Washington College of Law|
Center For Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
RESOLUTION No. 5/87
CASE 9619 (HONDURAS)
March 28, 1987
HAVING SEEN the pertinent background in this case, to wit:
- In a cable dated September 4, 1985, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights received the following denunciation:
WE DENOUNCE HONDURAN ARMY ATTACK ON SALVADORAN
REFUGEES COLOMONCAGUA, HONDURAS, 29 LAST AUGUST: 2 DEAD
INCLUDING BABY, 50 WOUNDED, 15 APPREHENDED, 2 WOMEN RAPED AND
7 PERSONS TORTURED. 3 IN CRITICAL CONDITION AT TEGUCIGALPA
HOSPITAL. WE DEMAND PUNISHMENT OF GUILTY AND ASK
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES ARTICLE 26 OF REGULATIONS ON BEHALF OF
REFUGEES AND DETAINEES.
- The Commission, in a cable dated September 6, 1985, asked the Government of
Honduras to provide the corresponding information, pursuant to Article 34 (formerly 31) of its
Regulations. At the same time it requested the Honduran authorities, in view of the seriousness
of the accusation, to adopt the pertinent precautionary measures to ensure that the acts covered
by the denunciation would be actively and rapidly investigated, as well as to safeguard the victims
and preserve the existence of other evidence for the corresponding investigation. The
Commission further asked the Government of Honduras to adopt timely measures to prevent a
repetition of such occurrences and to ensure due respect for the principle of no return stipulated
in Article 22(8) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
- In a cable of September 6, 1985, the Commission also reported the acts denounced
to the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with
headquarters in Costa Rica and asked for the adoption of effective measures to ensure full
guarantee of the lives and safety of the refugees in Honduran territory and, particularly, the
principle of no return.
- In a communication dated September 6, 1984, the Commission reported to the
claimant on progress in the case.
- The Government of Honduras, in a cable of September 11, 1985, responded to the
request of the Commission as follows:
CONTENTS OF DENUNCIATION FORWARDED TO COMPETENT
AUTHORITIES, REPORT AVAILABLE AS SOON AS SPECIFIC DATA
TRANSCRIBED BELOW IS OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION ISSUED BY
NATIONAL COMMISSION ON COLOMONCAGUA REFUGEE CAMP
NATIONAL COMMISSION ON REFUGEES REGRETTING UNFORTUNATE
INCIDENT AT COLOMONCAGUA SALVADORAN REFUGEE CAMP,
DEPARTMENT OF INTIBUCA, IN VIEW OF REPERCUSSIONS OF INCIDENT IN
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CIRCLES, MAKES FOLLOWING
- HONDURAN GOVERNMENT MOTIVATED STRICTLY BY
HUMANITARIAN CONSIDERATIONS HAS OVER PAST SIX YEARS BEEN
RECEIVING REFUGEES FROM NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES WITHIN ITS
TERRITORY; THE PRESENCE OF THOUSANDS OF SUCH REFUGEES CREATED
BY CENTRAL AMERICAN CRISIS HAS ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND
SECURITY IMPLICATIONS. THIS SITUATION AND ITS EFFECTS HAVE
CAUSED HONDURAN GOVERNMENT TO TAKE SUITABLE STEPS TO
PREVENT CONFLICTS AFFECTING PUBLIC TRANQUILITY.
- DESPITE ITS DIFFICULT ECONOMIC SITUATION HONDURAS
HAS OFFERED ASYLUM TO ALL CENTRAL AMERICANS FLEEING VIOLENCE
IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES WHO HAVE REACHED ITS TERRITORY
THROUGH THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
(UNHCR) AND NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NONGOVERNMENTAL
HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES, EXTENDING HUMANITARIAN AID AND
SUPPORTING THEIR REPRESENTATIVES IN THE SEVERAL CAMPS IN THE
PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DUTIES.
