University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights of a Segment of the Nicaraguan Population of Mikito Origin, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L./V.II.62, Doc. 10 rev. 3 (1983).




Approved by the Commission at its 814th session
held on May 16, 1984

Resolution on the Friendly Settlement Procedure
regarding the Human Rights Situation of a
Segment of the Nicaraguan population of
Miskito origin


1. The complaint presented by the organization Misurasata informs the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that various and serious violations of human rights attributable to the Nicaraguan Government had occurred following the events of December 1981 and January 1982 that had taken place in the Miskito communities of the Rio Coco area;

2. The invitation of the Government of Nicaragua on February 22, 1982 to the Commission to visit Nicaragua in order to learn firsthand about the situation in the new settlements of the ethnic minorities that inhabit the Atlantic zone;

3. The on-the-spot observation in Nicaragua of a special commission of the IACHR from May 1 to 6, 1982, which was complemented by a visit made by a special sub commission to a refugee camp in Mocorón, Honduras, from May 7 to 9, 1982;

4. The preliminary recommendations delivered by the special commission to the Government of National Reconstruction at the close of the on-site visit to Nicaragua;

5. The Special Report on the Human Rights Situation of the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua, adopted by the IACHR on June 26, 1982, which was transmitted to that Government;

6. The reply of the Government of Nicaragua of August 24, 1982, in which it analyses the conclusions and recommendations of the aforementioned special report and proposes to the Commission that it assume the role of mediator in a friendly settlement procedure;

7. The consent of the IACHR to serve as mediator in a friendly settlement procedure, communicated to the Nicaraguan Government by note of September 20, 1982;

8. The note of the IACHR to the Government of Nicaragua dated November 22, 1982, in which it specifies the ways in which it ought to undertake its conciliatory function, the procedure to be followed and the measures that ought to be taken by the Government in order to create the conditions of détente essential for the effective exercise of its functions;

9. The visits made by the staff of the Secretariat of the Commission to Honduras in May 1983 and to Nicaragua in June of that year, in order to update the information available to the IACHR;

10. The later notes sent by the IACHR, in which it requested the Government of Nicaragua to inform it as to how it had been complying with the Commission’s recommendations and the replies made by the Government;

11. The note of September 30, 1983, in which the IACHR informs the Nicaraguan Government of its intent to make one last effort to reach a friendly settlement, and for this purpose requests it to undertake a set of measures which the Commission considers indispensable in order to continue its function as mediator in the friendly settlement procedure, in particular a pardon or amnesty for all the Miskitos arrested as a result of the events that had occurred since December 1981, and the holding of a conference with ample participation of Miskito leaders representative of the different sectors of the population;

12. The reply of the Government of Nicaragua of November 14, 1983, in which it states that, due to the conditions prevailing in Nicaragua it is impossible to grant the amnesty requested by the IACHR by the date set and it rejects participation in the proposed conference of some of the persons mentioned by the Commission in its note;

13. The note of the Chairman of the Commission to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua dated November 29, 1983, terminating the activity of the IACHR as mediator in the friendly settlement procedure, and the transmittal on that same date, of the report approved by the Commission;

14. The cable also of November 29, 1983, addressed by the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua to the Chairman of the IACHR, in which he reports, elaborating on the note of November 14, that the Government of Nicaragua has decreed a general amnesty in favor of the Miskitos and inviting the Chairman of the Commission to the ceremony at which the amnesty will be announced;

15. The cable from the Chairman of the Commission to the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua in which he expresses satisfaction that the amnesty has been decreed;

16. The cable of April 28, 1984, from the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, in which he informs the Chairman of the IACHR of the agreement, in principle, of that country’s government to hold a conference such as that proposed by the Commission, even though he considers that, because of the convulsive climate in the Central American region, it cannot be held immediately and he again rejects the participation of certain leaders in the conference;

17. The provisions of articles 48(1)(f) and 49 through 51 of the American Convention on Human rights and of articles 42 through 45 of the Regulations of the IACHR; and


1. That given the problems that have arisen between the Government of Nicaragua and the Miskito population of that country, it is necessary to distinguish between those that are long-standing in Nicaraguan society from others which arose in 1980 and 1981 and deteriorated at the end of this past year;

2. That both the long-standing as well as the recent problems have become intertwined in the context of a situation of conflict with obvious international repercussions, creating a state of great social tension within which framework serious violations of human rights have occurred, attributable to the Government of Nicaragua;

