AMERICAS WATCH OVERVIEW
Human Rights Developments
On October 6, 1993, troops from the Palacé Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Luis Felipe Becerra Bohórquez, murdered thirteen peasants in the vereda El Bosque, in Riofrío, in the Colombian department of Valle. Lieutenant Colonel once Becerra issued the official report, in which he claimed that his troops had sustained combat with guerrillas of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), killing six women and seven men, including the chief of the guerrilla unit. Riofrío peasants filed complaints stating that the victims were not guerrillas but unarmed peasants who were killed in cold blood. The Procuraduría General de la Nación, an independent investigatory body that prosecutes disciplinary offenses committed by Colombian state agents, started an inquiry.
This episode would be sad but routine news in Latin America, except for the fact that this was not the first time Lt. Col. Becerra had been investigated for his role in a major massacre. On March 4, 1988, a group of gunmen arrived at the living quarters of banana workers in the fincas called Honduras and La Negra, in the Urabá region of northwestern Colombia. After identifying workers they had dragged away from their beds, the gunmen murdered twenty-three of them, many in front of their families. A Procuraduría investigation produced rare initial results: a startling one was that then-Major Becerra Bohórquez, at the time intelligence chief at the 10th Army Brigade, had used his own credit card to pay for the hotel stay in the region of some of the gunmen brought from other parts of Colombia to commit the murders.
The disciplinary and criminal inquiries dragged on for years, while Becerra remained on active duty. In the meantime, he attended courses in the United States required for aspiring chiefs (oficiales superiores). While a warrant for his arrest was pending in the public order courts for his role in Urabá, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and posted as head of the public relations command at army headquarters in Bogotá. Based on the evidence in the Urabá record, the Procuraduría ordered his removal from the force, the most severe disciplinary measure at its disposal. Becerra exhausted his administrative appeals, and the order was confirmed in February 1993. Later, however, the Procuraduría reversed itself: it revoked the dismissal order, found that its own investigation was deficient, and ordered a new inquiry. On April 20, 1993, the Procuraduría's delegate office for the armed dorces found that the five-year statute of limitations had expired and closed the Urabá file. Becerra recently told the press that he was willing to "subject himself" to the Procuraduría's investigation into the Riofrío massacre.
Impunity for major violations, as exemplified by the inability of Colombian institutions to discipline the likes of Becerra, remains the principal obstacle to improvement in human rights observance in the Americas. Its counterpart, the struggle for truth and justice as the means to achieve accountability, has become the dominant theme of the nongovernmental human rights movement in the hemisphere. As part of that movement, Americas Watch in 1993 madeaccountability its focus. Some signal progress was achieved in the course of the year in breaking the cycle of impunity. In March, a Truth Commission set up by the United Nations, as part of the peace agreements in El Salvador, produced a landmark report on the most tragic violations in the twelve-year conflict. The report was important not only because it validated the claims made for years by Salvadoran and international human rights monitors, but also because it was a successful first experiment by the United Nations in establishing the truth about abuses by all sides as part of a peace process. Although the Salvadoran government immediately issued a morally indefensible amnesty for abusers of fundamental rights, the achievement of the Truth Commission was not completely canceled, since its findings remain as the collective memory of the Salvadoran nation and nurture its decision not to let the carnage happen again.
Elsewhere, there were other encouraging steps in the direction of accountability. In Chile, the case against Pinochet's top henchmen for the 1976 murder in Washington of exiled former diplomat and cabinet minister Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, an American colleague, progressed towards a final decision. There were also a few other cases from those dark years that had a good chance of establishing responsibility for human rights crimes. In Guatemala, a land where impunity had been rampant for decades, some perpetrators of well-known abuses were convicted and others were being prosecuted. Bolivia's Supreme Court finally convicted former dictator Luis García Meza for the egregious violations against opponents of his "cocaine coup" government of the early 1980s.
