Annex to Press Release 36/12 on the conclusion of the IACHR'S 144th Session
March 30, 2012
Washington, D.C. –
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 144th regular session March 19-30, 2012. The IACHR is made up of José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Chair; Tracy Robinson, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Dinah Shelton, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Rosa María Ortiz, and Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.
During its 144th session, the Commission held 41 hearings and 23 working meetings. It also approved reports on individual cases and petitions. The hearings and the reports reflect some of the structural human rights problems that persist in the region. These have to do with, among other matters, respect for the right to life and personal integrity; 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, Afro-descendants, women, persons deprived of liberty, and lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual, and intersex persons.
First of all, the IACHR commends the Senate of Mexico's approval, on March 13, 2012, of a constitutional amendment that would empower federal authorities in that country to investigate and prosecute crimes that "limit or diminish the right to information or to freedom of expression or of the press." The reform had already been approved in the Chamber of Deputies and is now pending approval by a majority of state congresses. In addition, a draft Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists was presented to the plenary of the Senate of the Republic on March 15. According to the information the Commission has received, the bill was endorsed by a significant number of senators, and was the result of joint efforts between the legislative body and civil society organizations. The IACHR expresses its satisfaction over these initiatives and believes that, if they are enacted, they will represent significant progress in terms of compliance with the recommendations contained in the 2010 Special Report on Freedom of Expression in Mexico with regard to the protection of journalists and the struggle against impunity.
The Commission also appreciates and recognizes the State of Argentina's substantial compliance with the recommendations contained in the IACHR Report on the Merits in Case No. 12.234, which it considers a best practice. In that report, the IACHR concluded that the State of Argentina was responsible for having sentenced Mr. Rubén Luis Godoy to life in prison and to payment of compensation as a result of proceedings in which his right to a fair trial had reportedly been violated. The State has substantially complied with the recommendations made in the Report on the Merits of the case, in particular by filing an action for the conviction to be reviewed, reopening the investigation into the complaint that the victim was tortured, and commuting the life sentence. As a result, the IACHR approved the publication of the Report on the Merits on the case.
The IACHR also welcomes the progress seen in recent months with regard to combating impunity for grave human rights violations. In Uruguay, on March 21 President José Mujica acknowledged the State's international responsibility for the forced disappearance of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman, and apologized to her daughter, María Macarena Gelman, who was born during the time her mother had been kidnapped and was being held captive, during the Uruguayan military dictatorship. With this step, the Uruguayan State complied with one aspect of the Inter-American Court's judgment, which also ordered the State to investigate the facts to provide clarification, determine criminal responsibility, and apply the appropriate sanctions.
Along the same lines, the IACHR also commends the steps taken by various States to acknowledge international responsibility and offer apologies. On December 10, 2011, the State of El Salvador held an observance to commemorate the massacre at El Mozote and neighboring areas, committed 30 years earlier. On October 20, 2011, the State of Guatemala held a public ceremony to recognize its international responsibility in the case of Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, and on December 15 it held a ceremony to apologize to relatives and survivors of the massacre in the community of Las Dos Erres, in Petén. For its part, the State of Mexico held a ceremony on December 15, 2011, acknowledging its responsibility and asking forgiveness of Valentina Rosendo Cantú and her daughter. The IACHR welcomes these steps forward and trusts that progress will continue to be made in complying with the decisions of the inter-American human rights system in these and other cases.
On the other hand, the IACHR expresses its concern over information it received with respect to Haiti and Suriname, related to setbacks in combating impunity for crimes against humanity.
Along these lines, on January 30, 2012, the examining magistrate handling the case brought against Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti decided not to prosecute Duvalier for human rights violations. The grave, systematic human rights violations perpetrated under the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier were documented by the IACHR in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, published in 1979 and prepared on the basis of an onsite observation mission it carried out to that country in August 1978. The Inter-American Commission reiterates a point it made in a May 2011 statement, in which it indicates that the State of Haiti has the international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the grave human rights violations committed during the Duvalier regime.
With regard to Suriname, the Commission has received information indicating that the coalition government of President Desi Bouterse has presented Suriname's parliament with a bill that attempts to provide immunity for human rights violations committed during the military era (1982-1992). The bill seeks to remove the exception in the 1992 Amnesty Law that applies to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Initiatives of this nature appear to impede compliance with cases that have already been decided by the inter-American system, including the Massacre of Moiwana case, among others. The Commission calls to mind that amnesty laws related to serious human rights violations are incompatible with international human rights obligations, as such laws keep States from investigating and punishing the perpetrators.
Participation of States and Civil Society in the Session
The participation in hearings and working meetings of representatives of the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as of individuals who participated as victims or petitioners, constitutes an important contribution to strengthening efforts to protect the human rights of the people of the hemisphere. Besides the 41 hearings and 23 working meetings held on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures, the Commission held more than 40 additional meetings, some with Member State representatives and others with representatives of civil society organizations. The Inter-American Commission values and appreciates their attendance and participation.
On Thursday, March 22, 2012, the Inter-American Commission received a visit at its headquarters by a delegation from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, led by Governor César Duarte Jáquez. The delegation referred to the state government's wish to strengthen the structures in place for the protection of human rights in Chihuahua and to move forward in resolving petitions and cases pending before the IACHR, using the friendly settlement process. The Governor also made specific mention of a series of programs he said are being implemented in the state to address problems in Chihuahua. He talked in particular about the state's anti-impunity strategy, educational projects, the comprehensive reform of the judicial system, and health care, among other programs.
For its part, the IACHR underscored the importance of engaging in a vigorous dialogue with States, and said that in countries with a federal system of government, such as Mexico, this dialogue should not be limited to the federal level. The Commission views the implementation of human rights protection programs as a positive step, especially taking into account the troubling information the Commission continues to receive with respect to the human rights situation in the state of Chihuahua, including complaints of grave, systematic human rights violations against women and girls, and high rates of violence and impunity, among other serious problems.
On another matter, on March 29, 2012, the IACHR received a delegation from the government of Ecuador, which included the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño; the State Attorney General, Diego García; the Minister of Justice, Human Rights, and Worship, Johana Pesántez; the National Communications Secretary, Fernando Alvarado; and other high-level officials.
