Annex to Press Release 28/11 on the 141st Regular Session of the IACHR
April 1, 2011
Washington, D.C., April 1, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 141st regular session from March 21 to April 1, 2011. The IACHR is composed of Dinah Shelton, Chair; José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, First Vice-Chair; Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Luz Patricia Mejía, María Silvia Guillén, Felipe González, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.
During its 141st session, the Commission held 44 hearings and 29 working meetings. It also approved 68 reports on individual cases and petitions; 15 on admissibility; 4 on inadmissibility; 4 on friendly settlement; 11 on the merits; 4 decisions to publish a report on the merits; and 34 archive reports. The hearings and the reports reflect some of the structural human rights problems that persist in the region. These have to do with respect for the right to life and humane treatment; guarantees of due process and judicial protection; the exercise of economic, social, and cultural rights; and the situation involving the rights of children, migrants, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, women, persons deprived of liberty, and the LGBTI community, among other matters. During the sessions, the IACHR also adopted Resolution 1/2011.
In this session, the Commission made the decision to give special thematic emphasis to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (LGBTI). The Commission is deeply concerned over the information it has received in recent years on the de jure and de facto discrimination against these persons, the effects of this discrimination on every aspect of their lives, and in particular the intolerable levels of violence to which they are subject in States of the hemisphere. In the coming months, the Commission will study this type of discrimination and its effects from different angles, and it has accepted the OAS General Assembly's request to prepare reports on the state of the rights of LGBTI persons in the region. In addition, in the exercise of its functions, the IACHR will continue to process cases and offer guidance to the States in this area.
The Commission held a hearing on the impunity that exists in Haiti with regard to human rights violations that took place during the Duvalier dictatorship. The Commission received information on the difficulties the Haitian justice system faces in investigating and punishing these violations. In that regard, the IACHR notes the request for technical assistance on this matter made by the representatives of the Haitian State to the IACHR. The Inter-American Commission makes itself available to the Haitian authorities to collaborate, within the framework of its functions, in the investigation and punishment of the crimes committed during the Duvalier dictatorship. In this respect, the Commission points to the reported human rights violations laid out in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, which it prepared based on its onsite visit of August 16-25, 1979. The IACHR also calls to mind that, as the inter-American system's case law has continuously held, grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and torture have no statute of limitations and may not be subject to amnesty or pardons.
In hearings and working meetings, the IACHR received information about noncompliance with precautionary measures in several countries in the region. The IACHR calls on the States, based on their international obligations, to endeavor to develop policies and practices geared toward complying with precautionary measures, so as to provide effective protection to the beneficiaries. The IACHR also urges the States to refrain from any action that could aggravate the risk faced by those protected by these measures.
In this session the IACHR approved Admissibility Report 60/11, which joins the petitions submitted with regard to 14 individuals who were sentenced to death in six states of the United States (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, and Utah) and were later executed. The alleged victims were beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The Commission had asked the United States to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the Commission had the opportunity to decide on the petitioners' claims regarding the alleged violations of the American Declaration. The 14 individuals were executed in disregard of those measures. In the merits phase, which began with the approval of the admissibility report, the Inter-American Commission will analyze the allegations related to due process irregularities. The allegations repeated in several of the cases include the alleged lack of an adequate defense, the mental incapacity of several of the individuals who were sentenced to death, and the death row syndrome reportedly suffered by a large percentage of the alleged victims.
In a working meeting on violence against women human rights defenders in Colombia, the IACHR received troubling information about obstacles in the process of the State's coordination and adoption of precautionary measures granted to women human rights defenders in a situation of displacement; the impunity of acts of violence against women and barriers to access to justice; and the precarious situation of the rights of women victims of forced displacement who have been dispossessed of their lands. In that respect, the IACHR recognizes the efforts of both parties to reach a commitment agreement to find solutions to these problems at the national level.
The Commission also held a hearing on the implementation of Precautionary Measure 340-10, in which the IACHR requested that the Haitian government adopt a series of concrete measures to prevent sexual violence against girls and women who live in 22 camps for internally displaced persons in Port-au-Prince. The petitioning organizations indicated that even though some progress has been made, significant obstacles remain in implementation, such as with regard to access to health care; security and lighting; and the full participation of local organizations in implementing the measures. For its part, the Haitian State representatives informed the Commission about a series of steps the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Rights of Women has taken to prevent sexual violence in the camps. The Commission thanks the parties for the information they provided and underscores the importance of continuing to develop opportunities for dialogue.
