Report on Sessions of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights

OEA, Ser.L/V /II.2
Doc. 24
August 10, 1961





April 10 to 26, 1961


General Secretariat, Organization of American States

Washington, D.C.

August 1961


Opening date

The Commission decided to begin its Second Session on April 10, 1961 at the Pan American Union.

Members present

The following members attended the Second Session:

Prof. Manuel Bianchi Gundian, Vice Chairman of the Commission

Mrs. Angela Acuna de Chacon

Dr. Gonzalo Escudero

Dr. Gabino Fraga

Dr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl

Dr. Durward V. Sandifer

Mr. Romulo Gallegos, titular Chairman of the Commission was unable to come to Washington to attend the Second Session.

Acting chairman

In the absence of Mr. Gallegos, Prof. Manuel Bianchi Gundian, Vice Chairman of the Commission, occupied the chair.

Inaugural session

The Commission began its work on April 10, 1961, at 10 a.m., with a declaration by the acting Chairman that the meeting was open. Among those present at this first meeting were Drs. William Sanders and Charles G. Fenwick, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS and Director of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Pan American Union, respectively.

Dr. Bianchi Gundian, acting Chairman, welcomed the distinguished visitors and gave a special welcome to Dr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, who was attending the meetings of the Commission for the first time.

Dr. Bianchi also mentioned Mr. Gallegos, regretting the latter's absence from this Second Session and the fact that they would miss the benefit of his help. He spoke as follows:

If our first session last year was fruitful, this was laregely due to

Mr.Romulo Gallegos, whose activity, skill, and knowledge with regard to problems of human rights in the hemisphere were clearly evident in the work that he inspired and directed. In the pursuit of our efforts, I shall seek to continue, insofar as possible, the work begun by our great Chairman (See Doc. 5).

Meetings and documents

The commission held 12 meetings during the course of the Second Session, between Monday , April 10 and Wednesday, April 26, 1961. In anticipation of this Second Session, the Secretariat published various reference works for the members' use; it also reproduced summary minutes of each session, as well as other documents (See Appendix).


In accordance with Article 14 of the Statute, the Secretary General of the OAS appointed the Codification Division of the Pan American Union to provide secretariat services to the Commission. Dr. Luis Reque, Chief of the Codification Division, was secretary, and Drs. Isidoro Zanotti and Guillermo Cabrera, also employed in this division, were advisers.


The agenda of the Second Session was as follows:

Report of the Secretary on the First Session.

Report of the Subcommittee, regarding communications and claims received.

Procedure to which communications and claims should be submitted.

4. Fellowship Program. Plan for establishing the said fellowships..

National committees on human rights. Report on their establishment.

Topics of the general work program. Background material provided by the Secretariat.

7. Communications to the governments and replies to these.

Submission of reports to the OAS and to the Eleventh Inter-American Conference.

Date for the Third Session.


At the second meeting, held on April 11, the Secretary presented for consideration by the members a report on the work accomplished by the Commission during its First Session (Doc. 32). That report gives a complete account of the First Session, describing by subject the various matters considered by the Commission: the Regulations, the communication to the governments, the Fellowship Program, the general work program, the draft amendment of the Statute, the Commission's competence and procedure in handling the communications received, the description of the communications, the creation of national committees, and the report to the Eleventh Conference.

Upon approving this report, the Commission applauded the Secretariat.

At the fifth session, held on April 17, 1961, the Secretary submitted for consideration by the Commission a report on the activities carried out by the Secretariat between the First and Second Sessions (Doc.7).

That report gives an account of the work entrusted by the Commission to its Secretariat such as that relative to the Fellowship Program, national committees on human rights, preparation of background material for the general work program of the Commission, acknowledgment of communications or claims received, and cooperative activities with other international agencies and non-governmental organizations.


A week in advance of the Second Session that is, on Monday, April 3, 1961, the Subcommittee met at the Pan American Union to study the matter of communications or claims.

As agreed upon at the previous Session, the Subcommittee was composed of the following members: Drs. Manuel Bianchi Gundian, Gonzalo Escudero, and Durward V. Sandifer. The subcommittee, however, carried on its work without Dr. Escudero. who sent a telegram excusing his absence.

In accordance with Article 26 of the Regulations, the Secretariat submitted for consideration by the subcommittee a list of the communications received, together with a brief summary of their contents (Doc.1).

