ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONTROVERSY
1. Before analyzing the various issues involved in the current human rights situation of a segment of the Nicaraguan population of Miskito origin, the Commission considers it advisable to provide some historical background that may facilitate the understanding of this complex matter.
2. What is called “the Atlantic coast” of Nicaragua is a region that includes the Department of Zelaya and part of the Department of the Rio San Juan. From time immemorial, this area has been inhabited by the ethnic groups denominated Miskitos, Sumos and Ramas, the sole genuine descendants of the primitive aborigines who inhabited Nicaragua. Of these, the Miskitos are the largest ethnic group.
3. As a result of the particular circumstances of the historical development of Nicaraguan society, this part of the country is unlike the pacific region from an ethnic, cultural, historical, linguistic or religious perspective.
Thus, while the Spanish, Catholic captains and religious orders colonized the Pacific zone, the Atlantic coast was the object of similar activity by the British, who since 1640 has established themselves in the northeast part of this region, dedicated to the exploitation of sugarcane and hardwood.
4. The English won and cultivated the friendship of the natives, and occasionally were allied with them in attacks on some Spanish settlements in the interior of the country. To consolidate their domination of the region, in 1687 the British created the Miskito Kingdom, which was brought under the protection of Great Britain. In the same year, the Governor of Jamaica approved the appointment of the Indian chief Oldman as monarch of the Miskito territory; this artificially established the Miskito dynasty, an institution which had not existed previously in Indian social organization. The monarchy lasted until 1894, when Nicaragua again acquired full sovereignty over these lands through the decree of reincorporating of the Mosquitia.
5. At the beginning of 1847, the British Government notified the Republics of Central America that what was called the “de la mosquitia” coast, extended from the Cape of Honduras to the southern bank of the San Juan River, and that in the future the Miskito Kingdom should be recognized as a sovereign nation under the protection of Great Britain.
6. In 1849 the Atlantic coast witnessed the first arrival in the region of missionaries of the “Unitas Fratum” church, known as the Moravian church because it originated in Bohemia and Moravia, Czechoslovakia which soon became the dominant influence in the area, displacing the Catholic Church which maintained its predominance in the pacific region. Thus, by 1900 most of the Miskito and Sumo communities had embraced the Moravian faith; Criollo and Miskito pastors gradually replaced those of German and North American origin, and at present nearly all centers populated by Miskitos have a Moravian pastor trained at the Biblical Institute of Bilwaskarma, on the Coco River.
7. The Treaty of Managua was signed in 1860, whereby Great Britain recognized Nicaraguan sovereignty over the Atlantic region and declared that the British protectorate over that territory would expire following exchange instrument of ratification. The Treaty established that the Miskitos would have the right of self-government and the right to govern all residents within the region, in accordance with their own custom and with whatever regulations they adopted that did not contravene the sovereign rights of the Republic of Nicaragua. In turn, the latter agreed to respect and not oppose their customs and regulation.
Due to the unique status obtained by the Miskitos as result of this arrangement, serious and ongoing problems arose between the authorities of the Republic and those of the Miskito Reserve. On February 12, 1894, this led the Government of Nicaragua to reenact the reserve by means of a Decree issued by the Inspector General of the Atlantic coast, General Rigoberto Cabezas.
On November 20 of the same year, the inhabitants of the Reserve, speaking through their mayors and delegates, declared their acceptance of the sovereignty of Nicaragua, reserving some privileges though what was called the Miskito Convention.
8. On April 19, 1905, Great Britain and Nicaragua signed the Altamirano Harrison Treaty, which annulled the 1860 Treaty of Managua. In accordance with this new instrument, Great Britain recognized the absolute sovereignty of Nicaragua over the Territory constituting the earlier Miskito Reserve.
Subparagraphs b), c), d) and e) of Article 3 of that Treaty read as follows:
b. The Government shall allow the Indians to live in their villages in enjoyment of the concession granted under this Convention, and in accordance with their own customs, insofar as they are not contrary to the laws of the country and public morality.
c. The Government of Nicaragua shall grant them a period of two years to legalize their rights to the property they have acquired in conformity with the provisions that governed the reserve prior to 1894. The Government shall not charge for their lands or for the concession of titles. For that purpose, titles that were owned by the Indians and Creoles prior to 1894 shall be renewed in conformity with the law; and where such title do not exist, the Government shall give each family eight squares of property in their place of residence.
d. Public land for grazing shall be set aside for the use of the inhabitants in the neighborhood of each Indian village.
e. Should any Miskito or Creole Indian prove that the property he owned in accordance with the provisions in force prior to 1894 has been revoked or adjudicated to another person, the Government shall compensate him by granting him idle land of like value, as close to his place of residence as possible.”
9. The Altamirano-Harrison Treaty closed the chapter on Great Britain’s claims to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. Yet several factors remained that made it difficult to legalize ownership title to the properties that belonged to the Miskitos prior to 1894 and to specify other rights to lands referred to in Article III of the above-mentioned Treaty. Among such factors should be mentioned the lack of precision with respect to the boundaries of the former Miskito Reserve; the difficulty in transportation and communication among the remote Indian communities and with Bluefields, capital of the Department; and the persistence of some Miskito chiefs in considering themselves subjects of the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Even though some communities obtained title to their lands, the problem still remains unresolved, and the Miskitos have since maintained an ongoing claim to compliance with the provisions of the treaty concerning their lands and their right to live in accordance with their customs.
10. Moreover, the relative economic and social development that took place in the country at the end nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth never reached the Atlantic coast. The liberal and conservative governments that governed the country following the reincorporation of the Miskito reserve until July of 1979 focused their attention on the rest of the country, particularly the Pacific zone. Thus, the Atlantic zone was not included in the general development process of the country, and was subject to economic exploitation and cultural domination.
The natural resources of that region, chiefly mineral, forestry and fishing resource were exploited by national or foreign companies of the pacific region. To mention but a few, these were: The Neptune Gold Mine Company; The Rosario and Light Mine Company; The Nicaraguan Long Leaf Pine Lumber Company (NIPCO); and the Pescanica, Plumar-Blue, and Boot Fishing Companies.
The Miskito population that worked in these enterprises received wages that were considered to be very low, while the Atlantic region, as a whole received no particular benefit as a result of the economic activities of those companies. Thus, the only route of communication with the Pacific zone was by means of navigation of the Rio Escondido from Bluefields to the City of Rama (6 hours), and then by road to Managua (5 hours); the principal population centers-Puerto Cabezas and Las Minas- are linked by rough dirt roads, which are not always passable.
11. In general, it may be stated that the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua in July of 1979, lacked electricity, drinking water, sanitary facilities, transportation services, communications, radios and schools.
12. As a reaction to this state of absolute neglect, as a manifestation of the resurgence of an awareness of ethnic identity on the part of the natives vis-à-vis the attempts at acculturation by the previous government, foreign companies, and in general, the populace of the Pacific—whom the Miskitos called “the Spaniards” – and as a means of defending their ancestral rights, in 1972, the Indian organization Alliance for the Progress of the Miskito and Sumo (ALPROMISO) was created, and in November of 1979 this was transformed and replaced by the Organization MISURASATA.
B. Recent Background
1. It was not long before serious problems arose between the Indian communities and the Sandinista Government, which has assumed power in July 1979.
2. According to substantial background material in the hands of the Commission, shortly after the triumph of the revolution, a good part of the Miskito population began to resist the attempts of the new Government of Nicaragua to make them adapt some of their ways of life and tribal organization to the political and social objectives set out by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. (FSLN).
According to reports received by the Commission, the resistance of the Miskitos to such changes, and the insistence of the government that they accept them, gradually gave rise to a distancing of the two groups which sharpened into antagonism, due to the conflict between the FSLN’s expectations of the Miskitos and the expectations of the Miskitos with respect to the Sandinista Government.
3. As the Indian’s resistance grew, the Government began to apply increasingly drastic measures to control what had become an organized counterrevolutionary movement in the eye of the official authorities, with influence on the whole Atlantic coastal region and with secessionist intent.
On February 19 and 20, 1981, approximately 30 Miskitos leaders of the Misurasata Organization were imprisoned by the State Security forces, among them Brooklyn Rivera, Hazel Lau, and Steadman Fagoth. In addition, the organization’s offices were placed under army control.
Government accused the leaders of Misurasata of promoting a separatist movement on the Atlantic coast. New waves of protest broke out in the area, and led to the formation of February 25 of that year of a Peace Committee comprised of members of the FSLN, Misurasata, and religious institutions.
In response to the recommendations of that Committee, Rivera and Lau were released together with the other leaders who had been captured; Steadman Fagoth, representative of Misurasata in the Council of State, accused of high treason and of being an agent of the Security Force of the previous regime, a charge he denied, was not released.
At the insistence of Misurasata and other organizations, Fagoth was released in May 1981, returned to the Atlantic coast and moved to Honduras, where he was followed by 3,000 Miskitos. Later, in September of that year, Brooklyn Rivera, who had continued to negotiate with the Government on behalf of Misurasata, also left the country.
4. In July 1981, the Government announced the launching of the Agrarian Reform Program. Misurasata leaders believed that the program should take into account the claims of the Indian communities to ownership of lands involved in the program, since from their viewpoint, it would first have to be determined which lands belonged to them and which others the Government could dispose of without compensation.
Furthermore, the Miskito leaders accused the Government of not observing an Agreement which, in their view afforded the Indian organization a four/month deadline to submit a study in support of their land claims.
5. In the course of these events, the Government of National Reconstruction repeatedly denounced the existence of anti-Sandinista armed groups operating along the border with Honduras, from within that country, which were organized and led by officers of the disbanded Somocista National Guard. According to the Government of the FSLN, those groups made constant incursions into Nicaraguan territory, attacking border posts and terrorizing the Miskitos who lived in various communities along the Coco River.
In response to this situation, the Nicaraguan Government expanded its military presence in the area, which gave rise to many confrontations or incidents between soldiers and Miskitos, which led some of the Indians to begin seeking refuge in Honduras, by crossing the Coco River border. In the last months of 1981, the incursions of these armed insurgent groups became more frequent, according to the Nicaraguan Government.
6. According to information received by the Commission, on December 20 and 21, 1981, rebels in opposition to the Government of Nicaragua crossed the Coco River from Honduras and occupied the town of San Carlos, where they ambushed soldiers of the Nicaraguan army, and mutilated and killed several of them. The Government of Nicaragua denounced this incident as part of a massive uprising planned to break out in the towns of the Coco River inhabited by Miskitos, in the course of Christmas week. At the same time, denunciations and information received by the IACHR stated that during this confrontation, and in retaliation for the killings in San Carlos, Sandinista Army forces killed a considerable, although thus far undetermined, number of Miskitos in the area of Leimus and its surroundings.
7. On December 28, 1981, the Government of Nicaragua decided to move 42 villages of the Coco River region to an area located some 60 kilometers south of the river, on the Rosita-Puerto Cabezas road. The up-river towns, from Leimus to Raiti, had to be evacuated on foot, under very difficult and harsh conditions, as there were no passable roads for vehicles. The down-river villagers, from Leimus to the Atlantic coast, were moved in trucks and most of those evacuated were allowed to take some of their belongings. Throughout January and part of February, q982, approximately 8,500 Miskitos were relocated in five different camps in what the Government has called the Tasba Pri project “free land” in the Miskito language).
8. As a result of the events related to the so-called Red Christmas operation, many Miskitos were captured by the Government of Nicaragua, and together with some ministers of the Moravian Church, accused of being counterrevolutionaries. A massive exodus then ensued; during which approximately 10,000Miskitos and many Moravian ministers crossed the Coco River into Honduras, where some 8,000 were subsequently settled in refugee camps in the area of Mocoron, in the Gracias a Dios Department.
