University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in The Republic of Nicaragua, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.53, Doc. 25 (1981).




A. The First Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua

1. This is the second report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has prepared on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. The first “Report on the Situation of Human Rights is Nicaragua” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.45 doc. 16) was the result of the on-site observation that the Commission conducted between October 3 and 12, 1978. The present report is unique in that it is the first time the Commission has returned to a country to observe the performance of a government.

2. Two years elapsed, almost to the day between the Commission’s first and second missions to Nicaragua, in October 1978 and October 1980. Ten months of that two-years period were characterized by a popular attempts ended abruptly on July 17, 1979, as General Somoza left Nicaragua for exile in Miami, and the national Guard dispersed in a panicked scramble to find refuge.

3. The Commission’s 1978 report deals with the situation of human rights, during the last years of the administration of General Anastasio Somoza Debayle. And devotes particular attention to the events that occurred during the month of September 1978 when the Sandinista National Liberation Front attacked the National Guard detachments in the principal cities of Nicaragua. That Report states that the Government retaliated with an intense and indiscriminate bombardment of civilians and combatants alike in the cities of León, Masaya, Chinandega and Estelí. The Report also states that the Somoza Government succeeded, in suppressing the insurrection after eleven days of fighting, and once the Government had reestablished control. The Commission confirmed the reports of numerous atrocities committed by the National Guard, including mass murders of minors and summary executions of civilians during house-to-house searches.

B. The Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs

1. At the request of the Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the Organization of American States, the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was convoked on September 18, 1978, to consider the events that had occurred in Central American which threatened the peace of the entire region. On September 23, 1978, the XVII Meeting of Consultation adopted a Resolution which, inter alia, urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct its planned visit to Nicaragua as soon as possible.

2. Following its October 3-12, 1978, visit, the Commission expedited the preparation of its report, which was issued on November 17, 1978, and presented it to the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on December 18 of that year, when that bode reconvened.

3. On June 23, 1979, the XVII Meeting of Consultation approved a resolution which, for the first time in the history of the OAS, and perhaps for the first time in the history of any international organization; deprived an incumbent government of a member state of the Organization of legitimacy, based on the human rights violations committed by that government against its own population. [1]/ The test of the resolution reads as follows:


The people of Nicaragua are suffering the horrors of a fierce armed conflict that is causing grave hardships and loss of life, and has thrown the country into a serious political, social, and economic upheaval.

The inhumane conduct of the dictatorial regime governing the country, as evidenced by the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, is the fundamental cause of the dramatic situation faced by the Nicaraguan people and;

The spirit of solidarity that guides Hemisphere relations places an unavoidable obligation on the American countries to exert every effort within their power, to put an end to the bloodshed and to avoid the prolongation of this conflict which is disrupting the peace of the Hemisphere;



That the solution of the serious problem, is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the people of Nicaragua.

That in the view of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs this solution should be arrived at on the basis of the following:

1. Immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime.

2. Installation in Nicaraguan territory of a democratic government, the composition of which should include the principal representative groups, which oppose the Somoza regime and which, reflects the free will of the people of Nicaragua.

3. Guarantee of the respect for human rights of all Nicaraguan, without exception.

4. The holding of free elections as soon as possible, that will lead to the establishment of a truly democratic government that guarantees peace, freedom, and justice.


1. To Urge the member states to take steps that within their reach to facilities an enduring and peaceful solution of the Nicaraguan problem on the bases set forth above, scrupulously respecting the principle of non-intervention and abstaining from any action that might be in conflict with the above bases or be incompatible with a peaceful and enduring solution to the problem.

2. To commit their efforts to promote humanitarian assistance, to the people of Nicaragua, and to contribute to the social and economic recovery of the country.

3. To keep the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs open while the present situation continues.

C. The establishment of the Government of National Reconstruction

1. On June 17, 1979, from San José, Costa Rica, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLC) announced the formation of a five person Junta, or governing council, of the Provisional Government of national Reconstruction. Less than one month later, the FSLN appeared assured of a military victory; it controlled the cities of León, Chinandega, Estelí, Matagalpa and Masaya.

2. On July 13, 1979, at a press conference held in Costa Rica, the Junta announced that it was convinced that the “people’s armed forces could take Managua and annihilate the National Guard.” However, at the same time, the Junta put forward a “Plan to Achieve Peace.” One day earlier, on July 12, 1979, the Junta, seeking OAS support, sent a copy of the plan to the Secretary General of the Organization, Alejandro Orfila, to be transmitted to the member states. The text of this document is as follows:

Mr. Secretary General:

As we are doing with the Foreign Ministers of the members countries of that Organization, it is our pleasure to place in your hands the document that contains our “Plan to Achieve Peace” in our heroic and long-suffering homeland, now that the people of Nicaragua have established their political and military victory over the dictatorship.

