ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMISSION
A. Reports of the representatives of the Commission
In accordance with the decisions taken by the Commission at its Eleventh and Twelfth Sessions, in order to maintain representation in the Dominican Republic at all times until the government elected in the balloting of June 1, 1966, took office, some members went to that country.
During this period the following members served as representatives of the Commission: Professor Manuel Bianchi (Chairman), Mrs. Angela Acuña de Chacón, Profesor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches, Dr. Daniel Hugo Martins, and Dr. Durward V. Sandifer.
Upon the conclusion of their respective missions, each of these representatives presented a confidential report containing an account of the activities performed and the observations and recommendations he deemed pertinent.
In the performance of its work the Commission interviewed the authorities of the Provisional Government, members of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Organization of American States, religious, civil, military, and judicial authorities, workers’ and civic groups, diplomats, and private citizens, political leaders, and candidates for public office in the elections of June 1, 1966, and all persons who asked to be heard, especially during the visits to the interior of the country, where it gave ample opportunity to all the people to appear before the Commission to express their points of view or their complaints on alleged violations of human rights.
On several occasions the Commission visited the Provisional President of the Republic, Dr. García Godoy, who at al times gave it full cooperation. A few days before assuming the presidency, Dr. García Godoy visited the offices of the Commission and expressed his agreement with the work being done to assure that human rights would be respected.
As a result of the discussions the Commission held with members of the judiciary, it was observed that certain difficulties existed for the performance of judicial functions, among which the principal ones were the following:
a. A lack of guaranties for the judges of the first instance, who could be dismissed or transferred for political reasons;
b. Failure to comply with judicial decisions, on the part of some authorities, especially de armed forces;
c. Failure to use the recourse of habeas corpus, even though it was set forth in detail in Law 5353 of October 22, 1914, because it was believed that the coercing authorities would not comply with the provisions ordering its application; and
d. The impossibility of making a complete judicial investigation of the offenses committed by military personnel, because of the obstacles created in these cases by the armed forces.
C. Visits to prisons and to the interior of the country
With the installation of the Provisional Government and the freeing of political prisoners throughout the country, the program of visits to the penal institutions of the country was considerably reduced. Nevertheless, in cases in which denunciations referred to serious acts, the Commission visited prisons and other places of detention for the purpose of verifying the facts denounced.
Complying with instructions from the Provisional Government, the Attorney General of the Republic appointed a representative to assist and accompany the Commission on its visits to the interior of the country. Mr. Bienvenido Figueredo, appointed for this duty, facilitated the interviews held by the representatives of the Commission in various Dominican cities.
We present below an account of the most important visits:
La Victoria Penitentiary
On November 12, 1965, the Commission visited La Victoria national penitentiary because of denunciations received regarding the arbitrary detention of 506 farmers. The chief of the prison, Mr. Abraham Perdomo, explained that it was a question of a brief detention, and that they had been freed. Information was also requested on the status of certain minors imprisoned in cells intended for adults, and the Commission was permitted to talk with those minors. The Commission ascertained that these minors were being held under deplorable conditions and that the conditions of the prison in general were very bad, with a lack of medical care and medicine.
Prison of Bonao
This place of detention was visited on December 29, 1965, and no political prisoners were found there. A second visit attempted by the Commission on February 20, 1966, was prevented by the tension existing in the city, where the full Municipal Council denounced to the Committee the state of terror prevailing, blaming Police Captain José Paulino Coma and a Lieutenant Solano therefor.
San Pedro de Macorís
On January 5, 1966, the Commission visited the prison of this city, and found no political prisoners there. On this visit, the Commission was attended by the provincial Governor, Professor Juan Daniel Ortiz Acevedo, Colonel Jesús Ruiz Mello, and Captains Lozada and Diechi.
On March 2, 1966, the Commission visited the prison of this place, and did not find any political prisoners therein.
On the same day, the Commission paid a visit to the prison of Barahona, where it heard denials that the citizens Luis Tomás Aquino and Félix Bidó were imprisoned there, as had been alleged. The Commission was attended by Colonel José Manuel Martínez Polanco, Commandant of the local military post. The Commission ascertained that there was some contradiction between the information provided by the prison authorities and the record of entry and departure of prisoners, which showed the entry of four students sent there on orders of the Air Force, but showed no record of their departure. The Commission was informed that a Sergeant nicknamed “Candado” persecuted and mistreated citizens whom he did not like.
Santiago de los Caballeros
On March 1, 1966, in this city, the Committee found that no political prisoners were being held and that the most complete order reigned. The Committee was attended by the Chief of Police, Mr. Ney Tejada Alvarez.