Even where governments remained an obstacle to accountability, civil society organizations made some successful efforts at breaking the silence. In Honduras, the disappearances that took place between 1981 and 1984 remained unpunished, but the controversy about them was renewed in 1993 as an important issue in the presidential campaign. Leo Valladares, the human rights ombudsman, announced that he would produce a report on the fate of the disappeared at the end of the year; with funding from the international community, he has launched what appeared to be an important effort. Americas Watch made our files available to Valladares, including the documents we used in cases against Honduras before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and that produced landmark decisions in the Velásquez and Godínez cases in 1989 and 1990, respectively. In Colombia, despite the many ways in which accountability was officially thwarted, independent human rights organizations produced carefully documented reports that named violators, cribbed from the paper trail left by official inquiries. By these and other examples, Latin American societies made it clear that the victims of gross abuses were not forgotten; the collective will to preserve the memory of these crimes for future generations was an important aspect of accountability.
And yet the task remained daunting, and was made even more arduous by the so-called pragmatism with which the international community regards impunity. In Haiti, encouraging efforts to secure restoration of democracy, spearheaded by skilled United Nations mediators and supported decisively by the Clinton administration, were marred by a willingness to accommodate the blackmail of themilitary and their insistence on a blanket amnesty, not only for the offense of deposing Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, but for the numerous ghastly crimes committed against democratic Haitians in the ensuing two years of dictatorship. In October 1993, as the de facto rulers reneged on their pledge to allow Aristide's return and held out for further, unacceptable concessions, the folly of a process that rewards political violence and countenances impunity for crimes against humanity became self-evident.
In Peru, deliberate official interference with investigations ensured impunity for the best-documented human rights crime of recent years: the disappearance and murder of nine students and one professor of "La Cantuta" University in July 1992, by a death squad called Colina, under the direction of military intelligence. A strong body of evidence, including the discovery of clandestine graves and the revelations of well-placed military sources, has yet to break the will of the Fujimori government to guarantee impunity to those who ordered and executed the grisly massacre. In 1993, impunity for Peruvian military also received a boost at an international level: the case for the 1988 massacre of villagers in Cayara, in retaliation for an attack by Sendero Luminoso guerrillas, was dismissed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because of serious procedural flaws in the preliminary handling of the case by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The case was then taken to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, but the region's most powerful political organ declined to take any action.
Impunity is not limited to abuses committed with clear political motivation. The inability of institutions to deal with crimes by police against prison inmates, shantytown dwellers, common crime suspects and spontaneous demonstrators, is the main cause for the repetition of these patterns of abuse and for their increase in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Venezuela, the hundreds of murders committed by the military and police during the February 1989 riots known as el Caracazo remain almost completely unsolved; only three of the more than sixty corpses of Caracazo victims, found in 1990, have been identified. No progress was made in all of 1993 in the investigation of the murder of several dozen inmates at Retén de Catia prison in November 1992. In Brazil, several years later, there has been scant progress in punishing military policemen for the murder of eighteen inmates in the São Lucas police precinct in São Paulo, in February 1987. The slow pace and the indifference of authorities made it possible for an even worse massacre to take place in October 1992 in the São Paulo Casa de Detenção in Carandiru, where military policemen killed 111 inmates. More than a year later, this case also languished in the intricate, ineffectual proceedings of Brazilian civilian and military courts.
Americas Watch and its parent organization, Human Rights Watch, have made accountability the centerpiece of our efforts to defend and promote human rights. We have insisted, first and foremost, on the right of the victims of egregious abuse to see justice done, a right that the State should have no power to take away, not even through the decision of a democratic majority. When it comes to crimes against humanity, governments have an effective obligationto investigate, prosecute and punish them, to disclose to the victims and to society all that can be known about them, and to grant the victims moral and material reparations. If effective punishment is not possible, governments nonetheless are bound to promote an official account; to allow and encourage efforts by civil society to document and publicize the violations; and to purge the armed and security forces of those elements who have participated in or tolerated such abuses. We also believe that the United Nations, the Organization of American States and all inter-governmental bodies called upon to promote peaceful solutions and to restore democracy should incorporate accountability as a goal and as a tool of those efforts.
The Right to Monitor
As in recent years, 1993 witnessed the steady growth and diversification of the expanding Latin American human rights movement. Women's organizations particularly succeeded in establishing women's rights as human rights. Americas Watch and the Women's Rights Project contributed to this positive evolution in 1992 by publishing a Portuguese edition of our 1991 report on domestic violence against women in Brazil, and a report on rape and violence against women in the context of the conflict in Peru between security forces and Sendero Luminoso. Elsewhere, community groups, indigenous rights organizations, groups that defend the rights of street children, and many others made their presence known and found new ways of bringing specific human rights problems to the attention of the authorities.