After learning that a press conference had been convened with the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister under the title "Government of Ecuador will state its position to the IACHR on the request for precautionary measures in the case of El Universo," Commission Chair José de Jesús Orozco reminded the delegation that the meeting had been requested solely to discuss matters of a general nature. He explained that the IACHR could not take into account any reference made to pending matters without the presence of the other party, as this would violate the principle of procedural equality between the parties.
The Inter-American Commission regrets that in spite of this, the representatives of the State opted to make references to the precautionary measure and case involving the newspaper El Universo (Petition 1436/11 and PM 406/11). The Commission informs the public, just as it alerted the State delegation, that these references will not be taken into account in evaluating particular petitions or cases, and that they have not and will not be recorded in the Commission's files.
Reprisals against Individuals who Come Before the IACHR
The Commission 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.
The Commission considers absolutely unacceptable any type of action a State might undertake that is motivated by the participation or actions of individuals or organizations that come 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."
Persons of African Descent
The Commission received information about the continuing problems that persons of African descent face in the region with respect to securing their human rights, problems involving general issues of race discrimination and extending to violations of their economic, social, and cultural rights. In particular, Afro-descendants are disproportionally affected in relation to migration issues and also face serious threats to becoming stateless. They also confront particular challenges because of the increase in extractive industries which displace traditional lifestyles and cultures, sometimes in ways that endanger their lives and personal integrity. The Commission also heard that Afro-descendant women confront special human rights challenges, including situations where there is armed conflict or dislocation. These challenges include sexual violence and access to justice.
In the course of its session, the Commission took note of the extensive press coverage of the killing of young Trayvon Martin in Florida, in the United States. News reports indicate that on February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch member decided to follow Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth, because he looked “suspicious.” While the facts have yet to be clarified, reports indicate that Zimmerman then fatally shot the teenager, who was unarmed. There has been no arrest in the case. The Florida authorities have announced that a grand jury will be convened in April. At the federal level, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI have announced the opening of investigations. This case presents important questions about the duty of local and federal authorities to use due diligence to respond to acts of violence that could be based on racial discrimination. The Commission calls upon the competent authorities to carry out a prompt and thorough investigation to clarify the facts and ensure that justice is served.
In the hearing on the "Situation of Missing Migrants and Unidentified Remains in Mexico," civil society organizations from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, as well as relatives of missing migrants in Mexico, expressed their concern over the lack of standardized criteria for identifying missing migrants and unidentified remains. They also talked about the obstacles faced by the families of migrants who are missing or who have disappeared in transit through Mexico in gaining access to information about their relatives' whereabouts, as well as the lack of assistance on the part of their governments and the Mexican State in searching for their loved ones. The petitioning organizations stated that according to estimates by the National Human Rights Commission, between 2007 and 2011 there have been more than 8,800 unidentified bodies, and at least 1,230 corpses have been recovered from 310 clandestine graves in Mexico. The petitioning organizations stated that this situation makes it necessary to implement new forensic mechanisms to achieve a more acceptable response in terms of truth and justice for the several thousand relatives of migrant Mexican and Central American citizens who have disappeared in Mexico on their way to the United States. The petitioners proposed the creation of a multidisciplinary commission of independent international forensic experts to work with their Mexican counterparts to identify still-unidentified remains that were recovered in August 2010 and April 2011 in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They also indicated that it is necessary to establish national and regional forensic databases. For their part, the representatives of the State of Mexico expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue on this matter with the petitioning organizations; at the same time, they acknowledged the complex situation being experienced with regard to missing persons in Mexico, and explained the measures it has taken to address this problem. In this regard, the representatives noted the institutional progress made with the recent adoption of the Law on the National Registry of Missing Persons. Along the same lines, the State reported on steps taken by forensic experts to identify the bodies and remains that have been found, including those of migrant persons; for example, the experts identified the bodies of 60 migrants among the 72 victims found in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in August 2010. The Mexican State noted that it has one of the largest forensic laboratories in Latin America. The IACHR reiterates the need to establish effective mechanisms to determine the identity of migrant persons found dead in Mexico, as well as to punish those responsible for their deaths. The Commission also expressed its willingness to work with the State of Mexico and other States in the region to collaborate on and accompany the establishment of these mechanisms.
The Commission also held a hearing on the "Human Rights Situation of Detained and Deported Migrants along the Southern Border of the United States." The petitioning organizations informed the Commission about abuses and human rights violations that are committed against migrants by members of the Border Patrol, as well as about the impunity of such acts and the shortcomings in the policies and practices that serve as the basis for prosecuting and punishing members of the Border Patrol who commit such acts. For their part, representatives of the United States delegation reported on the procedures and care offered to migrants once they are in U.S. custody. In addition, they indicated that current procedures established in the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) neither promote nor tolerate the abuse of migrant persons, and that if such abuses occur, they are duly reported, prosecuted, and punished.
Human Rights Defenders
Information was received during the session about the persistence of violence against human rights defenders in some countries, manifested in the murders, threats, and acts of harassment against their lives and safety; the use of unwarranted criminal proceedings against them; discrediting remarks intended to discourage their efforts; and undue restrictions to the exercise of freedom of association.
With regard to Cuba, the IACHR received complaints about the repeated detention and harassment of human rights defenders. Petitioners reported that in the context of detentions that take place during social protest demonstrations, particularly brutal repression methods are inflicted on women. So far this year, there have reportedly been more than one thousand arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders in Cuba; of these, more than 50% reportedly involved arrests of women defenders. During the weekend of March 24-25, 2012, 104 detentions of Cuba's Ladies in White were reported, allegedly to prevent them from carrying out activities on the anniversary of the so-called Black Spring of 2003. According to the information received in the hearing, the acts of aggression that women human rights defenders in Cuba suffer at the hands of State security agents have intensified since 2011. According to the information provided, in addition to the beatings, illegal searches of their homes, death threats, and arbitrary arrests to which they constantly fall victim, they have been subject to acts of sexual harassment and threats, have been forced to strip naked, and have been bitten, both on the street and in detention centers. According to the petitioners who requested the hearing, the threats and mistreatment have reportedly been extended to the children of women human rights defenders.