C. The Government of Nicaragua invites the IACHR to make an on-site visit
1. On February 22, 1982, Foreign Minister Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, on behalf of the Government of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua, invited the IACHR to visit the country and to directly observe the situation of the new ethnic minority settlements on the Atlantic coast.
The pertinent section of the note addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, reads as follows:
I AM HONORED TO GREET YOU AND TO TRANSMIT TO YOU, ON BEHALF OF THE DIRECTORATE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION, A MOST CORDIAL INVITATION FOR THE HONORABLE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO VISIT NICARAGUA AND MAKE AN ON-SITE OBSERVATION OF THE SITUATION OF THE NEW SETTLEMENTS OF ETHNIC MINORITIES ON THE ATLANTIC COAST OF OUR COUNTRY.
2. The Executive Secretary of the Commission, in reply to the Foreign Minister, indicated that the note would be considered by the IACHR, which would meet on March 1, 1982, at its Fifty-fifth Session.
D. The Misurasata Complaint
1. A few days prior to the invitation of the Nicaraguan Government, the Commission received from the Misurasata organization, whose coordinator General is Mr. Brooklyn Rivera, the first formal complaint Indian Miskito people by the Government of Nicaragua.
2. The complaint was submitted to the Government of Nicaragua on February 24, 1982 in accordance with Article 31 of the Statute of the Commission, with a request for information on the facts described therein. According to the complainant, the facts were as follows.
EVENTS OF DECEMBER 1981
a. On December 23, the Sandinista Air Force bombarded the Indian communities Os Asang and San Carlos, located on the bank of the upper Coco River, with “Push and Pull” airplanes and helicopters, killing 60 Indian brothers with 80-lb bombs. Fifteen brothers were taken prisoner from San Carlos in the direction of Waspan or Puerto Cabezas, and among them were: Rev. Higinio Morazan (the community’s Moravian Minister), Juan Saballos, Julian Mansanares, Noel Wellington, Balandor Barrow, Manuel Saballos, Juan Charles, Alberto Zelaya, and Elsa Barrow.
A military air base and 82 members of the Sandinista Army were installed in Asang. San Carlos received reinforcements of 150 troops, with some Cubans among them. Both communities were militarized to prevent the populations from fleeing to Honduras. The soldiers take away the Indian’s food force them to dig trenches, and forbid them to leave their communities in search of food and other necessities.
b. In Leimus, close to Waspan, 80 brothers from Asang, San Carlos, Waspuk, Krasa, etc., were captured on December 22, as they prepared to travel to their respective communities from Waspan, Puerto Cabezas and Managua in order to spend Christmas and the New Year with their relatives (a Miskito custom). The next night (December 23), the army killed 35 of them, and buried them together in a single grave. Some of those killed were: Norma, Rogelio and Simeon Castro, Joselin and Asel Mercado, Cristina and Mayra Lacayo, Victor and Carlos Perez, Justo Martinez, Villanor Pantin, Roseno Gomez, Luis Fajardo, Efrain Poveda, Celso Flores, Ramiro Damasio, etc. The wives of these brothers were raped by the soldiers from Leimus and later forced to go to their communities. On the 24th, twelve (12) brothers were thrown into the Coco River and killed. On the 26th, four (4) brothers were buried alive near Leimus. The whereabouts of the remaining 80 brothers taken prisoner are unknown. The military base in Leimus runs a concentration camp and a forced labor program for prisoners.
c. In Bluefields, on December 26, 30 Criollos, Indians and Mestizos were imprisoned without any charges. A civilian Criollo was seriously wounded by a soldier for resisting forced recruitment into the Sandinista Army.
d. In the Raudales communities (Raiti, Aniwas, Walakitan, Bokay, etc.) along the Coco River, Indians who are part of the Sandinista Army are thrown into the river with heir hands and feet tied for refusing to take part in the massacre of their brothers in those communities. The corpses of many of these military brothers can be found in the communities of Siksayaru and Andristara. In each of the communities of this zone, there are concentrations of from 100 to 3000 soldiers.
EVENTS OF JANUARY, 1982
a. On January 7, 300 soldiers appeared in the Sandy Bay Tara community, repressed the people, militarized the community, and took 40 prisoners to Puerto Cabezas. Many Indians were forced to abandon their community and flee to the mountains.
b. In the Bilwaskarma community of Rio Coco, the Moravian Hospital (the only in the area), was closed and converted into a command headquarters for the army. The community was militarized, and dozens of brothers were taken prisoner, among them, Barbara Diaz (a nurse in the hospital and the daughter of the Minister of the community’s Moravian Church).
c. In the community of Uhri, down-river on the River Coco, six (6) bombs were dropped by a Push and Pull airplane belonging to the Sandinista army, thus forcing the population to take refuge on the Honduran side.
As a result of the events of Leimus and of Asang-San Carlos, the militarization and bombardment of communities, the capture and massive repression of the Indians, persecution of church and communal leaders, and the constant military threat to exterminate the Indian race, thousands of brothers from the Rio Coco communities fled to Honduras after December 23, joining those who had gone to that country year earlier. Nearly 6,000 Indians from more than 20 entire communities are already in Honduras; among them, are the Siksayari, Andristara, Karisal, Santa Isabel, Krasa, Taniska, San Sang, Kitaski, Krinkrinkia, Pilpilia, Namahka, Winwika, Paliyuhmba (Esperanza), Isulibila (Santa Fe), Wirapahni (San Alberto), Pransa, Nasuni (San Jeronimo), Ipritingni, Bulsirpi, Lakuntara, Wiswis, Nilwas, Uhri. It should be noted that the brothers of these communities left empty-handed, abandoning their homes, their livestock and their other belongings because of the prevailing situation in the region.
The FSLN is carrying out an intense political propaganda campaign urging the refugee brothers in Honduras to return to their respective communities, since they know that the refugees have suffered hunger and sickness in that country, and the FSLN is offering food, medicine doctors and every kind of assistance. They say that those who kill and oppress the Indians are the Somocistas or the counterrevolutionaries (??0 and to pay no attention to the lies of other groups. But the Indian people is not to be deceived; they know nothing of the existence of such alleged anti-sandinista armed groups, but they have experienced the oppression and bombardment of their communities, the mass killings of their brothers by the soldiers of Sandinismo. What is ironic in this FSLN campaign is that while their propaganda makes an effort to persuade on the basis of lies, their military sets fire to communities, expropriates the livestock and property of the refugees, and forces the few families who remained in the communities to move to another area as alleged refugees.
Beginning on January 11, the military began to burn houses, temples and schools in the communities of Irpitingni, Pransa, El Carmen, Lakun Tara, Bulsirpi, San Jeronimo, Wirapahni, etc.
Also, the livestock (cows and horses) of theses communities are being given over to the INRA (Nicaraguan Institute for Agrarian Reform) and they are then used to feed these same officers (who have red meat daily).
In some communities, such a Santa Fe (Isulibila), Esperanza (Paliyuhmpa) and San Jeronimo (Nasuni) where a few Indian families still remained, the Armed Forces of Sandinismo have forced them to abandon their communities and move to the Tasba Raya area as supposed refugees, under the pretext of protecting them from Somocista and counterrevolutionary groups.
Misurasata DENOUNCES TO THE WORLD THE ETHNOCIDE OF ITS Indians by the Sandinista regime, the massacres at Leimus and Asang-San Carlos, the dozen of prisoners from San Carlos, Sandy Bay Tara, Blue fields, Bilwaskarma, and Leimus, the bombardment and burning of the communities of the Coco River the expropriation of the livestock and other property of the Indian refugees, the persecution of the leaders of the churches and communities, the decision to annihilate the Indian race, the militarization of the communities and especially the defamation campaign to denigrate the authentic struggle of our Indian peoples for their lands and autonomy, which links them to the Somocista or counterrevolutionary groups. We repeat that the Somocistas have always been the enemies of our Indian peoples and we believe that no counterrevolutionary group represents the interests of the Indians of MISURASATA, so that the Indian struggle can in no way be related to the interests of these unknown groups. We denounce that the FSLN, while lacking grounds and fair arguments in the face of the claim of our Indian peoples for the defense of their historical rights, has launched this slanderous campaign to continue to deny us our ancestral rights and in order to exterminate the Nicaraguan Indian race.
3. In a note dated March 31, 1982, which refers to Case Nº 7964 and to the pertinent sections of the complaint which has been transmitted by the Commission in its note of February 24, the Government of Nicaragua merely noted that:
The Government of National Reconstruction has invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit and observe in loco the situation of the settlements of the Miskito groups on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. That invitation was accepted by His Excellency, Mr. Tom Farer, Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who will arrive in Nicaragua with a delegation in the first week of May.
The same note adds that:
Our Government has been obliged to defend our country’s sovereignty and at the same time protect the Miskito population from Somocista bans by relocating them in a safe place where they are not in danger. In the Miskito settlements, the most basic of all rights, the right to life is fully protected. The Government of National Reconstruction and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation carry out integral programs to improve and lend dignity to their living conditions, especially with respect to health, education, and housing.
4. In a note dated May 21, 1982, the Commission reiterated its communication of February 24 to the Government of Nicaragua, and again requested that information it deemed appropriate be submitted to the Commission with respect to the facts in the complaint.
5. In a note dated June 24, 1982, from the Permanent Mission of Nicaragua to the OAS, the Government of Nicaragua replied to the Commission’s request, with a note dated June 23, 1982 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the pertinent sections of which read as follows:
The Government of Nicaragua was fully convinced that the facts contained in the complaint had been processed by the IACHR during its in situ investigation, carried out from May 4 to 7, and because it was known that these complaints were investigated during the above/mentioned visit carried out at the invitation of the J.G.R.N. to clarify the issue of the Nicaraguans of Miskito origin.
It is difficult for the Government of Nicaragua, as it would be for any other government, to understand why the complaints received by the IACHR prior to its visit to Nicaragua, and during whose stay we have understood investigated those complaints, still require a written reply, especially since the IACHR had that information and the object of its visit was to confirm the truth or falsity of the facts complained of in Case 7964.
Despite the foregoing, this Ministry, at the request of the National Commission of Human Rights, will again urge the competent authorities to submit their own version with a reasonable period of time, since the previous request only allowed a deadline of ten days.
E. Other complaints and information
1. The Commission also received other complaints and reports from various individuals and institutions which, with some variation, referred to the facts set forth in the original complaint.
2. Within this context, the Commission considers it important to refer to the message of the Bishops conference of Nicaragua of February 18, 1982 addressed to the people and Government of Nicaragua and to the families of Miskitos, Sumos and Ladinos.
This message is signed by Monsignor Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop of Managua; Monsignor Pablo A. Vega M., Bishoop of Juigalpa; Monsignor Leovigildo Lopez Pitoria, Bishop of Granada; Monsignor Jualian L. Barni S., Bishop of Matagalpa and Apostolic Administrator of Leon; Monsignor Salvador Schlaefer, Apostolic Vicar of Bluefields; Monsignor Ruben Lopez Ardon, Bishop of Esteli and Monsignor Bosco Vivas Robelo, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua. One part of the message reads as follows:
The events that took place in the Coco River zone, on the border with Honduras, in the Department of Zelaya, Nicaragua, beginning in December, 1981, and which have culminated, on the one hand, in the massive transfer of entire Miskito populations to the interior of the country and on the other, to the flight off a considerable part of the population of that zone to Honduran territory, have had painful effects on all the inhabitants: Miskitos, Sumos and Ladinos of that region.
It is well know that the armed encounters in that zone that took place during those months led to the death of many members of the militia and soldiers of the Popular Sandinista Army, as well as the death of many of their political adversaries and even some uninvolved citizens.