The subcommittee held five meetings, at the end of which it reported on the work it had done (Doc. 3). That report is in two parts: one on the procedure recommended by the subcommittee for handling communications or claims and the other in which each of the communications is considered, with a brief description of all those received prior to the First Session and during the period between then and the time of Second Session a total of 62 communications in all. The Commission considered the Subcommittee's report, extending the study of this up through its fifth meeting. First of all, the Secretary read the communications received and it was decided which of these should be transmitted. Then, in accordance with the Subcommittee's suggestion possible changes in Articles 28 and 29 of the Regulations were discussed. After the members had expressed diverse opinions on the recommendation made in the Subcommittee's report, the Commission agreed: first not to amend the Regulations during the present session, and second, to bring together the Subcommittee's recommendations and the opinions expressed by the members in a resolution, which might serve to clarify the standards or procedures contained in Articles 25 to 29 of the Regulations. In this connection, the Commission decided that the resolution should establish the procedure to be followed in relation to:

Communications in which two or more countries are mentioned

2) Communications containing paragraphs that have no bearing on the question of human rights;

Communications containing abusive language or inconsequential facts;

Urgent cabled accusations, and

Identity of the senders.

With regard to the first point, the Commission observed that although Article 28 of the Regulations provided that "communications or claims received shall be reported by the Secretariat to the Governments of the respective states interested," an additional explanation of this matter, included in the resolution, would facilitate the work of both the Commission and the Secretariat.

Regarding the second point, the Commission agreed that it would withdraw from the communications any material not pertaining to violations of human rights in the country concerned.

With respect to the third point, the Committee decided that it would not transmit communications containing abusive language or inconsequential facts.

With reference to urgent communications, it was agreed to follow the procedure established by Article 28 of the Regulations, that is, that when the Commission is in recess, the Secretary, in consultation with the Chairman, will proceed to transmit these communications as quickly as possible.

Regarding the last point, the Commission stated that it should avoid revealing, not only the identity of the accusers, but also any other information that might serve to identify them, such as the names of the political parties or associations to which they belong.

The Commission entrusted the Secretariat with preparing a draft resolution that would contain the points previously mentioned.

At the sixth meeting, on April 18, the Secretary presented for consideration by the members a draft resolution, which, with a few changes in form, was approved by the Commission. The text of the approved resolution is as follows:


Articles 25 to 29 of the Regulations establish the procedure to be followed by the Commission with reference to the communications or claims that it receives involving violations of human rights within the American states;

The subcommission, in its report to the Commission dated April 7, 1961, made several recommendations intended to expedite the handling of such communications or claims; and

The Commission considers it appropriate to adopt the recommendations made by the subcommission for the purposes indicated,



1. Whenever the communications or claims refer to several countries, the pertinent parts of the complaints or denunciations contained in the said communications or claims shall be reported to the government of the interested country, in accordance with the provisions of Article 28 of the Regulations.

2. Whenever the communications or claims refer to acts or situations that bear no relation to direct accusations of a disregard of human rights in the country against which they are directed, the Commission shall abstain from considering such acts or situations.

3. Whenever the communications or claims contain abusive language or refer to insignificant acts, they shall not be reported to the governments of the respective states interested.

4. In transmitting the communications or claims to the governments of interested states, the identity of the writers thereof shall be withheld, along with any other information that might serve to identify them, in accordance with the provisions of Article 29 of the Regulations.


The report prepared by the Secretariat (Doc. 7) includes material on the Fellowship Program, designed to inform the members of the status of the project and of the steps being taken to develop it in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Commission at its session on October 24, 1960. The Secretary verbally amplified the report, stating that various Latin American university professors such as Professor Jimenez de Arechaga, and also Professor Sandifer, had been asked their opinion, and that in the light of the information received from them, there were already sufficient grounds for organizing the said Fellowship Program.

Practically speaking, the program involves two projects: one for post graduates with a sufficient command of the English language to take advantage of at least one year of specialized study in a U.S. university, the other involving 6 or 8 week seminars in Latin American universities.

Dr. Sandifer, author of the draft that served as a basis for the resolution on the Fellowship Program, provided the Commission with data on the possible cost of the fellowships in the United States, as well as with other information of an academic nature, and recommended that the seminars be extended to at least one year in length.

At the suggestion of the acting Chairman, it was decided to postpone study and consideration of this question until the Third Session, by which time the Secretary would prepare a complete report on the matter with all the academic and financial data available.


At the sixth meeting, the members fully discussed the question of national committees on human rights, taking as a basis the resolution adopted in this regard at the First Session.

Mrs. Angela Acuna de Chacon mentioned the steps that she had taken in Costa Rica to lay the groundwork for establishing a committee in her country.

Dr. Gabino Fraga also advised that he had made a number of contacts on the matter in Mexico and offered to give fuller information later.

Mrs. Acuna de Chacon and Drs. Galindo Pohl and Fraga all agreed that it was necessary to spread knowledge of the work of the Commission, personally and collectively.