Human rights advocacy continued to be hazardous, however. In Colombia and in Peru, highly respected human rights monitors were threatened with prosecution for their legitimate exercise of free expression. In October 1993 we published a briefing paper on the ways in which six different categories of civil society activists (including human rights monitors) have been objects of intimidation in Mexico, even as that country opened up to international trade and, reluctantly, to domestic and international scrutiny of government practices. Although the high visibility of Latin American human rights workers probably helped improve the conditions under which they worked, attacks still occurred. In Lima, a well-known community leader was almost murdered by Sendero Luminoso in an attack that left several school children wounded. In Guatemala, well-known monitors were harassed indirectly through violence and intimidation against their relatives and associates. In Colombia, a prominent human rights activist and refugee worker was disappeared in April. His whereabouts were still unknown as of November. In other countries, even when monitors were left alone to conduct their work, they incurred the wrath of powerful sectors of society and became the objects of insidious attacks on their reputations through the media.
An organization that contributed in large measure to the prestige and credibility of the Latin American human rights movement officially closed down its operations in December 1992. The Vicaría de la Solidaridad of the Catholic archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, founded in the early years of the Pinochet regime, declared its job done with the advent of democracy. Many of its serviceswere taken over by other organizations of civil society. In 1993, the legacy of the Vicaría, its insistence on the sacredness of human life, its attention to honest reporting and unfailing commitment to the defense of the most vulnerable in society lived on in the work of hundreds of organizations that strive to follow that sterling example. We include ourselves among the Vicaría's admirers and followers, and we know that its work will continue to inspire human rights monitors in Latin America for many years.
An encouraging development in human rights protection-which can be traced to the Vicaría's legacy-is the success achieved in Medellín by the Catholic archdiocese and by other nongovernmental organizations in sponsoring dialogue and thus reducing the extraordinary levels of violence. In the first half of 1993, as a result of dialogues between the various parties to the violence, homicides in Medellín fell by 36 percent compared to the same period in 1992. It is particularly inspiring to record that success in a city that for years has been besieged by drug trafficking, sicarios (hired guns), urban militias, private armies and paramilitary groups, and policemen both on and off duty. It is all the more remarkable that the nongovernmental human rights movement in Medellín has obtained this initial success, because in the 1980s its monitors were singled out for persecution, including our colleague Dr. Héctor Abad Gómez, whose fond memory still inspires our work.
The strength of civil society in our hemisphere spawned another welcome development: the continued improvement of the role of the press as watchdog against government abuse. In many countries-and unlike earlier times when it contributed to official silence-the press has become a trustworthy source of information about human rights violations. Many newspapers and magazines devote increasing efforts to investigative reporting of human rights matters. In Peru, the discovery of the clandestine burials of the "La Cantuta" students and the revelations about the Colina death squad were made possible in large part by the courageous efforts of Peruvian journalists. Their status, nonetheless, continued to be precarious: Sí and Caretas, the leading Lima weeklies, continued to labor under the twin threats of prosecution and advertisement cuts.
Freedom of the press had its ups and downs in the continent. In Argentina, a long public debate resulted in July in the repeal of the Penal Code clause of desacato (contempt) that had been used to prosecute journalists who criticized high public figures. As a result of a case brought by prominent Argentine investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky, with the assistance of Americas Watch, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was asked jointly by Verbitsky and the Argentine government to produce a report on the compatibility of desacato statutes with the freedom of expression provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Despite this example of the Argentine government's disposition to progress in this area, later in the year Argentine journalists were subjected to a series of threats and acts of intimidation, in some cases including beatings, by thugs linked to the ruling party. The wave of attacks subsided after parliamentary elections in early October, but the events have not been properly investigated.
The increased role of civil society and the press in most countries resulted during 1993 in a healthy debate about human rights issues. Americas Watch improved its access to larger segments of the population in most countries due to the increased attention that our reports, press releases, letters to officials and other initiatives received in the major media in most countries. Fortunately, our own increased visibility was only part of the larger attention given to the work of our domestic colleagues.