With regard to Guatemala, the Commission received information concerning the special risks faced by union leaders and defenders of individuals whose rights were violated during the armed conflict, as well as by environmental rights defenders. The Commission also received information on the lack of effective implementation of a Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, and on the reported fragility of its Office to Analyze Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, as it lacks a legal foundation that would ensure its operations and continuity. The Commission also continued to receive information on the special risk of attacks reportedly being faced by union leaders in Venezuela.
In addition, the IACHR received information regarding States' failure to adopt effective protection measures, and on problems with the implementation of precautionary or provisional measures handed down by the bodies of the inter-American system, particularly when it comes to the practice by some States of submitting requests for the adoption of measures to a new risk analysis to determine whether they are legitimate. The Commission reiterates, as it established in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, that "the States’ role in the process associated with a protective measure ordered by the inter‐American system is to implement the measure and monitor it. However, it is not the States’ function to assess the factors that prompted the request for protective measures, to ascertain whether they rise to what the States deem to be the necessary degree of risk or danger."
With regard to Colombia, several organizations expressed their concern over the reported use by authorities of the term "legal warfare," contained in glossaries used by the armed forces to discredit complaints lodged by human rights defenders and to associate these complaints with activities intended to discourage social harmony. The Commission also received information on measures adopted and efforts carried out by the new National Protection Unit in order to protect the life and safety of at-risk human rights defenders. Civil society organizations nevertheless expressed their concern over the unsuitable and ineffective nature of some protection schemes, especially when it comes to collective beneficiaries such as organizations of human rights defenders and indigenous and campesino communities.
The IACHR also received information regarding some of the obstacles that weaken the independence and impartiality of justice operators in Central America. Among these obstacles, in some States the lack of effective implementation of regulatory frameworks governing careers in the judiciary would seem to impede the promotion of judges and magistrates based on objective, predictable criteria. Moreover, the Commission was informed that in some countries, justice operators face precarious salary conditions, and there continues to be a lack of effective complaint and protection mechanisms to respond to acts of aggression that come from outside agents, such as organized crime.
The Commission received information on obstacles to freedom of association in the region, particularly in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. According to the information provided, some countries have complex practices and onerous and discretionary requirements that have resulted in the rejection of several applications for legal personhood made by organizations of human rights defenders. Petitioners also reported that in some countries, the international funding of organizations of human rights defenders has led to criminal investigations being brought against their members and to the organizations being dissolved.
During this session, the Commission received information on the presentation of a bill to create a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders in Mexico. The IACHR has been following the development of this mechanism and hopes that the active participation of human rights defenders is ensured in the process of its creation, and that the standards established by the IACHR in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas are taken into account.
During its 144th session, the Commission held eight hearings on rights of indigenous peoples, specifically related to their rights over their lands and natural resources, and to the rights of indigenous women.
Specifically, hearings were held on the situation of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and natural resources in Argentina, Colombia, Panama, and Suriname. Based on the information it received, the Commission reiterates that the protection of indigenous peoples' right to property over their ancestral lands is an issue of particular importance, as the effective enjoyment of this right implies not only the protection of an economic unit but of the human rights of a collective that bases its economic, social, and cultural development, as well as its spiritual life and identity, on its relation to the land. The IACHR thus calls on the States to adopt legal and institutional mechanisms to guarantee the collective property rights of indigenous peoples. The IACHR also urges the States to give effective compliance to their obligation to consult with indigenous peoples and ensure their participation in decisions involving any measure that may affect their territories.
In addition, hearings were held on the rights of indigenous women in Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. In this regard, the IACHR reiterates that indigenous women historically have faced triple discrimination because they are female, indigenous, and poor. In view of that situation, the IACHR emphasizes the importance that the States incorporate into their actions the specific needs of indigenous women, with respect for their cultural identity, ethnicity, language, and distinctiveness, and even create systems and methods for conducting culturally sensitive investigations in cases involving violence. The Rapporteur also notes that manifestations of discrimination and violence that affect women are aggravated in the context of armed conflict; therefore, she emphasizes the importance of judicial clarification of these acts, as well as the adoption of a reparation policy in line with victims' situation and ethnicity, one that includes structures to assist women and children through the process of lodging complaints and seeking reparations.
The Rapporteur is particularly concerned about information the Commission has received regarding the high number of disappearances and killings of aboriginal women and children in Canada. The IACHR commends the plans for prevention and investigation adopted in response to the situation, including the establishment of the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry; the IACHR also calls on the State to carry out efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive, coordinated plan to respond effectively to the seriousness of the violence and discrimination to which indigenous women and girls fall victim. The IACHR underscores the importance of eliminating the social and economic conditions that cause this situation, as well as the need to comply with the obligations to prevent acts of this nature, take the initiative to investigate them when they occur, and punish the offenders.
During its session the IACHR also received extremely troubling information about the situation of the Nasa indigenous people in the Toribio, San Francisco, Tacueyó, and Jambaló reserves, as well as that of the Awá indigenous people in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo, in Colombia; in both cases, they are beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. According to the information received, the grave situation of risk is associated with many factors, such as the territorial dispute among different armed factions; drug trafficking activities; the granting of licenses by the State for the extraction of natural resources; and attacks made by illegal armed groups and the crossfire created by the National Army's response.
In this matter, the IACHR strongly condemns the death of members of the Nasa people, Luis Ever Casamachín and Milciades Trochez Conda, as well as the violation of the physical integrity of three children who were injured by explosive devices found in the school in Jambaló. The Commission also condemns the murder of members of the Awá people, Armando Guanga Nastacuas, Bolívar Guanga, Gilberto Paí Canticús, and Giovanni Rosero. The Inter-American Commission considers the deaths of these individuals to be extremely serious, even more so taking into account the existence of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and the threats, harassment, and murders to which they have been subject. The IACHR urges the Colombian State to comply with its obligation to investigate these crimes on its own initiative and punish those responsible. It also calls on the State to immediately adopt all necessary measures to ensure the right to life, integrity, and safety of the other beneficiaries of these measures.