We have developed that plan on the bases of the resolution adopted by the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on June 23, 1979, a Resolution that is historic in every respect, as it demands the immediate replacement of the genocidal Somoza dictatorship, which has now met its end, and backs the installation in our country of a broad-based, democratic government of the kind we ourselves are establishing.

Further, in stating that the solution to the serious problem is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the people of Nicaragua, that Resolution calls for hemispheric solidarity in preserving our people right to self-determination.

In our “Plan to Achieve Peace,” we are presenting to the community of nations in this hemisphere the purposes that have inspired our Government since its establishment and as set forth in our documents and policy statements, some of which we would like to ratify here:

I. Our firm intention to establish full respect for human rights in our country, in accordance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of the Rights and Duties of man and the Charter on Human Rights of the OAS. That respect has already become evident in the treatment that the Sandinista National Liberation Front has given to hundreds of prisoners-of-war. Our Government therefore extends an invitation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to visit our country as soon as this new Government is installed.

II. In order that our installation in Nicaragua come about through a peaceful and orderly transition, the Government of National Reconstruction would view a visit to our country by the foreign ministers of the hemisphere as a gesture of solidarity, and we extend a warm invitation to come.

III. Our decision to enforce civil justice in our country and to try incriminated of crimes against our people according to the pre-existing laws. By their heroic struggle, the people have won the right to let justice prevail for the first time in half a century, and will do so within the legal framework and without revenge or indiscriminate reprisals.

IV. Those who have collaborated with the regime and who wish to leave the country, and who are not responsible for the genocide that we have suffered or for other serious crimes that demand trial by the civil courts, may do so with all necessary guarantees, guarantees which the Government of national Reconstruction will demonstrate now and henceforth. The departure of these individuals may be supervised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by the International Red Cross.

V. The Plan to call Nicaraguans to the first free elections that our country will have in this century, so that they may elect their representatives to the city councils and to a constitutional assembly, and the country’s highest-ranking authorities.

Now, Mr. Secretary General the government of this hemisphere have their opportunity to publicly declare their solidarity with the fight that our people have waged to bring democracy and justice to Nicaragua.

With the request that you convey the text of this letter to the foreign ministers of the OAS, we present our compliments.





Our premise is that while it is true that the solution to Nicaragua’s serious problem, is the exclusive competence of the Nicaraguan People. Hemispheric solidarity, essential for this plan to take hold, will be accorded in fulfillment of the Resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OAS, approved on June 23, 1979.

The following steps will ensure the immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime. Already destroyed by the heroic and combative people of Nicaragua and their vanguard, the Sandinista national Liberation Front. Rejection of this plan in favor of a political solution would leave military destruction of Somocismo as the only recourse; this could go on for weeks and would lead, unnecessarily, to many more deaths and destruction.


I. Somoza submits his resignation to his Congress, which in turn accepts it and turns over the reins of power to the Government of National Reconstruction in recognition of the backing it has received from all sector of Nicaraguan society.

II. Installation of the Government of National Reconstruction. This Government is made up of representatives of all sectors of Nicaraguan politics and has received the official support of all.

III. Immediately after the Government of national Reconstruction has installed itself in Nicaragua, the member countries of the OAS, especially those that sponsored or voted in favor of the Resolution, will then recognize it officially as the legitimate Government of Nicaragua.

IV. The Government of National Reconstruction will immediately do the following:

1. Repeal the Somoza Constitution.

2. Decree the Fundamental Statute, which shall provisionally govern the Government of national Reconstruction.

3. Dissolve the National Congress.

4. Order the National Guard to cease hostilities and immediately confine them to barracks with the guarantees that their lives and other rights will be respected. The officials, noncommissioned officers and soldiers of the National Guard that so desire may joint the new national army or civilian life.

The Sandinista Army will enforce the cease-fire to facilitate fulfillment of these agreements by maintaining the positions won as of the time of the Decree.

5. Maintain order by means of those sectors of the National Guard which have honored the cease-fire and were appointed to these functions by the Government of National Reconstruction, a task that they will carry out in coordination with the combatants of the Sandinista Army.

6. Decree the organic law that will govern the institutions of the State.

7. Implement the program of the Government of National Reconstruction.

8. Guarantee the departure from the county of all those military personnel, Somoza’s functionaries who wish to leave and who are found not to have been involved in serious crimes against the people.