With regard to the human rights situation in Honduras, the IACHR held three hearings: two thematic hearings and one on Petition 975-10, Dismissed Judges. The Commission observes with concern that certain human rights violations have continued, such as practices that were verified following the coup d'état of June 28, 2009. These refer specifically to the disproportionate use of force to quell public demonstrations against the policies of the current government; the lack of independence of the judiciary; and the situation of human rights defenders. On that point, the Commission expresses its concern over the information it received in the hearing regarding the persistence of attacks, threats, and acts of harassment against social leaders and human rights defenders, and regarding alleged arbitrary detentions, violence, and the excessive use of tear gas against participants in social protest demonstrations. The petitioners who requested the hearing informed the IACHR about the lack of coordination in the steps the State takes to comply with the precautionary measures handed down by the Commission and to adopt security measures ordered by the State itself. This has to do with the lack of confidence in the security plans provided by the State, whose agents reportedly are tied to the sources creating the risk. The petitioners also stated that adequate security conditions are not in place for them to be able to provide information that would lead to progress in investigations of human rights violations. The IACHR urges the State of Honduras to implement the Protocol for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders announced during this hearing, pursuant to the standards spelled out by the IACHR in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas (2006). That report underscores the need for protection measures to be decided in consultation with the beneficiaries, and the need to promote, throughout government and in society in general, a culture that recognizes the work of human rights defenders as essential to the strengthening of the rule of law and democracy.
In the hearing on the situation of political rights in Nicaragua, the IACHR heard with concern information regarding the obstacles human rights defenders face in carrying out their work; they are often stigmatized and attacked by civilian groups tied to the government. The IACHR was also informed about a series of irregularities that have arisen in connection with the presidential and parliamentary elections of November 2011. The IACHR has repeatedly asked the government of Nicaragua for its consent to carry out an official visit to that country, but has not yet received a response. The IACHR reiterates its interest in conducting an official visit to Nicaragua and hopes the visit can take place in 2011.
The sessions included five hearings related to Mexico. On March 8, 2011, the Senate of the Republic of Mexico approved an important draft constitutional reform in the area of human rights, which among other things elevates to constitutional status the human rights recognized in treaties ratified by Mexico. In the hearing on Constitutional Reforms on Human Rights in Mexico, the State pointed to this reform as the most important legal development of recent decades. For it to take effect, the proposed reform must be approved by 16 states in the country. On another matter, in terms of a type of preventive detention (arraigo) used in Mexico—which several international agencies have suggested should be eliminated or adapted to international human rights standards—the Commission was informed during the hearing on the subject that this type of detention continues to exist at the constitutional level and is regularly used by State authorities. Meanwhile, in the hearing on Citizen Security and Human Rights in Mexico, the IACHR received information on the continuing high rates of violence and the deficiencies of public policies to confront this scourge. In terms of the situation of migrants in Mexico, the IACHR notes that as a result of the hearing on the Human Rights Situation of Migrant Persons on the Southern Border of Mexico, the petitioners and the State agreed to establish a working group on the human rights of migrant persons.
During the hearing on Modification of the Civil Register in the Dominican Republic, the Commission was informed about the progress made in the area of registration policy. The State reported that until a few years ago, the management of the civil register was in the hands of private parties, with serious consequences for the rights of individuals and indeed for the security of the country, since the situation facilitated the smuggling of children and extortion, among other problems. The Commission observes with great interest the modernization of the civil register and the progress achieved in this area. It will also closely follow registration policy, both with respect to persons born in the Dominican Republic and with respect to Haitian migrants.
Friendly Settlement Process
The Commission welcomes the fact that on March 28, 2011, representatives of the Colombian government, the nongovernmental organization CEJIL, and attorney Ximena Castilla Jiménez signed an agreement of understanding in Petition 12.376, Alba Lucía Rodríguez Cardona.
In addition, a working meeting was held on March 26, 2011, on Case 12.116, María Estela García Ramírez and Celerino Jiménez Almaraz, Mexico, on the illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution of Celerino Jiménez Almaraz on April 24, 1997, and the harassment of his wife, María Estela García Ramírez. During the working meeting, the parties signed a friendly settlement proposal in which the State recognized its international responsibility for the events denounced to the IACHR and made a commitment to continue investigating the facts, in accordance with the highest international standards, and to provide reparations to the victims. In this same case, on March 28, 2011, the Governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, recognized the State's responsibility and apologized to María Estela García Ramírez, in a ceremony that included the presence of Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, high-level authorities of the Mexican government, and Mrs. García Ramírez's representative.
In addition, in Case 12.769, Irineo Martínez Torres and Candelario Martínez Damián, Mexico, the parties signed a document before the IACHR in which the State made a commitment to prepare a comprehensive friendly settlement proposal that takes into account not only the victims and their family members, but also the Ahuirán indigenous community. The case refers to the State's international responsibility regarding the alleged attacks and violations of legal due process committed against Irineo Martínez and Candelario Martínez, members of the Purépecha indigenous people, during their detention, and the criminal proceedings brought against them.
