On December 23, 1986, a complaint was filed with the IACHR concerning the following:
Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández, a 20-year old student at a high school in Ilopango
in the Department of San Salvador, was kidnapped on November 29, 1986, at 7:30 p.m.,
near San Salvador. At the time of his capture, the young man was on his way home from
his place of work at a Texaco service station located in the Ilopango district. According
to eyewitnesses, his captors took him away in a pick-up truck.
Some days later, his family received information to the effect that he was being
held prisoner at the Ilopango Air Force Base. The family was also told that Miguel Angel
would be released by Christmas of 1986, but that did not happen.
The family has unsuccessfully exhausted all of the remedies of El Salvador's
domestic law in an effort to have his arrest acknowledged, to have the reasons for his
arrest explained, and to have him either brought before a judge or released. The armed
forces and police deny that they arrested Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández and deny that
they have him in custody. However, it was learned that Rivas was later taken to facilities
of the National Guard, though that arm of the police continues to deny his arrest. It was
also learned that he is in bad health.
There are also reports that the Salvadoran Government's Human Rights
Commission reportedly conducted an investigation into this case, and presented its
findings to the President of the Nation, Ing. José Napoleón Duarte. The latter reportedly
ordered that the information be passed on to the Criminal Investigations Commission.
Despite of the many steps taken, thus far the arrest of young Rivas Hernández has not
been acknowledged and the family continues to be overwhelmed by anguish and
In the case in question, apart from the normal official communications, the Commission
has made a number of personal inquires with Salvadoran authorities in connection with the
situation of Mr. Rivas Hernández. Moreover, when one of the attorneys from the Secretariat of
the Commission visited the Republic of El Salvador in November of 1987, direct inquiries were
made in this connection in the hope of helping to secure the release of the person in question.
In view of the fact that no statement or response was forthcoming from the Government
of El Salvador, the Commission addressed the following note, dated January 15, 1988, to the
Foreign Minister of that country:
On behalf of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, I would like to
repeat once again our request to Your Excellency's Government that it supply the
information that it deems pertinent with respect to the instant case. We refer to our notes
of December 23, 1986, June 1, 1987, and a telex dated October 28, 1987, copies of which
are attached hereto. Apart from this, Your Excellency's Government is well aware of the
direct, personal overtures that have been made with the Salvadoran Government's Human
Rights Commission and with the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington to have the
student Rivas Hernández released alive.
Should that information not be received within a period of 30 days, the
Commission would then consider the possibility of applying Article 42 of its Regulations.
At its 72nd session, held in March 1988, and in consideration of the fact that despite the
time that had elapsed, the Government of El Salvador, had not responded to any of the
Commission's repeated communications and inquiries, even personal inquiries; that it had not even
requested an extension for that purpose; that, moreover, the information the Commission had in
its possession corroborated the denunciation; that, in effect, young Miguel Angel Rivas
Hernández had been kidnapped by members of the security forces; that he was still alive but
"disappeared" in an official detention center of the National Police; that even though all of the
legal and constitutional guarantees of defense by an attorney and trial by an independent and
competent court were in full effect, he has been denied them; and, finally, that unofficial reports
indicated that his predicament was due to a personal rivalry between the young man and an officer
in El Salvador's Armed Force, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in application
of Article 42 of its Regulations, resolved the following:
- To presume as true the facts denounced in the communication dated December
23, 1986, concerning the illegal capture and subsequent disappearance of student Miguel
Angel Rivas Hernández.
- To declare to the Government of El Salvador that this involves very grave
violations of the right of protection against arbitrary arrest (Article 7) and of the right to
life (Article 4) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
- To recommend to the Government of El Salvador that it order an exhaustive
investigation to determine the authorship of the facts denounced, the whereabouts of the
victim and, in accordance with the laws of El Salvador, that the person or persons
responsible for these acts be punished and that the Commission be informed within 60
days of the measures taken to put the recommendations set forth in the present resolution
- To transmit this resolution to the Government of El Salvador.
- If, within the stipulated 60 days the Government does not present information on the measures it has taken, the Commission will include this resolution in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, in accordance with Article 63. g of the Commission's Regulations.
In response to the copy it received of Resolution 21/88, on May 19, last the Government
of El Salvador, in a letter sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Acevedo Peralta,
acknowledging multiple receipt, he replied the following:
In connection with Case 9844, concerning to the situation of Mr. Miguel Angel
Rivas Hernández, during the course of the visit that the Executive Secretary of the
Salvadoran Government's Human Rights Commission made to the headquarters of the
IACHR at its most recent session, he gave a verbal report on the matter and on the
situation of the case' and Dr. Luis Fernando Jiménez, who visited El Salvador in
November of last year, on an IACHR mission, also had an opportunity to obtain
information. The case in question has been referred to the Criminal Investigations
Commission for the appropriate purposes.