- OUR GOVERNMENT'S APPROACH, BASED ON TRUST AND
GOOD WILL, IS DEMONSTRATED BY THE ABSENCE OF ANY ACTIVE
PRESENCE OF HONDURAN AUTHORITIES IN THE REFUGEE CAMPS EITHER
TEMPORARILY OR PERMANENTLY. THIS HAS LED TO COMMISSION OF
ABUSES BY SOME REFUGEES AT VARIANCE WITH APOLITICAL POSITION
AND RESPECT FOR HONDURAN LAWS WHICH MUST BE OBSERVED BY
REFUGEES ENJOYING ASYLUM EXTENDED BY HONDURAS.
- REGRETTABLE INCIDENT OF 29 AUGUST CITED ABOVE TOOK
ADVANTAGE OF THIS SITUATION. ON 27 AUGUST WHEN MILITARY
PATROL WAS INSPECTING AREA ADJACENT TO CAMP IT DETAINED
SALVADORAN CITIZEN JOSE ANTONIO CHICAS SANCHEZ WHO WAS
CARRYING AN M-16 RIFLE AND 4 CATRIDGE CLIPS. UNDER QUESTIONING
CITIZEN SAID HE WAS A REFUGEE AND REPORTED THAT COMPATRIOTS
INVOLVED IN SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES WERE INSIDE THE CAMP.
- BASED ON INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE DETAINEE, THE
MILITARY CHIEF SENT FOR UNHCR PROTECTION OFFICER TO REPORT BUT
WHEN OFFICER COULD NOT BE FOUND DESPITE EFFORTS MADE MEN
WERE ORDERED TO INSPECT THE CAMP. WHEN SOLDIERS ENTERED THE
CAMP A GROUP OF REFUGEES REACTED VIOLENTLY TO THEIR PRESENCE
AND ONE REFUGEE SEIZED THE GUN OF CORPORAL RAUL TREJO FLORES
SHOOTING HIM IN THE LEG. LOGICALLY, IF THERE HAD BEEN NO SUCH
VIOLENT REACTION AND DISRESPECT FOR AUTHORITY EVENTS
CULMINATING IN THE DEATH OF THAT REFUGEE AND WOUNDING OF TWO
OTHERS AS WELL AS THE ARREST OF TEN PERSONS PRESUMABLY
ENGAGED IN SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES - NOW BEING HELD FOR
INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL - WOULD NEVER HAVE OCCURRED.
- THE GOVERNMENT, IN EXPRESSING REGRET FOR THE INCIDENT,
STATES FOR THE RECORD ITS WILLINGNESS TO CONTINUE COOPERATING
WITH THE HIGH COMMISSIONER IN ORDER TO PROVIDE PROTECTION AND
HUMANITARIAN AID TO THE REFUGEES AND TO SOLVE ANY PROBLEM
THAT MIGHT ARISE WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF MUTUAL COOPERATION
AND OBSERVANCE BY THE REFUGEES OF THE PRINCIPLES DERIVING FROM
RESPECT FOR NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY AND INTERNATIONAL LAW. IT
ALSO APPEALS TO HUMANITARIANISM AND SOLIDARITY OF
GOVERNMENTS BASED ON LEGALLY REGULATED FOREIGN RELATIONS.
- In a communication dated September 12, 1985, the Commission transmitted to the
claimant the pertinent parts of the information supplied by the Government of Honduras, setting a
term of 45 days for presentation of comments or observations.
- The Government of Honduras, in a note of September 18, 1985 (No.
721-DGPE-DAI/1067) forwarded additional information consisting of an Official Communiqué of
the Armed Forces of Honduras (No. 57/85), which reads as follows:
THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE ARMED FORCES OF
HONDURAS HEREBY REPORTS THE FOLLOWING TO THE NATIONAL AND
- That on the 27th of this month members of the Tenth Infantry Battalion
captured José Antonio Chicas Sánchez in the area of Colomancagua, Department of
Intibucá, confiscating an M-16-A1 rifle and four (4) cartridge clips.