During a working meeting held on March 29, 2011, representatives of the Peruvian government and the organizations APRODEH and CEJIL signed an agreement of understanding on the follow-up to the commitments made by the State on February 22, 2001. At that time, through a joint press release of the IACHR and the government of Peru, the State had made a commitment to adopt a comprehensive solution to the recommendations issued in 159 reports on the merits, and to implement reparation measures in the area of housing, health, and education for each of the victims. The IACHR has closely followed the matter over the last 10 years and has held public hearings and working meetings, without the State's having fully complied with its commitments. In the agreement of understanding signed on March 29, 2011, the Peruvian State made a commitment to implement a series of concrete reparation measures. These include transferring, without further delay, the ownership of lots on a piece of land in Huachipa, in the district of Lurigancho, to 200 beneficiaries; certifying that each of the victims is affiliated with the Comprehensive Health Insurance program; and including the children of the disappeared, executed, or deceased victims into the Program for Education Reparations. The Inter-American Commission will closely follow compliance with these commitments.
Situation of the Rights of Women
In the hearing on the Reproductive Rights of Women, the IACHR received information from organizations from 12 countries in the region with regard to the serious obstacles women face throughout the Americas to be able to fully and effectively exercise their reproductive rights. Information was received on a restricted interpretation of the right to health that excludes reproductive rights within the framework of States' public policies. Second, the organizations informed the IACHR about the consequences and impact of restrictive laws on the legal interruption of pregnancy, including the practice of abortion in unsafe conditions and maternal morbidity rates—problems that particularly affect girls and young women who are poor, have little education, and live in rural areas. The organizations also presented information on individual cases of women who, upon seeking health services to receive obstetric care for premature deliveries, were accused of the crime of abortion or kinship murder and were sentenced to jail. On this point, the IACHR reiterates that women's reproductive health should be considered a priority in legislative initiatives and national and local health programs in the areas of prevention and protection. This implies the obligation to analyze in detail all laws, regulations, practices, and public policies that, in words or in practice, could have a discriminatory impact on women in terms of their access to reproductive health services, and the obligation to prevent any negative consequences that such measures could have on the exercise of women's human rights in general. The States are likewise obligated to eliminate all barriers of fact or of law that keep women from obtaining access to maternal health services they need, including criminal sanctions for seeking such services. The IACHR also reminds the States that therapeutic abortion is recognized internationally as a specialized, necessary health services for women intended to save the mother's life when it is at risk due to pregnancy, and that denying this service constitutes an attack on the life and physical and psychological integrity of women.
In addition, in the hearing on the Human Rights Situation of Migrant Women in the Andean Region, the IACHR heard with concern information on poverty and violence as major migration factors in this part of the continent, and on the lack of protection and risk for human rights violations seen in the destination countries. The IACHR urges States that are sources, transit points, or destinations for migrants to adopt legislative and public policy measures to guarantee the rights of women migrants to live free of violence and discrimination.
The IACHR also expresses its concern regarding information it received on the lack of guarantees for the exercise of trade-union freedom, and the anti-union practices used against organized women in Mesoamerica. The IACHR in particular urges States throughout the Americas to adopt measures to guarantee women's freedom of assembly, and to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, and punish all forms of violence and discrimination against women.
Situation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
In thematic hearings held during these sessions, the IACHR received information about situations and factors that hinder or obstruct the full enjoyment of the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples in the region.
In the hearing on Land Tenure and Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, the Commission received information on the high incidence of violence among and within indigenous communities as a consequence of agrarian disputes, and on the State's difficulties in resolving the situation of land-related conflict. In another hearing, the Commission heard views regarding the main obstacles of fact and of law that stand in the way of the full exercise of the right to prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in countries of the Andean region. In this regard, the IACHR calls to mind that the guarantee of indigenous peoples' property rights over their lands and the natural resources therein is a fundamental basis for the economic integrity and survival of indigenous communities, the development of their culture, and the preservation of their spirituality.
In the hearing on the Situation of Peoples in Voluntary Isolation in the Amazon Region and the Gran Chaco, the Commission received information regarding serious threats to the survival of peoples in voluntary isolation in several countries, due especially to the lack of recognition and the invasion of their territories; the activities of extractive industries and infrastructure projects; and the introduction of outside diseases. The IACHR notes that given their particular vulnerability and the complexity of their specific circumstances, the States should make special efforts to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and in initial contact, particularly through the effective protection of their ancestral territories, to the extent that is necessary to effectively safeguard their members' rights to life and physical integrity.
Finally, in the hearing on Indigenous Jurisdiction and Human Rights, the Commission received information regarding the lack of respect for indigenous authorities' application of ancestral legal systems. The IACHR calls to mind that the exercise of indigenous jurisdiction constitutes a manifestation of indigenous peoples' right to autonomy, which is recognized under international human rights law.