APPENDIX I. Resolution of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation on Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OAS.

APPENDIX II. Law on Guarantees


APPENDIX IV. Program of the Government of National Reconstruction.

Kindly acknowledge receipt of this message.


3. On July 16, 1979, General Anastasio Somoza tendered his letter of resignation to the Nicaraguan Congress, the text of which reads as follows:

Honorable National Congress

People of Nicaragua

Having consulted the governments that truly have an interest in bringing peace to the country, I have decided to respect the decision of the Organization of American States and do hereby resign the Office of the Presidency to which I was elected by popular vote. My resignation is irrevocable.

I have fought against communism and believe that when the truth emerges history will vindicate me.

A. Somoza

President of the Republic

General Somoza left Managua for Miami, at 5:10 a.m., on July 17, 1979.

4. As a constitutional formality, in the early morning hours of July 18, the Nicaraguan congress unanimously elected Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, to replace Somoza and to facilitate the transfer of power to the Junta once it reached Managua from Costa Rica.

However, the newly elected President refused to relinquish the Office of the Presidency and announced that he intended to complete General Somoza’s term in other words, to serve until May 1981. Instead of arranging a speedy transfer of power, Urcuyo delivered an address in which he praised the National Guard and demanded that “all irregular forces lay down their arms.” Next, he proceeded to fill all the key posts in the National Guard with young colonels and lieutenant colonels, following the departure, with General Somoza, of almost all the senior military officers. The new Director of the National Guard, Lt. Col. Federico Mejía González, called on the National Guard “to redouble… their efforts in the current fight.”

5. Wednesday morning, July 18, three members of the Junta, Sergio Ramírez, Alfonso Robelo, and Violeta Chamorro, left San José, Costa Rica, for León, Nicaragua, where they joined fourth Junta member, Daniel Ortega, and declared León to be the new provisional capital. Interim President Urcuyo fled to Guatemala, leaving the new National Guard Director in charge. According to information received, Mejía, now promoted to General, began negotiations with a Sandinista representative and with Archbishop Obando y Bravo in the “bunker” of General Somoza, regarding the terms of National Guard surrender. In view of the posture that Urcuyo had assumed, the negotiations were no longer possible on the original cease-fire-terms; as a consequence, the FSLN now demanded the unconditional surrender of the National Guard. After the meeting, on e of the participants stated that the talks had reached an impasse because the Sandinistas insisted on a surrender rather than a cease-fire in place. At approximately 2:00 a.m., General Mejía presented a list of the National Guard’s demands, which included retention of all property belonging to individual officers in exchange for a surrender. The sandinista refused to accept these conditions and all communications broke off. Shortly before dawn on July 19, General Mejía, the General Staff of the National Guard, as well as most of the high-ranking officers, left Nicaragua by plane.

6. After a night of chaos, which some observers called “the worst night in the seven weeks of battle,” the Nicaraguan civil war ended early on the morning of July 19, as Sandinista guerrillas took control of Managua and called for a cease-fire. At approximately noon that same day, the last of the commanders of the National Guard, Lt. Col. Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, ordered his soldiers to surrender. The text of his communiqué is as follows:

Attention, Nicaraguans, attention: To the Commands and headquarters, officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the Nicaraguan National Guard:

In the name of the General Staff of the Nicaraguan National Guard and with the approval of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction, I, Lt. Col. Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, do hereby inform you of the following:

1. The withdrawal of the General Staff of the National Guard, under the command of General Federico Mejía has led to the disintegration of our armed corps.

2. The victorious position that the Sandinista Front has held and continues to hold throughout the entire national territory has brought an end to the war waged against the Sandinista Front and the defeat of the National Guard.

3. To prevent further bloodshed and useless loss of innocent lives, National Guard noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel are to obey the following orders:

A. Immediate cease-fire at all command posts and on all war fronts.

B. Deposition of weapons in your respective headquarters or posts at the following shelters: Red Cross stations, churches and embassies. All these places will be respected by the victorious forces of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

C. White flags are to be displayed wherever armed soldiers are to be found; this will be regarded as a sign of unconditional surrender.

D. Once the orders issued by the joint National Directorate of the Sandinista national Liberation Front and the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction have been carried out, the life and physical safety of every soldier who surrenders will be guaranteed.

This call does not constitute a betrayal of anyone or of anything. To the contrary, it represents the dignity invested in the National Guard, on behalf of the wellbeing of our long-suffering people. This I swear before the altar of country and of God, our Lord.

