper Avril’s government.


In Pont Sondé, St. Marc, and Piatre, the delegation obtained information on human rights violations, and was able to observe serious inflicted on the latter community.  It also gave hearings to persons from various social strata from whom it received complaints, communications, and reports concerning respect for human rights.


Prior to its arrival in the country, the delegation had spelled out what the objectives of its visit were, and announced its intention of gathering all possible information on respect for, and the promotion of, human rights in Haiti.  The Government gave the delegation every assurance that there would be no reprisals against persons or groups meeting with the delegation.


From the many depositions it received the delegation was able to establish several common threads.  First was mention of the need to create conditions of security that would enable the population to exercise its political rights during the electoral process, soon to start.  These conditions, according to those depositions, involved two factors:  respect for basic human rights, namely, personal freedom, rights of association and of assembly and the right to freedom of expression, among others.  Next, linked to security, was the need to bring to trial persons accused of committing very serious human rights violations, as in the case of the massacres of November 29, 1987 and the Saint Jean Bosco Church of September 11, 1988.


The delegation noted that there was a consensus among major sectors of Haitian society as to the lack of any serious investigations, legal proceedings, and appropriate punishment of persons responsible for gross human rights violations, which, it is felt, would prevent the candidates from waging their electoral campaigns and would create a climate of mistrust and fear in the electorate.  This situation could in all likelihood be the cause of a poor turnout at the elections.


The delegation found it necessary to repeat, on several occasions, that it was absolutely vital that there be a separation between Police and Armed Forces in order to give the police a professional character and provide the necessary training for it to respect human rights.


The delegation was pleased to hear of the commitment made by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Haiti to accentuate professionalism in those Forces, subordinate them to civil authority, and make of them a disciplined tool under the Ministry of Justice, and the guardian of security in the electoral process.


The significant amount of documentation gathered during this visit will be the subject of careful analysis by the delegation, and during the course of its next session, the delegation will adopt a final report containing conclusions and recommendations.  The delegation was most pleased at the expression of good will manifested by high Government officials who are anxious to realize the effective exercise of political rights and strengthen the protection of basic human rights.


The delegation stated once again that, as a party to the American Convention on Human Rights, the Haitian State had not only an obligation to respect those rights but also to ensure the full and unrestricted exercise of them.  The delegation, therefore, trusted that in the course of the upcoming elections these rights will be exercised under security conditions that enable all political forces and the Haitian population in general to express themselves and to act quite freely and without fear so that the election per se will fit into the process of democratization under way and into a broader framework of genera, basic human rights.  These rights would include economic, social, and cultural rights, the observation of which is an indispensable element in meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Haitian people and strengthening the democratic system.  The delegation has said that this system is the best guarantee for the protection of human rights.


The delegation also had an opportunity to receive depositions from members of the first Provisional Electoral Board who were elected in that capacity in 1987, in accordance with the Constitution.  They were recently appointed to that Board again after being removed from office by the de facto government of General Henri Namphy.  They told the delegation with considerable force that the task of organizing and conducting free, fair, and democratic elections could prove to be extremely difficult if the Government did not take immediate and positive measures to ensure the security of the vote and that of the members and personnel of the Board itself and thereby avoid a repetition of the disastrous events of November 29, 1987.


The delegation has also received specific requests from all sectors that the electoral process be monitored by international experts from its inception to its conclusion.


The presence of these international experts will instill greater confidence in the population and will reinforce the authority of the electoral board.


A recurring theme in the course of the statements made before the delegation was that of the role of the armed groups in Haiti.  Several witnesses explained the inherent dangers in the activities of former military officers and the rest of the civil militia known as Tontons Macoutes, accused of systematically terrorizing the population.  In the eyes of the public, some were involved in the many atrocities committed after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s departure in 1986, especially the massacre of November 29, 1987.  It was brought to the delegation’s attention that the immediate and full disarmament of these groups should be the immediate priority of the provisional Government.  Persons who appeared before the delegation insisted that such an atmosphere prevented witnesses from coming forward to file complaints about such acts.


Time and time again, religious and political representatives said that one of the chief causes of insecurity in the country was the activity of the Chefs de section (Section Chiefs) in the rural areas.  The belief is that these persons who are appointed by the Armed Forces and belong to them grossly overstep their authority as rural police officers, and that they are responsible for numerous arbitrary acts violating the rights of the Haitian citizenry.  It has been said that a restructuring of this policing system was a sine qua non for the protection of human rights in the rural areas and for ensuring that adequate conditions are set in place for an unfettered electoral campaign and a free ballot at the upcoming elections.


Media representatives further shared with the delegation their fears that the prevailing insecurity could jeopardize the lives of journalists wishing to give full coverage of the electoral process.


The delegation presented a report on the status of human rights in Haiti, which discussed further its mission to that country.  The Commission completed the report in the course of its 77th session, between May 7 to 18 1990, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.  Pursuant to Resolution 537, this report is to be submitted to the General Assembly of the OAS at its twentieth regular session in June, in accordance with Article 90.f of the Charter.


The delegation wished to underline the cooperation that was extended to the delegation in the discharge of its mission and thanked the Government and people of Haiti as well as the media for their cooperation.


The special Commission noted that it will continue to observe developments in the human rights situation in Haiti during further visits, which will take place in the near future.


d.                  Joint Meeting of the Commission and the Court

From May 2-4, 1990. the Commission met with the judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to discuss the harmonization of their respective Rules of Procedures.  In addition, the two organs considered common criteria for improved coordination of their work.


Table of Contents |Previous | Next  ]