Of particular concern to the Commission is the information received regarding armed clashes that reportedly took place on March 23, 2012, between the National Police, the National Army, and members of illegal armed groups in rural and urban areas of the Jambaló Reserve, events that reportedly left at least two persons injured. The IACHR therefore calls on the actors in the armed conflict to comply with all rules under international humanitarian law. In particular, the Commission urges the Colombian State to prevent armed actions that could jeopardize the life or integrity of the civilian population.
Persons Deprived of Liberty
The IACHR, on its own initiative, convened a hearing during this session on the situation of persons deprived of liberty in Honduras, following the February 14, 2012, fire at the Comayagua National Prison, which killed 361 people. The State recognized the grave problems related to the prison situation and reported that it will comply with the friendly settlement agreement signed in the context of the case of Rafael Arturo Pacheco Teruel before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The State of Honduras also made a commitment to move forward in the investigations to establish the truth of the events that occurred at the Comayagua prison, and to determine the appropriate criminal responsibilities. The IACHR will closely monitor compliance with the commitments made by the State. In addition, the State representatives reported that among the measures that had been adopted, a state of emergency had been declared in several of the country's prisons, in July 2010 and March 2012. On this point, the Rapporteur emphasized that states of emergency should be declared in response to certain situations, but what Honduras is facing today is a structural problem.
On March 29, 2012, in the course of the Commission's session, 13 inmates from San Pedro Sula Prison in Honduras were killed, including one who was decapitated, and others were reportedly injured in a riot that began in the morning hours. According to the information available, in the context of these events an attempt was made to start a fire in one area of the prison and firearms were discharged before order was reestablished following the mediation of the Auxiliary Bishop of San Pedro Sula and President of Prison Pastoral Services, Rómulo Emiliani. The IACHR condemns the violent deaths of 13 inmates and urges the State to adopt the appropriate measures to prevent similar events from being repeated, and to investigate and punish those responsible.
In addition, in the context of a hearing on the rights of persons deprived of liberty in Mexico, the petitioners emphasized that there continue to be serious structural problems that affect the State's prisons in general. These include, for example, a lack of governability and high rates of violence in certain prisons; overcrowding; a shortage of drinking water and food; beatings and mistreatment of inmates by prison staff; the arbitrary application of disciplinary punishment, such as restrictions on inmate visits; repeated acts of corruption by prison authorities; and the rape of women and LGTBI persons. During the hearing, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty emphasized the need to take measures to ensure security in the prisons of northern Mexico, where criminal armed groups operate and where, according to the information received, there have been acts of violence, including sexual violence, committed against women in custody.
On another matter, the Inter-American Commission held a hearing to follow through on a working visit the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty made to Uruguay in July 2011. During the hearing, the State provided information on the extent of compliance with the recommendations made by the IACHR following that visit. The Commissioners, for their part, emphasized recommendations pertaining to the closure of COMCAR Modules 1, 2, and 4, and the closure of the Rocha Departmental Prison; the adoption of concrete measures to reduce the widespread and systematic use of preventive detention; and the attention provided to adolescents incarcerated at Colonia Berro. Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz noted her interest in seeing the Parliamentary Commission for the Prison System in Uruguay include among its duties the monitoring of the situation of children and adolescents deprived of liberty.
The Commission is deeply concerned about information it received during the current session that points to forms of discrimination, violence, and exclusion that women continue to face across the Americas, which hinder the full exercise of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Information received by the Commission indicates consistently that these problems are particularly acute in the case of indigenous women, due to the intersection of different forms of discrimination they have suffered historically due to their ethnicity, race, sex, and poverty.
In several hearings, different organizations have reported to the Commission on the multiple forms of discrimination that indigenous women suffer on the basis of their sex, race, and ethnicity; the insidious impact of violence on their cultural and spiritual life; existing voids in the universal human rights framework to address their specific needs; and the need to find different methodologies to address their human rights concerns. For example, the Commission received information concerning 600 disappearances and murders of aboriginal women documented in Canada; the disproportionate effect of the armed conflict in Colombia on indigenous women, including acts of sexual violence used as a strategy of war; and the absence of intercultural and bilingual education in the province of Jujuy in Argentina, even though it has the highest indigenous population in the country. The Commission reminds States of their obligation to ensure that all laws, public policies, and programs aimed at addressing the rights of women consider indigenous women's specific needs and world view, take into account their increased risk of human rights violations, and include the collective and individual dimensions of their human rights.
The Commission is also concerned about information it received during the hearings verifying the increased levels of violence against women in countries throughout the hemisphere. To name specific examples, the Commission received information regarding the high levels of violence in Colombia, the gravity of the problem of sexual violence against adolescent girls in Bolivia, and the legacy of sexual violence committed during the armed conflict in Guatemala. While it recognizes noteworthy efforts in States across the Americas to curb this problem, the Commission is concerned over the fact that most of these acts go unpunished and end in impunity. The Commission encourages States to diligently continue to adopt legislative, policy, and programmatic efforts to confront all forms of violence against women, in collaboration with the women affected and their representatives. These efforts must include adequate reparations to victims from a gender perspective—with the participation of the beneficiaries involved—and improved data-collection efforts to grasp the real dimension of this problem at the national level. The Commission also encourages States to continue undertaking efforts to eliminate the legal, policy, social, economic, and geographic barriers that women and girls still face to receive adequate judicial protection when they are victims of violence and discrimination. This is a crucial component of States' obligation to act with due diligence.
The Commission is also concerned about the particular risks of human rights violations faced by women who work in the defense of human rights, based on their gender. Information was received from Bolivia, Cuba, and Colombia in the context of hearings on acts of intimidation, violence, and threats that continue to affect this group of women. The Commission reiterates the need to legitimize and protect the actions of women’s rights defenders, and reminds States of their positive obligation to create the necessary conditions in which women defenders can fully carry out their work, free from all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.
