The petition received by the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, dated September 9, 1987, to the effect that:
On June 29, 1987, three persons working for the Bella Vista Ranch, Guadalupe canton, Apopa, El Salvador, were taken by soldiers attached to the First Infantry Brigade stationed at San Carlos Base, San Salvador. The cases are as follows:
Hernandez Quintanilla, 31 years of age, married, a hired hand on the
ranch in question, whose habitual domicile was in Las Delicias Canton in
the jurisdiction of Apopa. His
mother, Estebana Hernandez, was a witness when he was seized; in a sworn
statement made before the non governmental Commission on Human Rights of
El Salvador, she stated that at the San Carlos Base, there were
conflicting reports on his seizure.
soldier, a family acquaintance, hinted that he was there. Letters were sent to Colonel Oscar Campos Anaya, Commandant
of the Headquarters of the First Infantry Brigade, to inquire about
Hernandez Quintanilla's seizure,
but without result.
July 1 and July 9, petitions of habeas corpus were filed, but without
most notable fact is that on July 2, COPREFA (Salvadoran Armed Service
Press Committee) issued a press release reporting that Hernandez
Quintanilla and two others
taken at that same place on that same date, had been kidnapped by
Armando Martinez, age 52, who was living with someone and working on the
Bella Vista ranch, was taken away by the same soldiers who had taken
Hernandez Quintanilla on June 29. Numerous
witnesses and other workers on the ranch watched as he was taken away.
A number of military bases and political organizations denied
that he was being held. A
petition of habeas corpus was filed on July 9, but without result.
A COPREFA press release dated July 2 reported that he was taken
Antonio Zarpate Juarez, age 45, who was living with someone and working
at the ranch as a clerk, was seized on June 29 by armed elements in
civilian attire, who later joined up with the soldiers from the First
That in a note dated October 21, 1987, the Commission began
processing this case and asked the Government of El Salvador to supply
the pertinent information on the facts reported in that communication
and any other information that would show that the remedies under
domestic law had been exhausted in the case in question; the Commission
told the Government that it had 90 days in which to answer that request;
That on July 11, 1988, the Commission again asked the Government
of El Salvador for information on the investigations being conducted
into the instant case, and set a 30-day period for the
That in November 1988, the Government of El Salvador replied,
Under No. 1631-Mc-87, the CDH has on record the measures taken to investigate the apprehension of Juan Armando Martinez Cano, Jose Antonio Zarpate Juarez, and Francisco Hernandez (...) who, at around 9:30 a.m. on June 29, 1987, were apprehended at the Bella Vista Ranch by a group of approximately eight, heavily armed individuals in civilian dress. They took them away on foot, headed for the road from Ayutuxtepeque to Mejicanos. Miss Blanca Estela Morales Martinez, the daughter of Mr. Martinez Cano, reported what had happened. She had heard the news reports put out by the Armed Service Press Committee (COPREFA) to the effect that the individuals in question had been kidnapped by terrorists, which she said was false. On the day the men were taken, she saw a large number of Army troops in the lower reaches of the ranch; some were changing out of their camouflage fatigues into civilian clothing. This Commission made inquiries to ascertain the whereabouts of the men, but thus far has found nothing.
That on May 3, 1989, the petitioner sent additional information
and observations on the Government's reply, which were forwarded to the
authorities of El Salvador on June 21, 1989, with 30 days in which to
send in its observations. The
pertinent parts of the information supplied by the petitioner read as
of the evidence points to the fact that troopers from the First Infantry
Brigade of the Armed Force, in civilian dress and backed up by troopers in uniform, kidnapped the three men; around the time
the first two were taken, the workers on the Bella Vista Ranch saw
members of the First Infantry Brigade of the National Army in the
vicinity of the coffee groves; one witness said that when the men in
civilian dress took the kidnapped men away, they were followed by
uniformed soldiers; people in the vicinity say that the First Infantry
Brigade frequents that particular spot.
Moreover, when relatives of Francisco Hernandez Quintanilla went
to the headquarters of the First Infantry Brigade asking for information
about Mr. Hernandez Quintanilla's legal situation, they were told that
their relative was being held there; later that same day, however,
another soldier contradicted this report, and denied that he was being
held there. The three men
have not appeared to date; various inquiries to ascertain his
whereabouts have turned up nothing.
That in communications dated February 12, 1990, March 22, 1990,
November 13, 1990, and finally, January 17, 1991, the Commission
repeatedly asked the Government of El Salvador to forward its
observations, but has yet to receive any reply.
At its 79th session, the Commission adopted Report N°
13/91, which was dispatched to the Government of El Salvador so that it
might formulate whatever observations its deemed appropriate, within
three months of the date of dispatch. The report indicated that if the
case was not settled by the Government, or submitted by it to the Court,
the Commission would decide whether to publish the report.
That the Commission is competent to hear the present case
inasmuch as it involves violations of rights recognized in the American
Convention on Human Rights--Article 4 on the right to life,
Article 7 on the right to personal liberty, and Article 25 on the right
to judicial protection--as provided under Article 44 of that
Convention, of which El Salvador is a State Party.