The present communiqué has been drafted jointly and with the authorization of Commander Humberto Ortega Saavedra, on behalf of the joint National Directorate of the FSLN and of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction.

Effective immediately.

(Signed) Fulgencio Largaespada Baez, Chief, of the General Staff of the Nicaraguan National Guard.

7. On July 20, the Junta of the Government of national Reconstruction was installed in Managua.

8. On July 31, the then Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Andrés Aguilar, sent the following cable to the Nicaraguan Junta concerning its invitation to the Commission to visit Nicaragua once the new government was installed in power:

Date: 31 July 1979







D. Ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights

1. On September 25, 1979, three members of the Junta, Daniel Ortega, Sergio Ramírez and Alfonso Robelo deposited the instrument of ratification of the American Convection on Human Rights, on behalf of the Government of national Reconstruction of Nicaragua.

2. Decree Law No. 174, published in La Gaceta on November 26, 1979, gave the American Convention on Human Rights the force of internal law in Nicaragua. [2]/

3. On March 3, 1980, the entire text of the American Convention was published in “La Gaceta.”

E. The invitation from the Government of Nicaragua

1. On July 12, 1979, in a communication sent from San José, Costa Rica, to the Secretary General of the OAS, the Junta of the Government of national Reconstruction invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit Nicaragua.

2. Later, on September 25, 1979, during their visit to Washington, D.C., three members of the government Junta, Revolutionary Commander Daniel Ortega, Dr. Sergio Ramírez and Ing. Alfonso Robelo, accompanied by the Foreign Minister of the Republic, Miguel D’Escot, in addition to depositing the instrument of ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José), again extended the invitation to the Commission.

3. Later, and for the third time, the Government of National Reconstruction sent as Special Ambassador Dr. Leonte Herdocia Ortega to visit the Commission and reconfirm the invitation to conduct the on-site observation in Nicaragua.

4. During its forty-eight session, in December 1979, the Commission received the Special Ambassador of the Government of Nicaragua.

5. The Commission accepted the invitation, and later agreed on October 6, 1980, as the starting date of the visit.

F. Activities of the Commission during the on-site observation

1. In accordance with Article 51 or the Regulations of the Commission, a Special Commission was appointed to conduct the on-site observations in Nicaragua. The Special Commission was composed of the following members of the Commission: Professor Tom J. Farer, Chairman; Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Second Vice chairman; Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches; Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro and Dr. César Sepúlveda. Because of previous commitments, Dr. Andrés Aguilar excused himself.

2. The on-site observation began on October 6, 1980, and ended on October 11. Upon its arrival in Managua, the Commission released a press communique. [3]/

3. The Special Commission set up its offices in the Hotel Camino Real in the city of Managua.

a) Interview with Public Officials

4. On October 6, 1980, the Special Commission held talks with the members of the Junta of the government of National Reconstruction: Drs. Sergio Ramírez Mercado, Rafael Córdova Rivas and Moisés Hassán Morales. During the interview, the Special Commission was accompanied by Dr. Leonte Herdocia, Chairman of the national Commission for the Promotion and Protection on Human Rights, and by Mr. Sergio Labarca, Director of the Office of the General Secretariat of the OAS in Nicaragua.

Speaking for this Government, Dr. Córdova Rivas welcomed the members of the Special Commission and reaffirmed the Government’s open attitude with respect to all matters relating to human rights. He said that it was his wish and the policy of his Government that Nicaragua be seen as an example in the area of human rights. He added that the cases of deaths, disappearances and tortures were acts of the former regime. The new Government, said Dr. Córdova, was conducting a literacy campaign, a program to improve public health services and was also engage in providing higher education and housing to all Nicaraguans. He also said that the Government would not be able to achieve this overnight, but this was the direction it had set for itself.

Dr. Córdova Rivas thanked the Commission or its presence in Nicaragua and added that the Nicaraguan Government would provide the Commission with all the facilities necessary to enable it to conduct its mission, as it had nothing to hide. He pointed out that Nicaragua at that point in time had approximately 7,500 members of the defunct National Guard in prison and that additional 4,500 former guardsmen who had found asylum in Honduras posed a constant threat to his Government. He cautioned that if the prisons left something to be desired, it was due to the lack of resources. He added, in closing that the Nicaraguan Red Cross was providing assistance for the maintenance of the prisoners but that it should not be forgotten that those being held were murderers and torturers who must be punished.