- During questioning of the detainee his nationality and active militancy in
the Salvadoran guerrilla group were established beyond any doubt. He further stated that
he and a large group of insurgents from the neighboring country had entered Honduras in
order to regroup in the refugee camp located at this site and, eventually, to undertake,
acting from Honduran territory, action against the government of the neighboring country.
- Based on that report, the authorities of the Tenth Infantry battalion decided
to conduct an inspection on the 19th of the same month and year, following a report to the
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to
ascertain whether those antisocial elements, who would be identified by Chicas Sánchez,
had infiltrated the Colomoncagua Salvadoran refugee camp.
- When the military patrol entered the refugee camp, an individual, taking
Corporal Raúl Trejo Flores by surprise, seized his gun and wounded him in the leg with
the weapon. Another member of the Honduran patrol reacted by shooting the aggressor
to death and wounding a third party with the same bullet. The military authority then
apprehended ten (10) suspected subversives, who were informed of their rights. The
person wounded in the confrontation is being cared for by Honduran medical
- It should be pointed out that on several occasions the Armed Forces of
Honduras have endeavored to set up a system of supervision and vigilance to prevent
antisocial elements from using the refugee camps as sanctuary for their operations and
provoking just such regrettable situations as this.
- The Armed Forces of Honduras hereby reiterate that, in fulfillment of their
constitutional duty, they will not permit any foreigner to disturb the peace and order in the
- In a communication dated October 16, 1985, the petitioner made the comments
and observations transcribed below, enclosing several items of evidence corroborating the fact
denounced, consisting of public documentary proof and the testimony of a witness to those facts.
That text is as follows:
In response to your request, we are forwarding additional information on the case:
- Persons killed during the military invasion of the Colomoncagua refugee camp on
August 29, 1985: Saúl Manuel Romero, 23 years of age, and Gloria Noemí Blanco
Argueta, two months.
- Shot: Juan Cristo Pérez, 3; Elías Vásquez, 4; Domitila Ramo, 13; Andrea Gómez,
48; Elia Hernández, 19; Maura Ramírez, 42; Modesta Rodríguez, 61; Rutilio Arguta, 43;
Santiago Gómez, 56; Santiago Hernández, 62; Candelaria Maradiaga, 56; Eduardo Mejía,
70; Juan Sáenz, 33 and Santos Vásquez, 33.
- Beaten: Auxiliadora Vigil, 2; Julio César Salazar, 12; Arturo Vásquez, 12; Leticia
Argueta, 18; María Argueta, 19; Silvina Blanco, 34; Arelí Bonilla, 22; Florentina Chicas,
27; Gloria Maribel Flores, 58; Sebastiana Gómez, 33; Anabel Marisol Hernández, 16;
Magdalena Márquez, 52; Elvira Membreño, 18; Prudencia Pérez, 58; Elba Ramírez, 24;
Cresencia Sánchez, 35; Sixta Sánchez, 20; Deysi Vásquez, 21; Mercedes Ventura, 25;
Lucía Vigil, 29; Rafaela Vigil, 50; Elia Remírez, 27; Modesta Ramírez, 28; María Alicia
Ramos, 25; Inés Cruz, 23; Felipe Chicas, 69; Francisco Chicas, 76; Jerónimo Gómez, 80;
José Guevara, 77; Aurelio Hernández, 17; Ferdinando Hernández, 66; Isidoro Hernández,
38; Santos Ortíz, 68; Esteban Umanzor, 63; Concepción Vigil, 26, and Francisco Vigil,
Raped: Estela Rodríguez, 24, and Concepción Martínez.
Also attached are the denunciation lodged publicly by the Office of the
Commission for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras (CCDEH); the investigation
conducted by the Office of the Archbishop of San Salvador, and on-site by the Bishop of
Santa Rosa de Copán, anonymous testimony from refugees in English, and testimony from
the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees of Toronto, Canada.