That the petition satisfies the formal requirements for
admissibility as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights
and in the Regulations of the Commission.
That the petition is not pending settlement in any other
international proceeding and is not a restatement of a previous petition
that the Commission has already examined.
That in the instant case, the petitioner has not been given
effective protection by the competent organs, as evidenced by a number
of facts, among them the following: the petitions of habeas corpus filed
with the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador produced no results;
and in its reply of November 1988, the Government itself, through its
Human Rights Commission, stated that it "made inquiries to
ascertain the whereabouts of the men, but thus far has found
the requirements concerning exhaustion of remedies under domestic law,
contained in Article 46 of the Convention, do not apply.
That the note that the Government sent in reply in November 1988
provides no information whatever concerning the situation of the men who
disappeared, nor does it take issue with the facts as the petitioners
reported them to the Commission. To
the contrary, it makes specific reference to the statements made by the
daughter of Mr. Martinez Cano to the effect that they were not kidnapped
by terrorists: "on the day the men were taken, she saw a large
number of Army troops in the lower reaches of the ranch; some were
changing out of their camouflage fatigues into civilian clothing."
Further, despite the time that has passed and the repeated
overtures made by the Commission, the Government of El Salvador has not
forwarded any further response to the facts denounced in this case.
That according to the text of the petition and the information
supplied by eyewitnesses to the events, Mr. Hernandez Martinez and Mr.
Zarpate were taken away by members of the Army who were seen while they
were changing out of uniform and putting on civilian clothes, thereby
revealing the technique used by members of the Armed Service to conceal
their actions and avoid the blame that they deserve for their part in
committing acts that were a deliberate violation of the victims' human
That the Commission has repeatedly expressed its categorical
repudiation of the grave phenomenon of forced disappearance, stating in
various documents that:
this practice is cruel and inhuman... forced disappearance not only
constitutes an arbitrary deprivation
of liberty, but also a very severe threat to the personal
integrity, security and the very life of the victim.
That for its part, the General Assembly of the Organization of
American States has adopted numerous resolutions wherein it has
underscored the fact that countries where forced disappearances have
occurred must put an immediate end to this practice, and has urged the
governments to take the measures necessary to ascertain the situation of
these people. The General
Assembly has also declared that the forced disappearance of persons in
the Americas is a crime against humanity.
That in a judgment of July 29, 1988, in the Velasquez Rodriguez
case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights stated the
practice of disappearances, in addition to directly violating many
provisions of the Convention (...), constitutes a radical breach of the
treaty in that it shows a crass abandonment of the values which emanate
from the concept of human dignity and of the most basic principles of
the inter-American system and the Convention (...).
That since the friendly settlement procedure provided for in
Article 48.1.f. of the American Convention is not applicable because of
the very nature of the facts denounced, the Commission must comply with
the provisions of Article 50.1 of the Convention by issuing its
conclusions and recommendations on the petition filed for its
That the Government of El Salvador has not submitted observations
on Report N°
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare that the Government of El Salvador is responsible for
the violation of the right to life, the right to personal liberty and
the right to judicial protection (articles 4, 7, and 25 of the
Convention) of Mr. Francisco Hernandez Quintanilla, Mr. Juan Armando
Martinez, and Mr. Jose Antonio Zarpate Juarez, who disappeared on June
29, 1987, after being seized at their place of work, the Bella Vista
ranch, Guadalupe Canton, Apopa, El Salvador, by soldiers of the First
Infantry Brigade, according to the communication received by the
Commission on September 9, 1987.
To declare that the Government of El Salvador has not complied
with its obligations to respect the human rights and fundamental
guarantees, pursuant to Article 1 of the American Convention on Human
To make the following recommendations to the Government of El
Salvador, pursuant to Article 3.3 of the Convention and Article 47 of
the Commission's Regulations:
a. That it conduct a thorough, swift and rapid investigation into the facts denounced in order to identify those responsible and bring them to justice, so that they may receive the penalties that such grave conduct warrants.
That it adopt the measures necessary to avoid a reoccurrence of
such events in the future.
That it make reparations for the consequences of the violation of
the aforementioned rights and pay the injured parties fair compensation.
Request the Government of El Salvador to inform the Commission
regarding the measures it is adopting in the present case, in accordance
with the recommendations formulated in paragraph 3 of the operative part
of this report.
5. Publish this
report by including it in the Annual Report to be presented to the
General Assembly, in accordance with Article 48 of the Regulations of
the Commission; since the Government of El Salvador did not inform the
Commission of the measures it has taken to remedy the situation, within
the period prescribed in Report N°
Annual Report 1978, 1980-1981, 1982-83, 1985-86,
AG/RES. 443 (IX-0/79), AG/RES.510 (X-0/80), AG/RES.543
(XI-0/81), AG/RES. 618 (XII-0/82), AG/RES. 666
(XIII-0/83), and AG/RES. 742 (XIV-0/84).
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Velasquez Rodriguez
Case, Judgment of July 29, 1988, Series C. No. 4, paragraph 158.