In 1993 Cuba remained a notable exception to this favorable trend toward the strength of civil society and freedom of the press. Though some monitors and other dissidents were released before the expiration of their unjust sentences, others continued to serve time for offenses such as "clandestine printings," "defamation of the head of state," and "enemy propaganda," in violation of Cuba's international obligations. Human rights monitoring remained a dangerous activity in Cuba in 1993, even though the orchestrated acts of "repudiation" dwindled in number and severity compared to previous years. Again, in 1993, Americas Watch was not allowed to visit the island to conduct our research and advocacy work, as we do freely elsewhere in the hemisphere.
Accountability and Civil Society
Accountability and civil society are the marks that we look for in assessing the status of democracy in the continent. Although most countries in the region are governed by regimes arising from elections, Latin Americans have a right to expect more from their fledgling democracies: more participation in decision-making, more transparency in government action, and more responsiveness in state institutions, particularly from those designed to protect citizens' rights. For us, a government cannot credibly call itself democratic unless its agents are accountable for their actions; its courts and prosecutors protect the rights of citizens and redress injustices; it allows and encourages the development of independent organizations of civil society; and social and political conflict is generally resolved through peaceful means.
In 1993 there were new threats against the stability of democracy in Latin America, but the defeats suffered in Haiti in 1991 and in Peru in 1992 were not repeated elsewhere. Venezuela endured both a second 1992 attempted coup (on November 27) by disgruntled members of its military, as well as a serious constitutional crisis resulting from the removal from office of President Carlos Andrés Pérez on corruption charges in May 1993. With its democratic institutions shaken, Venezuela faced new presidential elections in late 1993. President Jorge Serrano of Guatemala attempted his own version of a Fujimori-style, self-inflicted coup d'etat, but the firm reaction of Guatemalan society and international opinion forced a reversal. Democracy and human rights both were strengthened when Guatemala resolved the ensuing constitutional crisis by appointing Ramiro de León Carpio, the country's respected human rights ombudsman, to complete Serrano's term. On the negative side, the effort to restore democracy in Haiti seemed stalled and even floundering in early November, as this report was being drafted; also on the negative side, the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori consolidated itself in 1993. The Fujimori-dominated Congress drafted a new constitution; on October 31, it received about 52 percent of the vote in a plebiscite. The principal features of the new constitution are the possibility of reelecting Fujimori and the expansion of the death penalty, in violation of Peru's international obligations. It is a sad comment on the state of democracy in Peru that popular sentiment in favor of the death penalty was the vehicle by which Fujimori sought a mandate for his own reelection.
The independence and impartiality of the judiciary suffered setbacks in 1993. Americas Watch placed increased attention on the independence and impartiality of the courts and of other institutions designed to protect rights, and believes the international community has not insisted enough on this aspect of democracy. Colombia's "faceless" judges, whose jurisdiction covers important criminal areas of drug trafficking and insurgency, not only failed to afford fair trials to those accused of those crimes, but increasingly seemed to direct their efforts against community and social activists whose nonviolent actions bore no relationship whatsoever to drug trafficking or insurgency. The same was true, to an even larger extent, of the faceless judges and prosecutors created in Peru in the aftermath of Fujimori's self-coup. In Colombia, serious attacks against the lives of judges and court officials may have prompted a solution that nevertheless went too far in violation of due process and is now being misapplied. In Peru, threats to judges were real but the "remedy" is disproportionate and not reasonably designed to address the dangers. Moreover, the system of administration of justice of the Fujimori era makes no pretense of adherence to a democratic division of powers. In response to international criticism, the Fujimori-controlled Congress created a panel of jurists to review the performance of judges. Their non-binding opinions were then routinely ignored.
Peru also brought back military court jurisdiction to try civilians, which the Constitution of 1979 expressly forbade. Military courts are intrinsically non-independent; Latin American dictatorships have frequently resorted to them to prosecute and punish political opponents without even a semblance of due process. Faceless military courts in Peru have had a record 97 percent conviction rate in the Fujimori era. On the other hand, when their jurisdiction is limited to military defendants accused of human rights violations, military courts in Peru and everywhere else in Latin America enjoy a nearly perfect record of cover-up and impunity. In other countries, even though no special courts or similar schemes were created during 1993, the independence of the courts continued to erode through neglect, shrinking budgets, politicized appointments and steady decline in professional standards. This problem was particularly acute in Argentina. President Carlos Menem appointed fierce loyalists to the highest court as well as to newly created benches, and unduly protected some of them from impeachment procedures.