After much exchange of opinions it was agreed to inform the various organizations, interested in establishing relations that the Commission would welcome their cooperation in the carrying out of its work. Also, the Commission decided that publicity should be given to the resolution adopted on October 24, 1960, recommending the establishment of the said national committees.


All of the members presents with the exception of Dr. Galindo Pohl, informed the Commission on the progress each was making on the studies assigned to him during the First Session. Since Dr. Galindo Pohl was absent from the First Session, no work had been assigned to him. He stated, however, that he would be glad to undertake any study that the Commission might entrust to him. The Secretariat said that it had assembled various legal compilations for the members to use as background material in the preparation of their studies. These compilations are as follows:

Legislation of the American States on the Jurisdictional Protection of Human Rights.

Legislation of the American States on Right of Suffrage.

Resolutions of Inter-American Conferences and Meetings on Economic and Social Matters.

Legislation of the American States on the Right to Freedom of Investigation, of Opinion, of Expression., and of Dissemination (of ideas).

Those works were compiled from sources in the Department of Legal Affairs and in the Library of the Pan American Unions as well as in the U. S. Library of Congress.

At the suggestion of the acting Chairman, the Commission gave a vote of thanks to the Secretariat for the research it had done and for its work in compiling and editing those documents.

At the eleventh meeting, on April 25, Dr. Escudero presented to the Commission a "First Report on Measures Designed to Improve Implementation of Rights to Freedom of Investigation, of Opinion, and of the Expression and Dissemination of Ideas." (Doc. 15) The members applauded Dr. Escudero's efforts and the merits of his study.

Upon giving his report, Dr. Escudero explained that it should be considered preliminary to a more extensive study on the same subject that he would later present to the Commission. In conclusion, Dr. Escudero suggested the preparation of a draft Convention on Freedom of the Press, which would make the protection of this freedom not only a domestic duty of each individual state but also an international legal obligation of the American countries.

The Commission requested Dr. Escudero himself to prepare the said draft, and, at the same time, entrusted the Secretariat with drawing up a preliminary draft that might be used by Dr. Escudero in the preparation of his draft.

To complete the series of studies requested of its members, the Commission assigned the following topic to Dr. Galindo Pohl: "Comparative Study of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Corresponding Constitutional Texts of the American States."

The Commission also agreed to request the Secretariat to prepare special studies on the protection of human rights in various American countries.


The seventh meeting, held on April 19, dealt with the communication to the governments, in which they were informed of the establishment of the Commission. The answers received from the governments which were read aloud by the Secretary, were felt to contain important ideas and background material that the Commission should take into account in carrying out its work. At Dr. Fraga's suggestion, the Commission agreed to send a second communication to the governments, informing them of the work accomplished by this body during its Second Session.



During the eighth meeting., held on April 20, the Commission considered the matter of sending a purely informative note to the Chairman of the Council of the Organization of American States, in order to acquaint that organ with the work done by the Comission during its Second Session. The note was dated April 26, 1961. The acting Chairman presented a draft report to be submitted to the Inter-American Conference. This draft report (Doc. 14) was approved by the Commission at the meeting of April 26, after minor changes in the text were agreed upon. Besides an account of the activities of this Sessions the report also includes the text of the resolution on procedures with reference to communications or claims as well as the text of the cablegram sent to the Government of Cuba, on the occasion of the recent incidents in that country.


At its meetings of April 21 and 24 of this year, the Commission received 45 communications relative to the grave situation in Cuba. In these communications, the Commission was requested to act immediately to avoid irreparable violations of human rights in that republic.

In considering these requests, the Commission carefully examined the question as to whether or not it was empowered to make some recommendations to the Government of Cuba with respect to the cases submitted to it, and its conclusion was that it could do so. For its competence included not only the power to recommend the adoption of general measures in favor of human rights in the domestic legislation of each state, but also to recommend to the member states that they take, in accordance with their constitutional precepts, appropriate measures to further the faithful observance of those rights (Article 9.b of the Statute). Furthermore, the Commission felt that it was justified in requesting a report from the Government of Cuba on the measures it was taking in respect to human rights in the circumstances the country was going through. In this connection the Commission pointed out that Article 9.d of the Statute authorized it to request such information.

At its meeting on April 24, the Commission voted unanimously to send the following cable to the Government of Cuba, based essentially on a draft submitted by Dr. Escudero:

His Excellency

Raul Roa

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Havana, Cuba.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, deeply concerned by communications it has received in which grave fear is expressed that your Excellency's Government may apply imminent and severe repressive measures in the present situation of Cuba that would not be in harmony with the fundamental respect for human rights prescribed by the Charter of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, is obedient to its duty, in accordance with the powers given in its Statutes (Article 9.b), in recommending strongly to your Excellency's Government that any such measures be taken in accordance with respect for these rights, expressing confidence that this aspiration of the Commission will be satisfied in conformity with the terms of the Note which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba addressed to the Commission on November 7, 1960.

