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


 

 

PART THREE

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

A. Conclusions

1. With respect to the claim of Misurasata and of other Indian organizations, according to which the ethnic groups of Nicaragua have a number of rights that go beyond those granted to all Nicaraguan citizens, which in particular include the right to self-determination (political autonomy), their cultural identity and the use of their own language and religion, the Commission believes that in the current status of international law the claim is supported only with respect to the preservation of their culture, practice of their religion and the use of their own language, but it does not include the right to self-determination or political autonomy.

2. Forces in opposition to the Nicaraguan Government crossed the Coco River from Honduras and occupied the town of San Carlos, on the bank of that river in December 1981, where they set up an ambush, mutilated and killed six Nicaraguan soldiers. The Government of Nicaragua denounced this incident as part of a massive uprising planned to begin in the villages along the Coco River during Christmas week, 1981. In turn, forces of the Nicaraguan Sandinista Army killed Miskitos during these border confrontations, and the Commission has sufficient information to hold that the Government of Nicaragua illegally killed a considerable number of Miskitos in Leimus, in retaliation for the killings in San Carlos, in violation of Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

3. On December 28, 1981, the Government of Nicaragua decided to relocate 42 villages along the Coco River to five settlements located approximately 60 kilometers south of the river, on the Rosita-Puerto Cabezas Road, which was called “Tasba Pri” (Free Land, in the Miskito language). The up-river villages, from Leimus to Raití, had to be evacuated on foot under difficult and harsh circumstances because there were no roads passable by vehicles. The down-river villages from Leimus to the Atlantic coast were relocated in trucks and many were allowed to take some belongings with them. In the period between January 1 and February 20, 1982, the relocation of approximately 8,500 people was effected. Approximately half of the Rio Coco region population fled to Honduras, fearing that their lives were in danger. Despite the fact that the relocation and resettlement of the Miskitos in Tasba Pri was carried out in an atmosphere of fear and severe conflict, the Commission is not in a position to state that there was loss of life during the relocation, with which the Government had been initially accused.

4. The relocation in Tasba Pri of some Miskitos, and the flight to Honduras of others, uprooted the Miskitos from the banks of the Coco River, where they had lived from time immemorial, resulting in the division of numerous towns and entire families, the destruction of their homes, the loss of their livestock and in some cases, all of their belongings. The Miskito structure of authority was undermined and later dissolved de facto as a result of the repression of the Misurasata leaders, who were accused of “counterrevolutionary” activities. Later, as Nicaragua began to receive greater threats to its external security and as the conflict in the Atlantic zone intensified, the Miskito villages were increasingly harassed, and the deprivation or limitations on the liberty of the Miskitos became more frequent, culminating on November 4, 1982, with the establishment of a military emergency zone which affected 24 municipalities along the border with Honduras, several of which were almost entirely inhabited by Miskitos.

5. Hundreds of Miskitos have been arbitrarily detained without any formalities and under vague accusations of carrying out “counterrevolutionary activities”; many of these detentions have been followed by prolonged periods of incommunicado imprisonment and in some cases the Commission has verified that illegal torture and abuse took place. Although according to information provided by the Government, most of the detained Miskitos are currently are currently in the Minimal Security Work Farm, near Managua, which provides considerably better prison conditions than any other Nicaraguan prison, the fact of being separated from their families has contributed to the dispersal of these Miskitos. In addition, the Commission has taken due note of the information provided by the Government on three occasions, that 49, 45 and 18 Miskitos, respectively, were released, although the Commission is unaware of the motive for their detention or whether they were duly tried.1

6. The trial of the Miskitos who were arrested at the end of 1981 and early in 1982 as a result of the incidents of San Carlos and three other nearby towns, was initially carried out without regard to the universally applicable norms of due process. On September 16, 1983, the Supreme Court of Nicaragua, by nullification of the criminal proceedings, annulled the second instance convictions of 59 of the 105 Miskitos who had previously been convicted by the Bluefields Court of Appeals.

7. The Commission has received complaints according to which nearly 70 Miskitos who had been detained have now disappeared. Although the Commission admits the possibility that some of them may, after their release, have changed names or even sought refuge in Honduras, the recorded circumstances of their detention, the lack of notification of their families, and the absence of a list with the names of all detained Miskitos and their place of detention confirm the concern that the Commission has maintained with respect to this serious problem.