Lesbians, Gays, and Trans, Bisexual, and Intersex Persons
In the hearing on "Trans Persons' Right to Identity," the IACHR received troubling information on the profound negative impact of the lack of recognition of gender identity on the full exercise of the rights of transgender persons. Transgenderism is a category of gender identity that includes the subcategories of transsexualism and transvestitism, as well as other variations. Gender identity is the internal, individual experience of gender as it is deeply felt by each person, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth. It includes a person's experience of his or her body and other expressions of gender, including dress, way of speaking, and mannerisms. A trans woman is a person whose biological sex is that of a man and whose gender identity is that of a woman; a trans man is someone who is biologically female and whose gender identity is male; a trans person is one who does not self-identify as belonging to a binary category of male or female.
Due to the lack of recognition of their gender identity, transgender persons are subjected to a situation of exclusion and marginalization in all aspects of public life. The IACHR is particularly concerned about information received concerning the problems they face in the sphere of political participation and in access to justice, health-care services, education, and work, among others. The impunity of crimes against trans persons, including a large number of homicides in the region, was also denounced. This has been highlighted by the IACHR on numerous occasions.
The Commission is concerned about the information it received on human rights violations against trans persons, in particular the extreme violence and discrimination to which they are subjected by members of law enforcement—including arbitrary arrests and police abuse. These situations arise, among other reasons, because they lack an ID that legally reflects their gender identity. This situation is exacerbated by obstacles they face in access to justice: their complaints are often not received, as their identification documents do not correspond to their gender identity and expression. Also, the Commission is alarmed by the information presented on violations to the rights of personal integrity, privacy, and dignity of intersex persons.
The IACHR also received disquieting information indicating that it is impossible for trans persons to access health services that take into account their specific needs, which differ from those of men, women, and lesbian and gay persons. The Commission is also concerned about information regarding the obstacles trans persons face in the education sector; these are linked, among other things, to the fact that they cannot openly express their gender identity. This results in high dropout rates, which increase illiteracy and inequalities in work opportunities, furthering their exclusion. The Commission is also concerned in light of information it received on the barriers transgender persons face in being able to fully exercise their political rights, including the right to vote in countries in which polling places are differentiated by biological sex. The organizations Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RED LACTRANS) and Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad asked that the Commission, among other things, monitor these issues and present recommendations so that they can be included in the Inter-American Program for Universal Civil Registry and the Right to Identity.
In this regard, the Commission observes that the right to gender identity of trans persons is essential for them to be able to exercise their human rights. The IACHR urges States to take appropriate measures in all spheres of public intervention in order to ensure the full enjoyment and exercise of the human rights of trans persons, without discrimination of any kind. To that end, it is crucial, among other things, that States adopt public policies and protocols that take into account the gender identity and specific needs of trans persons.
In another hearing on the human rights situation in Peru, civil society organizations recommended that the State of Peru move forward with the adoption of measures that would produce change and lead to the punishment of violence against lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual and intersex persons—in particular, the creation of an official registry of hate crime cases against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans persons.
Children and Adolescents
The Commission held hearings in which it received information on situations faced by children and adolescents in the region. Specifically, it received information on the situation of children and adults in mental health institutions in Mexico and on the problems adolescents in Bolivia face when they try to access justice in cases involving sexual violence.
The Commission received troubling information concerning the segregation of persons with disabilities in institutions in Mexico, which affects a high number of children and adolescents. The Commission calls to mind that in accordance with international standards on the rights of children and adolescents—specifically Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the bodies of the inter-American human rights system generally use to interpret provisions of the American Convention—children should not be separated from their parents, except in cases in which a separation is deemed to be in the best interests of the child and is preferably established only temporarily. During the hearing, the Commission stressed the importance that the presence of children and adolescents in these institutions follow these basic principles and that the necessary means are provided to explore alternatives to institutionalization. The Commission also referred to the need to develop mechanisms for prevention and early detection of disabilities, emphasizing an interdisciplinary, community-based approach. The Commission is in the process of preparing a thematic report on the institutionalization of children and adolescents in the Americas. In preparing its report, the Commission has received information that includes the situation of children and adolescents in mental health institutions.
In addition, the Commission received troubling information indicating that adolescent victims of sexual violence in Bolivia continue to face obstacles in gaining access to the justice system. These obstacles include both regulatory and practical issues, such as, for example, the situation of re-victimization they face from the moment they lodge a complaint; the stereotypes said to affect the impartiality of the various authorities responsible for receiving and processing these complaints, such as the presumption that the complaints contain lies; the lack of training of investigating authorities to clarify cases of sexual violence using a gender-based and culturally appropriate approach; and delays faced in proceedings, among other problems. Participants in the hearing reported that a situation of impunity exists with regard to these types of violations, with a minimal rate of convictions compared to complaints received. The Commission has closely followed this issue in different ways. In its 2007 report on Access to Justice and Social Inclusion in Bolivia, the IACHR took note of some of these problems, in the chapter on women's access to justice and the chapter on the situation of children, and made recommendations. Likewise, in its report on Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas, the Commission addressed the types of problems described in the hearing. The Commission will continue to monitor this situation.
Freedom of Expression
On March 27, the Commission held a public hearing on the situation involving the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela, at the request of the Human Rights Center at Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB) and the Asociación Civil Espacio Público, the Colegio Nacional de Periodistas de Venezuela, and the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa, Venezuela (SNTP). The petitioners stated that there are illegitimate restrictions in Venezuela that reduce the effective exercise of freedom of expression, and said that these include: acts of aggression and attacks against journalists; problems in accessing public information; self-censorship; usurpation of government critics' electronic accounts, mandatory radio and television broadcasts; and judicial and administrative restrictions and sanctions against media outlets and journalists. The Venezuelan State, for its part, affirmed that Venezuela has the broadest possible freedom of expression and that this right is not limited in the least. The Commission expressed its concern over several issues, including the lack of investigations into attacks against journalists; restrictions to the effective exercise of the right of access to information; the scope of desacato regulations (related to insults against public officials); and the status of judicial proceedings such as the one being pursued against the publishers of the weekly Sexto Poder.