As a result of these events, dozens of people have been detained, and almost all of the towns along the Coco River have been evacuated by the army. Even if the massive evacuation of these towns can be explained militarily we still must regret, from a humane and Christian viewpoint, the displacement of these Indian groups whose roots in hat region go bank to time immemorial: displacements both to the settlements established by the Nicaraguan Government in the interior of the country, as well as to Honduras where many Indian fled, perhaps out of fear, or motivated by the sometimes drastic examples of some of the earlier transfers to he above-mentioned settlements.
As pastors of all our people we feel deeply the suffering caused by the uprooting of these peoples from their lands and we wish them to know that we share their suffering, and that we have for them deep pastoral concern, and fatherly love.
We recognize the government’s authority, and it right to take the necessary measures to guarantee the defense and integrity of the country’s territory.
We also recognize the autonomy of the State and its right to take emergency military measures in all or part of the country to effectively defend the country.
Nevertheless, we wish to remind every one that there are inalienable rights which under no circumstances may be abridged, and we note with sorrowful surprise that in some specific cases, there have been serious violations of the human rights of individuals and families and even of entire villages:
- Evacuations conducted by the military, with no prior notice or explanation.
- Forced marches of several days with insufficient consideration for the weak, the elderly, women and children.
- Charges of counterrevolutionary collaboration aimed at entire groups of the population.
- The destruction of homes, belongings and livestock.
- Also, the death of individuals under circumstances which, very much to our regret, remind us of the drama which our brothers in the region are living.
These facts move us to denounce vigorously, attitudes on the part of those who, having power and force in their hands, should always be the first to guarantee the observance of human rights; and to urge the competent authorities to apply the disciplinary measures which would prevent a repetition of such events in the future.
In addition, recalling that the integrity of the country’s territory must be protected as a historic duty of all Nicaraguans, once the integrity of the national territory is secured, one must also recall that it is a right and a duty to protect the legitimate possession and enjoyment of the riches of the natural, traditional and cultural patrimony of the Indian peoples of the Atlantic coast, in whom we find and recognize with pride not only the ancestry of the race, but also the identity of our age-old, pre-Hispanic nationalities.
Having briefly put forward these facts that describe a situation where the dignity of the individual has not been respected and there has been a violation of their rights, as pastors, and in open solidarity with the Miskitos, Sumos and Ladinos of the Atlantic coast, we request that the competent authorities carry out an objective investigation and take the proper measures to promote peace and tranquility, by guaranteeing justice in the region.
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 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.
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 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. 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”.
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.
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.
L. Later developments
1. On August 24, 1982 the Government of Nicaragua replied to the Commission on the report that had been submitted to it by the IACHR. In the reply, the Nicaraguan Government analyzed the conclusions and recommendations put forward by the Commission, and proposed that it assume the role of mediator in order to reach a friendly settlement, in conformity with Article 48-1(f) of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Government of Nicaragua indicated the procedure that should be followed for the purpose.
The proposal of the Government of Nicaragua was considered by the Commission at its (special) 57th session, which was held in September in San José, Costa Rica.
2. Although at that and all subsequent sessions up to the adoption of this report, the subject of human rights of the Nicaraguans of Miskito origin was principally considered in the context of the process of reaching a friendly settlement which the Commission has undertaken, the Commission also continued to be concerned with the general situation of the Miskito Indians, and it received all information concerning new events which were taking place in the northern zone of the Department of Zelaya, and adopted the measures at its disposal.
3. Among the events that took place following the adoption of the Report on June 26, 1982, note should be taken of the harassment by government authorities and soldiers of the Sandinista Army of the Miskito towns and villages; the frequent skirmishes between the Sandinista Army and armed insurgent groups generally comprising or supported by Miskitos that took place in the northern part of the Department of Zelaya, particularly in locations near Puerto Cabezas, and which led to dozen of deaths; the November 4, 1982 declaration of the territory of 24 municipalities in the Departments of Chinandega, Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Jinotega and Zelaya, adjacent to the border zone with Honduras, as a military emergency zone; the consolidation of the Tasba Pri settlements; the relocation in November and December of 1982 of approximately 4,000 Miskitos from their villages in the Coco River and the Bokay River zone, in the Department of Jinotega, to settlements located in the interior of the same department; the accident on December 9, 1982, which took place in the course of the relocation of several Miskito children to these new settlements, and which claimed the lives of 75 of them and of 9 of their mothers, when the helicopter transporting them accident ally crashed; the increase in the number of detentions of Miskitos, and the subsequent release of some of them; the transfer of nearly 400 Miskitos, prisoners to Managua, first to the Zona Franca prison and then to the Granja del Régimen Abierto (minimal security work farm); the flight to Honduras of hundreds of Nicaraguan Miskitos; the claim of disappearances of Miskitos; and the sentences handed down on September 16, 1983 by the Supreme Court of Nicaragua, which by nullifying the criminal proceedings overturned the sentences that had been given by the Court of Appeals of Bluefields and dismissed the charges against the accused.
These facts, which were not included in the previous report, were given special consideration by the IACHR, and they are considered Part II of this Report.
4. At sessions held following the adoption of the Report on June 26, 1982, the Commission received the testimony of several individuals and of representatives of institutions concerned with the situation of the Miskitos. Thus, at its (special) 57th session, held in San Jose, Costa Rica in September 1982, the Commission received the testimony of Mr. Rafael Zelaya Herrera, representing Misurasata, who insisted on the preconditions that the Government of Nicaragua should establish to make possible mediation between the Miskito people and the Government. Among these preconditions, Mr. Zelaya Herrera insisted on the release of all imprisoned Miskitos and on “an end to the massacre of the Miskito Indians.”
5. At its 58th session, held in November of 1982, the Commission gave a special hearing to Dr. Leonte Herdocia, National Commissioner for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and to Ambassador Edgard Parrales, permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS. In addition, in another interview it spoke with Reverend Fernando Colomer, Superintendent of the Moravian Church of Nicaragua, who submitted a document titled “Considerations with respect to Peace and Reconciliation in Nicaragua: An Indian Proposal”. In the course of this session, the Commission also gave a hearing to Mr. Tillet Mullins and four other members of the Council of Elders, all of whom are currently exiled in Honduras. The group’s spokesman, Mr. Wyciffe Diego, stated on its behalf that 15,000 Miskitos had left Nicaragua for Honduras due to repression and terror and that they were opposed to the repatriation of Miskitos from Honduras to Nicaragua. The Council of Elders also submitted several documents summarizing their viewpoints to the Commission.
6. At its 59th session, held in April 1983, the Commission received Mr. Armstrong Wiggins of the Indian Law Resource Center. According to Mr. Wiggins, the procedure to reach a friendly settlement has failed because the human rights situation of the Miskito peoples according to him, had led to the machine-gunning of 4300 Miskitos by the Nicaraguan Air Force as they tried to reach the border with Honduras after abandoning one of the relocation camps. He said that hundreds of Miskitos had been killed or wounded in confrontations with the army, that others had been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated and that perhaps over 600 were currently imprisoned, accused of counterrevolutionary activities. Mr. Wiggins added that the entire region was still under military occupation, and that Indian leaders had been replaced by officers of the Sandinista Government and Security Forces, while access to the northeast region of Nicaragua was closed off and the Government insisted that all of the problems arose from an external imperialistic conspiracy. As a result, Mr. Wiggings added that the mediating role of the Commission should be terminated, and without prejudice to subsequent renewal of the process, the report should be published now.
In the course of that session, the Commission also interviewed Mrs. Margarita Wilde of the Moravian Church of the United States, who had been to Nicaragua the previous month. She stated that the role of the Commission had been very positive and that it would be regrettable if no progress were made in the search for a friendly settlement. Mrs. Wilde added that the Commission still had much to do, either on its own or in cooperation with the ICRC and the UNCHR, in contributing to improving the circumstances under which the Miskitos live. Mrs. Wilde added three matters of particular concern to her: 1. The fact that some 60-70 persons had disappeared, of whom the Moravian Church has a list; 2. The fact that the cases of the accused Miskitos are currently at a standstill in the Supreme Court of Justice; and 3. That the rules of due process have not been followed in these cases. In response to a question from the Chairman, Mrs. Wilde replied that the only institutions that at this time genuinely united the Miskitos in Nicaragua is the Moravian Church, which nevertheless does not wish to assume a role of political representation.
7. At its 59th session, the IACHR decided to authorize the Executive Secretary and whatever staff members he might appoint to travel to Honduras and to Nicaragua in order to gather reports and update the information in the possession of the Commission.
8. As a result of this decision, a lawyer from the Secretariat, Dr. Guillermo Fernández de Soto and a staff member Mrs. Dafne Murgia traveled to Honduras, and interviewed Honduran authorities and staff members of the UNHCR in Tegucigalpa; they also held several meetings with representatives of the refugee Miskito communities in Mocoron and other settlements in the Gracias a Dios Department. At these meetings, the refugees expressed their desire to remain permanently in Honduras and not to return to Nicaragua.
9. On June 7, 1983, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission, and Dr. Christina Cerna traveled to Nicaragua and interviewed senior officials of the Government of National Reconstruction, including a member of the Government Junta, Dr. Rafael Córdoba Rivas; the President of the Supreme Court, Dr. Roberto Arguello Hurtado; the Minister of Foreign Relations, Miguel D’Escoto; the Minister Secretary General of North Atlantic Zone, Commander William Ramirez and the National Commissioner for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Dr. Leonte Herdocia. They also held several meetings with the defense attorneys for the Miskitos, with the Representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Moravian clergymen, and representatives of other institutions such as the Permanent Commission on Human Rights of Nicaragua.
They also visited the penitentiaries where the Miskitos are detained, both in Managua and in Puerto Cabezas; they toured the towns of Slilma Lila and Yulu and two of the Tasba Pri settlements, on which occasions they obtained testimony from various Miskito inhabitants, with the assistance of the Moravian pastor, Fernando Colomer, who served as interpreter.
10. At its 60th session, held in June of 1983, the Commission studied the status of the dispute in the light of the events that had taken place in recent months. In addition, it discussed who could be considered as a party to the dispute in addition to the Government of Nicaragua; and it evaluated the compliance of the Government of Nicaragua with the previous recommendations of the Commission.
11. At is 61st session, held in September of 1983, the Commission received testimony from representatives of the Council of Elders, headed by Messrs. Mullins and Diego and also from the US anthropologist, Bernard considered that the partial compliance by the Government of Nicaragua with the previous recommendations set forth by the Commission were insufficient to establish an atmosphere of détente between the Government and a large part of the population of Miskito origin to reach the necessary friendly settlement. For that reason, the Commission decided to adopt this report in accordance with Article 50 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Nevertheless, the Commission wished to make one last effort with the Government of Nicaragua before concluding its participation as the mediator in a friendly settlement and for that purpose it submitted to the Government a concrete proposal aimed at obtaining a settlement. Should the proposal not be accepted by the Government of Nicaragua within the deadline indicated by the Commission, it would proceed to terminate the friendly settlement procedure and publish this report, after meeting the requirements and time periods established in Articles 50 and 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
M. The problem of determining the parties to the controversy
1. In light of Article 48 1.f of the American Convention on Human Rights, one of the most important problems that arose in this matter has been to determine who should be considered the other party to the dispute in addition to the Government of Nicaragua. In this respect, it should be pointed out that there have been changes in the viewpoints of those who initially submitted a complaint to the Commission; furthermore, the problem at this time involves new aspects due to the position taken by the Government of Nicaragua. This has produced a situation that merits further analysis.
