Nineteen ninety-one was a year in which the discourse of human rights gained greater acceptance than ever before. The tired formula that the way governments treat their own citizens is an internal affair, not the appropriate subject of international discussion, lost resonance even among the governments most resistant to international scrutiny. Even so sacred a notion as the inviolability of borders _ the essence of sovereignty _ gave way to a growing insistence that the most extreme abuses could not remain immune from humanitarian intervention. Several efforts to fashion peace also reflected the emerging recognition that human rights must be at the center of a secure and stable world order.
Sovereignty and Human Rights
Fortunately, the worldwide trend was in the opposite direction, with increasing acceptance that respect for human rights is a legitimate international concern. The most dramatic example of the breakdown of sovereignty as a defense for human rights violators occurred when the U.N. Security Council authorized the creation of a security zone in northern Iraq to protect the Kurdish population from massive reprisal by Saddam Hussein's forces. The action represented the first time that the international community had formally limited a sovereign nation's authority over its own territory essentially on human rights grounds.
o The Organization of American States (OAS), traditionally a staunch defender of sovereignty after decades of big-stick U.S. diplomacy in the hemisphere, resolved in June to convene immediately if any democratically elected government were overthrown in a military coup. The first test came in late September, with the ouster of Haiti's first freely elected president, the popular and populist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The OAS responded with unprecedented resolve, imposing an economic embargo and vowing to maintain it until President Aristide is restored to power.
o In September, in the face of a disintegrating situation in Yugoslavia, the thirty-eight-state Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) dropped its traditional insistence on unanimity to permit the sending of a human rights fact-finding mission to a member state without securing the state's formal consent.
o An armed force created by the Economic Community of West African States continued its intervention between the warring factions in Liberia. Begun in August 1990, this military presence and subsequent diplomatic efforts were critical in curbing the carnage and abuse of that conflict.
o The U.N. General Assembly in November took the unprecedented step of unanimously adopting a resolution rebuking by name a member state _ Myanmar (Burma) _ for human rights abuses. The lack of dissent meant that even such hard-line opponents of international scrutiny as Cuba and China did not oppose the emerging consensus. Indeed, China felt it necessary to issue a White Paper on its own human rights practices which at least gave lip service to the legitimacy of human rights as a topic of debate.
o Then-Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin, in his September speech to the Moscow CSCE conference, explicitly rejected the long-time Soviet position that international criticism of its human rights record constituted interference in its internal affairs.
o The European Community and several of its member states have announced that development aid would be linked to the recipient government's respect for human rights. Even Japan, long resistant to the notion, has articulated a similar policy.
There were, of course, exceptions to this trend. The Organization of African Unity continues to refuse to take up human rights violations by its member states, and to diffuse international efforts to scrutinize abuses by those states. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was outspoken in its hostility to international human rights scrutiny. The fifty-nation Commonwealth made substantial reference to human rights at its 1991 heads-of-government meeting but continued to neglect the matter in practice.
Human Rights as an Element of Peace and Stability
Human rights also gained growing recognition as a vital element of peace and stability. The realpolitik view of world order in which relations between states are determined by power and self-interest, without concern for such "internal" matters as how a state treats its citizens, gave way fitfully but steadily to a broader understanding that security is not simply a question of armed might but depends on a foundation of respect for human rights. The need to readjust this understanding became increasingly apparent with the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. If the international community previously had challenged Saddam Hussein to temper his cruelty at home, it seems doubtful that he would have risked brutalizing the citizens of a neighboring state.
Even as the growing acceptance of human rights has begun to alter understandings of peace and sovereignty, the rise of exclusionary nationalism poses an alarming threat to individual liberties. Doctrines of intolerance _ be it a vision of ethnic, linguistic or religious purity _ are apparent in a variety of conflicts around the world. Several of these are in Eastern Europe: the interethnic attacks in Yugoslavia; and the violent confrontations in such regions of the former Soviet Union as Georgia, Azerbaidhzan, Moldova and the Chechen-Ingush region of Russia. More restrained ethnic tensions continue to raise the specter of violence as Turks in Bulgaria, Hungarians in Romania, and Gypsies in several countries face intolerance from the majority population.
o In Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese-dominated government's intolerance of the Tamil language and perceived Tamil privileges has bred a vicious war with untold brutality by insurgent and government forces.
o In India, government heavy-handedness in addressing separatist rebellions in Punjab, Assam and Kashmir has promoted a cycle of cruelty and violence by all sides.