Sufficient evidence exists of the guilt of the Government of Honduras in those
regrettable occurrences, which, unfortunately are part of the general climate of repression
prevailing in that country in recent years. The status of the Salvadoran refugees is
particularly difficult at this time since they are accused of belonging to or collaborating
with the Salvadoran guerrillas, which makes them easier targets for government
The Government of Honduras is guilty of violation of Articles 6, 7 and 9 of the
Civil Political Rights Pact to which that country is a party and of the fundamental
principles established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN.
- In a note of October 23, 1985, the Commission transmitted to the Government of
Honduras the pertinent parts of the comments made by the petitioner, setting a period of 60 days
from remitting all information on the case.
- The Commission, in a letter dated October 29, 1985, to the Director of the
UNHCR Office in Honduras, asked that it supply any available information on the progress of the
case before the Honduran authorities. That request was made at the suggestion of the UNHCR
office for the Protection of Refugees in Geneva.
- Since the claimant, in a cable of October 30, 1985, reported that the Government
of Honduras had officially announced relocation of the refugees from the Colomoncagua camp to
a place called "Mesa Grande", the Commission, fearing for their safety, requested in a cable dated
November 4, 1985, to the Government of Honduras information on that reported transfer.
Likewise, in a communication dated November 4, 1985, it again reported to the UNHCR office in
Tegucigalpa on the situation, expressing the fear that new violations of human rights might occur.
- The Government of Honduras, in a note on December 3, 1985 (No. 1001) replied
to the observations presented by the claimant (transmitted with the October 23, 1985, note),
stating as follows:
In response to your note of October 23, 1985, and with reference to Case 9619, I
should like to inform you that, having transmitted the denunciation of the events presumed
to have occurred in the Colomoncagua refugee camp to the competent authorities, the
latter proceeded to conduct the pertinent investigations, which, in their preliminary phase,
produced the following results:
- Mr. Saúl Manuel Romero died after having forcibly seized the rifle of one of the
soldiers, with which weapon he shot Corporal Raúl Trejo Flores, wounding him in
The child Noemí Blanco Arguet, a two months old, died as the result of an illness
of several days duration, as confirmed by Mrs. María Moreno Márquez, a resident
in the camp at the time of the incident.
- The possibility that several residents of the camp might have been beaten cannot be
ruled out, since the soldiers conducting the inspection were met by refugees
wielding small-calibre weapons, knives and pointed implements, shovels and
stones. Consequently they were forced to repel the physical aggression towards
them exhibited by foreigners who had been given refuge by the Government of
Honduras for purely humanitarian reasons.
- According to the report made to this ministry, it is completely untrue that women
in the camp were raped. Estela Rodríguez, who participated directly in the
physical aggression against the troops, was wounded in the ankle, prompting her to
state that she would say that she had been raped. This account was confirmed by
one of the refugees.
The Government of Honduras wishes to reaffirm to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights its willingness to continue to offer protection and
humanitarian aid to the refugees within the framework of the principles deriving
from respect for national sovereignty and international law.
- The Commission, in a communication dated December 16, 1985, transmitted to
the petitioner the information from the Government of Honduras, setting a period of 45 days for
- Since the Government of Honduras had posed questions, in a note of November
14, 1985 (No. 936-DAI-DSPE), received subsequently to the December 3 note cited in section
12, concerning the exhaustion of internal remedies, the Commission, in a note of December 18,
1985, to the Government provided the necessary clarifications. Likewise, on December 18, 1985,
it asked the petitioner for further information on the status of the case before the Honduran
authorities or the progress of their investigations. That request was renewed on January 22,
- Since the deadline for submission by the Government of Honduras of the data
requested in the October 23, 1985 note had passed, on February 10, 1986, the Commission again
asked for such information to be sent.