2. On January 28 of 1982, the Commission received a “Charge of genocide by Sandinismo of the Indian of Misurasata”, dated January 15 of 1982 and addressed to various other international organizations, unsigned and with no address, but with the stamp of the Coordinator General of Misurasata. Once it had been confirmed that the charge was that presented by the Coordinator General of Misurasata, Mr. Brooklyn Rivera, with whom the Commission had contact, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts to the Government of Nicaragua on February 24 of 1982. Subsequently, by men of a written presentation dated April 8 of 1982, Brooklyn Rivera reiterated his earlier charge, explained the origins of the dispute of the Indian peoples of the Atlantic Coast with the Government of Nicaragua and proposed a negotiated solution that would give the Indians title to heir lands and autonomy within the State of Nicaragua.
3. In February of 1982, Mr. Steadman Fagoth, Former representative of Misurasata on the Council of State, came to he Commission’s offices and gave an oral presentation on the events that took place in the surroundings of the Coco River late in 1981. Mr. Fagoth later submitted to the IACHR, at its 55th session, a written statement dated January 7 of 1982, in which he brought serious charges against the Government of Nicaragua.
4. Mr. Armstrong Wiggins, who has acted as coordinator of the regional leadership of Misurasata on the Atlantic Coast in 1980 and the early months of 1981, also came to the Commission’s offices in February, and gave background information on the events that took place on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Mr. Wiggins subsequently came to the Commission when it was holding its 55th regular session, representing the Us Indian Law Resource Center, at which time he expressed the viewpoint of that institution with respect to the Nicaraguan Government’s behavior towards the Miskitos. In addition, on May 19 of 1982, the Indian Law Resource Center formally requested the Commission to considerate a party to this matter.
5. In the course of its 55th regular session, the Commission also received the testimony of Reverend Grahan J. Rights, representing the Moravian Church of the United States, and he requested that the Commission investigate the events that took place in late 1981 and early 1982 on the Government of Nicaragua and the Miskito Indians.
6. The position of the original claimants changed as further events took place and evolved in Nicaragua.
7. At this time, Misurasata is deeply divided between the faction headed by Steadman Fagoth and that directed by Brooklyn Rivera. To some extent, this division reflects the differences which exist at a broader political level among the groups that oppose the Sandinista Government. Thus, while Fagoth, in close coordination with the Nicaraguan Democratic Front (FDN), has taken up arms against the Government of Nicaragua, Brooklyn Rivera, in Costa Rica, has united with Alfonso Robelo, Fernando Chamorro and Eden Pastora in the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE).
8. According to the information available to the Commission, it is clear that a considerable number of the Miskitos who have taken refuge in Honduras give their unconditional support to Fagoth and consider him to be predestined to lead the Indian rebellion to topple the Sandinist regime. For that reason, the refugee Miskitos in Honduras consider Brooklyn Rivera and those who follow him as traitors who have encouraged “Divisionism in our national liberation movement, who prejudice and seek to destabilize our MISURASATA Organization which is made up and organized from within and without Nicaragua”. The MISURASATA faction led by Brooklyn Rivera on the other hand, in addition to the support of the leaders in Costa Rica, appears to have greater international recognition, especially from Indian organizations such as the Indian Law Resource Center.
9. With respect to this dispute, Misurasat (Costa Rica), led by Brooklyn Rivera, has been relatively cooperative with the Commission. Initially, Brooklyn Rivera suggested that the Commission assumes a mediating role; however, with the passage of time, this position has gradually been abandoned and at this time its position is that the Commission publish its Special Report on the situation of the Miskitos in Nicaragua. Thus, in a letter dated April 30 of 1983, Brooklyn Rivera stated the following to the Executive Secretary of the Commission:
We wonder when we will see some firm resolution on the part of the IACHR against the FSLN regime, concerning their continuous violations of the human rights of the Indians. It is clearly not just to continue to allow the commanders who use pretext and calumnies to freely continue to commit atrocities against the humble Indians. It is time that the IACHR publicly admit that the commanders are not interested in a friendly settlement with the Indians, and that it publish its report on the situation of the human rights of the Indians in Nicaragua.
10. On the other hand, Misurasata (Honduras), which is now called Misura, and headed by Steadman Fagoth, has been harshly critical of the Commission, and has attributed base motives to it. Thus, in an interview that appeared in Diario Las Americas on October 20, 1982, Fagoth stated “The IACHR does not enjoy either the trust or the esteem of the Indian populace… and the IACHR the IACHR will try to find a ghost representative of the Indians to use in the mass communications media in order to divide the refugee populations, but we can confidently state that Indian unity is indestructible.” Later, the Political Committee of Misura, through one of its spokesmen, stated to the Diario La Tribuna of Tegucigalpa, on May 4 of 1983, that: “We recognize no authority in the measures taken by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS because it has conspired with the genocidal Sandinista Regime to force our people to return to Nicaragua and be completely exterminated.”
11. The position of the Indian Law Resource Center, stated by its most authoritative spokesman in this mater, Mr. Armstrong Wiggins, has been similar to that maintained by Misurasata (Costa Rica) headed by Mr. Brooklyn Rivera, i.e., in the course of the last few months they have been in close contact with the IACHR, and at present are urging it to abandon its mediating role and publish its report. Thus, Mr. Armstrong Wiggins, in his testimony to the Commission on April 12 of 1983, stated:
We believe that it is time for the Commission to declare that it will no longer continue to act as mediator. The Commission should openly declare that its efforts to promote a friendly settlement have not been successful, and the Commission should invite other institutions, including governments and human rights organizations, to investigate the situation of human rights in Indian territory in Nicaragua.
12. The position of the Moravian Church, both in the United States and in Nicaragua, as stated through authorized spokesmen, continues to be that the Commission should continue to play a mediating role, despite the difficulties encountered. Thus, Mrs. Margaret Wilde, in her testimony to the IACHR on April 12 of 1983, reaffirmed the view of the Moravian Church of the United States that the role of the Commission as mediator has been very positive and that it should continue that role. During a visit to Nicaragua, the Executive Secretary and Dr. Cerna spoke at length with religious authorities of the Moravian Church, such as Bishop John Wilson, Reverend Fernando Colomer, and Pastor Santos Cleban, and were given the impression that they saw the Commission as an important instrument for promoting the observance of human rights, and for that reason it should not abandon its presence in Nicaragua and its relations with the Government.
13. The viewpoint of the Government of Nicaragua is that Misurasata cannot be considered a party to this dispute, as it is an organization that has been disbanded and whose principal leaders are currently in exile, and who have taken up arms against the Government.
14. As early as December of 1981, Mr. William Ramirez declared that the Government of Nicaragua was “obliged to withdraw official recognition of Misurasata both because its claims had reached the point of violating national sovereignty and because it had undergone an objective distancing from its bases.”
15. The Government of Nicaragua, in its proposal Document to the Commission of August 24, 1982, later responded to the recommendation of the IACHR that Misurasata or another Indian organization be allowed to operate in Nicaragua, in the following terms:
The Government of Nicaragua maintains a position of respect for international agreements signed with respect to human rights, for which reason it guarantees the right of assembly of Nicaraguans, obviously including Indian Nicaraguans. Within this framework, there is already an association of Sumos and organizational structures are being established for Criollos, Ladinos, Ramas and Miskitos. With respect to the return to Nicaragua of the leaders of the disbanded Misurasata organization, the Government of National Reconstruction states for the record that there is no persecution in Nicaragua of leaders for membership in any organization, and it assures all Nicaraguans residing abroad that they may return, with full guarantees.
16. Nevertheless, the Government of Nicaragua later stated that it would not allow the leaders of Misurasata to return because of serious criminal charges pending against them. In a note of January 5, 1983, the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS, gave the following reply to the Commission’s recommendation that it allow these leaders to return so that they could participate in the process of a friendly settlement:
An unacceptable element has been added, as the Government of Nicaragua is required to provide security and liberty to all those who attend such a meeting even when there are formal charges against some of them. This requirement by its very nature violates the juridical structure of the State and places the Executive Branch in the position of impeding, should it accept the requirement, the exercise of an autonomous stand independent judiciary.
17. The same position was subsequently reiterated in a note dated November 14 of 1983, in which, in reply to the recommendation of the Commission to hold a Conference with the participation of representatives of the broadest possible sectors of the various communities of Miskito origin, the Government of Nicaragua expressly rejected “the presence of any representative of the Council of Elders, of Mr. Armstrong Wiggins and of the counterrevolutionary Misurasata Organization, guilty of numerous crimes against the people of Nicaragua an instruments of barbarous North American aggression.”
18. Thus, the Government of Nicaragua does not allow either of the factions that comprise Misurasata to be considered a party to this dispute: neither that headed by Brooklyn Rivera nor that led by Steadman Fagoth.
19. Who then would be acceptable to the Government of Nicaragua to be a party to the dispute? With which representative sector of the Miskito population could the Government of Nicaragua have a dialogue to seek a settlement to their difficulties? The reply that the Government has given is that contained in the proposal document of August 24, 1982, according to which, once the Miskitos who are now in Honduras are repatriated, under the observance of the IACHR, “the Indian communities would democratically elect the delegates that would meet at the table in conversations with the delegates of the Government of Nicaragua to seek solutions.”
20. In the view of the Commission, at this time the proposal of the Nicaraguan Government cannot be implemented. As the IACHR or the staff members of its Secretariat have has opportunity to note on two occasions, at this time the condition do not obtain that would allow the refugee Miskitos in Honduras to return to Nicaragua, and thus participate in the election of the representatives who would negotiate with the government. On the other hand, even in the hypothetical case that such a return took place, those Miskitos would only represent part of the Miskito population, whose problems and difficulties, as will be seen throughout this report, go beyond the mere question of the return of the refugees to Nicaragua.
21. In view of the above situation, there would be no institution or agency that could truly represent all of the Miskitos, within and outside Nicaragua, and act on their behalf with respect to the matters that concern them.
Under these circumstances, and taking into account the importance of reaching a friendly settlement that can meet the aspirations and interests of those concerned, the Commission considers that although the status of party in this matter cannot be strictly assumed by representatives of a single organization, it is possible to try to obtain the participation of Miskitos to represent their various communities.
22. On this point, the Commission notes the following:
a. There is no organization in Nicaragua, which at this time represent all of the ethnic groups. The Commission has observed, however, that the religious groups that are active on the Atlantic Coast maintain close contact with the Miskito people of that region. Of these religious groups, clearly the most numerous and important is the Moravian Church, although the Catholic and Anglican Churches also maintain a small but relatively important presence in the region. Therefore, the Commission considers, first, that there is a possibility that the religious groups, especially the Moravian Church, could assume representation of the interests of the Miskitos.
b. A second group whose interest should be represented in negotiations aimed at achieving a friendly settlement is that of the Miskitos who have been moved from their traditional villages and relocated in new settlements. Of these new settlements, those of Tasba Pri appear to be the largest, and according to information provided by the Government, they have already elected their own representative.
c. The largest group of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin outside of Nicaragua is that which has taken refuge in various parts of the Gracias a Dios Department in Honduras. The most representative institution that these Miskitos have is apparently the Council of Elders.
d. It is also necessary to bear in mind that a group of Miskito leaders who continue to claim representation of the Misurasata Organization are refugees in Costa Rica and have assumed an important role in this matter.
e. Furthermore, the Commission cannot overlook the existence of the Indian Law Resource Center, Which formally requested to be considered a party to this dispute, and which through its representative, the Miskito Nicaraguan leader Armstrong Wiggins, has participated actively in this matter.
The Commission considers that the organizations, agencies and persons mentioned above could have acted as counterpart to the Government of Nicaragua in seeking a friendly settlement, as the Commission proposed to the Government of Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the Government of Nicaragua’s failure to accept any of these organizations and persons has meant that it has not been possible to reach a friendly settlement to the dispute.