5. That same day, the Special Commission met with Dr. Leonte Herdocia, Chairman of the national Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and exchanged impressions with him and his colleagues at the headquarters of the national Commission, in Las Palmas. Dr. Leonte Herdocia stated that the Government of National Reconstruction had a policy to safeguard and protect human rights, as evidenced by its ratification of international agreements on the subject. As an example, he pointed to its ratification of the Pact of San José, Costa Rica. He said that the Government was totally aware that merely signing treaties would not achieve observance of human rights; rather, those treaties must be put into practice.

In conclusion, Dr. Herdocia stated that by creating the national Commission, the Government of Nicaragua had demonstrated his country’s political will to establish in Nicaragua a system to protect human rights that would be the pride of American and the world.

6. After its visit to the National Commission, the Special Commission met with the Political Committee of the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front: Commander Bayardo Arce, Jaime Wheelock and Humberto Ortega.

The Coordinator of the Political Committee, Commander Bayardo Arce, welcome the Commission and said that the visit would help to clarify certain aspects of the Nicaraguan situation which interested groups were intent upon misrepresenting. He added that they had given the Junta the necessary guidelines to provide the Special Commission with all the facilities and information that it might want in order to collect the best and most varied information and to establish a clear and accurate impression of the human rights situation in Nicaragua.

7. On the afternoon of October 6, the Special Commission visited the Supreme Court. The Vice-President of the Court, Dr. Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia, presided over the meeting, rather than the President of the Court, Dr. Roberto Argüello Hurtado, who was on official mission in Rome, Italy.

8. The Special Commission also held private talks with Dr. Ernesto Castillo Martínez, the Attorney General, with Dr. Nora Astorga, the Special Prosecutor for the trials against the indicted Somocists, and with Dr. Mario Mejía Alvarez, the General Coordinator of the Special Tribunals. The Commission also visited the Special Tribunals and observed various trials in progress. A detailed study of this important subject appears in Chapter IV of this report.

9. The Commission met with the Executive Board of the Council of State and exchanged viewpoints on the composition, powers and functions of this body. During the discussion, the Chairman of the Council of State, Commander Carlos Nuñez made a statement on the nature of the council and its functions since its establishment on May 4, 1980.

10. On October 10, the Special Commission had a lengthy talk with Commander Tomás Borge, minister of the Interior, and Commander Joaquín Cuadra, Deputy Minister of Defense. That discussion centered around the situation of the former members of the National Guard, other Somocists prisoners, as well as the Commission’s general impressions of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. During the discussion, Commander Borge announced the pardon of 72 women who had been jailed for alleged crimes committed during the Somoza regime. The decree-law pardoning these 72 women also included those women who as of December 31, 1980, were over 50 years of age and were in prison or under house arrest. From the information available to the Commission, this pardon covered all women prisoners in Nicaragua, with the exception of two.

11. On October 11, the Special Commission met with Father Miguel D’Escot Brockmann, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had been outside of the country of official mission but who had returned to meet with the IACHR Special Commission.

b) Interview with religious authorities and human rights organizations

12. On October 6, the commission met with Monsignor Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop of Managua. On Wednesday, October 8, the Commission met with the bishops and religious leaders of the cities of León and Granada.

13. On October 6, the Commission spoke with Mr. Ismael Reyes, Chairman of the Nicaraguan Red Cross, and with representatives of the headquarters. Then, the Commission met with 15 members of the national Executive Board of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights of Nicaragua, whose Chairman is Ricardo Paiz Castillo and whose National Coordinator is José Esteban González Rappaccioli.

14. On October 7, the Special Commission received at its office representatives of the Association of Relatives of Political prisoners.

c) Representatives of political organizations

15. The Special Commission held a number of meetings with representatives of the following political organizations: The Partido Conservador Demócrata, the Partido Social Demócrata Cristiano, the Partido Social Demócrata, the Partido Liberal Independiente, the Partido Socialista de Nicaragua and the Movimiento Liberal Contitutionalista. It also spoke with former members of the Junta, Ing. Alfonso Robelo and Mrs. Violeta Barrios vda. De Chamorro.

d) Representatives of the communications media

16. The Commission held talks with representatives of the following newspapers: El Nuevo Diario, La Prensa and Barricada, as well as the President of the Journalists’ Union (UPN) and representatives of other communications media such as: Radio Corporación, Radio Sandino and Radio Voz de Nicaragua.

e) Representatives of union organizations

17. The Special Commission met with representatives of the following unions: the Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN), the Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS), the Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (CST), the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC), and the Asociación de Mujeres “Luis Amanda Espinoza” (ANLAE).