Next IACHR Sessions
The 145th regular session will take place July 16-20; it will not include any hearings or working meetings.
The 146th session will be held from October 29 through November 16, 2012. The deadline for submitting requests for hearings and working meetings will be announced in due time.
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 144th 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 144th session, the Commission approved the following admissibility reports:
• 4115-02 - Ricardo Javier Kaplun, Argentina
• 12.315 – Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto and Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro, Argentina
• 93-05 – Analía Verónica Tapia and Family , Argentina
• 609-98 – Guillermo Armando Capo, Argentina
• 302-07 – Flavio Mendes Pontes et al., Brazil
• 341-01 – Márcio Manoel Fraga and Nancy Victor da Silva, Brazil
• 6-07 – Jurandir Ferreira de Lima et al., Brazil
• 1447-05 – Omar de Jesús Lezcano et al. Colombia
• 1064-05 – Luis Fernando Guevara Diaz, Costa Rica
• 670-06 – Carlos Andrés Rodríguez Cárdenas, Ecuador
• 786-02 – Ester Avigail Fajardo Garcés and Claudio Alfonos Naser Leal, Ecuador
• 1528-11 – Ivan Teleguz, United States
• 900-08 – Djamel Ameziane, United States
• 161-06 – Juveniles Sentenced to Life without Parole, United States
• 1127-05 – Family of Sergio Arturo Canales Gálvez, Honduras
• 1119-02 – Aura de las Mercedes Pacheco Briceño and Balbina Francisca Rodríguez Pacheco, Venezuela
• 266-03 - Lilia Aljejandra García Andrade et al., Mexico
• 1471-05 - Yenina Esther Martínez Esquivia, Colombia
• 179-05 - Jesús Amado Sarria Agredo and Children, Colombia
• 1762-1 – Virgilio Maldonado Rodríguez, United States
• 1671-02 – Alejandro Peñafiel Salgado, Ecuador
B. Inadmissibility Reports
During the 144th session, the Commission approved the following inadmissibility reports:
• 11.996 – Márcia Cristina Rigo Leopoldi, Brazil
• 885-03 – Valentina de Andrade, Brazil
• 398-02 – José Xavier Gando Chica, Ecuador
• 1180-04 – Edgar Manuel de León Lemus, Guatemala
• 859-03 – María Elena Macedo García de Uribe (Widowed), Mexico
• 700-04 – Aurora Cortina González, Mexico
• 736-03 – Hernán Alberto Chumpitaz Vásquez, Peru
• 12.222 – Unified Water and Sewer Workers of Arequipa, Peru
• 170-00 – José Hernán Susanivar Susanivar et al., Peru
• 12.202 – Union of Regular Professors of the Universidad Nacional José Faustino Sánchez Carrión, Peru
• 513-04 – José Carlos Ramírez, Mexico
C. Friendly Settlement Reports
During the 144th session, the Commission approved the following 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:
• 12.546 – Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, Guatemala
• 12.174 – Israel Geraldo Paredes Acosta, Dominican Republic
• 11.706 – Yanomami Indigenous People of Haximú, Venezuela
D. Reports on the Merits
During the 143rd session, the IACHR approved four reports on the merits.
It also approved a decision to publish a report on the merits in Case No. 12.324, Rubén Luis Godoy, Argentina.
E. Archive Reports
During the 144th session, the Commission approved the following archive reports:
• 907-03 – Ricardo Alberto Barreda, Argentina
• 12.227 - Maria Madalena Goulart Soares et al., Brazil
• 12.276 – Jose P. dos Santos, Brazil
• 12.588 - Alexandre Ribeiro de Oliveira, Brazil
• 11.841 – Paraplegic Persons Deprived of Liberty in Auxiliary Hospital of the State Penitentiary of Sao Paulo, Brazil
• 689-04 – Eduardo Jiménez Jiménez, Costa Rica
• 871-01 – Francisco Moya Solano et al., Costa Rica
• 3226-02 – María Yamileth Scott Hernández, Costa Rica
• 12.364 – Luís Mazón Workers in the Ministry of Health, Ecuador
• 55-03 – Hugo Napoleón Sánchez Garcés, Ecuador
• 661-01 – Pedro Muñoz Ulloa and Miriam García Gutiérrez, Ecuador
• 146-03 – Williams Neftaly Valenzuela Saravia, El Salvador
• 12.352 – Bruce Campbell Harris Lloyd, Guatemala
• 12.438 – Guy André Francois, Haiti
• 468-03 – Asdrúbal Araujo Castillo, Mexico
• 1145-05 – Jorge Alberto Huezo, Nicaragua
• 11.836 – Feliciano Orue Coronel, Paraguay
• 12.186 – Luis Clodomiro Rojas Arias, Peru
• 904-98 – Members of ASESSP, Peru
• 908-98 – Carlos Felipe Améxaga Mattos, Peru
• 12.216 – Luis Enrique Guillén Bendezú et al., Peru
• 616-04 – Carlos Alberto Nieto Palma, Venezuela
On March 23, 26, 27, and 28, 2012, the Commission held hearings with respect to individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations. The videos, audio recordings, and photographs of the public hearings are available on the IACHR website. Their use is authorized, as long as appropriate credit is given to the OAS.