N. Attempt to reach a friendly settlement
1. The American Convention on Human Rights, in Article 48 1.f, provides that the Commission, when it receives a petition alleging violation of any of the rights protected under that Convention shall place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in the above-mentioned Convention.
2. In its report of June 26, 1982, the Commission held that not only because of the binding nature of this rule of the Convention, but also and especially because of the very nature of the matter, the Commission was convinced that in the interest of the Government of Nicaragua itself and that of the claimant, Misurasata, the best solution would have been a friendly settlement, arising as a result of negotiations between the authorities of the Government of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua and the Misurasata Organization, with the assistance of the Commission.
3. Mr. Brooklyn Rivera himself, Coordinator General of Misurasata, expressly came to the Commission’s headquarters to insist that the Commission play a mediating role in this case that would allow, through an arrangement between the Nicaraguan Government and Misurasata, for satisfaction of the claims and interest of the Miskitos that gave rise to the charges that led to this report. Likewise, in oral or written presentations, organizations such as the Moravian Church of the United States and the Indian Law Research Center, encouraged the Commission to play that role in contributing to a friendly settlement between the Government and the Indian communities concerned, based on respect for human rights.
4. However the Commission understood that the Minister of the Interior Commander Tomas Borge, did not accept that initiative in the course of the interview that it held with him on May 3, 1982, when the Commission discussed with him the need to seek a friendly settlement; to this is added the fact that the Misurasata Organization had been dissolved and its chief leaders detained and later forced to leave Nicaraguan territory. All of this led the Commission to consider in this report that, at least at that time, conditions did not obtain for it to assist the parties to the dispute. At the same time, the Commission insisted that it remained at the disposal of the parties when the circumstances were such that a friendly settlement of the matter was possible.
5. Despite the foregoing, the Government of Nicaragua, in its reply of August 24, 1982 to the IACHR report, requested the Commission to assume the role of mediator in a friendly settlement bestowed on it in Article 48 1,f of the American Convention on Human Rights. In that document, the Nicaraguan Government, after studying the conclusions and recommendations contained in the commission’s Report of June 26, 1982, proposed the following procedure for a peaceful settlement:
a. The IACHR will contact the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in order to obtain information on its steps, opinions and recommendations with respect of the investigation of the alleged violations of the rights to life.
b. The IACHR will facilitate the repatriation of the Nicaraguans of Miskito origin located in Honduras and involved with these events, through the operation of a commission composed of the IACHR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua, which Commission shall be chaired by the IACHR.
c. After repatriation, and under the observation of the IACHR, the Indian communities will democratically elect the delegates who would meet at the table in conversations with the delegates of the Government of Nicaragua to seek solutions.
6. On September 20, 1982, the Commission, which was meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica to hold its 57th (special) session, considered the proposal made by the Government of Nicaragua and decided to accept its petition that the Commission place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to reaching a friendly settlement. The text of the note of the Commission reads as follows:
I have the honor to address Your Excellency with respect to the Proposal Document of the Government of Nicaragua to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, dated August 24 of 1982, in which the Commission is requested “to assume its role as mediator in seeking a friendly settlement in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights and the Commission’s own Statute and Regulations” with respect to the difficulties that have arisen between the Government of Nicaragua and citizens of that country of Miskito origin.
At its 57th (special) session held in the same city, the Commission has carefully studied that document and accepts the petition contained in it to place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for human rights, in accordance with Article 48.1.f. of the American Convention on Human Rights. Of course, the Commission will act with the authority and discretion necessary to carry out that task within the limits established in its Statute and Regulations.
To carry out this task, the Commission has appointed a Special Commission made up of the Chairman, Dr. Marco G. Monroy Cabra; First Vice Chairman, Mr. Cesar Sepulveda and former Chairman, Tom J. Farer. The Special Commission expects to meet as soon as possible with Nicaraguan authorities in order to discuss with them the procedure other specifics regarding the search for a friendly settlement to all of the matters that involve the observance and respect for the human rights of the Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin, in an attempt to reconcile the interests of the parties concerned.
In addition, that Special Commission will contact the representative leaders of the Nicaraguan Miskito communities and the representatives of international agencies that can contribute to the solution of some of the problems that led to the establishment of this Commission.
Naturally, the Commission reserves its discretion to terminate its function should it consider that it is not possible to obtain a friendly settlement.
Finally, I wish to advise Your Excellency that the Commission considers that to be effective in the mediating role that it will assume, the Government of Nicaragua must adopt measures that will make it possible to overcome the difficult relations it has with a considerable sector of the Miskito population. In this regard, the Commission trusts that Your Excellency’s Government will be able to comply with such recommendations contained in its Preliminary Report of June 26, 1982, as may be implemented immediately.
I take this opportunity to give Your Excellency the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
(s) Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra
7. On September 27, 1982, the Government of Nicaragua indicated its satisfaction at the Commission’s acceptance of its proposal and at the same time expressed a willingness to discuss procedure and other details of the matter.
8. On September 28 of that year, the Chairman of the IACHR sent a cable, and the Executive Secretary sent a letter advising the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees of the agreement that had been reached with the Government of Nicaragua, and asked it for its support and assistance. In a cable dated October 25, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed its willingness to cooperate with the IACHR in its mediating role on the matter of the Miskito refugees in Honduras.
9. In addition, on October 5, 1982, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, at its direction, advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Honduras of the agreement that the Commission had reached with the Government of Nicaragua. It requested the Ministry, insofar as possible and as deemed appropriate by the Government of Honduras, to provide the assistance and facilities that would be necessary in order to carry out the mission it accepted. The Government of Honduras, in a note dated October 19, 1982, and addressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, stated it willingness to lend to the IACHR any cooperation requested, although it specified that the Commission should also seek the consent of the Miskito population that had taken refuge in Honduras, which group the Government of Honduras views as “the other party to the dispute.”
10. On November 18, 1982, the Special Committee of the IACHR met with Dr. Leonte Herdocia and with Ambassador Edgard Parrales to analyze the problems bearing on the participation of the Commission in seeking the proposed friendly settlement. As a result of these conversations, the Chairman of the IACHR addressed the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS, in a note dated November 22, 1982, to clearly set forth how the IACHR understand its mediating role and what the applicable procedure in this matter should be; adopted by the Government and which could contribute to establishing the necessary conditions to allow the Commission to carry out its mediating role. That note reads as follows:
I have the honor to address Your Excellency with respect to the conversations held on November 18 last between representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and members of the Special Commission of the Inter-American Commission on Human Right (IACHR), during which some of the problems related to the participation of the IACHR in a friendly settlement of the difficulties between the Government of Nicaragua and the citizens of that country of Miskito origin were discussed.
After I reported to the Commission on those conversations, the Commission instructed me to set forth to the distinguished Government of Your Excellency the Commission’s understanding of its mediating role and of what the applicable procedure in this matter should be.
Naturally, the Commission wishes to reiterate, as it indicated in its note of last September 28 addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, that its participation as a mediator in the friendly settlement must include all matters that concern the observance of the human rights of the Nicaraguan citizen of Miskito origin.
Likewise, the Commission wishes to reiterate its viewpoint that, in order to be effective as a mediator, it would be advisable for the Government of Nicaragua to adopt as soon as possible some measures to improve the difficult relations that it has with a considerable sector of the Miskito population.
In this regard, the Commission would be grateful if the Government of Your Excellency implemented the recommendations contained in its report of June 26, 1982, and which may be applied immediately. In particular, the Commission considers that the following measures could contribute effectively to creating the proper conditions that would allow the Commission to assume its role:
1. To pardon or give amnesty, as the case may be, to all Miskito who have been detained or convicted of alleged counterrevolutionary activities;
2. To permit the return to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua of all the clergymen who serve the Miskito population.
3. To facilitate an exchange of information through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, between the Miskitos residing in Tasba Pri and those in Mocoron, in order to contribute to family reunification and voluntary repatriation; and
4. To explicitly state that the relocation of the Miskitos to Tasba Pri was a temporary measure and that once the emergency is over, those who wish to return to their lands in the Coco River region may do so, with the cooperation and help of the Government.
I would now like to refer to the procedure that should be followed in this complex and difficult matter. In this regard, the Commission would like to suggest to the Government of Your Excellency a procedure with three stages, as indicated below.
First, the Commission hopes that the Government of Nicaragua will inform it in writing in the course of the coming months of all the issues in which it considers that the Commission could intervene to facilitate a friendly settlement. At the same time, the Government of Nicaragua should report in that same document on how it has implemented the recommendations set forth above.
Second, once that document has been received from the Government of Nicaragua, the Commission will contact all of the Miskito leaders, either within or outside of Nicaragua, to whom it has had access in order to determine their opinions on the above-mentioned document and their willingness to cooperate with the Commission in achieving a friendly settlement with respect to all the difficulties they have with the Government of Nicaragua.
Finally, once these stages have been completed, the Commission would sponsor a meeting between representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and representative leaders of the Miskito people, at which they may discuss the basis of a definitive solution with respect to all existing difficulties. The Commission, of course, offers its services to assist the parties at that meeting should they so desire.
Should that meeting be held in Nicaraguan territory, the Commission would naturally require that the Government of Nicaragua give its solemn commitment to guarantee the security and liberty of all the Miskito leaders who attend the meeting, even if there are formal charges against some of them.
I should also like to advise Your Excellency that the Commission has already established contact with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose cooperation it has requested in solving some of the various matters which will involve it. The request was explicitly accepted by the high Commissioner in the case that there is a voluntary repatriation of the Miskitos who have taken refute in Honduras.
Finally, I should like to advise Your Excellency that the Commission considers that it might be useful to have an agreement between the Government of Nicaragua and the Commission, in which it shall be agreed that the Commission shall have all facilities and authority in Nicaraguan territory that may be necessary to carry out its task.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra
11. On December 16, 1982, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua addressed a note to the Executive Secretary of the Commission in which he sets forth several considerations with respect to the participation of the IACHR as a mediator in the friendly settlement. In this note, the Foreign Minister particularly referred to the actions of the Chairman of the IACHR, Mr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, in the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the twelfth regular General Assembly of the OAS. At the instruction of the Commission, the Executive Secretary replied to that note in a letter of April 15, 1983, which states that the Commission vigorously rejects the serious and unjustified accusations that call into question the impartiality with which the Chairman had acted, and informed him that in order not to interrupt the achievement of a friendly settlement, Dr. Monroy Cabra had decided to no longer be a member of the Special Commission on this matter.
12. On January 5, 1983, the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS, addressed a note to the Chairman of the IACHR in which he considered at length the procedure that the Commission had proposed in its note of November 22, 1982, as well as the recommendations that were put forth at that time. The letter reads as follows:
I have the honor to address Your Excellency to refer to your letter dated November 22 last, received in this Mission of Nicaragua to the OAS, which makes reference to the conversation held on November 18 last “between representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and members of the Special Commission of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)”, at which the need to work by stages was discussed, for which purpose the Special Commission would submit to the Government of Nicaragua for its consideration some aspects of those stages, aimed at reaching a friendly settlement of the situation of some sectors of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin.
Allow me to point out in this regard that conversation was preceded by one held in San Jose, Costa Rica, among the Chairman of the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua, Dr. Leonte Herdocia, Your Excellency, and His Excellency, Mr. Cesar Sepulveda, from last September 27 to 29. Those conversations had been held after those held in Washington, last August, with the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR, upon submittal of the Proposal Document of the government of Nicaragua, aimed at a friendly settlement according to the terms of Article 48, subparagraph 1,f of the American Convention on Human Rights.