o In Indonesia, an entrenched and intolerant authoritarian regime has met separatist movements in Aceh and East Timor with summary executions and widespread repression.
o In Tibet, the Chinese have imposed their territorial claims through ruthless crackdowns on pro-independence demonstrators.
o In Iran, the struggle of the country's Kurdish and Baluch minorities for greater political, cultural and linguistic autonomy has met with heavy-handed repression usually masked as an anti-drug campaign.
o In eastern Turkey, the government's long repression of the Kurdish minority has stoked the flames of insurgency.
o In Rwanda, Hutu domination of the Tutsi minority (after years of the reverse) has sparked another invasion by predominantly pro-Tutsi forces and reprisal killings by government forces.
o In neighboring Burundi, war broke out in November when pro-Hutu rebels attacked after years of discrimination by the dominant Tutsi minority.
One dangerous manifestation of this nationalist fervor is the tendency to deny members of other ethnic groups any status in the nation. Loss of citizenship rights and summary expulsion is often the product of this exclusive view of the nation.
o Ethnic Haitians who were lifelong residents of the Dominican Republic and should be considered citizens under the Dominican Constitution were summarily expelled in retaliation for international criticism of the Dominican government's use of forced Haitian labor on state sugarcane plantations.
o The Kuwaiti government, after the ouster of Iraqi occupying forces, expelled or prevented the return of hundreds of thousands of long-term Palestinian residents because of alleged pro-Iraq sympathy. It is also threatening to expel some 250,000 stateless Arabs, the Bedoons, whose only home is Kuwait but whose Kuwaiti citizenship has never been officially recognized.
o Saudi Arabia summarily expelled close to a million Yemenis, most of them long-term residents, after Yemen was perceived as siding with Iraq during the Persian Gulf conflict.
o Latvia is threatening to deny citizenship to anyone who cannot trace his or her ancestry in Latvia to 1940 or demonstrate residence in the country for sixteen years.
o Predominantly Buddhist Burma continues to detain Muslims born in Burma as "illegal immigrants."
o Eritrea, following the end of the Ethiopian conflict, has expelled thousands of non-Eritreans.
o Congo summarily expelled hundreds of thousands of Zairians, many of them long-term residents, to politically unstable conditions in Zaire.
Nationalism is not the only exclusionary ideology that threatens respect for individual differences. A similar intolerance can be found in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan, where governments invoke an extreme version of Islamic fundamentalism to suppress dissent and stifle the development of civil society, or in the continuing death sentence pronounced by Iran's theocratic state against writer Salman Rushdie. Elements of the Afghan mujahedin also have used detention and murder to enforce their rigid brand of Islamic fundamentalism. In turn, some governments, notably Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, have fueled the growth of religious extremism by using repressive methods, including torture, rather than encouraging public debate and the growth of alternative independent institutions to challenge intolerant fundamentalist ideologies.
A Threat to Democracy
Apart from the threat of exclusionary ideologies, civil society is also endangered by attacks on the very nature of democracy. Although most governments today claim to be democratic, an increasing number have sought to redefine the term as a form of narrow electoralism, with periodic balloting but without the independent institutions of civil society _ a free and robust press, outspoken bar associations and religious institutions, freely organized labor unions and uninhibited grassroots organizations _ that permit people to debate issues of importance and to organize and petition their governments in a manner that permits them to be heard.
o The Egyptian government dissolved a leading women's organization because it dared to "disseminat[e] ideas running counter to the position of the State" and to "[take] a stand against the official and public stand of the government with regard to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq." The government also warned students that "[u]niversities are a place for science and learning and not for political activity."
o In Singapore, the government has reduced political competition to a brief campaign period every four or five years, while using the threat of administrative detention and a variety of more subtle economic penalties to stifle the growth of independent organizations. When the opposition overcame these obstacles to win four of fifty-one parliamentary seats, the government announced that it had been mistaken to attempt a slightly more open form of governance.
o In South Korea, the government detains people suspected of "anti-state" ideology. Debate on the central issue facing society _ relations with North Korea _ must take place under the shadow of possible criminal charges of "benefiting" the north.
o In Indonesia, political discussion is constrained by the ever-present possibility of detention for violating the state ideology.