Situation of the Rights of Children
In the hearing on the Situation of Mapuche Children in Chile, the Commission heard complaints involving a situation of institutional violence against children and adolescents who belong to Mapuche indigenous communities that have mobilized protests to reclaim their ancestral territories. This situation includes acts of harassment and aggression on the part of the police and other agents of the State, and criminal prosecution under anti-terrorism laws. Information was also received on the impact this violence reportedly has on the health and the physical and psychological integrity of these children and adolescents. The IACHR emphasizes that every child and adolescent has the right to receive special protection from violence of all types, in particular when it is carried out by any agent of the State, and that any child or adolescent in conflict with the law should be protected through a special juvenile justice system. The Commission also underscores that the application of Chile's anti-terrorism law to Mapuche children and adolescents contravenes international human rights law. The Commission reminds the Chilean State to redouble its efforts to guarantee that all authorities respect the rights of Mapuche children and adolescents.
Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty
In a hearing to follow up on the June 2010 working visit to the province of Buenos Aires carried out by the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, the petitioners reported that overpopulation continues to exist, as do the precarious detention conditions in police stations and prison facilities; the systematic practice of acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment against inmates, including attacks on members of the transsexual community and the disproportionate use of rubber bullets; the lack of health services; and corruption. The petitioners also reiterated the need for the State to issue a law creating the national prevention mechanism established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The State, for its part, reported on the progress achieved in infrastructure improvements in some prisons; the reduction in the number of persons deprived of liberty in police stations; legislative reforms that have led to a reduction in preventive incarceration; and measures taken to reduce the number of transfers, see that inmates can be settled near their families, and avoid using transfers as a disciplinary measure. The representatives of Buenos Aires province also said that one of the main challenges the province faces has to do with the reduction in the time that criminal proceedings take. The IACHR reaffirms the points it made in the report on the visit and insists that the State must implement comprehensive public policies with regard to persons deprived of liberty, including, among other things, allocating sufficient resources for prison management.
A hearing was also held on the Human Rights Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Guatemala, in which the petitioners highlighted some of the main problems in the Guatemalan prison system. These include the fact that several prisons are under the complete control of bands of criminals who commit, organize, and direct criminal activities within and from the prison; that there are patterns of impunity and a lack of adequate investigation into acts of violence that occur in prisons; that individuals who are in preventive custody or have even been convicted are still being held in police station facilities; that prison guard receive training of a military nature and are not trained to be a professional, civilian force; and that there continue to be high levels of sexual violence committed by the Civilian National Police against women who are in their custody.
In addition, a public hearing was held on the Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Venezuela, in which it was stated that the main challenge in the Venezuelan prison system is prison violence. According to the information presented by the participating organization, from 1999 to 2010, 12,518 inmates died and 17,509 were gravely injured. In 2010, there were 476 deaths (the second-highest year in the last decade) and 967 injuries. The Commission was told that the main causes of these incidents are the lack of effective control of internal security by prison authorities and the possession of firearms by inmates, who in some prison facilities even have shotguns and grenades. It was also reported that this generalized situation of violence also affects the relatives of inmates, and information was presented on cases of family members who were killed in 2010.
Situation of the Rights of Afro-Descendants
In the hearing on the Human Rights Situation of Persons of African Descent in Uruguay, the State representatives and the petitioners agreed that, since 2005, progress has been made with the creation of various government offices to study and propose public policies designed to improve the human rights situation of persons of African descent—for example, the Department of Afro-Descendant Women at the National Institute of Women. However, both parties indicated that serious weaknesses exist in terms of the financial and human resources provided to such entities; as a result, the sustainability of the entities, and of the respective social policies, is precarious. The parties said the situation of the 10.6% of the Uruguayan population said to be of African descent continues to be of concern, as this segment is underrepresented in statistics on education and jobs and overrepresented in statistics on poverty and indigence, for example.
Situation of Human Rights Defenders
During its hearings and working meetings, the IACHR received information about various obstacles that human rights defenders continue to face throughout the region as a result of their work of promoting and protecting human rights. These range all the way from threats, harassment, and disparagement by public authorities, to murders, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances. The Commission received particularly troubling information about the increase in indirect measures designed to limit the exercise of the right to defend human rights, through the use of legal and judicial mechanisms to criminalize defenders by applying criminal charges such as "terrorism," "rebellion," and "extortion." In the majority of cases, such charges have no basis in evidence and end up being dismissed, but not without having brought serious moral and financial harm to those who are the object of the reckless accusations. In addition, an increase in restrictions on the composition and financing of social organizations is said to be severely limiting the ability to defend human rights as a legitimate practice in society. The IACHR also received extremely grave information on the lack of effectiveness of protection measures granted for human rights defenders, in the context of precautionary measures ordered by the Commission or provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The IACHR urges the States to adopt comprehensive policies to protect human rights defenders and to fully comply with the requests made by the bodies of the inter-American system in this regard.