On both occasions, and in particular on that in San Jose, Costa Rica, extensive contact was made with delegates from the UNHCR and the ICRC, and those conversations were a continuation of what had been initiated by the Government of Nicaragua, as stated in a cable addressed to this Honorable Commission on last June 15, which reported the activities of the UNHCR to the Commission, the former having already made contact with the Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin residing in Mocoron. At the same time, we have recently provided a special airplane to the International Committee of the Red Cross so that it may visit the Tasba Pri settlements for three days. On the basis of a special agreement with Mr. Philippe Sargisson, Regional Delegate of the UNHCR, reached at a meeting held with Dr. Herdocia on December 9, in San Jose Costa Rica, it was decided to transfer tot he International Committee of the Red Cross all of the matters relating to communications between Tasba Pri and Mocoron. Delegates of the ICRC left precisely on the 17th of the same month for Honduras, headed by Mr. Francois Musy.
With respect to the reiteration of the concepts set forth in your letter of last September 28, which I understand is dated September 20, since we have received no letter dated September 28, with respect to the need for my government to include in the proceedings for a friendly settlement, everything concerning “observance of the human rights of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin”, I am pleased to inform you that the Proposal Document submitted by the Government of Nicaragua to the IACHR last August 24 contains a copy of the text of the cables sent on last June 15, signed by the Acting Minister, Mr. Victor Hugo Tinoco, which reports on implementation on each and every one of the recommendations made by the IACHR, and which also appear in the same text, from pages 10 to 17, of the Proposal Document of the Government of Nicaragua.
It is, therefore, surprising that Your Excellency should again refer to the recommendations, which have already been implemented, and in the context of which I would like to comment on the terms of your communication:
The two-month period that is given to the Government of Nicaragua to “make known in writing all of the issues in which it considers that the Commission could intervene to facilitate a friendly settlement”, allow me to recall that page 17 of the Proposal Document indicates three basic ideas on this point, which obviously can and should be elaborated that the Commission considers most advisable to facilitate its mediating role, since in the numerous conversations that have taken place, although no rigid mechanisms are established some parameters have been set forth, and we understand that the Commission has some concrete ideas which could be added to the procedure to be carried out by stages.
In this respect, allow me to suggest that one or several members of the Special commission should make personal and direct contact with the competent officials of the Government of Honduras, and that they should visit the Mocoron camps so that they may effectively help the work being done by the UNHCR and the ICRC, thus making a real contribution to international peace and tranquility in the area.
Second, Your Excellency adds that “once this document has been received from the Government of Nicaragua the Commission would contact all of the Miskito leaders within or outside of Nicaragua, to whom it has access, in order to determine their opinions with respect to that document, and their willingness to cooperate with the Commission in achieving a friendly settlement.”
In this regard, allow me to again point out to Your Excellency that p.17, subparagraph C of the Proposal document of the Government of Nicaragua states the following: “After repatriation, and under the observation of the IACHR, the Indian communities will democratically elect their delegates, who will deal at the negotiating table with delegates of the Government of Nicaragua in seeking solutions.
Finally, Your Excellency states that “should these prior stage be implemented, the Commission would sponsor a meeting between representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and representative leaders of the Miskito people, so that they may discuss the basis that would allow for a definitive solution with respect to all existing difficulties. The Commission, of course, offers its services to assist the parties to that meeting, if they so desire.”
In this respect, allow me to inform you that this is precisely the objective pursued by the Government of Nicaragua, in requesting the Commission to assume the role of mediator in a friendly settlement, and election procedures were discussed with Your Excellency and with His Excellency Mr. Cesar Sepulveda, as well as Mr. Sargisson of the UNHCR.
Finally, Your Excellency adds that “should that meeting be held in Nicaraguan territory, the Commission would naturally require that the Government of Nicaragua give its solemn commitment to guarantee the liberty of all the Miskito leaders who attend the meeting, even if there are formal charges against some of them.”
With respect to the foregoing and to the content of your note to which I reply, the impression is given that the Proposal Document submitted by the Government of Nicaragua on last August 24 has not been fully evaluated, and ideas that have already been definitively agreed upon are repeated, although a further element that is unacceptable has been added, since the Government of Nicaragua is required to provide security and liberty to all those who attend that meeting, even if there are formal charges against some of them, a requirement which by its very nature violates the legal system of the State and places the Executive Branch in the position of impeding, should it comply, the exercise of an autonomous and independent Judiciary. In this situation, allow me once again to recall the democratic election procedure suggested on page 17, subparagraph C, of the Proposal Document of the National Government.
Apart from the foregoing consideration, my Government, which has consistently expressed it conciliatory position, reiterates of the Honorable Commission its firm hope that a member of the Commission will visit Nicaragua as soon as possible, with full provision of all necessary facilities, so that the IACHR may carry out its mandate as mediator in a friendly settlement, and interview our Government Junta, to prepare a document for signature, since it is clear that verbal agreements hat had been reached are not reflected in your kind letter to which I reply.
The representative appointed to visit Nicaragua could discuss with our authorities the terms of the agreement, which the National Government would be pleased to sign with the IACHR. The discussion could also clarify any matter having to do with the mediating role that the Commission has agreed to assume, for the effective completion of which the Government of Nicaragua reiterates its fullest cooperation, in the certainty that the final settlement of this matter will be not only an effective contribution to international peace and security, but will also be an example to the world of what can be achieved in a framework of cordial relations and through a fruitful dialogue between the State and the highest regional authority in matters relating to the protection and promotion of human rights.
Finally, and as stated by the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, Father Miguel D’Escoto, in a note of December 16 1982, addressed to the Executive Secretary, the presence in Nicaragua of a Delegate of the IACHR could and should provide the information necessary to assess the painful atmosphere of violence unleashed from Honduras in an undeclared war by elements of the National Guard of the genocidal dictator Somoza, with the support of sectors of the Honduran Army and Government, and as is internationally known, also with the support of the current administration of the United States of America.
My Government believes that the suffering undergone by our people because of the violence launched against it should be taken into account in the evaluation of the formula for a friendly settlement, to which I have referred throughout this note.
The situation of Nicaragua, Mr. Chairman, is far from being a normal situation; even the press in the United States has publicized situations relating to this undeclared war, which has cost so much Nicaraguan blood, due to the irresponsibility of a bellicose regime, which does not leave our people in peace and which impedes the exercise of the people’s inalienable right to self determination.
I enclose, to form part of the procedure as a whole, a list of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin who were released last December, and I will inform you in a timely fashion of further releases granted due to pardons, which is under study by the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, for a decision under the terms of the Amnesty Law.
Accept Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.
(s) Edgard Parrales
13. On April 15, 1983, the IACHR which was meeting at its 59th session, addressed the Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the OAS, through its Chairman, advising him that before the Commission adopted a final decision on this matter, it would be advisable to have more complete information, especially with respect to the following points: 1. Who, apart from the Government of Nicaragua, should be considered a party to the dispute? 2. What was the framework of the dispute? And 3. To what extent had the Government of Nicaragua complied with the recommendations set forth previously by the IACHR? IN turn, the Commission appointed the Executive Secretary and the Secretariat staff chosen by him to travel to Honduras and Nicaragua in order to make whatever assessments they deemed appropriate. The Government of Nicaragua gave its agreement for the Executive Secretary to travel to that country.
14. In the course of its 60th (special) session, held in June, 1983, the Commission extensively and carefully analyzed the events that had taken place in Nicaragua since November, 1982, with respect to the Miskito population, in order to determine if it was still advisable and feasible to reach a settlement of this matter on the basis of respect for human rights. It also reiterated its request to the Government of Nicaragua to provide further information on certain pertinent pints, chiefly in connection with compliance with the previous recommendations of the IACHR.
In the note addressed by the Chairman at the IACHR, Mr. Cesar Sepulveda to the Foreign Minister, Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, stated:
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at its 60th (special) session, held in Washington, has continued consideration of the subject of seeking a friendly settlement to the difficulties between the Government of Nicaragua and a group of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin.
The results of the observations made during the visit of the special delegation of the IACHR, which with Your Excellency’s Government consent was recently made to your country, and an extensive and careful study of the events that took place since November of 1982, have led the Commission to decide that, in order to determine if it is still advisable and feasible to seek a settlement of the matter based on respect for human rights, it would be necessary to have further information from your government on certain relevant points.
For that purpose, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights would be grateful if the distinguished Government of Your Excellency would inform it, as fully as possible, on how it has complied with the Commission’s previous recommendations, as they appear in its reports of June 26, 1982 and the note of November 22 of the same year, addressed by my predecessor, Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, to the Ambassador Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS.
In particular, for the purposes indicated in the above paragraph, the Commission would like to know if the investigation has been concluded of the alleged violations of the right to life of Miskito citizens as a result of the events that took place in the Coco River region at the end of 1981< if previously detained Miskitos are still being released; if the trials now underway in the Supreme Court have been expedited, and if therefore, other Miskitos have already been released.
In general, the Commission is interested in knowing if further actions have been undertaken to create the conditions that would improve the difficult relations of the government with a considerable sector of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin. The Commission is of the view that implementation of the above mentioned recommendation would make it possible to attain the desired friendly settlement of this dispute.
In order to be able to resolve the question of the participation of the Commission in the friendly settlement as requested, the Commission has decide to grant Your Excellency’s Government until September 16, 1983 to submit this important information.
The Commission hopes to receive the full cooperation of the Government of Nicaragua on the matters discussed in this communication which would allow it to satisfactory carry out the mission that has been entrusted to it.
Accept Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
15. On September 16, 1983, the Government of Nicaragua replied to this communication from the IACHR. The note, signed by the Foreign Minister and addressed to the Chairman of the Commission, reviews the process of friendly settlement, and then states the viewpoints of the Nicaraguan Government with respect to implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. With respect to the recommendation that it investigate the alleged violations of the right to life of the of Miskito citizens as a result of the events that took place in the region of the Coco River at the end of 1981, the note merely indicates that enclosed is “the report of the military investigation of the Leimus case, which contains the plan known under the name of Red Christmas, by means of which the armed Somocista counterrevolution attempted to invade Nicaragua from Honduras in the border area of Zelaya Norte, to seize part of our territory and declare it a liberated zone (seizure of the territory of Nicaragua), and to set up a provisional government that would immediately request the recognition of the governments in the region as well as military support.”
That action, adds the Government of Nicaragua:
Would be accompanied by an attempt to sow confusion through propaganda disseminated by a broadcast that is transmitted from Honduras in the Miskito language: many Miskitos, misled, left for that country, manipulated by the former agent of the Somocista security guard Steadman Fagoth Muller, who urged them to invade our territory in support of the Somocista bands that attacked the border populations, which were poorly armed and trained.
It also states that:
The deaths that occurred in Leimus were the consequence of the fierce attacks directed by the counterrevolutionary units that tried to take the town, and finding a group of 14 detainees, accused of collaboration with the counterrevolution, they took advantage of the confusion that prevailed at the time to flee toward the river under crossfire.
Also enclosed is the judgment of the Judge Advocate’s Office of the Sandinista Armed Forces, which investigated the events that took place at the end of December 1981, which led to a report dated April 2, 1983.
With reference to the matter of the decisions on appeal before the Supreme Court for nullification of the criminal proceedings, the note indicates that it encloses:
A certification of the sentences handed down by the Supreme Court of Justice, and which is in response to the recommendation made by the Commission in its document of June 26, which states> “to declare null and void the decisions made by judge Casaya in the cases of the Miskito Indians accused of counterrevolutionary activities, and to retry the accused with full guarantees of their right to due process. To demonstrate the seriousness of the National Reconstruction Government, we explained in the Proposal Document for a Friendly Settlement that at that time we could not implement this recommendation because of the obligation to respect the autonomy of the judiciary, and that in accordance with our laws, the Supreme Court of Justice may only annul sentences when the Court’s decisions are brought before it through the special remedy of annulment in criminal matters, which is exactly what took place in a large number of cases.”