3. That in order to effectively protect the human rights of a group of Nicaraguan Miskito citizens, the Commission, on the basis of complaints received began the processing of this case, and for that purpose directed itself to the Nicaraguan Government;

4. That the Nicaraguan Government first invited the IACHR to carry out an on-site observation to ascertain the situation and later requested it to assume the function of mediator in a friendly settlement procedure with respect to the problems that had arisen with the Miskito population, in an effort to resolve them on the basis of respect for the human rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights and following the procedure established by the Convention;

5. That the analysis of the recommendations made by the Commission and the replies given by the Nicaraguan Government permit an objective evaluation of the results obtained through the friendly settlement procedure;

6. That in that evaluation account must be taken of both the existence of diverse circumstances which determine the degree of compliance by the Government with certain recommendations of the Commission and the very nature of the problem to be solved by means of the actions recommended;

7. That the subject matter of the friendly settlement procedure, the recommendations of the Commission in this regard, and the actions taken by the Government of Nicaragua have been as follows:

a. Beginning with the forced displacement of the Miskito communities on the Coco River to the interior of Nicaragua, the Commission recommended to the Nicaraguan Government that it state that this move was a temporary measure and that it would therefore guarantee the return to their places of origin to those who wishes to return once the emergency was over. The Government of Nicaragua complied with this recommendation of the IACHR.

b. In view of the transfer to Honduras of a large number of Miskito Indians as a result of the circumstances indicated in the report, the IACHR recommended to the Government of Nicaragua that it facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Miskitos now refugees in other countries, thus contributing to family reunification, in order to respect in this manner the right of residence and movement of that population. The Government stated its willingness to comply with this recommendation of the IACHR, and in January of this year, it established a committee to encourage and facilitate repatriation of the Miskitos. Representatives of religious institutions and international organizations participate in this committee.

c. In view of the poor physical condition of the Miskitos in detention as a result of the events mentioned, the Commission recommended improving the conditions of detention. The Commission was subsequently able to ascertain that this recommendation had been carried out by the Nicaraguan Government with regard to Miskitos detained under the system of minimal security farms, but not with regard to those in detention in Zona Franca prison.

d. In light of the many and serious irregularities that had taken place during the trials of the Miskitos, the Commission recommended that the standards of due process of law be observed in their trials, which would include, among other things, abolishing the practice of torture confirmed in some cases, eliminating television broadcasting of the defendants confessing while the trial was still in progress providing proper legal assistance to the accused, and reviewing the sentences issued by the Court of Puerto Cabezas. The Government of Nicaragua complied with the Commission’s recommendation, which included review and dismissal by the Supreme Court of Justice of most of the sentences handed down and the removal of the judge responsible for the irregularities committed.

e. The Commission recommended that the Moravian ministers of the Atlantic Coast who had been arrested be pardoned and this recommendation was complied with by the Government.

f. Taking into account the action by the Government of Nicaragua which prevented many church people from returning to the Atlantic Coast, the Commission recommended that this prohibition be invalidated. The Government complied with the Commission’s recommendation.

g. In view of the distressing situations brought about by the separation of families as a result of the forced displacement and the search for refuge in Honduras on the part of the Miskito population, the Commission, for humanitarian reasons, recommended to the Nicaraguan Government that it create conditions to facilitate the interchange of letters between the camps of Tasba Pri and Mocorón. The Government complied with this recommendation, working jointly with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

h. In view of the destruction by Nicaraguan Government agents of the houses, crops and communities in general, as well as the livestock of the Miskito communities, justified by that Government’s arguing the need to deprive the armed groups operating in the area of resources, the Commission recommended that Miskitos whose property had been destroyed by government action be economically compensated. The Government has not carried out this recommendation by the IACHR, arguing that the expenses incurred in providing housing, food, medical attention, land and farming implements to the communities located in the new settlement constituted adequate compensation.

i. Bearing in mind that one of the basic aspects of the conflict which has arisen between the Government of Nicaragua and the Miskito population is that which concerns the Miskitos’ claims to their ancestral lands, arguing that the Government is violating their rights to those lands and introducing changes detrimental to the system of tenure and exploitation of these lands by means of the Agrarian Reform, the Commission recommended that the Government provide a fair solution to the problem of the ancestral lands claimed by the Miskito population. The Commission thus far has not seen a clear expression of the will of the Nicaraguan Government to carry out this recommendation.

j. In view of the Miskito claims that they are not participating adequately in the administration of the Atlantic zone, the Commission recommended that provisions be made for such participation by the people of that region. The Government has not complied with this recommendation of the IACHR, although it has reported that it is taking steps to overcome this problem.