This narrow electoralism can also be found in several nations that have declared themselves on the road to democratic reform. In Kuwait, for example, the restored emir has promised elections in 1992 but refuses to permit campaigning by relaxing censorship and lifting prohibitions on independent organization and assembly. Similarly in several countries in Africa, governments are trying to sway with the winds of democratic change without losing their grasp on power.
o In Nigeria, the military government is attempting to control a proclaimed transition to democracy by dictating which two political parties may exist, undermining the press, and insisting on an "open ballot" in which voters must publicly identify their choice.
o In Kenya, despite a long-awaited opening for multiparty politics, outspoken lawyers and politicians have continued to face fines, arrest and mistreatment in custody for challenging the government's insistence on its monopoly on power.
o In Cameroon, elections have been promised but six independent organizations were banned for engaging in politics.
o In Ghana, the government has declared a transition to democracy but still bans political parties and targets opposition journalists for harassment.
Equally critical to a democracy is the rule of law, but again many "democratic" nations show little tolerance for legal process.
o In Malaysia, the ruling party, after taming the judiciary through suspension and dismissal of independent-minded members of the Supreme Court, set its sights on the Bar Council, briefly threatening to revoke its independence and limit its public voice because of its vigorous defense of the rule of law.
o In El Salvador, the government has allowed abusive forces to face prosecution and, occasionally, trial in cases that attract international attention, confident that efforts to repress evidence and manipulate the judiciary will usually avoid conviction and punishment, and that in any event, the sporadic nature of these prosecutions coupled with amnesties for those who face punishment will not substantially dent the pattern of impunity enjoyed by security forces.
o In Guatemala, a handful of judges, police officers and human rights monitors willing to pursue military abuses have been met with threats and murder.
o In a number of nations around the world _ including Egypt, India, Israel and Malaysia _ avowedly democratic governments have bypassed the criminal law altogether by detaining dissenters administratively, without specific charges or a public trial before an independent tribunal.
A similar bypassing of judicial institutions affects certain prisoners in the United States. After conviction and sentencing in court, prisoners who are deemed to present excessive security threats are confined administratively, without further judicial review, in severe and often cruel super-maximum security facilities.
o Despite its professed acceptance of the legitimacy of discussing human rights, China persists in its brutal effort to stamp out any remnant of the "counterrevolutionary" pro-democracy movement of 1989. More than a thousand peaceful participants in the movement are known to remain in custody.
o In Burma, the military-dominated State Law and Order Restoration Council continues to ignore the results of the May 1990 elections, imprison the leaders of the victorious National League for Democracy (NLD), and hold Nobel Prize-winner and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
o In Vietnam, despite economic liberalization and a small opening for dissent, those who overstep prescribed bounds still face imprisonment and severe mistreatment in custody.
o In North Korea, repression is so tight and the country so closed that public dissent remains virtually unthinkable.
o In Cuba, persistent opposition to Fidel Castro's closed political system has been met with continuing arrests and violent "acts of repudiation," in which government-organized mobs batter and abuse dissident leaders.
o In Malawi, Life President Hastings Banda, who has dominated political life since independence in 1964, maintains a highly repressive system that has permitted him to remain immune to the democratic tide sweeping Africa.
U.S. Policy: Human Rights at No Cost
In the face of these varied and sometimes complex challenges to human rights, the Bush Administration has tended toward a policy of promoting human rights only when it is cost-free. The Administration is not openly hostile to human rights, and sometimes becomes an outspoken proponent, but these occasions are usually only when competing interests do not stand in the way. The promotion of human rights rarely has emerged as a concern that overrides the Administration's other preoccupations.
The Middle East
The crucible of the Bush Administration's human rights policy in 1991 was the Middle East. President Bush cited Iraqi abuses of human rights in rallying support for a military solution to the invasion of Kuwait. Yet as soon as the war was over, the cry for human rights was lost in the rush of other considerations. Indicative was that Secretary Baker visited the region seven times in 1991 without once publicly mentioning human rights.
In liberated Kuwait, the Administration was equally weak in preventing the sorts of abuses that it had cited as a prelude to going to war. The thousands of U.S. troops in the country played an active role in rebuilding Kuwait's ruined infrastructure _ even preparing a palace for the emir's return _ but adopted a hands-off attitude when it came to preventing vengeful Kuwaiti forces from executing scores of perceived Iraqi sympathizers and torturing hundreds more.
Other Devaluation of Human Rights
The Administration's devaluation of human rights was apparent elsewhere in the world as well. President Bush continued to insist on a policy of "constructive engagement" with China despite glaring and persistent evidence of its failure. In May, he labeled the argument that the United States should distance itself from China's abusive leadership as "self-righteousness draped in a false morality." "You do not reform the world by ignoring it," he proclaimed, as if no degree of killing or repression made a regime immune from the Kissingerian realpolitik of U.S. diplomats. Rather than even considering the use of trade sanctions, President Bush ensured the Chinese leaders understood that their friend in the White House would block any more severe sanction than a private finger-wagging for their continued imprisonment and mistreatment of democracy advocates.