The note also states that:
Orders for releases and pardons have in fact continued to be given. First, allow me to recall Note Nº 023/83/M/OAS of January 5, 1983, which our ambassador to the Organization of American States sent to your distinguished predecessor, Dr. Marcos Gerardo Monroy Cabra, which enclosed a list of Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin who had been released in December, 1982.
The note adds tat release orders for 45 citizens, whose names are included, were subsequently given on August 2, 1983.
Finally, with respect to the wish of the Commission to know if further actions have been undertaken to establish conditions favorable to a friendly settlement, the note of the Foreign Minister states that the following measures seek to attain that purpose:
Creation of a system of minimum-security work farms, where Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin who are under investigation or awaiting trial are housed. This newly established system was observed by Dr.Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, and Dr. Christina Cerna, during their recent visit last June to Nicaragua. The special conditions of nearly complete liberty enjoyed by the Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin, accompanied in many cases by their own families who have voluntarily come from the Atlantic coast, and where they receive wages that they never received before for their productive labor, is fully valid only for the Nicaraguans of Indian origin, whatever the charge against them although there are some other detainees who are subject to the same regime.
The Government of Nicaragua has accepted as valid interlocutors the same persons suggested by the IACHR: Bishop John Wilson, Ministers Norman Bent and Fernando Colomer and the members of the Christian Committee for Peace on the Atlantic Coast, Rev. Sandoval Herrera, Minister of the Moravian Church, Rev Francisco Baker of the Catholic Church and Rev. Victor Ordoñez of the Anglican Church.
Furthermore, the Government of Nicaragua has encouraged the Miskito and Sumo leaders to participate in the meeting of the working groups of the UN Commission on Human Rights on Indigenous Peoples, and in fact several delegations have attended such meetings, the last held in Geneva from August 8 onward. The delegation was made up of Oscar Hodgson, Hazel Lau, both Miskitos, and Murphy Almendarez (Sumo). In this regard, I enclose the working document distributed by the International Indian Treaty Council, a nongovernmental organization and advisory body to ECOSOC, category II, which has visited Nicaragua three times.
Moreover, the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction has approved a special budget for the establishment of an office that will function as a Subcommittee on Human Rights in Puerto Cabezas, with Steps are already underway to set up the office with an attorney, a recently graduated law student and the necessary administrative staff, in addition to vehicles for their transportation.
Allow me also to recall that when Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño visited Nicaragua, he was given a report of the CNPPDH, lists of detainees and other documents, and he was introduced to 5 people who were found alive and who had allegedly died in the unfortunate events of “Red Christmas”, which documents we believe should be studied.
Before closing, allow me to state to Your Excellency that the individuals who were not granted the remedy of annulment because the deadline for appeal had expired, may still exercise the right to bring a special review remedy, and the attorneys who submitted the remedy past the deadline are being submitted to an inquiry initiated by the Supreme Court of Justice.
My government, Mr. Chairman, believes that the measures adopted and the recommendations implemented give the IACHR ample margin to reach the desired friendly settlement. To this effect, the Commission will receive the full cooperation of the Government of Nicaragua in satisfactorily carrying out the mission that has been entrusted to it, although it considers it to be of greater interest to sponsor a dialogue with Honduran authorities in order to allow the Commission, the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross to obtain facilities in Honduran territory to investigate in depth the true feeling of the Nicaraguan citizens of Miskito origin who are now there, and who according to our reports would very much like to return voluntarily, since it is well known that there is a number of persons who have been kidnapped and forced to move to Honduras by counterrevolutionary bands that operate in the region.
The note of September 16, 1983, signed by the Foreign Minister, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, concludes by stating:
We understand the complexity of the problem, but we also understand that any effort that is carried out to seek the desired friendly settlement will be one of the most valuable achievements of this distinguished body.
16. As stated above, the Commission studied this material at length at its 61st session, and before terminating its activities as a mediator in the friendly settlement, it decided to put a concrete proposal to the Government of Nicaragua, which represented “the last effort that the Commission can make after more than a year of active participation…”. The note of September 30, 1983, addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, reads as follows:
I have the honor to address Your Excellency on behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in reference to your note of last September 16, in which your distinguished government has been kind enough to report to this Commission concerning implementation of the recommendations made by the Commission in its document of June 26, 1982 and in the communication of November 22 of the same year, with respect to the search for a peaceful settlement to some problems that concern Nicaraguan citizen of Miskito origin.
At its 61st session, the Commission carefully studied this last communication from Your Excellency’s government, and has taken due note of the measures adopted and of those proposed for the future with respect to the liberty and other rights of those Miskitos who currently do not enjoy the exercise of such freedoms and rights. Unquestionably, the Commission considers those measures positive, and expresses its gratitude to the Government of Nicaragua for having taken into account some of the recommendations previously set forth by the Commission.
Nevertheless, at the same time, the Commission cannot fail to state that this partial implementation of its recommendations is not sufficient to create the necessary atmosphere of détente that is required in order to overcome the serious difficulties that the Government of Nicaragua still has with a large group of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin.
In light of this, and so that the Commission may effectively carry out the task of mediator in a peaceful settlement, entrusted to it by the Commission to address Your Excellency in order to set forth the following proposal:
1. The Commission considers it indispensable that a pardon or amnesty be declared that covers all Nicaraguan Indians charged with the commission of crimes against public order and security or any related crime, and who are currently in prison, either serving sentence at the order of a competent judge or court, at the order of the Office of the Attorney General, or detained for purposes of investigation for State security reasons; or who have been released, and are in or outside of Nicaragua, against whom charges have been brought.
2. Once all of the Miskitos who are currently held prisoner are released, a conference should be held between representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and persons representing the broadest possible groups of the various communities of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin, so that, with the presence of representatives of the IACHR and other interested international organizations, that conference can discuss and seek to settle their differences so that the Nicaraguan of Miskito origin may exercise the rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights.
3. The agenda of that conference should include the following topics, although this is not necessarily an exhaustive list:
a. The appropriate means and conditions to allow the Miskito, Sumu, and Rama peoples to participate in the dialogue with the Government of Nicaragua that would be initiated at this Conference, through existing or those to be established, if those peoples so desire;
b. Participation of the Miskitos and other ethnic groups in national decisions that may concern their interests, as well as in the administration of the Atlantic coast region;
c. Procedure and mechanisms for granting compensation to the close relatives (parents, children and spouses) of those who died as a result of the conflict, as well as to those who have been physically impaired for the same reason;
d. Ways to guarantee that the Miskitos and other Indian peoples may exercise the right to assembly and association, and the right to freedom of expression and information;
e. Ways to guarantee that the Miskitos and other Indian peoples of the Atlantic coast region may exercise the right to transit, residence and movement in that region and in the rest of the country;
f. Establishment of mechanisms to allow the Miskitos who wish to do so to return to the Coco River region, when the emergency is over;
g. Mechanisms that’s would allow the repatriation or voluntary resettlement of any Miskito now in Nicaragua to the refugee camps in Honduras, or from those camps to Nicaragua for purposes of family reunification;
h. Improvement of communications between the Miskitos who reside in Nicaragua and those who have taken refuge in Honduras, for which it will be desirable to have the cooperation of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High commissioner for Refugees in the course of the conference;
i. Establishment of procedures and mechanisms to compensate the Miskitos for the loss of their homes, crops, livestock or other belongings when they were evacuated from their villages;
j. Study of a solution to the problem of the Indian’ ancestral lands that would take into account both the aspirations of the Indians and the economic interests and territorial unity of the Republic;
k. Study of means to promote and guarantee respect for the cultural identity of the Indian peoples of the Atlantic coast region.
4. The above-mentioned conference would be organized as follow:
a. It would be held in a place chosen by the Government of Nicaragua;
b. It would be held as soon as possible, but not later than during the first quarter of 1984;
c. The Government of Nicaragua would be represented by the highest level officials;
d. The following institutions and persons would act as counterpart to the Government of Nicaragua:
i. A representative of the Moravian Church of Nicaragua;
ii. A member of the Catholic clergy, appointed by the Apostolic Administrator of Puerto Cabezas;
iii. An Indian clergyman to represent the Anglican Church;
iv. A representative of the various Tasba Pri settlement;
v. A member of the Council of Elders, representing the Miskitos who have taken refuge in Honduras;
vi. A leader in representation of Misurasata.
In addition to these six people that would represent the institutions that have been mentioned, the Commission considers that the participation in the above-mentioned conference for the following three Miskito leaders, who have maintained an ongoing concern in the matter, would be useful: Rev. Fernando Colomer, Mr. Norman Bent and Mr. Armstrong Wiggins.
e. Through its appointed representatives, the Commission would participate in the conference under the terms of the mission that it is carrying out as mediator in the friendly settlement.
f. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross would participate in the conference as observers.
g. The Executive Secretariat of the IACHR would act as Technical Secretariat of the Conference.
h. At the conclusion of the conference, a report would be drawn up of its decision, which would be implemented by the Government of Nicaragua through its legal system; but until they are so implemented, they should be carried out in good faith.
5. It is the view of the Commission that in order for this proposal to be effective, the release of all Miskitos held prisoner for reasons of public order should be effected by November 15, 1983, and the Government of Nicaragua should inform the Commission by that date as to whether or not it accepts this proposal, and it should indicate the place and date of the conference, which in any case, as stated, should take place no later that during the first quarter of 1984.
The Commission, in view of the terms set forth in the communication of Your Excellency of last September 16 and of the repeated intentions expressed by high-ranking officials of the Government of Nicaragua to reach a friendly settlement with the Nicaraguans of Miskito origin with whom it has difficulties and differences, harbors the hope that the Government of Your Excellency will express its agreement with the proposal set forth in this note.
This proposal represents the last effort that the Commission can make after over a year of active attempts to bring about the desired friendly settlement. For that reason, should the Government of Your Excellency not accept this proposal, the Commission would have no alternative, under the terms of the pertinent norms of the American Convention on Human Rights, but to consider terminated its participation as mediator in the friendly settlement, and to publish the report that it is preparing on the situation of human rights of the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua.
While awaiting a prompt and favorable reply, I take this occasion to reiterate the assurances of my highest consideration.
(s) Cesar Sepulveda
17. The Government of Nicaragua, in a lengthy communication dated November 14, 1983, addressed by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Victor H. Tinoco, to the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Cesar Sepulveda, stated, in sum, that the serious crisis that affected the Central American region and Nicaragua in particular impeded it from immediately or in the short term implementing some of the recommendations made by the IACHR. In particular, the Nicaraguan Government stated that it was impossible to establish a deadline for the issuance of an amnesty decree for Indians detained for security reasons a measure which it conditioned upon “cessation of aggression” and the impossibility of accepting participation in the conference proposed by the Commission of “those person who act as leaders in the aggression against the Nicaraguan people”.
The pertinent parts of that communication are as follows:
The Government of National Reconstruction is pleased to note that the measures that it has adopted within the framework of the procedures for a Friendly Settlement with respect to matters concerning the minority ethnic groups in Nicaragua, have merited from the Commission “…its gratitude to the Government of Nicaragua for having taken into account some of the recommendations that it had set forward…” In addition, my Government is pleased to note that “the Commission considers those measures to be positive”.
Nevertheless, my Government must bring to the attention of the Commission the serious crisis that affects the Central American region and Nicaragua in particular, which is a fundamental and insuperable factor that impedes immediate implementation or implementation in the short term of some of its recommendations.
Your Excellency is certainly not unaware of the aggression against my country as a result of the policy of the US Administration which, through so-called “convert operations”, has led, armed, financed and trained mercenary groups that are composed mostly of former members of the genocidal Somocista guard, for the purposes of destabilizing and destroying the Sandinista People’s Revolution. For that purpose, the US Government uses Honduran territory as a base and refuge for such armed bands, with the open complicity, if not direct participation, of some civilian authorities and the Army of Honduras.
