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December 6, 2000




The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) appealed today for support from the political bodies of the Organization of American States to strengthen the Hemisphere's human rights defense system.

Inaugurating a conference to examine the human rights situation in the Americas, the Commission's Chairman, Hélio Bicudo, said it was crucial for member states "to implement the Commission's recommendations and the complementary decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights when states fail to honor their commitment to respect and guarantee human rights."

OAS Secretary General César Gaviria, pointing to how universal the system is, called for steps to encourage countries like the United States and Canada to join. "I believe such a move would be a significant boost to the system."

Noting the progress on such issues as women's rights and gender equality, indigenous peoples, the rights of minorities, non-discrimination, the fight against racism and the rights of children and migrant workers, the Secretary General called for a mechanism to enforce the judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In his remarks, Permanent Council Chairman Ambassador Peter Boehm of Canada stressed the promotion and protection of human rights is not only a priority on the inter-American agenda but also a shared responsibility. Boehm recalled that "a year and a half ago, when the inter-American human rights protection system seemed on the verge of collapse, member states rallied in solidarity to strengthen it, through dialogue."

Ambassador Margarita Escobar of El Salvador lauded the Commission's work on the human rights-related mandates from the General Assembly, proposing "a program of action to realize progress in the various branches of the system."

Conference participants included the Ambassadors of Chile, Mexico and the United States as well as noted human rights experts and officials of the OAS' Human Rights Commission.