Independence and impartiality of the judiciary are fundamental traits of democracy, essential to the structural observance of human rights. An independent adjudicator is the ultimate guarantee for the exercise of rights. Procedural safeguards in criminalproceedings, important as they are in their own right, are meaningless if the judge is biased against the defendant. Access to justice by victims of abuse by state agents is equally illusory if courts are perceived to participate in the effort to cover up abuses. Fundamentally, when independent judges and prosecutors fulfill their duties, they convey a sense of trust and faith in institutions that is generally referred to as the rule of law; without it, majority decisions may be authentically representative of the will of the people, but they are not necessarily democratic.
If courts were more independent in Latin America they could be a powerful instrument in the effort to overcome the gaping inadequacy of many regimes to deal with non-politically-motivated patterns of violations of human rights. In July 1993, the world's conscience was shaken by the slaughter of street children by members of the Rio de Janeiro police. Unfortunately, violence against street children is almost endemic in many Brazilian cities, and it is also a problem in Guatemala City, Bogotá and other major urban areas. Police agents who take justice into their own hands and kill those they suspect to be criminals continue to plague Latin American law enforcement bodies. In the new democratic context in Latin America, Americas Watch documented some progress on this issue when the facts of police killings were publicized, as in Jamaica and Argentina. But in greater Buenos Aires, the effort to curb police killings suffered a new setback in 1993: a young student called Miguel Bru disappeared in August after he filed a complaint against some police officials of the province of Buenos Aires. His fate and whereabouts had not been clarified as of November. There were also instances when the police, accustomed to the impunity of dictatorial years, reacted with tragic excess against violent crime. On October 21, in a Santiago suburb, Chilean carabineros trying to thwart the escape of bank robbers alleged to be Lautaro guerrillas, shot indiscriminately against a bus that had been hijacked by the thieves; there were seven dead-three guerrillas, one bank guard and three innocent bystanders-and sixteen wounded.
In most countries, police forces continued to use torture as a routine interrogation technique against detainees. Closer societal scrutiny and court supervision have not made a dent in this practice. With some honorable exceptions, courts continue to foster this practice by admitting evidence obtained through torture and other illegal means. If police are a menace to those suspected of common crime (and almost by definition suspects tend to be young, male and poor), police forces fail miserably in protecting victims of certain abuses, such as women survivors of domestic violence. As in many other regions of the world, women in Latin America can expect little protection from police if they complain of beatings and threats by their husbands or lovers. A woman who failed to get the protection she requested was murdered by her ex-husband in Uruguay in 1993; a potentially precedent-setting case has been filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Prison conditions continued to deteriorate in the region during the year. For common crime offenders, overcrowding and brutal conditions are a function of neglect; when inevitable riots and escape attempts take place, the response can be unspeakablemassacres like the ones in Brazil and Venezuela mentioned above. In Peru, inhumane conditions are deliberately, systematically inflicted upon certain categories of insurgency defendants, held in maximum-security facilities to which Americas Watch was denied access repeatedly in 1993.
Disputes about land tenure continued to generate a heavy toll in violence. Landless peasants and Indian communities are victimized by the power exercised by old and new rural landlords who manipulate local courts and security forces, or use their own "private armies." In Brazil in 1993, Americas Watch once again documented the pervasive practice of some forms of forced labor, as well as the inability of the country's institutions to deal with it.
The increase and spread of these violations that were not directed against a particular political enemy were compounded by the relative lack of interest in the population at large in any effort to correct them, despite the courageous efforts of many Latin Americans. For large segments of the population-the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalized-democratic regimes that pay no attention to these patterns of violations are failed democracies. The challenge for democracy at the end of the century in Latin America is to extend its benefits to these large categories of victims of human rights violations.
Armed Conflict and Human Rights Violations
Armed conflict continued to wane in the hemisphere in 1993, and that accounted not only for a reduction in general terms in abuses by guerrillas, but more specifically, murders, disappearances and other crimes associated with counterinsurgency. Despite their governments' proclamations of success against their guerrilla enemies, Peru and Colombia experienced continued armed violence, though in both countries some reduction in intensity could be verified. Efforts to generate processes leading to political settlements in either country were unsuccessful during the year. In Guatemala, the defeat of the Serrano self-coup brought hopes of renewed talks, but as of early November there had been no significant progress. The U.N.-brokered peace process in El Salvador took hold in 1993 despite dangers to guerrilla activists who had reentered the political process. In Nicaragua there were some serious acts of violence between government troops and reconstituted former contra and former Sandinista forces. The bloody confrontations signaled the weakness of the Nicaraguan democratic process, and resulted from the failure to reach a lasting and comprehensive settlement at the end of the contra war.
