February 25, 2002
in Spanish version:
-Enrique Lagos, Subsecreario de Asuntos Jurídicos de la Secretaria
General de la OEA
-Embajador Balsco Peñaherrera, Representante Permanente de la Ecuador y
Presidente del Consejo Permanente
-Juan Méndez, Presidente de la CIDH
Video / 40'06"
RIGHTS PROBLEMS STILL PREVALENT IN AMERICAS—IACHR
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) opened its regular session today,
pointing to "some progress" in human rights in Latin America
but noted "a serious backward step in many instances."
Chairman Juan Méndez inaugurated the 114 session at the Organization of
American States (OAS) Headquarters, citing such progress as the
entrenchment of democratic regimes in the Hemisphere, a more organized
civil society sector and the progressive development of international
law. But he argued that longstanding problems remained, such
as impunity with regard to human rights violations (torture and
extra-judicial executions); judicial branches that are underdeveloped in
most countries of the region; and threats to the independence and
impartiality of the judiciary in certain countries. "A significant
part of Latin America lives in extreme poverty—a situation that
generally violates all individual human rights," Méndez explained.
Turning to current problems facing the region, the IACHR Chairman
said the OAS human rights agency remains "very concerned about the
situation in Colombia and is keeping it under observation."
Saying he hopes the Colombian peace process will be resumed, Méndez
called on all the parties involved in the conflict to respect the
pertinent rules of international humanitarian law and human rights.
The Commission continues to monitor the human rights situation in
Cuba and Haiti, he noted as well, adding that in recent years notable
progress has been made in setting inter-American standards for human
rights protection. He
conceded that limited financial resources remain a basic hindrance to
the work of human rights institutions, and called on the Permanent
Council to provide the Commission with more financial and human
resources so it can "continue to fully implement the mandate given
it by the member states themselves."
the recent resignation of Peru's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Diego García
Sayán, as a Commission member, the Chairman said nominations to fill
the vacancy will be announced, "so as to restore the Commission's
full membership as soon as possible."
Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Enrique Lagos, speaking on the
Secretary General's behalf, characterized human rights as "a top
priority for the Organization of American States."
He described the exchange being undertaken in the Committee on
Juridical and Political Affairs on bolstering the inter-American system
as "very positive."
Meanwhile, the Permanent Council Chairman, Ambassador Blasco Peñaherrera
of Ecuador, touched on the need to defend and support the Commission as
a technical and autonomous body as it carries out its functions, with an
emphasis on its role as an OAS advisory body.
He also urged the member states to make every effort to implement
the Commission's recommendations.
Peñaherrera further proposed "collective, concerted and
dynamic action that is frank and vigorous" to tackle international
terrorism. He observed that, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001
attacks on the United States, this problem could assume a significant
The Human Commission remains in session until March 15, and will
hold 56 hearings on cases before it.
The session will also consider such issues as precautionary
measures, friendly settlements and the general human rights situation in
a number of member countries.