k. In view of the Nicaraguan Government’s dissolution of the Misurasata organization, the arrest of its leaders and their subsequent release and exile, the Commission recommended to the Nicaraguan Government that it authorizes Misurasata or another institution which authentically represents the Miskito population to function, allowing the leaders of Misurasata to return to Nicaragua. The Government has not carried out this recommendation, as it feels that the leaders of Misurasata are involved in activities which affect Nicaragua’s domestic and international security. It has reported, however, that a new organization representative of the Nicaraguan Miskito population is in the process of formation, to which the Government has guaranteed the right of association, and it has invited the Commission to witness the process whereby the new organization is being created.

l. As a result of the serious violations of the right to life committed by soldiers of the Sandinista Army, which occurred in the community of Leimus in December 1981, the Commission recommended that the Nicaraguan Government investigate the deaths which occurred in those places and punish those responsible. The Government has not complied with this recommendation of the IACHR because, although those presumed to be responsible were brought to trial they were acquitted despite the fact that the Commission considers that there is sufficient evidence to convict them.

m. With a view to establishing a favorable climate for the friendly settlement of the problem existing between the Nicaraguan Government and the Miskito population, the Commission recommended that the Government grant a broad amnesty to all Miskitos in detention. The Government has complied with this recommendation of the IACHR by granting the amnesty requested on December 1, 1983, although a small number of Miskitos who are not covered by the amnesty in reference remain under arrest.

n. With a view to solving the problems which still subsist between the Government of Nicaragua and the Miskito population, many of which require detailed consideration and a cool dialogue between the parties, the Commission recommended that a conference be held which would allow broad participation on the part of the Miskito leadership, even including those accused of subversive activities. The Government of Nicaragua has consented, in principle, to the holding of this conference, but it has expressed the view that, given the existing climate of tension, it could not be held immediately; and the Government has reiterated its refusal to talk with the leaders whom it considers to be involved in activities against the security of the State.

o. Bearing in mind that the existing climate of conflict in the region directly affects the observance of human rights, the Commission recommended that the Nicaraguan Government seek a peaceful settlement of problems which have arisen with Honduras. Subsequently, this matter was included on the agenda of items to be negotiated within the framework of the Contadora Group’s peace efforts.

8. Throughout the friendly settlement procedure significant advances were made toward the improvement of the observance of human rights, but important problems which must be resolved in the future remain pending. Among these, some of the problems, such as the matter of punishing those responsible for the deaths that occurred in Leimus, depend on the actual will of the Nicaraguan Government to overcome them. Other problems to be resolved concern matters which, despite the Nicaraguan Government’s initial refusal, can yet be subject to reconsideration in the framework of imaginative solutions. These problems include the issue of economic compensation to the Miskitos who have lost their property as a result of the actions of government agents, because if this condition is not met, obstacles will arise that will thwart, in fact, the Nicaraguan Government’s avowed will to allow the Miskitos to return to their places of origin once the emergency is over. Other problems remain open to discussion and the IACHR hopes that they will be resolved in the future. Such is the case of the ancestral lands and of the adequate participation of the Miskito population in the administration of the Nicaraguan Atlantic coast.

9. In view of the impossibility of reaching an agreement on the representatives of the Miskito community and of holding now a dialogue between the groups concerned, it is not possible to continue the friendly settlement procedure.



1. To bring to an end the friendly procedure pursued with respect to matters affecting the human rights of a segment of the Nicaraguan population of Miskito origin.

2. To state for the record that it has not been possible to achieve a friendly settlement, in part, due to circumstances beyond the control of the Nicaraguan Government.

3. To express its appreciation to the Government of Nicaragua for the necessary facilities provided to the Commission to enable it to carry out the functions of mediator in the friendly settlement procedure and for having complied with some of the recommendations made.

4. To express its decided willingness to continue cooperating with the Government of Nicaragua and with all the affected sectors in the search for a peaceful and lasting solution to the pending problems which still affect a considerable number of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin.

5. To accept the Nicaraguan Government’s invitation to the Commission to observe the process by which the new organization, that will bring together the Miskitos living in that country, is formed.

6. To publish the Report on the Situation of Human Rights of a segment of the Nicaraguan population of Miskito origin, which was transmitted to the Government of Nicaragua on November 29, 1983.

7. To send this report, by means of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, to the fourteenth regular session of the General Assembly, in accordance with Article 52, paragraph f) of the OAS Charter.

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