In Colombia and Peru, the Administration's eagerness to funnel military aid to the "war" on drugs led it to issue blatantly false certifications about human rights conditions. The denial that the army of either country was engaging in a consistent pattern of gross abuses flew in the face of extensive evidence, much of it recorded in the State Department's own annual report on human rights. In Colombia, this insensitivity to human rights worked at cross purposes with the increasing responsiveness to human rights concerns shown by that country's own civilian government. In Peru, the Administration's position threatened to make the United States a party to a counterinsurgency campaign carried out by means of dirty-war tactics.
Some Positive Steps
There were occasional positive steps that the Administration took to promote human rights.
o With Honduras no longer serving as a staging point for the Nicaraguan contras, the new U.S. ambassador, Cresencio Arcos, is a leading proponent of accountability for army abuses. He called for a "transparent" investigation into a particularly brutal army rape and murder, and brought in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to help with forensic analysis.
o As Cold War competition waned in the neighboring Horn of Africa, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Smith Hempstone received backing for his blunt and outspoken advocacy of multiparty democracy and strong opposition to the arrests and mistreatment used to preserve one-party rule.
o In Burma, the Administration maintained tight restrictions on high-level diplomatic contacts and refused to resume bilateral assistance. Secretary Baker also spoke out forcefully against Burmese abuses at an ASEAN meeting.
o In Suriname, following the military overthrow of an elected government in December 1990, the Administration continued in 1991 to issue high-level public calls for new elections, which were held in May 1991, and for an end to the military interference in civilian government that has been the rule in that country for a decade.
o In Bulgaria, despite warming relations, the Administration spoke out publicly against constitutional restrictions on ethnically and religiously based political parties.
Welcome as these interventions were, they had in common the lack of substantial U.S. interests standing in the way of human rights advocacy. As a result, they regrettably did not mark a deviation in the Administration's policy of subordinating the promotion of human rights to a range of other concerns.
The Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
The Administration's devaluation of human rights continued to be apparent in its misuse of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Time and again, when the United States should have outspokenly denounced gross abuses of human rights, it chose instead to dispatch Assistant Secretary of State Richard Schifter, either to defend the abusive government, or to conduct talks with it that turned out to be meaningless because the Administration was unwilling to follow them with either sanctions or public criticism.
o In China, Schifter took the welcome step in June of submitting a list of prisoners held for peaceful political expression and beliefs. But the Administration then capitulated to Chinese blackmail _ the threat of breaking off the nonexistent "dialogue" on human rights _ by remaining silent for six months about the meager results of the exercise. Meanwhile, the Administration pressed to continue Most Favored Nation trading status for China unhindered by human rights conditions.
o Secretary Schifter visited Mexico in January _ his first official visit _ as pressure grew to consider human rights as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, he pronounced himself "very, very positive" about reforms under way without bothering to check his views with any nongovernmental human rights organization in the country.
o Secretary Schifter led several delegations to Peru as part of an Administration effort to persuade the U.S. Congress to permit counternarcotics assistance to the highly abusive military. Testifying before Congress in September, he scoffed at a legislative restriction on U.S. aid to abusive militaries as a mere "legalism," dismissed the army's violence as having produced "only a few hundred" political killings, and argued that Peru was deserving of aid because it was not as bad as Argentina and Chile in the 1970s or El Salvador in the early 1980s.
o At a time when Indonesian security forces had been responsible for more than a thousand executions and disappearances in Aceh, Secretary Schifter wrote to Congress stating that there was nothing to suggest that human rights violations there were occurring on a "massive" scale.
o Testifying before Congress about a law in India that suspends constitutional safeguards against arbitrary arrest and torture, Secretary Schifter announced that the Indian government "respects individual rights and is not going to misuse a law deliberately" _ despite several thousand detentions under the law following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. When questioned about extrajudicial killings in Punjab, Secretary Schifter said that investigations took place "in private for [the] morale...of the security forces" and that the Administration had been told that those responsible for abuses had been punished. In fact, no police officer or other security personnel had been prosecuted for such killings at the time.
o Secretary Schifter also lobbied the American Red Cross against adopting a resolution endorsing U.S. ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The standards of international customary law that are codified in the First Additional Protocol should have governed U.S. conduct in the Persian Gulf conflict. While U.S. forces generally complied with these standards, they deviated in several important respects. U.S. ratification would be an important statement of willingness to abide by these standards in the future.
