Press Release

IACHR Deplores Reprisals Against Individuals who Como Before the Inter-American Commission

November 4, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deepest concern over the fact that some of the individuals who appear at IACHR hearings and working meetings have been subject to threats, reprisals and actions to discredit them, on the part of both private individuals and, in some cases, high-level State officials.

Specifically, the IACHR received information indicating that after the October 25, 2011, hearing on the "Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Ecuador," the State of Ecuador issued a broadcast, which all radio and television stations had to air, with statements clearly meant to discredit the petitioning organization Fundamedios, its director, and the other participants in the hearing. Given the seriousness of this situation, the Commission requested information from the State.

The IACHR has also learned about statements made by high-level government authorities of the Dominican Republic against one of the petitioners in the hearing on "Judicial Response in Denationalization Cases" in that country. The authorities accused the petitioner of having asked for the hearing in order to put on a "show" and to benefit herself, and they summoned her to submit information to the courts on the cases she would be presenting at the IACHR hearing. The Commission also requested information from the State regarding this situation.

The IACHR also received with concern information indicating that individuals who had planned to travel to participate in the hearings decided not to, apparently for fear of suffering reprisals after having received threats. This reportedly occurred in the case of a member of the Garifuna community who is a beneficiary of precautionary measures, as well as a group of individuals from the Bajo Aguán region, both of these cases involving Honduras.

The Inter-American Commission considers absolutely unacceptable any type of action a State might undertake that is motivated by the participation or actions of individuals or organizations before inter-American human rights bodies, in the exercise of their rights under the Convention. The Inter-American Commission condemns these acts and reminds the States that Article 63 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure establishes that the States "shall grant the necessary guarantees to all the persons who attend a hearing or who in the course of a hearing provide information, testimony or evidence of any type to the Commission," and that the States "may not prosecute the witnesses or experts, or carry out reprisals against them or their family members because of their statements or expert opinions given before the Commission."

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 116/11