- The petitioner, in a communication of February 10, 1986, responded as follows to
the reply of the Government of Honduras on December 3, 1985:
With regard to the response of the Government of Honduras dated December 3,
- It is entirely untrue that Mr. Saúl Manuel Romero died "after having
forcibly seized the rifle of one of the soldiers, with which weapon he shot Corporal Raúl
Trejo Flores, wounding him in the leg." This could not be the direct cause of his death
even admitting, as the Honduran Government would have us believe, that the refugee
Romero offered resistance. The direct cause of his death was the physical violence
committed against him by the Honduran soldiers, culminating, as we are told by the
eye-witness Josefina Pugimon Colell, a Spanish-volunteer teacher, in his throat being cut.
The refugee Saúl Manuel Romero, according to the attached testimony, did not resist in
any way, but even if he had instinctively defended himself, by grabbing the weapon or had
even used it to wound Corporal Raúl Trejo Flores in the leg, his violent death cannot be
justified, as the Honduran Government maintains in its answer to the charges.
With reference to the child Noemí Blanco Argueta, two months old, who,
according to the Honduran Government "died as the result of an illness of several days
duration, as confirmed by Mrs. María Moreno Márquez, a resident in the camp at the time
of the incident," this is completely false. We cannot refute, since we do not know, the fact
that the child might have been ill, but the direct and immediate cause of her death we do
know, from the testimony of several refugees and of the Spaniard Josefina Purgimon
Colell. The child was kicked by a soldier who attacked her grandmother, Silvina Blanco,
39, who was carrying the baby in her arms as she fled from her attackers. Against the
word of Mrs. María Moreno Márquez, cited by the Government of Honduras, we offer the
testimony of the child's grandmother, recorded on the cassettes we submit herewith,
photographs showing the battered child and her grandmother and written testimony
gathered by the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees/Inter-Church Committee for
Human Rights of Canada.
As you will realize from listening carefully to the cassettes, the on-site witnesses
refute the statements of the Honduran Government and describe in great detail the
barbaric actions of the Honduran army. The photograph of the dead child clearly shows
on the lower left part of her face the bruise caused by the kick of the Honduran soldier.
- The Government of Honduras says that "The possibility that several
residents of the camp might have been beaten cannot be ruled out, since the soldiers
conducting the inspection were met by refugees wielding small-calibre weapons, knives
and pointed implements, shovels and stones. Consequently they were forced to repel the
physical aggression exhibited by the foreigners who had been given refuge by the
Government of Honduras for purely humanitarian reasons." It would appear, following
the reasoning of the Government of Honduras, that its army was attacked and reacted in
legitimate self-defense to the aggression by the refugees while inspecting the camp on
The same position is inferred from the statement made in paragraph one, l, of its
response, declaring that Saúl Manuel Romero had died "after having forcibly seized the
rifle of one of the soldiers".
Neither Saúl Manuel Romero nor any of the refugees in Colomoncagua showed
any aggressiveness whatsoever against the soldiers. The latter were the ones who forced
their way in, as described in the testimony of Josefina Purgimon Colell, who said: "At no
time did I see a single refugee display the slightest force against the soldiers; at all times
they confined themselves to approaching the soldiers and asking them please not to
mistreat their refugee companions. The soldiers who struck and tortured the refugees had
painted their faces green and black. It was my impression that they were under the
influence of drugs".
But if we again assume--a completely unrealistic premise--that the refugees had
physically attacked the soldiers, did the latter have the right to kill them, to repress them
as they did, to apprehend ten and torture them so barbarically?
The Honduran Government should, on the other hand, confess to the Commission
that it was not just a matter of "several residents" of Colomoncagua who were wounded.