Subsequent to transmittal of Resolution 21/88, to which the Government of El Salvador
raised no objection nor did it provide any useful information in the above-transcribed note, the
Commission received a letter from the parents of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández reporting that he
had been seen alive. The text of that letter was brought to the Salvadoran Government's attention
in a note dated June 8, 1988, which reads as follows:
On behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I have the honor
to address Your Excellency to forward the text of a letter that this Secretariat received
from the parents of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández in connection with the situation of
their son, who had been illegally arrested--disappeared by the Armed Forces of El
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that on March 27, I went to the
Jurisdiction of Tacachico, Department of La Libertad, in the company six people,
in an effort to find my son, Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández. Victor Manuel Iraheta
and I saw my son, who was inside National Guard Headquarters in that jurisdiction
We wish to report that we have informed Mr. Peter Schmeelk, Human
Rights Officer with the United States Embassy, that we saw my son inside the
headquarters building. Through Mr. Schmeelk, we were negotiating for my son's
Since Mr. Schmeelk has advised us that because of the institution's honor it
is not in the National Guard's interest to release my son, aware as they are of the
crime that they have committed, it is also inconvenient for the Embassy of the
United States, because of the ties that it has with them and which I will refrain
from detailing here.
Therefore, I am turning to you in the hope of securing a timely
investigation that will help save the life of my son, Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández,
and thereby resolve this painful and unjust case, which has caused us so much
Thanking you for your attention to this request, please accept our
The Commission views this person's predicament with the greatest concern. Thus
far, the Government of El Salvador has evaded any official reply as to his personal
situation even though, extra officially, it has been admitted that Mr. Rivas Hernández is not
only alive but that he is being held in custody without investigation, without trial, without
proper defense, without access to the legal guarantees provided for in the Constitution of
the Republic of El Salvador.
Unfortunately, your Excellency's letter of May 19, 1988, does not supply any
specific information as to the situation of Rivas Hernández; instead, allusion is made to the
fact that Lic. Benjamín Cestoni, Executive Secretary of the Salvadoran Government's
Human Rights Commission, presented an oral report, once more, concerning the matter
and the situation of that person, i.e.,that he was alive.
The IACHR wishes to once again respectfully request clarification of the situation
of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Since this overture, the IACHR has not received from the Government of El Salvador, any
information or cooperation that would shed some light on the situation of the individual in
The background information presented in this document;
The resolution adopted by the IACHR at its 72nd session;
That subsequent to transmittal of that resolution, the Government of El Salvador did not
supply the IACHR with any information and has not taken any action to put an end to the illegal
and arbitrary state of affairs described herein;
That the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in a resolution on Case 7920
corresponding to Manfredo Velázquez vs. Honduras, has stated that "prolonged isolation and
forced non communication... are themselves forms of cruel and inhuman treatment, injurious to the
individual's psychological and moral freedom and of the right of every prisoner to proper respect
for the dignity inherent in the human being, which is itself a violation of the provisions of Article 5
of the Convention..."
In exercise of the powers vested in it,
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
- To Confirm Resolution 21/88 of the IACHR which, in application of the
provisions of Article 42 of the Commission's Regulations, presumed as true the facts contained in
the denunciation referring to the illegal arrest and subsequent disappearance of student Miguel
Angél Rivas Hernández.
- To energetically condemn the official practice of government security forces involving
the forced detention/disappearance of individuals and in particular, in the instant case, that of
Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
- To call upon the Government of El Salvador to reflect upon the seriousness of the facts
of the instant case and on the irregularity arising out of its failure to reply to the IACHR and
cooperate with it.
- To urge the competent authorities of the Republic of El Salvador to investigate this
obvious case of abusive official kidnapping, violation of the legal guarantees and continued
violation of the rights to personal freedom and due process of law being perpetrated against the
person of Miguel Angel Rivas Hernández.
- To reiterate the recommendations made earlier to the effect that an exhaustive
investigation be ordered to determine the authorship of the facts denounced, the whereabouts and
definite location of the victim and, in accordance with the laws of El Salvador, punishment of
those directly and indirectly responsible for these events.
- To communicate this resolution to the Government of El Salvador.
- To publish the present resolution in the Commission's Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.