This Commission, in accordance with Article 9.d of its Statutes, requests your Government to be good enough to send the Commission information on measures that it adopts in the field of human rights during the present situation.

Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration.

Manuel Bianchi, Acting Chairman

Luis Reque, Secretary

Also at its April 24 meeting, the Commission agreed that the Secretariat, upon acknowledging the communication regarding the Cuban situation, should send their authors a verbatim copy of the message cabled to the Government of Cuba. The Commission also decided to release publicly the aforementioned cable, as well as the one sent to the Cuban Government by the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Romulo Gallegos (see Doc. 21). At its meeting on April 26, the Commission considered a piece of false information put out by a news agency in Washington, By means of a press release, the Commission stated that never had its member Ambassador Gonzalo Escudero opposed calling upon Cuba for humanitarian treatment of prisoners, on the ground that such an appeal would violate the principle of nonintervention. The Commission also made it clear that it was Ambassador Escudero who, at the April 24 meeting, proposed the text of the cabled message to the Cuban Government, which in its essential parts was unanimously approved by the Commission the same day and sent to its destination.


At the meeting held on April 20, the Commission designated Monday, October 2, 1961 as the opening date for the Third Session. It also agreed that the Subcommittee should hold a meeting beginning on Monday, September 25, that is, one week prior to the opening date of the Third Session.





Doc. 1 Lista de Comunicaciones recibidas por la Comision Inter-americana de Derechos Humanos.

Doc. 2 Programa del Segundo Periodo de Sesiones de la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

(Aprobada en la Primera Sesion del 10 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 3 Informe Sometido por la Subcomision a la Comision Inter-americana de Derechos Humanos.

Doc. 4 Acta Resumida de la Primera Sesion Celebrada el 10 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Cuarta Sesion del 13 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 5 Palabras Pronunciadas por el Senor Vicepresidente de la Comision en la Primera Sesion del Segundo Periodo de Sesiones.

Doc. 6 Acta Resumida de la Segunda Sesion celebrada el 11 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Cuarta Sesion de 13 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 7 Informe de la Secretaria Sometido a la Comision en su Segundo Periodo de Sesiones.

Doc. 8 Acta Resumida de la Tercera Sesion celebrada el 12 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Quinta Sesion del 17 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 9 Acta Resumida de la Cuarta Sesion celebrada el 13 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Sexta Sesion del 18 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 10 Acta Resumida de la Quinta Sesion celebrada el 17 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Septima Sesion del 19 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 11 Acta Resumida de la Sexta Sesion celebrada el 18 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Octava Sesion del 20 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 12 Acta Resumida de la Septima Sesion celebrada el 19 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Decima Sesion del 24 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 13 Acta Resumida de la Octava Sesion celebrada el 20 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Decima Sesion del 24 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 14 Rev. Segundo Informe sometido por la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos a la Undecima Conferencia Interamericana.

(Aprobada en la Duodecima Sesion del 26 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 15 Primer Informe sobre las medidas orientadas al perfecionamiento y Eficacia de los Derechos a la libertad de Invesitgacion, de Opinion y de Expresion y Difusion del Pensamiento.

Doc. 16 Comunicaciones o Reclamaciones recibidas por la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en su Segundo Periodo de Sesiones.

Doc. 17 Acta Resumida de la Novena Sesions celebrada el 21 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Duodecima Sesion del 26 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 18 Acta Resumida de la Decima Sesion celebrada el 24 de abril de 1961.

(Aprobada en la Duodecima Sesion del 26 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 19 Acta Resumida de la Undecima Sesion celebrada el 25 de abril de 1961.

Aprobada en la Duodecima Sesion del 26 de abril de 1961).

Doc. 20 Acta Resumida de la Duodecima Sesion celebrada el 26 de abril de 1961.

Doc. 21 Cablegrams Dirigidos por la Comision de Derechos Humanos al Gobierno de Cuba y Respuestas a los mismos.

Doc. 22 Nota del Presidente en Ejercicio de la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos al Presidente del Consejo de la OEA sobre las labores realizadas por la Comision en su Segundo Periodo de Sesiones.

Doc. 23 Resolucion sobre Comunicaciones o Reclamaciones.

Doc. 24 Informe de la Labor Desarrollada por la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en su Segundo Periodo de Sesiones del 10 al 26 de abril de 1961.

Doc. 25 Documentos de la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos registrados por la Secretaria hasta el 26 de abril de 1961.