The Commission has already received the long list of refugees who were beaten or shot, in
addition to the three killed and the ten captured and tortured. This list was drawn up by
the Office of the Archbishop of San Salvador and the Bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán,
Honduras. We ask the Government of Honduras to provide evidence of the weapons
carried by the refugees and of the wounds inflicted by their attack. Finally, the
Government of Honduras has reported its own version of the episode in that country,
alleging that guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) of
El Salvador were in the camp. From its standpoint, this is consistent with the account it is
now relaying to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Honduras noted in a communiqué published in the
Honduran press that all of the refugees apprehended--the alleged guerrilla
commandants--carried refugee documents and were under the protection of the UNHCR,
thus refuting the government story. We bring this point up so that the Commission may
be apprised of the malice with which the Honduran Government has sought to justify this
gross violation of human rights. Moreover, these occurrences are not isolated ones, since
there have been many cases of harassment and repression of Salvadoran refugees for the
purpose of bringing about their forced repatriation or proposed relocation in the interior of
the country for strictly military purposes.
- Concerning the sexual violation committed by the Honduran soldiers and
denied by that government in its writ, we base ourselves on the testimony given by the
victim, Estela Rodríguez on one of the cassettes we are remitting.
One item of evidence collected by the Canadian Inter-Church Committee for
Refugees/Inter-Church Committee for Human Rights in Latin America also bears on the
matter. The report by the Office of the Archbishop of San Salvador and the Bishop of
Copán indicates that both Estela Rodríguez and Concepción Martínez were raped by the
I refer also to the information requested from us concerning the exhaustion of
internal judicial remedies in the case in question.
The Vice-Chairman of the Commission for the Protection of Human Rights in
Honduras, Mr. Oscar Aníbal Puerto Possas, filed a writ of habeas corpus for Ramón
Mejía, Aníbal Márquez, David Torres, Albertario Sánchez, Braulio Chicas, Filadelfo
Portillo, Raúl Arguenta, Leonel Rodríguez, Domingo Vigil and Carlos Hernández before
the Supreme Court on September 4, 1985. Three months later, on December 9, 1985, the
executory judge Samuel Cano argued "that it had not been executed because the secretary
employed by him at the time had misplaced the document and he had been unaware of the
fact." (See copy of the writ and footnote attached). On January 15, 1986, according to
press reports, the ten men arrested by the Government of Honduras were deported to
Lima, Peru. On January 22 of this year the CODEH Vice-Chairman asked for certification
of judgment of the habeas corpus writ. To date we have no knowledge of any reply
having been received from the Supreme Court of Honduras in that respect. As you will
realize, an effort was made to exhaust internal remedies on behalf of the ten people
apprehended but it was unproductive; pursuant to the provisions of Article 34, 2, d the
parties concerned have been prevented from ensuring such exhaustion.
On the other hand, no attempt was made by the Commission for the Protection of
Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) to exhaust local justice in order to seek sanctions
against those responsible for the occurrences of August 29, 1985, and to fix responsibility.
The reasons for proceeding in this manner are contained in a letter of reply to our
request for information on the matter signed by its Chairman, Dr. Ramón Custodio López,
which we received only a few days ago.
If, in a case of habeas corpus, a recourse which is by its very nature expeditious,
pursuant to the American Convention on the rights and Duties of Man, Art. 7(6) and the
political constitution of that country, the papers have been "misplaced", what can be
expected from an ordinary trial accusing the soldiers guilty of the violations? Which of the
refugees would dare to testify against them?
This whole situation makes it impossible for internal remedies to be exhausted by
the victims or by the agencies of human rights working on their behalf. Moreover, it must
be noted that a widespread climate of repression is steadily being created in Honduras,
leading to total disrespect for the law, especially with regard to human rights.
Therefore, given the gravity of the facts that concern us and the scope of the
violations, we ask the honorable Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to:
- Admit our petition in the case in question.
- Pursuant to Article 40 of the Regulations, hold a hearing to inform itself
more fully on the facts.
- The Commission, in a note dated March 10, 1986, transmitted to the Government
of Honduras the pertinent parts of the reply transcribed above, setting a term of 30 days for
receipt of its comments or rejoinder.