The Commission received information in several thematic hearings on the grave situation of human rights defenders in countries such as Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, and Venezuela. In addition, the IACHR received information of a regional nature in two hearings that referred specifically to the use of legal and judicial mechanisms in various countries of the region as a means to obstruct the work of individuals and social and human rights organizations, as they become targets of repeated criminal and administrative proceedings brought against them. One of these hearings, which was requested by more than 30 civil society organizations, focused in particular on the grave problem of continuing attacks on the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders throughout the region, as well as trends in some States to obstruct the financing of civil society organizations and keep them from obtaining or maintaining their legal personality status.
The Commission in particular learned of the troubling number of murders and physical attacks suffered by human rights defenders in Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. It was also informed about the increase of threats and attacks in Colombia on community and social leaders tied to the national victims movement and the land recovery movement, as well as the growing legal and financial restrictions on the composition and functioning of human rights organizations in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. The Commission also received information on reprisals that community leaders in Brazil are reportedly facing due to their opposition to the establishment of megaprojects that involve natural resources, as well as reprisals faced by environmental defenders who monitor mining activity in countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador.
The Commission notes with concern that the incidents in which human rights defenders in Colombia were followed and subject to illegal intelligence activities continue to lack adequate investigation, and according to the information received by the Commission, the victims of these illegal activities are not being guaranteed real and effective access to any investigative proceedings being carried out in this matter. The IACHR has indicated on various occasions that the States must refrain from any type of arbitrary or abusive interference in human rights defenders' correspondence and telephone or electronic communications, and that disciplinary and criminal sanctions should be imposed on those who commit these practices, which seriously affect the work of human rights defenders.
The Commission reiterates that State agents must refrain from stigmatizing or making statements that delegitimize the work of the human rights defense organizations—or their members—that participate in IACHR hearings. The Commission has indicated repeatedly, and in particularly in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, that: "The defense of human rights can be exercised freely only when the persons engaged in it are not victims of threats or of any type of physical, psychological, or moral aggression, or other forms of harassment."
Lastly, the IACHR received extremely serious information regarding the lack of effectiveness of protection measures granted for human rights defenders, in the context of precautionary measures ordered by the Commission or provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court. The IACHR urges the States to adopt comprehensive policies to protect human rights defenders and to fully comply with the requests made in this regard by the bodies of the inter-American system.
In this session, the IACHR decided to create an Office of the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. The functions of this Rapporteur have been assigned to Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, who has been in charge of the Unit for Human Rights Defenders since January of 2010. With the establishment of the Office of the Rapporteur, the Commission seeks to give greater visibility to the role that human rights defenders and justice operators have in building a democratic society in which the rule of law is fully in effect.
Other Activities during the 141st Session
On March 30, the IACHR welcomed the Governor of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Lic. Gabino Cué Monteagudo, who confirmed his commitment to reach friendly settlements in cases being processed before the IACHR and to move forward in compliance with precautionary measures granted by the Commission. He also informed the Commission about a series of measures being adopted in the area of human rights and expressed his commitment to the inter-American human rights system.
The 142nd regular session will take place July 18-22 and will not include any hearings or working meetings. The 143rd session will be from October 19 to November 4, and the deadline for submitting requests for hearings and working meetings is August 19, 2011.
I. REPORTS ON INDIVIDUAL PETITIONS AND CASES
The IACHR continued to study numerous individual petitions and cases that allege violations of human rights protected by the American Convention of Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other inter-American instruments. Following is the list of the petitions and cases for which reports were approved during the 141st session. Once the parties have been notified, the Inter-American Commission will publish on its website the reports in which the decisions are of a public nature.
A. Admissibility Reports
During its 141st session, the Commission approved 15 admissibility reports:
In addition, between its 140th and 141st session, the IACHR approved four admissibility reports electronically:
B. Inadmissibility Reports
During this session, the Commission approved four inadmissibility reports:
C. Friendly Settlement Reports
During the 141st session, the Commission approved four friendly settlement agreements, having deemed that the agreements reached by the parties are in line with the object and purpose of the American Convention on Human Rights:
D. Reports on the Merits
The IACHR approved a total of 11 reports on the merits, which will be made public when the Commission adopts a decision to publish, pursuant to Article 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
E. Archive Reports
During the 141st session, the Commission approved 34 archive reports:
On March 25, 28, and 29, the Commission held hearings with respect to individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations.
All the public hearings were transmitted by webcast. The audio recordings of all the hearings are available on the IACHR’s public hearings page, and the videos will be made available in the next few days. External websites are authorized to link to this audio and video material, and media outlets may reproduce the photographs, as long as appropriate credit is given to the OAS.
The following hearings took place during this session (list by the order in which they were held):
The Commission also held two hearings that were private, at the request of the petitioning organizations and individuals: Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Venezuela, and Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Information in Venezuela.
III. WORKING MEETINGS
The following working meetings were held during the 141st session:
IV. RAPPORTEURSHIPS AND THEMATIC AREAS
This section contains a summary of some of the main activities that have been carried out by the IACHR, through its special rapporteurships and thematic areas, since its 140th session, which took place in October 2010. The rapporteurships do promotion-related work, prepare and publish thematic reports, and provide support related to the system of individual petitions and cases, the processing of precautionary measures, and hearings before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, among other activities.
A. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination, led by Commissioner María Silvia Guillén, continued to provide technical assistance to the OAS Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs' Working Group to Prepare a Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, pursuant to Resolution AG/RES. 2606 (XL-O/10).
On March 14, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur held the Regional Conference “The Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas – Prospects and Challenges,” which was co-sponsored with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the nongovernmental organization Global Rights–Partners for Justice. The event marked the "International Year for People of African Descent," which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/64/169 and recognized by the OAS General Assembly in its Resolution AG/RES. 2550 (XL-O/10): “Recognition of the International Year for People of African Descent.” During the regional conference, 12 international experts—including government officials, academics, and civil society representatives from the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, and Ecuador—debated the following issues: affirmative action policies on behalf of people of African descent; collective rights of people of African descent, particularly the right to their lands; and racial discrimination in justice systems, including racial profiling, police brutality, and the discriminatory enforcement of criminal law in the judicial process.
In addition, on March 15, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur and the nongovernmental organization Global Rights–Partners for Justice organized a Training Workshop on the Inter-American Human Rights System for Afro-Descendant Leaders in the Americas, which included the participation of 17 civil society representatives from nine countries in the region.
B. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, under the direction of Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía, continued implementing various initiatives to compile qualitative and quantitative information in order to identify the main advances women have made and the challenges they face in exercising their rights free of discrimination—particularly in the spheres of their economic, social, and cultural rights, access to justice for women victims of sexual violence, women's political participation, and their reproductive rights. These projects aim to publish thematic reports with recommendations to the States on how to better fulfill their human rights obligations in these areas.
The Office of the Rapporteur has also continued to implement a project to promote the development of case law and legal standards on gender equality in the inter-American human rights system, in the context of the system's legal precedents and international and national developments. The information that is gathered will be examined so as to systematize and analyze the progress in case law and legal trends related to gender equality, the principle of nondiscrimination in the inter-American human right system, and the impact of this precedent in the develop of international and national case law related to these principles.
Also as part of these projects, the current Rapporteur carried out a visit to El Salvador on November 17-19, 2010, at the invitation of the government. The principal aim of the visit was to gather information about the forms of discrimination that women face in the exercise of their economic, social, and cultural rights in that country, in the framework of the hemispheric report the Office of the Rapporteur is preparing on the subject. During the visit, the Rapporteur and her delegation met with high-level government authorities, international cooperation agencies, and civil society organizations.
On November 18, during the visit to El Salvador, the Rapporteur presented the report Access to Maternal Health Services from a Human Rights Perspective (2010). On November 19, the Office of the Rapporteur organized two workshops to train government officials at all levels, as well as civil society organizations, on the standards and mechanisms of the inter-American system in the area of discrimination and women's economic, social, and cultural rights.
Finally, on December 10, the Rapporteur participated in an event organized by the Working Group on Women and Armed Conflict in Colombia, on the impact of armed conflict on Colombian women. During her trip, the Rapporteur met with the State, with organizations that work to defend women's human rights, organizations that are beneficiaries of precautionary measures, and with displaced women.
C. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, under the direction of Commissioner Dinah Shelton, finished editing and updating the IACHR thematic report on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Rights over their Ancestral Lands and Natural Resources. The report was launched at an event at the University of Oklahoma on February 17, 2011, and that university's College of Law will publish the complete report in a special edition of the American Indian Law Review.
On December 14-19, the Rapporteur carried out a fact-gathering visit to Panama in connection with decisions on the merits in the cases of the Kuna de Madungandí and Embera de Bayano indigenous communities, and the Ngobe communities adversely affected by the construction of the Chan 75 Dam on the Changuinola River. During the visit, the Rapporteur met with government officials and traveled to the various communities involved in these cases, where she was able to talk to their authorities, members, and representatives and to verify the current situation on the ground.
The Office of the Rapporteur also organized and participated in training seminars for lawyers, leaders, and defenders of indigenous peoples' rights. On December 3-5, 2010, the Office of the Rapporteur gave a conference at a training workshop held in the Hato Chamí indigenous community, in Panama's Ngobe-Buglé district, an event geared toward leaders, community promoters, and attorneys of the Ngobe indigenous people. Participants received training regarding the scope of their territorial rights and the tools provided by the inter-American system to protect these rights. Subsequently, on March 10, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur gave a presentation at a Seminar on the Case Law of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which was organized by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in Mexico City.
The Office of the Rapporteur also carried out various promotional and outreach activities in 2010 with regard to the human rights of indigenous peoples. On November 12, IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago Canton and the Office of the Rapporteur's specialist attorney, Federico Guzmán, gave a presentation to explain the work of the IACHR and the territorial rights of indigenous peoples under the inter-American system, at the virtual symposium "Centuries of Change: State of the Native Nations." The event was co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution−National Museum of the American Indian and the OAS, in Washington.