The remaining insurgency wars revealed an increasing tendency by guerrilla forces to disregard basic standards of the laws of war, together with their growing disinterest in their image in international and domestic public opinion. As a result, insurgency tactics in Colombia and Peru became more and more vicious and less respectful of the neutrality of unarmed civilians. In Colombia, some guerrilla units resorted not only to more kidnappings for ransom, but even to banditry, drug trafficking and lawlessness. In Peru, Sendero Luminoso has never shown any inclination to respect the Geneva Conventions standards, except in demanding prisoner-of-war treatment for their arrested militants. In spite of triumphant announcements by the Peruvian government of the willingness to negotiate by Sendero's jailed leader, Abimael Guzmán, towards the end of the year it appeared that Sendero's ability to wreak deadly havoc was still considerable.
On the side of government forces, "dirty war" tactics in Colombia and Peru were still used in 1993, albeit-in the case of Peru-with a notable reduction in the number of reported cases. As the examples cited earlier show, there was still pervasive impunity for past and new cases of disappearances and massacres, even if the security forces seemed to be more selective in applying those tactics. At the same time, the continuing counterinsurgency wars were the pretext for the governments' resort to emergency measures, and for the unfortunate tolerance of them in some sectors of society. Insurgency and counterinsurgency have generated great dislocation and turmoil in rural communities. It is virtually impossible to estimate the numbers of the displaced, but the phenomenon is widespread and no official effort has been made to provide much needed services. The domestic human rights movement in several Latin American countries is increasingly dedicating efforts to the plight of the internally displaced and of refugees. In 1993, with the support of the U.S. Jesuit Refugee Service, Americas Watch established a program of systematic monitoring of refugee policy, displacement, and repatriation as they affect Haitians and Guatemalans.
Though violations of the laws of war by both sides to the conflict continued in the Andean region, it was heartening to see that organizations of civil society have made a concerted effort to raise awareness in public opinion about the need to demand respect for the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Monitoring violations by guerrillas has become standard practice in many domestic human rights organizations, and major progress has been achieved in focusing attention on the need to protect civilians and noncombatants during counterinsurgency operations. The leadership of guerrilla groups, unfortunately, has remained largely immune to moral and political pressure from human rights groups.
The Response of the International Community
The international community's response to human rights and democracy in Latin America continued in 1993 to lag behind the needs and exigencies of the times. In compliance with its charter, the United Nations leaves the initial response to crises to the regional body, the Organization of American States (OAS). At the OAS, governments pay lip service to a shared concern for human rights and democracy, but in practical terms misunderstood notions of sovereignty and non-intervention become an obstacle to collective action. Nonetheless, in 1993 the OAS response to attacks on democracy, embodied in the Declaration of Santiago of 1991, fared better than in previous years. Though actions by Guatemalan civil society and by the Clinton administration had more to do with the final outcome, the OAS did take an early and strong stance demanding the reversal of Serrano's dismissal of Congress and the courts.
In December 1992, the OAS requested the assistance of the U.N. in negotiations to bring Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to the presidency in Haiti. The U.N. and the OAS jointly appointed Dante Caputo, former Argentine foreign minister, as mediator. In the first half of the year, the process yielded some encouraging results. Borrowing a page from other successful ventures, the U.N. and OAS secured agreement to deploy a civilian mission with hundreds of human rights monitors. The U.N., especially, approached the planning and staffing of the mission very professionally, and the international monitors provided some important measure of protection for human rights throughout the year. The civilian mission also issued frank and credible reports, despite reported efforts by U.N. diplomats to tone them down in the name of protecting delicate negotiations.
In July, Haiti's de facto rulers agreed to the Governors Island Accord, by which Aristide would return on October 30; the leader of the coup, Gen. Raoul Cédras, agreed to step down by October 15, so that Aristide's government could appoint a new high command. By September it became clear that the usurpers or power in Haiti would not comply. When thugs prevented the deployment of international military and police advisors, the civilian mission monitors were evacuated. On October 30, Aristide was unable to return and the thugs supporting the military regime celebrated their successful defiance of the international community. The U.N.'s sole answer was to reinstate a targeted economic embargo and to threaten to strengthen it.