San Francisco de Macorís
Also on March 1, 1966, the Commission visited the Chief of Police of this locality who refused to provide any information to the Commission, when it presented certain denunciations of abuses and arbitrary imprisonment. The Commission found a tense atmosphere in the town, and it was informed that the military person most active in persecuting and threatening citizens who took part in politics was Captain Sánchez Imbert.
The Commission visited the prison of this city on February 25, 1966, and was attended by Captain John Rib Santamaría and Lieutenant Colonel José Félix Hermida González, who reported that there were no political prisoners there. The Committee observed that a climate of peace prevailed and that activities were developing normally in the city.
On the same day, the Commission visited this island, where it was received by Commander Sitio Muñoz Acevedo. From the interviews held with the few inhabitants of the place it was learned that there were no political prisoners there.
On March 9, 1966, the Commission visited the prison of Neiba and presented to Army Captain Manuel Perelló Soto a list of persons supposedly imprisoned there. Captain Perelló refused to cooperate with the Commission, maintaining that he did not know the names presented to him. The Chairman of the Commission, in the presence of the representative of the Attorney General of the Republic, Mr. Bienvenido Figueredo, mentioned specific cases of abuses committed, asking the aforementioned officer for some information thereon, without result. Numerous residents of the place informed the Commission that Captain Perelló was the author of the abuses and persecutions denounced.
On a second visit, the same day, to the Neiba Military Headquarters, the Commission learned that Captain Perelló had been replaced in his post by Captain Pedro Rivera, because of the denunciations amassed against the former.
In this city the Commission also visited the judge and the prosecutor of the district, who showed the visitors the list of trials held in the last few months, the names of those prosecuted, and the procedures followed in each case. It was reported to the Commission that the climate had improved as soon as Captain Perelló had been notified that he was to be replaced as Commandant of the place.
On March 11, 1966, the Commission visited the city and prison of Samaná, and was received by Captain Victor Leonardo and Lieutenant Rafael Cervantes. The Commission found 18 common prisoners and no political prisoners. Order and normality were observed everywhere, which situation was corroborated by the testimony of numerous residents.
On this visit the Chairman of the Commission was accompanied by the Attorney General of the Republic, Dr. Gómez Ceara, his wife, and the assistant to the Attorney General, Mr. Figueredo.
On this visit the Commission also visited the office of the Government Prosecutor of the province, interviewed representatives of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, the Partido Revolucionario Cristiano, and other political groups, all of whom agreed that favorable conditions prevailed for the electoral campaign; and paid a visit to the Governor of the province, Mr. Pedro David Rey.
On December 29, 1965, the Commission visited the city of San Cristóbal and went through various places with the Governor of the province. It noted that tranquility and order prevailed and that the Provincial Electoral Board was functioning without interruption with a view to the elections scheduled for June 1, 1966.
San Juan de la Maguana, Azua, and Bani
On March 7, 1966, the Commission visited these towns and observed that normality and peace prevailed everywhere. It was informed that the armed forces were guaranteeing the conduct of the political campaign.
The Commission paid a visit to this city on April 11, 1966. Complete normality was observed everywhere, and it was ascertained that there were no political prisoners in the headquarters of the Army or of the Police. The Commission was attended by Captain Vitelio Céspedes and by First Lieutenant Pedro Gómez Ríos, as well as by the Governor of the province, Mr. Andrés Rodríguez Martínez. Various local political leaders were visited, and they all said that there was respect for human rights.
D. Denunciations and communications
In accordance with the provisions of Article 36 of the Regulations, the Commission transmitted to the Provisional Government the denunciations and claims made known to it, requesting of the competent authorities information leading to the clarification of the acts denounced, as well as application of measures designed to restore the rights allegedly violated.
Despite the fact that with the inauguration of the Provisional Government the volume of denunciations and claims appreciably declined during the first three months of the period covered by this report, some acts of terrorism, violent deaths, arbitrary arrests, and looting or destruction of property were recorded.
In the face of this situation, the Commission transmitted the following note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government:
Santo Domingo, D.R.
November 5, 1965
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has the pleasure to address you in order to make the following known to you:
The Commission has received communications in which denunciations are made of arrests of persons by elements belonging to the Centro de Enseñanza de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Teaching Center, CEFA) and the National Police, without orders from competent authorities in any of the cases cited.
It has also been denounced that various persons have disappeared since their arrest and that others have been killed under suspicious conditions; and persons who it is presumed belong to the Armed Forces have been accused of responsibility for these deaths.
Claims have also been presented regarding attacks on property of the claimants, which were carried out, usually, during the night, by bands armed with machine guns and grenades or by military personnel or persons under the command of uniformed individuals.