We recognize that in assessing the work of the Human Rights Bureau, we generally are not in a position to be aware of its private efforts, particularly within the State Department as an advocate for human rights. To cite two instances that have come to our attention through our contacts with the Bureau, we know that Bureau personnel played a key role in pressing the State Department to address the human rights disaster engulfing Somalia at the end of 1991, and that the Bureau was also highly supportive of efforts to collect documentation of past Iraqi abuses that became available in northern Iraq.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Bush Administration in the fall of 1991 endorsed ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which had been signed by the Carter Administration in 1977. Unfortunately, this positive step was marred by the Bush Administration's submission to the Senate of a series of reservations, declarations and understandings designed to dilute the domestic impact of the Covenant. One reservation was aimed, appropriately, at protecting the greater free-expression safeguards offered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, several of the Administration's caveats sought to negate the Covenant's safeguards when they are stronger than those provided by U.S. law. One was in the controversial area of the death penalty, where the United States remains out of step with international trends against capital punishment. Another was an effort to preempt any argument that the federal government should play a more active role than it traditionally has in protecting individual rights from abuse by state governments _ a stand with dangerous implications for efforts to enforce human rights in countries around the world with federal systems of government.
The Work of Human Rights Watch
This report reviews fifty-seven of the countries in which the five regional divisions of Human Rights Watch were most active in 1991. Each chapter is divided into four parts: a portrayal of human rights conditions in the country in question; a discussion of the degree to which the right to monitor human rights is respected in that country; an analysis of the role played by the United States, and occasionally other governments and international institutions, in promoting human rights in the country; and a description of the steps taken by Human Rights Watch to promote human rights in the country.
Monitoring Violations of the Laws of War
Over the past decade, Human Rights Watch has increasingly devoted itself to monitoring the conduct of the parties to armed conflicts in an effort to promote compliance with international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. Human Rights Watch's focus on war monitoring derives from its belief that by far the largest number of victims of severe violations of human rights worldwide are the noncombatants who are killed, injured, deprived of food and other necessities, or forced to flee from their homes because of the manner in which opposing forces seek to prevail militarily. In addition, this focus reflects the fact that such war-related abuses of human rights were largely neglected by the worldwide human rights movement before Human Rights Watch determined to assume this role. International humanitarian law was hardly ever mentioned in the reports of human rights organizations until Human Rights Watch began doing so in 1982.1
Abuses of Human Rights in Ethnic Strife
In recent years, there has appeared to be a worldwide explosion of ethnic strife, and some of the wars that Human Rights Watch monitors are extreme manifestations of that strife. Human Rights Watch also focuses on such abuses in circumstances short of armed conflict in many countries, whether it involves pogroms against the Gypsy minority in Romania, or systematic discrimination and harassment of the Turkish minority in Greece or the Somali minority in Kenya, or the expulsion of the Palestinians from Kuwait, or Chinese government abuses in Tibet, or restrictions on the right to citizenship for those not of Latvian stock in Latvia.
Accountability for Past Abuses
In previous years, Human Rights Watch's main focus in this area has been on attempting to see to it that the power that remains in the hands of those who committed gross abuses of human rights in the past does not continue to insulate them from accountability even after successor governments attain office. In several Latin American countries, for example, elected civilian governments have been unwilling to take on the military officials responsible for systematic murder, disappearances and torture for fear that the armed forces would not tolerate even disclosure and acknowledgment of their abuses, much less prosecution and punishment.
Shaping United States Foreign Policy
From its founding, a principal aim of Human Rights Watch has been to influence United States foreign policy to protect human rights. The concern of Human Rights Watch in this area is two-fold: first, the United States remains the most powerful force in world affairs and it has great power to affect human rights practices in other countries. Second, as a U.S.-based organization, Human Rights Watch considers that it has a responsibility to affect the practices of its own government. Increasingly, it also does the latter by monitoring abuses of human rights within the United States. Yet this is a role that is played by many domestic civil liberties and civil rights groups, whereas no other organization plays a comparable role in attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy on human rights matters.
Protecting Human Rights Monitors
Human Rights Watch considers that one of its principal responsibilities is to support and protect those who monitor and defend human rights in their own countries. Worldwide, the number of persons who devote themselves to monitoring and defending human rights has been growing rapidly. Many who take on this task do so at great risk and, in a distressing number of cases, suffer severe penalties, including death.