8. The Commission regrets the tragic accident in which 75 Miskito children and 9 mothers died in December, 1982, upon the burning of the helicopter that was transporting them to new settlements in the Department of Jinotega, which fell to the ground and caught fire. Nevertheless, at the same time, it cannot fail to express its concern at the lack of information provided by the Government with respect to this additional compulsory relocation of a significant number of Miskitos.

9. The Commission considers that at this time it is not possible to effect a voluntary repatriation of the Nicaraguan Miskitos in Honduras, which does not preclude the possibility of adopting certain partial measures that would contribute to reunification, or at least communication within Miskito families.

10. The Commission considers that, in general, the Miskitos of the Atlantic region of Nicaragua are in a situation of inevitable economic dependence on the Government, as they have been deprived of their traditional means of subsistence and as they have not reached agreement with respect to their claims to their ancestral lands. The Commission recognizes the efforts of the Government of Nicaragua to provide services with respect to health, education and welfare, both in the new settlements and in the northern towns of the Department of Zelaya inhabited by Miskitos (although until now it has not been possible to solve problems of adequate food supply). Nevertheless, the Commission considers that the greatest obstacles that still confront the Miskito population are due to their lack of participation in the decisions that concern them, resulting from the mutual distrust between that people and the government, all of which exacerbates existing tensions and difficulties.

11. The Commission acknowledges that an overall solution to the difficulties of the Government of Nicaragua with a considerable number of Nicaraguans of Miskito origin to some extent will depend on the achievement of peace throughout Central America, and in particular on an agreement between Honduras and Nicaragua which guarantees peace along the border, thus avoiding detentions that have prevailed until now in these border zones. In that sense, the Commission can only urge the so-called Contadora Group to continue to make its valuable and important contribution to the achievement of peace. At the same time, it is confident that the governments concerned, including that of the United States of America, will conduct themselves in a way compatible with the above-mentioned purpose of establishing a stable and lasting peace in this region.

B. Proposals and Recommendations

In accordance with Article 50, paragraph 3 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission proposed to the Government of Nicaragua the following recommendations and proposals:

1. To declare a pardon or amnesty to cover all Indian Nicaraguans who have been accused of committing crimes against public order and security or any other connected crime and who are currently in prison, either carrying out a sentence at the order of a competent judge or court, at the order of the Office of the General Attorney, or detained for purposes of investigation for state security; or who are at liberty, within or outside of Nicaragua, and against whom charges have been brought.

2. Once all of the Miskitos who are now imprisoned are released, a conference should be held in the first quarter of 1984 by the representatives of the Government of Nicaragua and persons representing the broadest possible sectors of the various Nicaraguan communities of Miskito origin so that, in the presence of representatives of the IACHR and other concerned international organizations, that conference may discuss and seek solutions to their differences, so that Nicaraguans of Miskito origin may enjoy the rights established in the American Convention on Human Rights.

3. The agenda of that Conference should include the following subjects, although this is not necessarily a complete list:

a. The appropriate means and conditions to allow the Miskito, sumo, and Rama peoples to participate in the dialogue with the Government of Nicaragua that would be initiated at this Conference, through existing organizations or those to be established, if those peoples so desire;

b. Participation of the Miskitos and other ethnic groups in national decisions that concern their interests, as well as in the administration of the Atlantic coast region;

c. Procedure and mechanisms for granting of compensation to the close relatives (parents, children and spouses) of those who died as a result of the conflict, as well as for 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 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 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 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 Indians’ 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.2

 

Notes________________________

1 On December 1, 1983 the Government of Nicaragua decreed a general amnesty for the Miskitos, however a small number remained in detention because they were not included in this measure.

2 On April 28, 1984, the Government of Nicaragua communicated to the IACHR that it accepted, in principle, the idea of holding a conference, such as the one that had been proposed, nevertheless such a conference could not be held immediately, due to the conditions prevailing in the country, and rejecting the participation at the conference of persons accused of activities against the security of the State.

 



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