The following hearings took place during this session (listed by the order in which they were held):
• Access to Justice for Women in the Americas
• Threats to Judicial Independence in Central America
• Human Rights Situation of Persons Living with HIV in the Countries of the Caribbean Region
• Trans Persons' Right to Identity
• Right of Indigenous Peoples in Panama to Collective Ownership of Lands
• Case 12.354 – Kuna of Mandungandí and Emberá of Bayano Peoples, Panama
• Complaints of Institutional Segregation and the Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities in Mexico
• Situation of the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Mexico
• Situation of Missing Migrants and Unidentified Remains in Mexico
• Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Argentina
• Complaints of Attacks on Women Human Rights Defenders in Cuba
• Human Rights Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Honduras
• State of Fundamental Freedoms and their Effect on the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras
• Case 12.816 – Guillermo López Lone et al., Honduras
• General Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua
• Right to Effective Recourse in the Investigation of Grave Human Rights Violations in Colombia
• General Human Rights Situation in Antioquia, Colombia
• Case 12.711 – Wilfredo Quiñónez Bárcenas et al., Colombia
• Human Rights Situation of Women in Colombia
• Case 12.794 – Wong Ho Wing, Peru
• General Human Rights Situation in Peru
• Access to Information in the Investigation of Cases involving Grave Human Rights Violations in Peru
• Human Rights Situation of Detained and Deported Migrants along the Southern Border of the United States
• P1762/11 – Virgilio Maldonado, United States
• Venezuela's Compliance with International Obligations of the American Convention
• Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Venezuela
• Human Rights Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Uruguay
• Case 12.639 –Kaliña and Lokono Peoples, Suriname
• Case 12.777 – Claudina Velásquez and Family, Guatemala (expert witness)
• Situation of Judicial Independence in El Salvador
• Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Access to Justice in Guatemala
• Situation of Women Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Internal Armed Conflict in Guatemala
• Legal Restrictions to Freedom of Association in the Americas
• Complaints of Sexual Violence against Adolescent Girls in Bolivia
• Complaints regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in British Columbia, Canada
• Discrimination against Indigenous Women in the Americas
• Human Rights Situation of Persons Affected by the Extractive Industries in the Americas
• Process of Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System
The Commission also held one private hearing: General Human Rights Situation in Venezuela.
III. WORKING MEETINGS
The following working meetings were held during the 144th session:
• Precautionary Measure 255/11 – Nasa Indigenous People, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 134/00 – CREDHOS, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 128/00 – CCAJAR
• Precautionary Measure 97/10 – 179 Families from the Villages of El Vergel and El Pedregal in Cauca, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 368/10 – María Tirsa Paz, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 641/02 – SINALTRAINAL, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 61/11 – Awá People, Colombia
• Petition 12.376 – Alba Lucía Rodríguez, Colombia
• Precautionary Measure 452/11 –Indigenous Peoples of Cajamarca and their Leaders, Peru
• Follow-up on Cases included in the Joint Press Release of February 22, 2001
• Case 12.689 – JSCH and MGS, Mexico
• Case 12.204 – Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), Argentina
• Precautionary Measure 404/10 – Qom Navogoh Indigenous Community of "Primavera," Argentina
• Case 12.626 – Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales), United States
• Precautionary Measure 5/11 – Deportation of Haitians, United Statetes
• Precautionary Measure 259/02 – Detainees at Guantánamo Naval Base, United States
• Case 12.200 – Trindade et al., Brazil
• Case 12.277 – Fazenda Ubá, Brazil
• Case 12.066 – Fazenda Brasil Verde, Brazil
• Precautionary Measure 185/10 - Manuel Silva Torres, Ecuador
• Precautionary Measure 17/10 - Inhabitants of the Community of Omoa, Honduras
• Case 12.787 – Natividad de Jesús et al., El Salvador
• Precautionary Measure 393/10 – Luis Álvarez Renta, Dominican Republic
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 143rd session, which took place in October and November 2011. 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 Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, participated in the event "Afro XXI - High-Level Ibero-American Summit on People of African Descent," which took place November 16-19, 2011, in Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The Office of the Rapporteur's specialist attorney gave a talk on national and international legal structures related to racial discrimination and access to justice for people of African descent. The event was organized by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), along with the Federal Government of Brazil, the State Government of Bahia, the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation, and various specialized agencies of the United Nations. The general purpose of the Ibero-American Conference was to raise awareness about the presence of people of African descent in the Americas, the main problems they face, and the social, cultural, and economic contributions that Afro-descendant communities make in Ibero-America; stress the importance of inclusive public policies and practices; and debate strategies on the social inclusion of people of African descent in the context of various countries, as well as Afro-descendants' contributions to development.
On January 18, 2012, the Inter-American Commission published its report The Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas, which was prepared as part of the IACHR's activities in 2011 to mark the International Year for People of African Descent. The report presents an initial evaluation with respect to the situation of people of African descent in the hemisphere, and makes recommendations to the States on strengthening the protection of Afro-descendants' human rights. This year, the Office of the Rapporteur plans to hold and participate in several subregional events to promote dissemination of the Commission's report.
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 Tracy Robinson, continued to carry out activities to distribute five thematic reports published in 2011, which identify the main advances women have made and the challenges they face in exercising their rights, free of discrimination, in various contexts. The reports are the following: The Road to Substantive Democracy: Women's Political Participation in the Americas; The Work, Education and Resources of Women: The Road to Equality in Guaranteeing Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective; Legal Standards related to Gender Equality and Women's Rights in the Inter-American System: Development and Application; and Access to Justice for Women Victims of Sexual Violence in Mesoamerica.
The Office of the Rapporteur is in the process of publishing the report Access to Justice for Women Victims of Sexual Violence: Health and Education, which addresses sexual violence in the educational and health spheres in the Americas, as well as the main barriers women face in gaining access to justice when they are victims of this type of violence in these contexts. Drawing on records and information from the States, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the press, and universities in the region, the report presence a preliminary overview of the dimensions of sexual violence in these spheres. With its perspective on human rights and the States' obligations in this area, the report also addresses the subject of how sexual violence against women keeps them from exercising their rights to education and health, and begins a discussion on the main barriers women face in accessing effective judicial recourse to remedy this problem.
The six abovementioned thematic reports have been developed by the Office of the Rapporteur with support from the governments of Spain, Finland, and Canada, and from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
c. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
On November 17-18, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, under the direction of Commissioner Dinah Shelton, participated in a workshop on "The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Inter-American System," geared toward indigenous leaders and government officials who work in this field. The workshop, which was held in Lima, Peru, was organized by the OAS Department of International Law. It included the participation of indigenous leaders from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, and Venezuela.
The Office of the Rapporteur carried out a working visit to Guatemala, March 7-10, 2012. The purpose of the visit was to collect information on the situation of indigenous peoples in that country. A press release was issued following the visit: IACHR Hails Progress against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women.