If these serious reports were true, it would mean that Articles 15, 16, 20, 21, and 22 of the Institutional Act of the Republic were being violated; these articles correspond to Articles I and XXV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which establish, respectively, the right to life, liberty, and personal security, and the right to protection from arbitrary arrest.
The Commission believes it is its duty to remind the Provisional Government of the Republic, through you, of the provisions of Article 13 of the aforementioned Institutional Act, the first paragraph of which reads as follows:
The Provisional Government hereby pledges to respect and enforce respect for the human rights and public liberties set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man of the Organization of American States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
The Commission requests the Provisional Government of the Republic to adopt, as soon as possible, all the measures it considers opportune to guarantee to the citizens the effective exercise of the rights established in Part Two of the said Institutional Act, and to proceed to order the competent authorities to carry out the investigations necessary to fix the corresponding penal responsibilities.
We hope that the Provisional Government will be so kind as to send us the information obtained in order that we may make it known to the Commission.
Accept, Sir, the renewed assurances of our highest consideration.
Mrs. Angela Acuña de Chacón
Representative of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights
For the Executive Secretary
Dr. Alvaro Gómez
E. Acts of violence among military personnel, attacks against students, and
murder of police
During the months of December 1965 and January 1966 various disorders and cases of street agitation took place that to a certain extent increased the violations of human rights. Moreover, the events at the Hotel Matum, near Santiago de los Caballeros, where some Dominican military personnel lost their lives, created a climate of tension that had unfavorable repercussions on the observance of those rights.
On February 9, the students of the capital held a demonstration in front of the National Palace. During the morning of that day, the Commission was informed that the students had been machine-gunned by the police, with several of them being killed and several wounded. Later the Commission received various denunciations from relatives of students who had been victims of the firing.
Despite the fact that these denunciations were processed rapidly, the Commission did not hear that any investigation of responsibilities was made in this case.
The violence employed against the students resulted in a series of acts of reprisal that caused the death of various police officers, one of whom was burned by the mob in Padre Billini Street in front of the Liceo Salomé Ureña.
The Commission recorded its repudiation of such acts and requested the Dominican authorities and people to give the cooperation essential for achieving due respect for the rights of the individual.
F. Obstacles to the efforts of the Provisional Government
Despite the good disposition of the Provisional Government to enforce respect for human rights, there were certain factors that prevented it from investigating the denunciations that the Commission transmitted to it. Among these factors the principal ones were the following:
a. The resistance of some military authorities and difficulties of a political nature; and
b. The lack of specialized personnel and of the technical and scientific means for effectively conducting the investigations of the cases denounced.
With the appointment of a new Chief of National Police, on February 10, 1966, respect for authority was considerably restored and attacks and other acts of violence ceased to a striking degree.
G. Asylum to persons persecuted for political reasons
The Commission received requests, both from individuals and from authorities of the Provisional Government or members of the Ad Hoc Committee, that it grant asylum to people being persecuted or pursued for political reasons.
Despite the fact that the Commission, in each case in which it was asked for asylum, made it clear that it had neither the power nor the means to grant it, in exceptional circumstances and for humanitarian reasons it made arrangements to provide temporary lodging to persons who, on the eve of leaving Dominican territory and with all their documents in order, were the object of serious threats against their lives.
H. Claims for damage to property
The Commission continued to receive denunciations and claims regarding damage to property as a result of the events that occurred in the country since the beginning of the revolutionary movement in April 1965. On January 12, 1966, it delivered these to the official designated by the General Secretariat of the Organization to deal with these requests.
I. Guaranties to Constitutionalist military personnel
On January 10, 1966, the Provisional Government invited the Chairman of the Commission, together with the members of the Ad Hoc Committee, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Santo Domingo, and the Representative of the United Nations, to use their good offices to guarantee the prompt departure from the country of the Constitutionalist military personnel appointed to diplomatic posts and the integration into the regular armed forces, without difficulties, of the principal group of the General Gregorio Luperón Mixed Brigade, lodged at the “27 de febrero” camp.
The Chairman of the Commission participated in various meetings with the other representatives mentioned above, to contribute to the achievement of the objectives proposed.
Later, the Ad Hoc Committee, in the exercise of its powers, adopted a series of measures to guarantee the lives of the military personnel stationed at the aforementioned camp, entrusting the Inter-American Peace Force with protecting the physical integrity of that personnel.
On January 24, 1966, the Representative of the Ad Hoc Committee, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, communicated to the Commission the text of the measures adopted to achieve the effective observance of the right to life, with respect to the said Dominican military personnel.