In contrast, U.N. involvement in the peace process in El Salvador continued to be perhaps the most successful of its recent ventures in conflict resolution. ONUSAL, the U.N.'s operation there, continued to monitor human rights violations, which were on the increase in anticipation of El Salvador's March 1994 elections. Salvadoran human rights organizations criticized ONUSAL's early periodic reports as too mild, but by the end of the year, ONUSAL was issuing more forceful denunciations of individual human rights cases. As stated earlier, another success of the U.N. effort was the publication in March of the report of the Truth Commission, documenting twelve years of abuses by official forces as well as the guerrillas.
The international protection mechanisms within the OAS to provide relief to victims of violations continued a precarious existence in 1993. The procedure before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) was mired in uncertainty and frequently hampered by bureaucratic mishandling. An important defeat for the cause of human rights took place in early 1993 when the court declined jurisdiction in the case against Peru for the massacre of Cayara, citing the IACHR's violation of its own procedural regulations. Neither the complainants nor the families of the victims of Cayara were responsible for the error, which was at least in part caused by demands of the Peruvian representatives; yet the Cayara families were the most prejudiced by the result.
The court also issued an advisory opinion, acting on a request by Argentina and Uruguay-supported by Mexico-that, if successful,would have seriously curtailed the ability of the IACHR to rule on violations committed by democratic governments through legislation or court decisions. Americas Watch and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were allowed a major role as amici curiae in the debate. The opinion vindicated the position adopted by the IACHR and the NGOs. Efforts to bring the IACHR under the control of the political organs of the OAS continued, however, under the pretense of "strengthening" the protection scheme. An effort to amend the American Convention on Human Rights to enlarge the commission (thereby allowing more political control of its members) was tabled at the 1993 OAS General Assembly.
Government representatives continued to dilute a draft convention on disappearances originally prepared by the IACHR. Some governments, including the United States, attempted to eliminate a clause that establishes that the practice of disappearances is a crime against humanity. This would signify an important retreat from positions already adopted by the general assemblies of the OAS and the U.N. The representatives of Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina have stood fast in defense of the "crime against humanity" clause; Americas Watch and other nongovernmental organizations supported its retention.
Despite the difficulties of a system so obviously dominated by diplomatic and political considerations, Americas Watch and other nongovernmental organizations continued to dedicate serious efforts to strengthening it by using it on behalf of victims. In association with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), we continued to bring cases before the IACHR and the Inter-American Court. In July we presented evidence on the merits of a case against Peru for the massacre of prisoners on the island of El Frontón in 1986; a decision was expected in early 1994. CEJIL, Americas Watch, and the Andean Commission of Jurists -Colombia Section represented the widow of a disappeared teacher in the first Inter-American Court case against Colombia.
Early Clinton administration appointments at the State Department and other offices responsible for human rights and for policy towards the hemisphere were encouraging. In almost every case, experienced foreign policy professionals or persons with a solid record of concern for human rights and democracy were entrusted with positions of responsibility. Nonetheless, there were also hesitations and errors in judgment with detrimental effects for human rights. The first one took place even before the inauguration, when President-elect Clinton reneged on his campaign promises and decided to continue the policy of returning Haitian refugees found in the high seas, established by President Bush through the infamous "Kennebunkport order" of 1992. Later in 1993, the Supreme Court affirmed this policy, even though it flew in the face of fundamental principles of international law with regard to refugees and violated the spirit, if not the letter, of clear treaty obligations of the United States.