f) Representatives of the private sector

18. Continuing its interviews, the Commission received the following representatives of the private sector: Enrique Dreyfus, Chairman of the Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE) and Chairman of the high Council for private Enterprise (COSEP); Reynaldo Hernández, Chairman of the Construction Board; Ismael Reyes, Chairman of the Industrial Board; Guillermo Cuadra, Chairman of the National Council of Professionals (CONAPRO); Carlos Gabuardi, Executive Secretary of COSEP; Jaime Montealegre, Vice Chairman of INDE; Pedro Cuadra, Director of the Construction board; Martin Barcenas, Director of the Association of Agricultural and Livestock Producers of Nicaragua; Enrique Bolaños, Director of the industrial Board; Ramiro Gurdián, Vice Chairman of UPANIC; Rosendo Díaz, Executive Secretary of UPANIC, and Horestes Romero, Executive Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

g) Visit to the detention centers

19. On October 8, the Special Commission divided itself into three groups and visited the following detention centers in Managua and other places: “El Chipote”, “Héroes y Mártires de Nueva Guinea” (Free Zone); “Jorge Navarro” (Modelo Prison) in Managua; “Ruth Rodríguez,” the women’s prison in Granada. “Luis Henríquez Largaespada” (La Pólvora), also in Granada; “Quinta Ye,” a detention center near León, the Coyotepe detention center, “Benjamin Zeldón” in Masaya, which was empty at the time of the visit; “Orlando Betancourt,” a recently-constructed prison center in Chinandega to which the prisoners who had been held at the Hotel Cosiguina had been transferred; and “Juan José Quesada” in Jinotepe. At the Government’s suggestion, the Commission also visited the “Francisco Meza” rehabilitation center for minors, in Managua.

h) Denunciation received

20. In a press communique published throughout Nicaragua, the Commission invited all persons who considered themselves to have been victims of a violation of human rights as defined in the American Convention on Human Rights, to personally submit their cases to the Commission. The public was received at the Hotel Camino Real in Managua, from October 6 through 10.

The Special Commission received a total of 3,921 communications; of these 2,577 referred to cases involving members of the defunct National Guard, while 1,344 involved individual accused of having been civilian collaborators of General Somoza.

All persons who wished to file a compliant were duly received

The Commission would like to record its thanks to the Nicaraguan Government and the Nicaraguan people in general for their cooperation, enabling it to properly execute its mission.

i) Preliminary Recommendations

21. On October 11, the Commission met again with the members of the Junta to present its preliminary recommendations. The text of that document is as follows:


Upon the conclusion of its visit, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) wishes to express its thanks to the Government authorities for the open and complete cooperation that was provided through its stay in Nicaragua.

This same cooperation motivated the Government of national Reconstruction to ratify the American Convention on human Rights in September 1979 and other international instruments on the subject.

Notwithstanding its future analysis of the observance of human rights in Nicaragua in its report and the recommendations it will propose to the government of national Reconstruction at that time, the Commission would now like to set forth a number of preliminary recommendations in view of the urgent attention that, in the Commission view, they require. These preliminary recommendations are as follows:

1. On the prison system. The IACHR visited most of the detention centers that house prisoners accused of or sentenced for crimes other than common crimes. It wishes to state to the Government of national Reconstruction that, with the exception of the “Ruth Rodríguez” women’s prison in Granada, in general it found the conditions under which the prisoners are held to be deplorable and inconsistent with the minimum requirements necessary for the respect of human dignity, as established in Article 8, paragraph 2.d, of the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans, and Article 5, paragraph 2, of the American Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, the IACHR recommends the following measures:

a. That the overcrowding in the cells be reduced;

b. That every prisoner be given a bed with a mattress;

c. That the diet of the prisoners be improved;

d. That the frequency and regularity of visits by family members to detainees be increased;

e. That a system be established that permits prisoners to use the toilet facilities more often;

f. That the prisoners be allowed to wash their uniforms more frequently;

g. That at leas once a day and for a reasonable period of time, the detainees be allowed to leave their cell to get some sun;

h. That investigations be conducted and that, where appropriate, those responsible for guarding the prisoners and found to be beating or torturing them in violation of the instructions of the Government of National Reconstruction, be punished;

i. That the necessary measures be taken to see to it that medication supplied by the detainees relatives actually reaches the detainees;

j. That the prison facility be provided with medical services and medication essential to care for prisoners who are ill;

k. That prisoners suffering from infectious-contagious diseases be removed to adequate health centers, proper surveillance notwithstanding;

l. That in all prison facilities, conduct of, and attendance at, religious services be allowed;

m. That the prisoners be allowed to receive books, newspapers, magazines and materials for handwork;

n. That at all detention centers, relatives of prisoners be allowed to bring in food twice each week;

o. That searches of relatives visiting detainees be conducted in a manner consistent with human dignity;

p. That hygienic conditions at the detention center be improved considerably;

q. That minor be released; should it be impossible or inadvisable to release them that they be confined in special rehabilitation centers;

r. That the service of those prisoners who are willing to cooperate to enlarge and improve the facilities be used; resources contributed by private institutions or international organizations could also be used for that purpose.

s. That study be given to the possibility of granting a pardon to apply to the following groups of individuals:

i. The maimed, disable or seriously ill;

ii. Women;

iii. Old men.