- In a cable of April 11, 1986, the Government of Honduras asked for a 30 day
extension of the term for transmittal of such rejoinder.
- The Government of Honduras, in a cable on April 7, 1985, transmitted by the
Permanent Mission of Honduras to the OAS (Note No. 13 of April 7, 1985) stated that it would
in due course report on the inquiries being made by the authorities based on the observations and
reply of the petitioner.
- The Commission took note of those communications during its 68th period of
sessions (April 1986), having agreed not to grant the additional term of 30 days requested by the
Government of Honduras on April 11, 1985. A note to that effect was sent to the Government of
Honduras on April 28, 1986.
- Since the Government of Honduras had not supplied the reports, the Commission
in a note of July 28, 1986, again requested the same, noting possible application of the provision
made in Article 42 of the Regulations to presume the truth of the facts denounced.
- The Government of Honduras did not reply.
- The petitioners, in a hearing before the Commission on September 22, 1986, during the 68th period of sessions of the Commission, stated in oral and written
testimony that they had been the victims of sudden attack by the Armed Forces of Honduras at
about 1:00 p.m. on August 29, 1985, at the Colomoncagua Camp involving a number of soldiers
under the command of a major Ramírez, that some refugees were taken from there to the town of
La Esperanza for questioning by military authorities and were subjected to all kinds of outrages,
mistreatment and beatings and finally transferred to the First Infantry Battalion in Tegucigalpa.
From there those worse off were sent to a medical center where they were confined for 23 days
without treatment and with very little food or water, accused of being Salvadoran guerrillas.
- In addition the claimants made the following statement during that hearing:
- That on August 29, 1985, as the Commission is aware, the Honduran army
invaded the Colomoncagua camp inhabited by Salvadoran refugees--including
ourselves--in a military operation that seemed carefully planned in view of how they acted,
killing three persons, one only two months of age, and beating and brutally intimidating
the other refugees.
- That on that occasion ten prisoners were taken and held incommunicado
for more than four months at different detention sites in Honduras, having been cruelly
subjected to both physical and mental torture, accused of being guerrillas or collaborators
of Salvadoran guerrillas, which is completely untrue and ultimately deported to the
Republic of Peru through the intervention of humanitarian agencies including the Red
Cross and UNHCR in January of this year. Since May they have been under the
protection of the Canadian Government.
- That our families, wives, children and other relatives, are still in Honduras
and we are justifiably afraid that they will suffer major reprisals since the refugee camps
are the object of extremely strict and repressive treatment and vigilance.
- That we have learned of the denunciation lodged in our behalf by the
Commission for the Protection of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA), with
headquarters in San José, Costa Rica, which represents us in this case.
- That we are gravely concerned by the fate of our fellow refugees currently
in Honduras at different camps subject to the pressure of relocation and prevented from
living a normal existence because of constant intimidation from the Honduran army.
- That all of the regulation provisions for processing of the case have been
exhausted without the Honduran Government having provided the reports offered in the cable of
April 4, 1986.
- That the information provided by the Government of Honduras is insufficient to
refute the denunciation and instead affirms commission of the acts covered by the complaint,
pursuant to the contents of paragraph two, 5, to the official communiqué of the National
Commission for Refugees transmitted by the Government of Honduras in the cable dated
September 11, 1985, transcribed above.
- That, based on international law and in the terms of the international commitments
of Honduras, the Honduran authorities are responsible for the situation, safety and integrity of
refugees exiled in their territory. Consequently, the refusal to accept that responsibility, as
inferred from the contents of the communiqué by the National Commission for Refuguees, is
unacceptable especially with reference to points 3 and 4 transcribed.
- That the Government of Honduras did not specifically report to the Commission
on the course of the investigations made to clarify the facts, to wit: what authority initiated the
investigation, when did it begin, what suspects were aprehended and where were they detained
and, finally, what is the status of the matter before the national authorities.