Finally, Rapporteur Dinah Shelton entered into an agreement with the dean and faculty of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, based on which the school will send students every semester to do fellowships with the Office of the Rapporteur. The agreement also covers a series of jointly sponsored "listening conferences" with tribal leaders in the United States, designed to hear their human rights claims and introduce them to the inter-American system, as well as periodic training workshops for indigenous attorneys in the United States and Canada.
D. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, led by Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, participated March 9 on a panel organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, concerning the protection and promotion of the rights of children who live or work on the streets.
Also, on February 21 and March 18, respectively, the Rapporteur participated in a videoconference and spoke at a conference as part of a series of activities organized by the government of El Salvador related to the historical memory of the forced disappearances of children during that country's armed conflict.
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, along with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), began to develop the preliminary phase of a report on the situation of institutionalized children and adolescents in the Americas.
In addition, the Office of the Rapporteur began the preliminary phase of following up on recommendations issued by the IACHR to the OAS Member States in its Report on Corporal Punishment and Human Rights of Children and Adolescents.
The Rapporteur issued two letters based on Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights: one, dated February 8, with respect to the situation of three Mapuche young people being deprived of liberty in Chile, who were prosecuted for the alleged commission of various crimes, including acts of terrorism; and the other, dated January 14, having to do with the situation of children and youth who were seriously injured, and in some cases lost their lives, due to a fire in a cell at the Juvenile Detention Center in Tocumen, Panama. With regard to the latter situation, on March 4 the Rapporteur visited this juvenile detention center in Panama.
With the contributions of Save the Children/Sweden, attorney Santiago Vásquez was contracted as a consultant to support the activities of the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, particularly in the preparation of reports on petitions and cases.
E. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families
The Office of the Rapporteur on Migrant Workers and Their Families, under the direction of Commissioner Felipe González, participated, on November 8-9, 2010, in the Regional Humanitarian Conference on the Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons, which took place in Quito, Ecuador. The event was sponsored by the IACHR and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), among several other organizations. The event took place at the initiative of civil society in order to promote regional dialogue on refuge-related issues. It included the participation of several States in the region, civil society organizations, and representatives of international agencies specialized in this issue.
On another matter, the Office of the Rapporteur was represented at the VII Inter-American Course on Civil Society, which took place November 15-19, 2010, at the headquarters of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. The course focused on the rights of women, of indigenous peoples, and of migrants at the border. The Office of the Rapporteur gave a presentation on the situation of migrant persons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and on the inter-American human rights system's protection mechanisms.
On March 17, 2011, the IACHR published its Report on Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process, which includes an analysis of relevant international standards in the area of the human rights of migrants; the Commission's observations and concerns regarding immigrant detention, certain immigration-related procedures, and the impact of detention conditions on due process; and conclusions and final recommendations. In the report, the IACHR places emphasis on certain vulnerable groups in immigrant-related detention, including unaccompanied minors, migrant families, asylum seekers, and persons with disabilities or mental disorders, among others.
Finally, on March 18, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur participated in a Working Meeting on Regulatory Treatment of Undocumented Immigration: U.S.-Spain Comparative Study. The event, which took place at the headquarters of the IACHR Executive Secretariat in Washington, D.C., was organized in conjunction with the "Benjamin Franklin" Institute of North American Studies at the University of Alcalá, Spain. The purpose of the working meeting was to discuss the legal framework in the area of undocumented immigrants in both countries that were being compared. The meeting also provided the opportunity to discuss the contributions that regional human rights systems make in the area of protecting the rights of all migrants and their family members.
F. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, under the direction of Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, worked actively to organize a meeting of the international mechanisms of the United Nations and the inter-American system whose mandates include protection against torture. The meeting took place at IACHR headquarters on March 16, 2011. Participants discussed the direct correlation between the trend toward repressive political policies on citizen security and the increase in the incarcerated population; the rise in the number of cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment; and the deterioration of detention conditions. The purpose of the meeting in Washington was to exchange information that could help promote the coordination of efforts to eliminate torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in the region, and to assist States in the fulfillment of their obligations. Those in attendance agreed on the need to more closely coordinate such activities as conducting field visits, issuing press releases, preparing thematic reports, and following up on recommendations made to the States. At the end of the meeting, a press release was issued in which participants highlighted the grave situation of torture and overcrowding in correctional facilities in the Americas.
The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty also participated in a meeting of experts and representatives of international anti-torture protection mechanisms and in a public conference organized by American University and the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), on March 17 and 18, 2011, respectively. The central theme of both activities was best practices and procedures used to conduct monitoring visits to places of deprivation of liberty.
G. Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, under the direction of Catalina Botero, continued to work on promotion efforts, which included giving seminars, conferences, and training workshops. The Office of the Special Rapporteur also advised the OAS Member States in this area.
H. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
Ten years from the time the Unit for Human Rights Defenders was created, the IACHR is announcing the creation of the Office of the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. The functions of this Rapporteur have been assigned to Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, who has led the Unit since January of 2010.
The Unit for Human Rights Defenders was established at the initiative of the Executive Secretary in December 2001, in response to a request from the OAS General Assembly and to civil society's interest in having a focal point at the Inter-American Commission that could provide specific follow-up to the subject of human rights defenders. Since then, the Unit has followed the situation of all persons who carry out the work of defending rights in the region, including the situation of justice operators, through the various mechanisms that exist within the IACHR. In 2006, it published the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, which identified the main obstacles defenders face in carrying out their work and issued a series of recommendations to the States to guarantee greater protection for the women and men who defend human rights in the region.
With the creation of the Office of the Rapporteur, the Commission seeks to give greater visibility to the important role that human rights defenders and justice operators play in building a democratic society in which the rule of law is in full effect.
The Office of the Rapporteur is currently developing the follow-up report on the situation of human rights defenders. To that end, it published a questionnaire directed toward the States and civil society, in order to gather information on compliance with the recommendations issued in the 2006 report and to identify new challenges for the defense and promotion of human rights to be carried out fully and freely.
At the end of November 2010, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez participated in the launch of a report by the Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights defenders in Mexico. For his part, the IACHR Executive Secretary participated in early December 2010 in the Fourth Regional Forum on Human Rights Defenders of Southeast Asia, at the invitation of the organization Forum-Asia. Representatives of other international and regional institutions for the protection of human rights defenders also participated in the event.
The Unit for Human Rights Defenders also participated in the third "inter-mechanisms" meeting on the protection of human rights defenders, which took place December 8-9, 2010, in Warsaw, Poland. Participating in representation of the IACHR were Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco and Executive Secretary Santiago Canton. Others who attended included the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya; the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights; the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Defenders in Africa, of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights; the Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and other international mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
Finally, during the session that ends today, the Unit held a meeting with human rights defenders from around the region to talk about issues of shared interest and to coordinate activities related in particular to the preparation of the follow-up report on the situation of human rights defenders in the region.
V. Work Related to the Inter-American Court
The Inter-American Commission has submitted 161 contentious cases to be heard by the Court. Of those, 9 are pending notification of the respective State; 7 are awaiting a public hearing being convened; 5 are awaiting judgment; 118 are in the stage of compliance with judgment; and 16 are closed. There are also 45 active provisional measures and 3 requests for provisional measures pending a decision by the Court.
Since October 2010, the IACHR has submitted the following 14 cases to the Court's contentious jurisdiction:
On November 14-16, 2010, the Commission participated in the hearings of the Court's 42nd special period of sessions, held in Quito, Ecuador. During those sessions, public hearings were held on the cases of Juan Gelman et al. (Uruguay) and Abril Alosilla et al. (SEDAPAL)(Peru). In addition, the IACHR participated in a public hearing on provisional measures in the matter of Mendoza Prisons (Argentina).
From February 21 to March 5, 2011, the IACHR participated in the Court's 90th regular period of sessions, held in San José, Costa Rica. During those sessions, public hearings were held in the following cases: Barbani et al. (Depositors of the Bank of Montevideo)(Uruguay), Chocrón Chocrón (Venezuela), Mejía Idrovo (Ecuador), Leopoldo López (Venezuela), and Pedro Miguel Vera Vera (Ecuador). In addition, the IACHR participated in a public hearing on provisional measures in the matter of Wong Ho Wing (Peru) and in private meetings on monitoring compliance in the cases involving the Massacres of Ituango (Colombia), Valle Jaramillo (Colombia), and Gómez Palomino (Peru).
In other matters, since its last session, the Commission has submitted six requests for provisional measures: Galdámez (Honduras), María Lourdes Afiuni (Venezuela), Tocorón Prison (Venezuela), Vista Hermosa Prison (Venezuela), UNIS (Brazil), and Mendoza Prisons (Argentina). The first of these has been lifted.
VI. Financial Contributions
The IACHR would like to express its special appreciation for the significant financial contributions made by countries within and outside the region, as well as by international organizations and agencies, foundations, and other entities. These donations make it possible for the IACHR to carry out a great many of its activities related to the mandates handed down by the OAS political bodies.
The IACHR particularly appreciates the contributions made in 2010 and so far in 2011 by the governments of the following OAS member countries: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, and Mexico. The Commission would also like to thank the observer countries that support the Commission’s activities: Spain, Finland, France, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Commission also values and appreciates the contributions it has received from the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Canadian International Development Agency, Save the Children/Sweden, the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, the United Nations Population Fund, the European Union, and the University of Notre Dame. For their part, Holland, Ireland, and Norway, through the organization Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP), have expressed their willingness to provide financial support to the Commission. These donations contribute concretely to the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system in the Americas.
Annex to No. 28/11