2. On the subject of the rights and guarantees of defense.

Should the Special Tribunals be maintained:

a. That view by a higher judicial authority, such as the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals, be established with respect to sentences handed down by the Special Tribunals; such recourse being available only to the defendant;

b. That departmental special tribunals be established to reduce the congestion in the Managua Courts;

c. That the charges brought against the accused be established by concrete evidence based on prior investigations; the indictment should indicate clearly the name, date, places and other circumstances, relating to the acts imputed;

d. That Article 20 of Law 185 creating the Special Tribunals be amended so that the Special Court of Appeals may review guilty verdicts handed down by the lower Court with power to overturn or reduce the sentence;

e. That the time periods for preparing the defense and presenting the evidence be broadened;

f. That both the indictment and the sentence be based on grounds and specify the crime, the events, and the evidence in support of the accusation, in each case.

3. On the matter of the defense and promotion of human rights.

The IACHR recommends that the commissions dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights in Nicaragua, governmental or private, be guaranteed complete autonomy for the exercise of their activities.

f. Press conference

22. At the conclusion of its visit to Nicaragua on October 11, the Commission held a press conference at the Hotel Camino Real, where it released a press communique. [4]/

G. Methodology:

1. The present report is the result of the various pieces of background information and evidence on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua which the Commission compiled before, during, and after, the on-site observation conducted in October of 1980.

2. The Commission has given special consideration to the information and testimony it received during the on-site observation from the Nicaraguan authorities and from representatives of various sectors of the Nicaraguan community. This report is based, to a large extent, on the investigations, which the Commission conducted during that on-site observation.

3. Moreover, in preparing this report, consideration has been given to a number of denunciations received by the commission concerning alleged violations of human rights. Those denunciations are being processed in accordance with the Regulations of the IACHR. By using such individual cases, the Commission seeks to illustrate the various subjects and situations dealt with in the report.

4. The Commission has given careful study to the legislation enacted by the government of National Reconstruction since July 19, 1979, the conduct of its courts and the international standards applicable in the area of human rights. Among the latter, the Commission has attached particular importance to the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party.

5. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has consulted various documents, submitted by both the Government and other sectors, that concern the situation of human rights in Nicaragua or that in one way or another shed some light on and provide a better understanding of the current situation in Nicaragua.

6. This report takes into consideration the observations and comments made by the Government of Nicaragua in its note of June 15, 1981 concerning the version of this Report which the Commission provisionally approved at its fifty-second session, held in March 1981.

7. In conclusion, the Commission wishes to state, that when compiling the facts narrated in the present Report, it was unable to disregard the nature of the previous regime, and the repeated violations of human rights committed by its authorities, especially the military; the difficulties that the new authorities had to confront when they took charge of a country practically destroyed by Civil War and, in that difficult context, the present Government’s stated intention to respect human rights.



[1] The Following countries voted in favor of the resolutions: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, México, Panamá, Peru, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela; the countries that voted against the resolution were as follows: Nicaragua, and Paraguay; Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Uruguay abstained. Trinidad and Tobago did not take part in the voting.

[2] The text on this Decree law reads as follows: “That the Somoza Dictatorship’s systematic contempt for the fundamental human rights of the Nicaraguan people and of the human person led to barbaric acts that outraged the conscience of humanity, that freedom, justice and peace are based on recognition and affirmation of the fundamental human rights of the individual and of the collectivity, thereby making it essential that those rights be protected by the Government of national Reconstruction; in the exercise of its powers, it decrees the following Law and approves and ratifies the American Convention on Human Rights, concluded in San José, Costa Rica, 1969:

Article 1. That having signed the American Convention on Human Rights, the Pact of San José, Costa Rica, on November 22, 1969; at the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human rights in San José, Costa Rica, the Government of Nicaragua hereby accepts it and makes it a law of the nation, pledging the national honor to its observance.

The present law shall enter into force today, as of its publication in any mass communications medium, its subsequent publication in La Gaceta, Diario Oficial, notwithstanding.”

