American Amnesty 5 INCE 1961 Amnesty International, the London-based human rights advocacy group, has gathered information on human rights abuses from individuals and human rights groups all over the world. AI also sends delegations to countries each year to observe trials and speak with government officials and human rights workers. This year, 45 delegations traveled to 40 countries. The following summaries of human rights violations in the Americas are taken from Amnesty International’s report, 1992: A Comprehensive Report on Human Rights Violations Around the World. Each passage here quoted is an introduction to a detailed section on the country’s human rights situation. Countries not included are not necessarily free of human rights violations; specific cases of violations might not have been documented in those countries during the past year. The countries are arranged roughly by geographic position, starting from northmost North America proceeding southward. The figures are the year’s total for 1991. North America Canada Two fugitives were extradited to the United States of America, where they face the death penalty. Allegations of ill-treatment by several Mohawk Indians arrested during a land dispute in 1990 remained unresolved. At least one case, however, was under investigation by a police complaints body. United States At least 32 members of the United States armed forces were held as prisoners of conscience during the year for refusing to participate in the Gulf conflict. More than 2,500 people were under sentence of death in 34 states and 14 prisoners were executed. There were new appeals in the cases of two prisoners who alleged that their prosecutions were politically motivated. There were complaints of torture and illtreatment in custody of asylum-seekers and criminal suspects. AI also noted that through the end of May 1992, 19 executions already had taken place in the United States, compared with 14 executions in all of 1991. Four states resumed executions after more than 20 years without them. Mexico The widespread use of torture and ill-treatment by law-enforcement agents continued to be reported. At least one prisoner of conscience was held for several weeks. Hundreds of peo Information from Amnesty International’s annual report was compiled and prepared by Observer editorial intern Jubilee Barton. ple were arbitrarily detained and ill-treated by the security forces during forced evictions of peasants. At least one person “disappeared” and little progress was reported in clarifying hundreds of “disappearances” from previous years. A journalist was believed to have been killed because of his articles accusing the police of human rights abuses. Most of those responsible for human rights violations were not brought to justice. Prison conditions continued to be harsh. Central America Belize Five people were under sentence of death for murder. In two cases, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals. Three other death sentences were overturned on appeal. The last execution took place in 1985. Guatemala Hundreds of people were alleged to have been extrajudicially executed by security forces and their civilian agents. Scores of others “disappeared.” The victims included indigenous people, human rights activists, trade unionists, street children and a police officer investigating human rights abuses. Members of popular movements, journalists and others were increasingly subjected to death threats and harassment; several were abducted and tortured by unidentified armed men believed to belong to the security forces. Police officers were reported to have tortured or ill-treated criminal suspects and street children. Honduras of land conflicts were among many political detainees allegedly tortured under police or army interrogation. Five unarmed campesinos involved in a land dispute were shot dead in May by members of the military in Atlantida, in circumstances suggesting they had been extrajudicially executed. An army colonel and a captain were prosecuted for the murder of a student. There were at least three other apparently politically motivated killings in circumstances suggesting the collusion of the security forces. An amnesty law introduced in July further obstructed investigations into past extrajudicial executions and “disappearances.” Despite government pledges, few steps were taken to clarify the fate of the “disappeared.” El Salvador Dozens of people were reported to have been extrajudicially executed by the security forces. Some 35 further killings and numerous death threats were attributed to clandestine “death squads” believed to be linked to the armed forces. A colonel was convicted for the murder in 1989 of six Jesuit priests and two uni versity staff members, but the armed forces continued to evade accountability for hundreds of extrajudicial executions and “disappearances” in recent years. Torture was frequently used in police and military custody and legal detention procedures continued to be flouted. Nicaragua A number of demobilized contra rebels were alleged to have been killed by individuals linked to the security forces although the circumstances in many cases were disputed. There were no prosecutions in connection with the killing of a former army officer by one of the VicePresident’s bodyguards and the death of a youth allegedly shot by military escorts. Relatives of several people who had “disappeared” under the previous government identified remains found in four clandestine graves. The National Police was alleged to have used excessive force in the context of labor disputes. An amnesty law passed in December provided continued immunity from prosecution for human rights violations and other acts of political violence committed before that date. Panama Three leaders of.a disbanded paramilitary auxiliary force continued to be held on charges which appeared to be politically motivated rather than for a specific criminal act. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment in several prisons. At least two prisoners reportedly died in custody in unclear circumstances. Prison conditions were reported to be very harsh. West Indies Bahamas Two death sentences were imposed. No executions took place; the last execution was carried out in 1986. At the end of the year there were 23 prisoners on death row. Parliament approved legislation to impose corporal punishment for certain offences. Cuba There were scores of prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience, perhaps two or three hundred, at the end of 1991. Many were critics of the government or human rights activists detained in the course of their peaceful activities. Others were arrested for trying to leave the country without authorization. Access to defense lawyers in political cases continued to be severely limited. Reports of ill-treatment and, in isolated cases, torture were more frequent than in recent years. At least two executions were carried out. Haiti At least 20 political prisoners detained by the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13 41> ,r110 ,41.1,,,M1 *.
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