After that disturbing start, the policy towards Haiti took a positive turn when the Clinton administration lent considerable assistance and dynamic support to the efforts of the U.N. and OASto obtain the return of President Aristide. One fatal flaw of that policy, however, attributable to mediator Dante Caputo but also to President Clinton's special envoy, Amb. Lawrence Pezzullo, was to put pressure on Aristide to give in to demands for a blanket amnesty for all crimes committed by the de facto regime since Aristide's ouster. Such a demand was immoral and illegal. Significantly, favoring such an amnesty proved in the end to have been bad political judgment: as the final implementation of the Governors Island Accord drew near, Cédras and his accomplices insisted once more on a blanket amnesty. They were emboldened to ignore the Governors Island pledges by the hesitation of the international community on this point. The international community's role was further weakened by President Clinton's unilateral decision to pull back the ship carrying American military observers and trainers, after a small number of thugs took over the Port-au-Prince harbor and prevented their landing. The deployment of military and police trainers had been agreed to by Haiti's de facto rulers at Governors Island in July; for that reason, it was meant from the start to be a consensual armed presence. But shooting their way into Port-au-Prince was not the only alternative to a unilateral withdrawal; the U.S.S. Harlan County should have remained at harbor to signal the fact that Cédras was reneging on his solemn undertaking, and to put pressure on him and his cohorts to comply. As it happened, President Clinton's decision handed a gratuitous victory to the thugs, forced the retreat of other officers already there, caused the evacuation of the civilian mission, and threw the U.N. plan into disarray.
As of November, Haiti remained under Cédras's control, human rights violations were rampant, and U.S. Coast Guard vessels still returned fleeing Haitians to a country the international community designated as a "failed state," and where massive, systematic human rights violations prevailed. The forcible return of fleeing Haitians, without affording them any opportunity to state a claim for asylum, was not only politically damaging to the effort to restore democracy in Haiti; it was also heartless, cruel and inhumane.
With respect to Peru, the administration had an early opportunity to show its concern for human rights, and used it to great benefit. In February, Peru needed the U.S. to convene the Support Group of countries to help Peru clear its arrears with international financial institutions. The Clinton administration told the Peruvian government that it should make some immediate human rights concessions or the support group would not be convened. The Fujimori government promptly agreed to five demands, although some of them were implemented only in words, not in deed. Later, the administration sent Peru mixed signals with respect to renewing direct economic assistance. With respect to a program to aid in the administration of justice, the State Department conditioned its approval on the report of a mission by four prestigious jurists from the United States, Italy and Argentina. The mission, chaired by Prof. Robert K. Goldman, of American University, visited Peru in September; its report was awaited in November, but was already having positive results as Peru announced (but did not immediately implement) some positive changes in criminal procedures.
A major objective of the administration during the year was to secure approval in Congress of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a tripartite comprehensive trade pact with Canada and Mexico, originally negotiated by the Bush administration. During his campaign, Clinton had announced that he would seek side agreements to secure protections for labor rights and the environment. The side agreements were signed in August 1993. Neither NAFTA nor the side agreements, however, included any mention of mechanisms to protect human rights. The environmental protections were stricter than those contemplated for complaints about labor rights. Americas Watch deplored that the discussions surrounding NAFTA and the side agreements were not used by the United States government to put human rights on the table in Mexico and to encourage the Salinas government to take a more serious approach to long-term solutions to human rights violations.
In 1993, Americas Watch conducted research in several communities along the Southwest border of the United States, and published a second report on continuing violations of human rights by the U.S. Border Patrol and customs agents against persons suspected of illegal immigration. The acting commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) wrote back a detailed letter and otherwise had an encouraging reaction: the acting commissioner sent a memorandum to all district offices of the INS with the recommendation that the abuses contained in our report be avoided. We then entered into a dialogue with the INS in hopes of producing structural changes in the way the agency behaves on the border. Since many of the victims of these crimes are Mexican nationals, we expressed our hope that the NAFTA negotiations could be the occasion for high-level discussions about human rights in the United States as well.
Policy towards Latin America, as exemplified by the steps taken so far, seemed to be still under formulation in the Clinton administration as of November. It was encouraging to notice shifts in the approach toward drug interdiction. The "war on drugs" under previous administrations was the occasion to overlook abuses by police and military partners and to introduce military and police assistance without human rights conditions or with only lip-service to those conditions. The Clinton administration has announced that human rights and the promotion of democracy will be central to its overall foreign policy in the post-Cold War world. The details of such an ambitious program had not been spelled out as of this writing. Americas Watch supports the idea that human rights and democracy, properly conceived, should be the guiding light for policies of cooperation with foreign governments. We hope, however, that the simplistic mistake of the Reagan and Bush administrations-of seeing progress in human rights where there were only elections and good words with no deeds-will be avoided. United States foreign policy must promote the content and not simply the form of democracy and human rights.