[3] This press communique reads as follows: “On October 6, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will begin its activities in the territory of Nicaragua. The commission is composed of its Chairman, Professor Tom J. Farer, and by the members Drs. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Luis Tinoco Castro, Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and César Sepúlveda. Accompanying the Commission will be Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, and Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark and Dr. Christina Cerna, lawyers with the Commission. It will be assisted as well by the technical and administrative personnel necessary.

The purpose of the visit is to conduct an observation of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua, for the purpose of preparing a report on the observance of those rights, in accordance with the Regulations that govern the Commission.

During its stay in Nicaragua, the Commission will hold talks and hearings with authorities, entities and individuals representatives of the various sectors that make up Nicaraguan society, among them the political, professional, religious, business, union, student, labor, and humanitarian sectors and the mass communications media.

In extending its invitation to the Commission to conduct this on-site observation, the Government of Nicaragua has provided broad places of detention; to interview any individuals and institutions the Commission may consider necessary; the Government has also assured the Commission that individuals and institutions that wish to speak with the Commission may do so without impediment of any kind and that no reprisals will be taken against them.

Following a program prepared for that purpose, the Commission will conduct its activities in the city of Managua, as well as in other places in the country, among them León, Chinandega, Granada, Jinotepe, Matagalpa and Estelí.

The Commission hopes that during its stay in Nicaragua the representatives of the various parts that make up Nicaraguan society will lend it their cooperation so as to contribute to a better understanding of the situation in Nicaragua in the field of human rights.

The Commission will have its offices in Managua, at the Hotel Camino Real, Pista Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, where, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., October 6-10, it will receive any denunciations of alleged violations of human rights that may wish to be presented.

[4] The text of that press communique is as follows: “Today, Saturday, October 11, 1980, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its on-site observation of the situation of human rights in Nicaragua which it began on the 6th of this month, at the invitation of the Government of this country. Participating in this visit were Commission members Mr. Tom J. Farer, Chairman; Messrs. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Vice-Chairmen; Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches; Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro and César Sepúlveda. These were assisted, by professional and administrative staff from the Secretariat.

During its stay in Nicaragua, the Commission held talks with the members of the Junta of the government of national Reconstruction, of the Council of State, of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, of the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of the Interior and of Justice, members of the Supreme Court and of the Special Tribunals, as well as other civilian and military officials, both national and departmental.

The commission also met with the Chairman of the Nicaraguan Red Cross, with the President of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference, and representatives of various political, religious, humanitarian. Communications, professional, scientific, business, union and university institutions, and of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, from whom it received important testimony with respect to the Nicaraguan human rights situation.

The Commission visited “Jorge Navarro” formerly “Modelo” prison, “Héroes y Mártires de Nuevo Guinea”, in what was formerly the “Free Zone,” and State Security detention centers in El Chipote, at the “Germán Pomares” military compound in the city of Managua.

It also visited “Orlando Betancourt” prison and “Commando Carlos Amaya Talamante” detention center in the Department of León, “La Pólvora,” now known as “José L. Enríquez,” and “Ruth Rodríguez” women’s prison in the city of Granada, the Coyotepe detention center, “Benjamín Zeledón” in Masaya, which has no prisoners at the present time, and “Juan José Quesada” detention center in Jinotepe in the Department of Carazo.

The Commission also received complaints on alleged violations of human rights during its tour of other cities, as well as in the office it maintained for the duration of its stay in the Hotel Camino Real in Managua. Said denunciations were processed in accordance with the Statue and Regulations of the Commission. The Government of Nicaragua reiterated to the Commission its decision to refrain from adopting any form of reprisals against whose who submitted complaints to the Commission and against those entities or persons that provided it with information and testimony.

The Commission cannot put forth any value judgement or any substantive opinion as to the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. It well meet later in Washington; there, it will consider the valuable information compiled during its on-site observation, the documents and information presented to it, and the other sources it has at its disposal, and prepare the corresponding report. That report will be transmitted to the Government for such observations as it may deem appropriate. Once those observations have been analyzed, the Commission will transmit its report to the corresponding organs of the OAS and will make it public.

The foregoing notwithstanding, because of their urgency and importance, the Commission today delivered to the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction a document which contains recommendations aimed at improving the situation of human rights in this country.

The Commission whishes to thank the government for the facilities it provided to enable the commission to carry out its mission and wishes to thank the authorities, the press, the various institutions representative of the Nicaraguan community and the people of Nicaragua, in general, for their cooperation and hospitality.



Home || Treaties || Search || Links