ICJ mission to the Dominican Republic

The ICJ confirmed today that it is sending at the invitation of the government two observers to attend the trials of persons accused of assassinating Generalissimo Trujillo.

The trials are expected, to start on December 5. The Commission’s observers are Dr. Sebastian Soler, former Attorney General of the post-Peron Government in Argentina, and Dr. Fernando Fournier, President of the Bar Association of Costa Rica. Dr. Fournier is already in the Dominican Republic while Dr. Soler is expected to leave on December 2.

The Commission, which is a private and non-political organization, is dedicated to the strengthening and promotion of the Rule of Law throughout the world. It draws its support from some 39,000 lawyers, judges, law teachers and legal associations in over 60 countries throughout the world. Aside from its regular publications, the Commission has published extensive reports concerning the violations of human rights in Hungary and Tibet and has published a detailed report criticizing apartheid in South Africa. It has sent observers to the South Africa Treason Trial, to the Yassiada Trials in Turkey, political trials in Spain, as well as trials in Ethiopia and elsewhere.

A year ago, when the Trujillo regime was still in power, the Commission tried to send an observer to the Dominican Republic to obtain information on the legal situation in that country.

The Commission had become increasingly concerned over persistent reports from citizens of the Dominican Republic as well as international organizations of the systematic violation of basic human rights and freedoms by the Trujillo regime. It had decided to investigate the allegations by sending to the Dominican Republic an observer whose personal integrity and professional standing as a distinguished jurist would guarantee an objective and impartial appraisal of the situation in that country. The Commission was fortunate in obtaining cooperation of Dr. Julio Cueto-Rua, of Argentina, a Professor of Law and a former Minister of Industry and Commerce in the Aramburu government.

On April 27, 1960, Professor Cueto-Rua, who was then a Visiting Professor at the School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, applied for a visa to the competent authorities of the Dominican Republic in the United States. Frequent requests for action on his application produced no results and the tone of replies indicated that the Dominican authorities were employing delaying and evasive tactics. On June 23, the then Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, Dr. Jean-Flavien Lalive, addressed an urgent request to the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Dominican Republic at Ciudad Trujillo, asking for immediate consideration of Professor Cueto-Rua’s application. No reply or acknowledgment was received. On July 12, Dr. Lalive sent a cable to the same Minister repeating the request for the granting of a visa for the Commission’s observer. No reply has been received to this cable.

The International Commission of Jurists after further careful study and consideration of the situation has come to the conclusion that the Trujillo government of the Dominican Republic did willingly and deliberately refuse to permit an impartial and professionally qualified observer of a world-wide legal organization to enter the Dominican Republic to conduct an objective investigation of charges that the Dominican authorities are systematically violating human rights and the principles and procedures of the Rule of Law.

The Commission furthermore expressed at that time its great concern over what appeared to be a serious and deliberate maladministration of justice in the Dominican Republic, and declared that:

  •  it was the intention of the Commission to follow closely developments in the Dominican Republic, to give consideration to all claims of violations of human rights and justice based on verifiable evidence, to request all individuals and organizations possessing such evidence to forward it to the Commission’s headquarters in Geneva, and to publish a full account of its examination.

The Commission continued its investigation of the situation in the Dominican Republic and received the cooperation of a large number of individuals and organizations throughout Latin America. Following the assassination of Generalissimo Trujillo, the Commission was asked on June 10, 1961, by the Dominican Government to appoint two observers to attend the trials of those accused of his murder. The Commission appointed Dr. Soler and Dr. Fournier and requested not only details of the charges but also permission for its observers to investigate the general legal situation in the Dominican Republic.

At the end of October, the Commission cabled President Balaguer asking whether the Commission’s observers could visit the Dominican Republic be-fore the trials started in order to determine whether the International Commission of Jurists could be of any assistance to President Balaguer in restoring the Rule of Law in the Dominican Republic. A reply was received stating that such a visit would be welcome. While preparing for this pre-trial mission, word was received from President Balaguer that the trials of those accused of assassinating Generalissimo Trujillo had been set for December 5.

Dr. Sebastian Soler has taught penal law in Argentina and is the author of the standard five-volume work on Argentine criminal law. He has been a judge, and from 1955 to 1958 he was the Attorney General of Argentina. In 1950 and 1954, he served on the 2nd and 3rd Commissions of Experts of the United Nations for the prevention of crime and treatment of delinquents. In 1959 he was charged by the Government of Argentina to prepare the Criminal Code of Argentina. In the same year, the Government of Guatemala asked him to prepare reforms of criminal law in Guatemala.

Dr. Fernando Fournier is the President of the Bar Association of Costa Rica. Prior to this position, he has served his government in a number of capacities. In 1948, he was one of the Commission of nine lawyers which prepared the draft of the new Constitution of Costa Rica. He was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1949. He attended the 5th and 9th General Assemblies of the United Nations as a delegate of Costa Rica. From 1953 to 1955 he was the Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs and from 1955 to 1956 he was the Costa Rican Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States. He was elected President of the Costa Rican Bar Association in 1960. In addition to practicing law, Dr. Fournier teaches Roman Law at the University of Costa Rica.

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