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





The Commission has given special attention to developments in the human rights situation since September 1989, when its 1988-89 annual report was approved, up to April 1990.  The purpose of this section is to present the most important information on human rights during that period to complete the information the Commission has been presenting since 1978, when it issued its first report on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua at the request of the SXII Meeting of Consultation.  This report was them supplemented by the 1981 report, which covered the situation of the Miskito Indians in 1984, and by the successive annual reports submitted to the General Assembly.


The period covered by this section has been dominated by the campaign for the elections of February 25, 1990.  The Nicaraguan Opposition Union (Unión Nicaragüense Opositora – UNO) won, with 55.2% of the vote, electing Violeta Barrios de Chamorro President and Virgilio Godoy Vice President.  The incumbents, Daniel Ortega and Sergio Ramírez Mercado of the Sandinista National Front obtained 40.8% of the vote.


A particularly important event occurred during the period of this report–the pardon granted on February 17, 1989, and to all of the persons tried and sentenced under the Law for the Maintenance of Security and Public Order.  That step was taken after the opposition candidate announced her decision to release those persons immediately after she won the elections and after the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference, through His Eminence Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, requested the release of them before the elections, rather than afterward as had been announced by President Ortega.


The release of those persons on February 14, 1990 complied with a recommendation made repeatedly by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The Commission found that a campaign of serious charges against these persons was being waged by the government and the press affiliated with it.  The Commission was also informed that the released prisoners received threats from high government officials just before being released, which caused well founded fears for their personal safety.  These persons assert that, even if there were a change in high officials, the State Security Police would still be under the control of Sandinista Front members, and that led them to fear for their personal safety.  The commission trusts that these persons will be given every guarantee and accorded every facility for them to fully enjoy their rights.


A number of complaints of irregularities were made by the opposition parties during the election campaign, some of which were settled by the Supreme Court.  The most serious were the disorders in Masatepe during the UNO demonstration on December 10, 1989, when a UNO sympathizer was killed incidents with Sandinista Front groups.  The circumstances and those responsible could not be fully determined.  It should be mentioned that the Sandinista Police did not intervene to impose order.


Also reported by the opposition parties during the election process was the candidates’ unequal access to the media, therefore benefiting the Sandinista Front during the campaign.


Another disturbing development during the election campaign was the harassment and intimidation of government opponents, which led to the resignation of many candidates running for the legislatures and the municipal councils.  The government party, on the other hand, claimed that its supporters had received threats, particularly in areas where the Nicaraguan resistance was active.


As to the general conditions in which the election process took place, it should be noted that in November 1989, at the summit meeting of Central American Presidents in San Isidro Coronado, in Costa Rica, President Daniel Ortega announced that he would not renew the unilateral cease-fire in the fight against the Nicaraguan resistance in view of the continued attacks by those forces.  On December 20, when U.S. troops invaded Panama, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Defense issued a communiqué giving instructions to be followed in the event Nicaragua were invaded, which included the following text:


In the event of a Yankee invasion, … implement the plans for rounding up and executing all the most recalcitrant traitors who have sold out their country by openly or covertly encouraging Yankee intervention.


This communiqué awakened a wave of protest against the opposition and independent organizations, causing the Supreme Electoral Council itself to send a note to the Defense Ministry asking for information on how the measures announced in the communiqué would affect the conduct of the election campaign.  According to the response to that note, the government would not affect the normal conduct of political recruitment activities.


The Inter-American Commission must underscore the importance of the elections recently conducted in Nicaragua on February 25, 1990, noting the honesty and respect for the established law and the scrupulous fulfillment of it s duty by the Supreme Electoral Council in a peaceful atmosphere and with a high voter turn out.  The Commission is convinced that the elections, as well as subsequent peaceful transfer of power, were in themselves an important contribution to peace and respect for human rights.  The Commission hopes that these events will constitute a beginning of the resolution of the serious problems affecting Nicaraguan society.


After the elections, with the results mentioned in the first part of this section, numerous actions were taken by the government.  A broad amnesty was granted covering all crimes committed in the last ten years, including economic crimes committed in the conduct of official duties, and offenses that allegedly gave rise to human rights violations.  Also the government issued property titles for around 10,000 housing units that had been confiscated after its 1979 victory, which were being used by private individuals or government officials.


The election results have been followed by a period of difficult negotiations to address the serious problems besetting Nicaraguan society.  Thus, it is considered that the Sandinista People’s Army should be separated from the Party and placed under civilian control, along with the units under the Ministry of the Interior:  the Sandinista police, the State Security, and the National Penitentiary System.  The demobilization of the Nicaraguan resistance is another hard-to-solve problem, on which the Catholic Church is actively working through His Eminence, Cardinal Obando Bravo, ONUCA, and the Commission on Follow-up and Verification.


It should be pointed out, finally, that it will be a big job to satisfy the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Nicaraguan people, since those rights have been seriously affected by a number of internal and external factors–including armed conflict, economic blockade, and economic management–leading to a sharp deterioration in living conditions, particularly in the most disadvantaged sectors.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights trusts that the first democratic transfer of power in Nicaragua’s recent history, after a positive experience with the exercise of political rights, will be a decisive step toward solving problems within the framework of democratic institutions and full respect for human rights, including, of course, economic, social and cultural rights, the achievement of which is also a responsibility of the international community.

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