F.    The IACHR considers the matter at its 55th session


1.          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.


2.          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:


The 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.


The 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 consideration.


3.          At the same time, the IACHR authorized its Chairman, in consultation with the other members, to appoint a Special Commission which would visit Nicaragua[4] 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.[5]


4.          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.


Those who gave testimony to the Commission were Mr. Steadman Fagoth Muller, Reverend Graham J. Rights and Mr. Armstrong Wiggins.


5.          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.


6.          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.


7.          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 Resource Center.


Cited below are parts of Mr. Wiggins testimony:


Although 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.


Thousands 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.


In 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.


According 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 was created.


This 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.


Furthermore, 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.


8.          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.


9.          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.


10.          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 medical assistance.


The 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.


Ambassador 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.


With 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.


11.          At its 55th session, the Commission also studied other information and testimony that had been submitted to it in writing.



G.          Subsequent complaints and information


1.          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.


2.          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 below:


The 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 aboriginal rights.


This 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.


Several 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.


We 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.


These 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.


As 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.


Shortly after the Agrarian Reform Law decree, we presented our own document which contained three principal points:


1.       Indian land rights in Indian Territory must be recognized as a whole and not as parcels or sections granted by the government.


2.       Indians must be guaranteed their right to the natural resources of their territory.


3.       The Indian right to self-determination or autonomy within their territory must be recognized.


These 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 complete independence.


In 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.


Such a fight would, of course, compound the suffering and the tragedy already experienced. It must be avoided if at all possible.


My 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.


H.    On-site observation in Nicaragua in May, 1982


1.          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.


2.          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.


3.          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.


4.          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 interpreter.


5.          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.


6.          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.


7.          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.


8.          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 Bluefields.


9.          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.


10.          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.


11.          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.


12.          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[6] 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.


I.          In loco visit to Honduras


1.          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.


2.          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 Moskitia.[7] It was received by the Military Commander of that region, major Leonel Luque, who personally drove the members of the Subcommission to Mocoron.


3.          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.


4.          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.


5.          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 soldiers.


6.          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.


7.          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.


8.          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.


J.          Preliminary recommendations


1.          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 Atlantic coast.


2.          The text of the document is cited below:




The 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.


The Commission takes this occasion to set forth some preliminary considerations and recommendations.


Having 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.


1. The problem of the ethnic groups in the settlements


It 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 other property.


The 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.


2. Reunification of families


On 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.


The 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 assurances.


It 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.


3. Conditions of detention


The 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.


The 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.


With 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.


4. Right to due process


The 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.


In 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.


If 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.


On 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:


I 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).


a.       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.


b.       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.


c.       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.


d.       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 counsel.


e.       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.


The 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.


K.       The Commission adopts its Special Report on the situation of the Human Rights of the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua


1.          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”.[8]


2.          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 early 1982.


In 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.[9]


3.          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 recommendations:    

a.      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 liberty;


b.       To continue to seek an agreement with the Government of Honduras to guarantee peace on the common border in order to prevent potential conflicts;


c.       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.


d.        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 emergency;


e.       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 River;


f.       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 (UNHCR);


g.       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;


h.       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 emergency.


i.       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;


j.       To consider the possibility of an amnesty for the pastors of the Moravian Church who have been tried or detained;


k.      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 community;


l.       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;


m.      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;


n.       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;


o.       To compensate the Miskitos of the Coco River as soon as possible for the loss of their homes, crops, animals and other belongings;


p.       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.


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[4]     The composition of that Special Commission is discussed in Section H of Part I of this report.

[5]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.

[6]      These preliminary recommendations figure in Section J of Part I of this Report.

[7]      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.

[8]      OEA/Ser.L/V/II.56, doc. 11, rev. 1. This is a reserved document.

[9]      The updated study of the observance of these rights appears in the second part of this Report.