Within this context, my country is involved in a war which, while not officially declared by the US Government, has brought tragic consequences including the assassination of more than 786 Nicaraguan in this year alone, the genocide committed against the populations of such towns as Pantasma the attack on Puerto Cabezas, Puerto Benjamin Zeledon, the customs post of Peñas Blancas and El Espino and other civilian, economic and productive targets, with a high cost in human lives and the loss of over $103 million. The scope of these criminal actions became apparent to the international community with the despicable and inhumane attack on Port Corinto, carried out on October 10, 1983, by groups armed and trained by members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which endangered the lives of over 30,000 persons, and forced an immediate evacuation of the inhabitants of the port.
At the same time, I wish to point out to Your Excellency that the real dangers that threaten peace in Central America have been recognized by the international community with alarmed concern. As Your Excellency will recall, Resolution 530 of the Security Council of the United Nations of May 19 of this year deals with the problem in Central American with specific reference to the potential conflict of incalculable proportions that may erupt between the states of Honduras and Nicaragua, on whose borders some of the events under the consideration of the Commission took place, and which made an appeal to the concerned countries to lend their full support to the efforts made by the Contadora Group. Given the dangers that it poses for regional and world peace and security, the Central American problem that was included on the agenda of the Thirty-eighth General Assembly of the United nations, which approved, by consensus, a resolution which points out the seriousness of “the attacks launched from abroad and directed against strategic installations in Nicaragua, such as airports and seaports, energy depots and other targets, the destruction of which would seriously affect the economic life of the country and endanger dense population areas” With special attention, allow me to remind Your Excellency of the resolution issued by the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, which states in one of its paragraphs its concern “…over the numerous fatal incursions of armed groups from a neighboring country sustained by an external force…” and the condemnation of “…these events that seriously affect the right to self determination of the Nicaraguan people…”.
Under these circumstances, it would be a serious misreading of history to require implementation of certain recommendations by a precise date, since the conditions under which my country lives as a result of aggression are not only worsening, but the risks of direct or indirect intervention in Nicaragua by the US Government are becoming greater. As Your Excellency knows, my government has repeatedly denounced the plans of the US Administration to create the conditions that would allow open aggression against my country. The recent invasion of Grenada by US troops, the presence of warships along our coast, and the reactivation of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA), are factors that heighten the apprehension of my government with respect to an imminent invasion.
At this historic time for Central America, the central concern of my government lies almost exclusively in seeking peace and in preparing for defense against the aggressions suffered daily by the people of Nicaragua. Your Excellency will understand that, in the face of the strong possibility of intervention in Nicaragua, the primordial and fundamental obligation of our officials is to safeguard the lives of thousands of Nicaraguans.
In the framework of the background that I have sketched for Your Excellency, I wish to inform you that I have very carefully studied the interesting proposals that you put forth in your above-mentioned note, some of which are unquestionably a notable effort on the part of this eminent body to bring about the desired friendly settlement. Nevertheless, the tragic circumstances of my country do not appear to have been taken into consideration in the formulation of some of the proposals.
Having made the foregoing observations of a general nature, I believe it advisable to proceed with a study of the concrete proposals put forth by the Commission, in the spirit that moves my government to seek commonly-agreed-upon formulas to support the noble mission entrusted to the IACHR.
With respect to the first proposal, supplemented with the deadline contained in point 5, on the need to decree “a pardon or amnesty that would cover all Indians…” that “should be effected by November 15, 1983,” allow me to recall that in a note of September 16 of this year, the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, Miguel D’Escoto, informed the Commission that he was authorized “… to state to Your Excellency that this Amnesty Decree will be issued by the Government of Nicaragua when the new aggressive escalation has ended, and the more concrete fruit of the noble and renewed efforts of the Contadora Group, to which my government has given its full support”, are to be seen. As Your Excellency has been able to ascertain, the escalation in aggression against Nicaragua has not only increased noticeably, but the dangers of a regional conflagration seriously threaten international peace and security. Under these circumstances, the Government of Nicaragua reiterates its full political with to grant a pardon or amnesty, but one which can be subject to no other condition than termination of the aggression against my country.
I have already reported to the Chairman the various measures adopted by my country in order to bring about the release of numerous detainees of Miskito origin, the most important of which I summarize below:
a. In Note Nº 023/83 MPN/OAS of January 5, 1983, our Ambassador to the OAS reported to the Commission that 59 prisoners had been released.
b. In the above-mentioned note of September 16 of this year, the Commission was advised of the release of 45 detainees, and the note enclosed the Draft General Amnesty Decree for all Nicaraguans of Miskito, Sumo, Criollo or Rama origin, without exception. This same note also enclosed certification of the sentences handed down by the Supreme Court of Justice in which several court decisions were nullified, to the benefit of over 100 defendants.
c. In a note of September 26 of this year, our Ambassador to the OAS reported to the Commission that a pardon had been granted to 18 Miskitos on the basis of the decision of the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and that a Resolution on 24 detainees listed in the decision is pending in the Council of State.
In addition, my government is studying the possibility of applying temporary measures to some Miskitos, which would consist of “house arrest” with authorization to work, in accordance with Decree Nº 1230 which amends the Ley de Gracia.
With respect to the proposals contained in paragraphs 2-4 and the last part of 5, I bring to Your Excellency’s attention the strong interest of my government, indicated to the Commission in topic 4, subparagraph c of the Proposal Document for a Friendly Settlement of the Government of National Reconstruction, in holding conversations with representative groups of the Indian communities. In a note of September 16 of this year, information was transmitted to Your Excellency to the effect that the Government of Nicaragua accepted as valid interlocutors “Bishop John Wilson, Pastors Norman Bent and Fernando Colomer and the members of the Christian Committee for Peace in the Atlantic Coast, Rev. Sandoval Herrera, Pastor of the Moravian Church, Rev. Francisco Baker of the Catholic Church, and Rev. Víctor Ordóñez of the Anglican Church.” My government accepts the proposal to include a representative of the various Tasba Pri settlements; however, it categorically rejects the presence of a representative of the Council of Elders, of Mr. Armstrong Wiggins and of the counterrevolutionary Misurasata organization, guilty of numerous crimes against the people of Nicaragua and instruments of the barbaric US aggression against my country. My government considers the attendance of the UNHCR and the ICRC in the scheduled conversations to be very positive, as is that of the distinguished Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its capacity as mediator in the friendly settlement procedure.
For its part, the Government of Nicaragua urges the Commission to make new efforts with the Honduran authorities so that the Nicaraguans who involuntarily remain in that territory may return to Nicaragua with the full guarantees of the Government of National Reconstruction.
Mr. Chairman, although my government accepts most of the proposals put forward in your above-mentioned note, I wish to reiterate our fundamental objections, which can be summarized under two headings:
a. The impossibility of establishing a deadline for approval of the Amnesty Decree, which will definitively depend upon the cessation of aggression against my country, a factor that lies outside the good will so often demonstrated by my government, and
b. The impossibility of including in the conference those persons who act as leaders of the aggression against the Nicaraguan people.
My government deeply regrets that the Honorable Inter-American Commission refers in its above-mentioned note to the possibility of “…terminating its activities as mediator in a friendly settlement procedure and publishing the Report that it is preparing on the situation of human rights of the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua.”
Subsequently, in the note of November 14, 1983, the Government of Nicaragua put forth several considerations with respect to the procedure that the Commission should apply in this matter, in accordance with its interpretation of articles 50 and 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The note signed by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs ends by pointing out:
In ratifying the full political will of my government to maintain an ongoing and fruitful dialogue with the Honorable Commission, I wish to underline the historic importance of the friendly settlement procedure for the matters connected with the ethnic minorities in Nicaragua, since the challenges and difficulties posed by the complexity of the problems require the most disinterested and renewed efforts in search of appropriate mechanisms, that take into account the aggression and imminent intervention in my country, with a view to reaching a friendly settlement which unquestionably will give enlightenment to other processes of ethnic understanding in Latin America.
18. In view of the terms of the above-cited note of the Government of Nicaragua and in conformity with the decisions adopted at its 61st regular session, the Commission had no alternative but to terminate its activities as mediator in seeking a friendly settlement to this matter. This was stated by the Chairman of the Commission, César Sepúlveda, in a note of November 29, 1983, addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, in which he states that the circumstances invoked by the Government of Nicaragua “… lead the IACHR to the necessary conclusion that at this time there is no possibility of carrying out its task. All of the parties involved in the conflict are affected in some way by these dramatic circumstances, and it is not possible to reconcile them at this time. For that reason, the Commission has instructed me, in light of this situation, to terminate its activities as mediator in the friendly settlement procedure.” The note of the Chairman of the IACHR adds:
Finally, the Commission wishes to place on the record the continuing efforts that it made since accepting the honorable mission that the Government of Nicaragua entrusted to it to act as mediator in a friendly settlement procedure, and regrets that circumstances beyond its control and beyond the control of the Republic of Nicaragua have prevented it from attaining its desired goal.
Of course, the Commission states its continued willingness, once the present circumstances have been overcome, for the Government of Nicaragua to turn to it, if it so desires, to contribute to the solution of the pending problems in the area of human rights that affect that Republic.15
 MISURATA, derives its name from the first syllables of the names of the ethnic groups: Miskito, Sumo, Rama and Sandinista and the words Asla Takanka (which in the Miskito language means “united”), and in accordance with its broad outlines, defines itself as follows; “We are three groups of Indian peoples of the region that comprise a single monolithic unit of Indian brotherhood, which defends and upholds the Sandinista Revolution in our society”. In April of 1980, when membership on the Council of State was broadened, the Organization was granted a seat on that body. MISURASATA was dissolved by the government toward the end of 1981, however and most of the former leaders currently do no live in Nicaragua.
 Nearly coinciding with the complaint of Misurasata, there appeared separately at the Secretariat of the Commission, Mr. Armstrong Wiggins, accompanied by staff members of the US organization, Indian Law Resource Center< and Mr. Steadman Fagoth, who appeared accompanied by Colonel Sam Dikens of the American Security Council. Both men indicated to the Executive Secretariat of the Commission the seriousness, in their opinion, of the events that took place at the end of December 1981 and on the early weeks of 1982. Since the Commission was to meet soon thereafter, they were invited by the Executive Secretary to testify directly before the Commission, which they did some days later.
 The composition of that Special Commission is discussed in Section H of Part I of this report.
 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.
 These preliminary recommendations figure in Section J of Part I of this Report.
 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.
 OEA/Ser.L/V/II.56, doc. 11, rev. 1. This is a reserved document.
 The updated study of the observance of these rights appears in the second part of this Report.
 For organizational purposes, all matters relating to the process of reaching a friendly settlement will be considered together in Section N.
 The terms of that proposal appear in the note dated September 30 of 1983, which is included in Section N of this report. The reply of the Government of Nicaragua appears in the note dated November 14 of 1983, which is also included in that section.
 See Section F of Part I.
 See Section F of Part I.
 See the note of the Commission dated September 30, 1983 in the next section.
 See Section L, page 37.
15 By cable dated November 29, 1983, the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua informed the Chairman of the Commission that the Government of Nicaragua had declared a general amnesty on behalf of the Miskitos. Further, by cable dated April 28, 1984, the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua communicated to the Chairman of the IACHR that the Government of Nicaragua had expressed its agreement, in principle, regarding the holding of the proposed conference, but that, due to the circumstances prevailing in Nicaragua it could not be convoked immediately. Further, he expressly rejected the participation of certain leaders in the mentioned Conference.