- That, likewise, the information supplied subsequently in the press communiqué of
the National Commission for Refugees (Note of 18/9/85-No. 721) raises serious questions, such
as the following:
What judicial authority (civil or military) took note of the detention of the
suspected Salvadoran guerrilla José Antonio Chicas Sánchez;
- What suit was filed against that individual;
- Copy of the interrogation of that individual, and
- Information on whether Mr. Chicas Sánchez was assigned a competent lawyer
during the interrogation and other formalities undertaken in his behalf and where he was placed on
trial, the trial outcome and where he is serving his sentence.
- That the Honduran Government has also failed to furnish information on the
bloody events that occurred in Colomoncagua, of which the victims were Mr. Saúl Romero, 23,
and the child Gloria Noemí Blanco Argueta, two months, both killed in the incident or the several
wounded, including the following: Juan Cristo Pérez, 3; Elías Vásquez, 4; Domitila Ramo, 13;
Andrea Gómez, 48; Elia Hernández, 19; Maura Ramírez, 42; Modesta Rodríguez, 61; Rutilio
Arguta, 43; Santiago Gómez, 56; Santiago Hernández, 62; Candelaria Maradiaga, 56; Eduardo
Mejía, 70; Juan Sánez, 33 and Santos Vásquez, 33. We do not know if a criminal trial was held
to determine responsibility in those cases or its outcome.
- That the Commission also failed to receive information on the legal status of the
persons wounded during the course of the events or regarding the case of the alleged rape of
Estela Rodríguez, 24 years of age, and Concepción Martínez, whose age is not mentioned in the
data received by the Commission.
- That in the case covered by the complaint, the petitioner has not been permitted
access to internal remedies or has been prevented from exhausting them, in which case the
requisite provided for in Article 37 of the Regulations has been superseded.
- That the Commission is in receipt of the testimony given by an eye-witness to the
events that occurred in Colomoncagua. That witness belongs to an international humanitarian aid
unit and, because of her status, is considered to be reliable. Her testimony affirms facts that
coincide in every point with the details contained in the complaint lodged with the Commission,
which is valuable evidence in favor of the truth of that denunciation.
- That, as stated in the background to this resolution, the Commission also has
available other testimony and presentations by the petitioners and eyewitnesses to the acts, all of
which coincide with the other evidence mentioned, according to which it can be affirmed, beyond
any reasonable doubt, that the acts denounced occurred in the manner stated and that the
Honduran authorities must accept a grave responsibility, especially the military leaders who
ordered and those who carried out the operation of August 29, 1985, at the Colomoncagua
- That Article 42 of the Regulations authorizes the Commission to presume the facts
reported in the petition to be true, provided other evidence does not lead to a different conclusion,
which is not the case in this instance.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
- To presume the facts described in Case 9619, occurring at the Colomoncagua,
Honduras, refugee camp on August 29, 1985, to be true.
- To point out to the Government of Honduras that the facts denounced in this case
constitute serious violations of human rights in general and, specifically, of those set forth in
Articles 4 (1); 5 (1) and 8 (1 and 2, c and d) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
- To request the Government of Honduras to present to the Commission within 60
days a detailed and complete report on the course of the investigations conducted concerning the
events that occurred at the Colomoncagua Camp, particularly whether trials have been held to
establish the criminal responsibility for such acts and what has been their outcome, taking into
account the serious nature of the acts and the cases of deaths, serious wounds, assault on children
and rapes committed at that place on August 29, 1985.
- To recommend that the Government of Honduras also report to the Commission
within 60 days on the measures proposed with a view to granting the victims or their heirs the
adequate indemnification to which they are entitled.
- To include the text of this resolution in the Annual Report of the Commission to
the OAS General Assembly, pursuant to Article 63, g of its Regulations.
- To transmit this resolution to the Government of Honduras and to the petitioner.
[ Inter-American Human Rights