Monitoring Human Rights Abuses That Are Not Politically Motivated
Prior to the establishment of Human Rights Watch, most efforts to protect human rights internationally were exclusively concerned with politically motivated abuses. An exception was the work of Amnesty International on capital punishment which the organization opposes regardless of the identity of the victim.
o prison conditions: as described elsewhere in this report, the Prison Project of Human Rights Watch has been engaged for the past few years in a systematic effort to monitor prison conditions as they affect those charged with common crimes as well as those suspected of politically motivated offenses. Several investigations were conducted and several reports were published on prison conditions in various countries during 1991.
o women's rights: also as described elsewhere, Human Rights Watch established a Women's Rights Project in 1990 which focused particularly during 1991 on violence against women in circumstances in which the state does not offer protection by attempting to prosecute and punish those responsible. One of the aims of the project is to integrate a concern with women's rights into efforts to promote human rights worldwide.
o police abuses: Human Rights Watch has conducted a number of investigations and published a number of reports in previous years focusing on violent police abuses _ such as summary executions and torture _ against those suspected of common crime. In 1991, Argentina and the United States were the focus of such efforts by Human Rights Watch.
o freedom of expression: Human Rights Watch attempts to protect freedom of expression not only when individuals or groups criticize or challenge their governments or government leaders, but also when the dissemination of information and ideas on any issue is suppressed. Among the issues with which Human Rights Watch has been concerned are the dissemination of information on AIDS, which some governments have limited for fear of the stigma that attaches to the disease; information on damage to the environment; information on corruption; information on the transfer and production of weapons; and academic freedom. Within Human Rights Watch, the Fund for Free Expression spearheads work on these issues.
In many of the countries in which Human Rights Watch worked during 1991, such traditional issues as political imprisonment and torture continued to be the main focus of its work. It is important to note, however, that some governments have become more sophisticated in their abuses. Wary of the international opprobrium that attends the holding of political prisoners, they have shifted toward abuses that are either more violent or more subtle _ or sometimes both simultaneously. For example, except in Cuba, there are hardly any prisoners anywhere in Latin America held for nonviolent political dissent. That hardly suggests, however, that the region has become a human rights paradise. In some countries, abuses involve violent acts that may be difficult to attribute definitively to governments, such as suspicious killings by unidentified persons or disappearances; or methods that are more difficult for purposes of enlisting international protest, such as compromising the independence of the judiciary, threatening lawyers or closing or corrupting the electoral process.
Human Rights Monitors Killed During 1991
As noted, each of the following chapters contains a discussion of the extent to which the government in question respects the right to monitor its human rights practices. In many nations, human rights monitors pursue their work at tremendous risk to their lives. The following monitors were killed in the course of 1991.
José Humberto Hernandez Gabanzo, a member of the Regional Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Barrancabermeja, Santander, was murdered by unknown assailants in the streets of that city on March 19. Hernandez, 56, was active in the trade-union and peasant movements. Most recently, he had been a full-time volunteer in the Regional Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, working closely with its president, attorney Jorge Gomez Lizarazo. Members of that organization have been repeatedly threatened because of their work documenting abuses by the army, police and paramilitary organizations in the Middle Magdalena area.
Manuel Perebal Morales, a CERJ member from Chunima, was shot dead in the same incident described above.
Camilo Ajquí Jimón, a CERJ member from Potrero Viejo, in the municipality of Zacualpa, El Quiché, was stabbed to death by three unidentified men who dragged him from his house on April 14. Civil patrol chiefs and military commissioners in Potrero Viejo have repeatedly threatened to kill CERJ members in the community.
Celestino Julaj Vicente, a twenty-nine-year-old CERJ delegate from Chuitzalic, in the municipality of San Pedro Jocopilas, El Quiché, was shot dead by a gunman dressed in olive green as he walked home from a festival in San Pedro Jocopilas on June 28. About six weeks before the murder, the civil patrol chiefs of San Pedro Jocopilas had reportedly vowed in a meeting to kill any CERJ members who attended the June 28 festival.
Narra Prabmakara Reddy, 35, was shot to death by unidentified men who entered his home in the early morning hours on December 7. Prabmakara Reddy was a member of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and the secretary of the District Bar Association. He was the third member of APCLC to have been assassinated since September 1985.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the principal organization that provides humanitarian services to victims of armed conflicts worldwide, does not regard itself as a human rights organization and, for the most part, avoids public denunciations of human rights violations.