During the visit, the Office of the Rapporteur also held a training workshop on the inter-American human rights system, geared toward indigenous leaders from Mesoamerica. Participants included indigenous leaders and attorneys from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
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 Rosa María Ortiz, participated in the event titled Children and the administration of justice in Latin America: a regional perspective, held March 8, 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland, on the occasion of the United Nations Human Rights Council's annual meeting on the rights of the child.
In addition, on March 27-29, 2012, the Rapporteur participated in a mission to Haiti, along with UNICEF and the President of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. In the context of this visit, which focused exclusively on irregularities in international adoptions, the Rapporteur met with Richel Lafaille, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor; Frantz Bellerice, Cabinet Director in the Ministry of Justice and Public Security; a magistrate from a Court of First Instance; and members of the Senate. Meetings were also held with representatives of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, with the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBSR); and Ambassadors representing the Montreal Group (Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, United States, and France, among others). The delegation also visited a crèche, a place for children subject to international adoption.
Previously, in November 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur held a series of events to present the report on Juvenile Justice and Human Rights in the Americas. On November 11, the report was presented in the Dominican Republic; on November 17 in Uruguay; and on November 18 in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the report was presented to the Office of the National Human Rights Ombudsman and to national legislators, and later to the Office of the National Secretary of Childhood, Adolescence, and Family.
In February 2012, the IACHR selected a Brazilian citizen to receive a 10-month fellowship with the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child. The fellowship is funded by the organization Save the Children.
e. Office of the Rapporteur on Migrants
During this session, the Commission decided to modify the mandate of the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, led by Commissioner Felipe González. In response to the multiple challenges raised by human mobility in the region, the new mandate is focused on the respect for and guarantee of the rights of migrants and their families, asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons, victims of human trafficking, and internally displaced persons, as well as other vulnerable groups of persons in the context of human mobility.
The Office of the Rapporteur will continue to devote its efforts to protecting and promoting the human rights of migrant persons in the context of the many human rights challenges created by human mobility. Among the most pressing of these challenges: the criminalization of migrants with irregular status; the situations raised by mixed migratory flows; the denial of judicial protection and due process in immigration proceedings; and violence generated by non-State actors, such as organized crime syndicates, drug trafficking cartels, gangs (maras), or paramilitary groups. Moreover, some countries have introduced legislative reforms or bills related to their systems for determining refugee status, changes designed to restrict access to international protections for asylum seekers, refugees, and those seeking additional protection. Other challenges that revolve around human mobility in the hemisphere have to do with the persecution and violence to which vulnerable groups are subject, including women; children and adolescents; lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual, and intersex persons; people of African descent; and indigenous people. Trends such as migration resulting from climate change, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and internal displacement are among other challenges that require a human rights-related response.
As far as its activities in recent months, on November 16, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur on Migrants participated in the Working Meeting of the Northern Border Initiative's Program on Defense and Binational Impact, where it offered a workshop on the protection mechanisms the inter-American human rights system offers to promote and protect the rights of migrant persons. Other topics included the mandate and functions of the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, and the impact of Advisory Opinion 18-03. This activity included the participation of members of organizations from the federated entities along Mexico's northern border. The Office of the Rapporteur also attended the Colloquium on Border Security Policies and Migrants' Human Rights, organized by the Northern Border College in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
On February 16, 2012, the Rapporteur spoke at a joint meeting of the OAS Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) and the Special Committee on Migration Issues (CEAM), held to discuss implementation of the Inter-American Program for the Promotion and Protection of the Human Rights of Migrants. He presented the annual report on the Office of the Rapporteur's 2011 activities. This report was prepared in accordance with the guidelines established by the General Assembly in Resolution 2669 (XLI-O/11). The meeting took place in Washington, D.C.
On February 17, 2012, the Inter-American Commission submitted a brief to the Inter-American Court concerning the advisory opinion having to do with States' legal obligations with respect to migrant children. The brief was requested by the MERCOSUR Member States. The Office of the Rapporteur on Migrants worked on these observations in conjunction with the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child and with the Commission's Court Group.
On February 20, 2012, a conference was held at the General Council of Spanish Lawyers on "The Current Human Rights Situation in Mexico." In the context of this event, the Rapporteur gave a presentation on the current human rights outlook for migrants in Mexico. The event was convened by the Mexico Solidarity Committee and was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
As part of a course on Social Security in Globalization, the Office of the Rapporteur gave a presentation on March 28, 2012, via teleconference, on "Migrants' Human Rights and Labor Rights in the Inter-American System." The course was organized by the Inter-American Center for Social Security Studies(CIESS).
f. Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
On December 2-3, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica, the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, under the direction of Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, organized the Second Latin American Seminar on Best Prison Practices, geared toward the States of the English-speaking Caribbean. The minutes and materials from this event are available on the website of the Office of the Rapporteur.
On December 31, 2011, the IACHR approved the regional thematic report on the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas. The publication and launch of this report are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, on February 1-2, 2012, the Office of the Rapporteur participated in a roundtable discussion organized by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The event was designed to follow through on implementation of the recommendations made by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) following its 2008 mission to Mexico. Participants in this event also included public officials from the state of Oaxaca, members of the SPT, and civil society organizations.
The Office of the Rapporteur is in the process of monitoring the situation of persons deprived of liberty in light of the fire at the Comayagua National Prison, and among other things it is preparing for an observation visit to Honduras, which will take place this April.
g. Office of the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
On December 5-6, 2011, the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, and the IACHR Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton, participated in the "Meeting of Human Rights Defenders in Latin America," organized by the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. During the visit, on December 7, 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur gave a workshop for the staff of the Office of the National Human Rights Ombudsman on the protection mechanisms the inter-American system offers for human rights defenders.
The Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas was approved by the IACHR on December 31, 2011. The report presents updated information on the situation of human rights defenders in the region and on the standards of international law in this area. It also follows up on recommendations made in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, which the IACHR published on March 7, 2006.
The report was launched March 6, 2012, in Geneva, in the framework of the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. During the visit, the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco, and the IACHR Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton, participated in a seminar which also included the participation of the UN Rapporteur, Margaret Sekaggya. This seminar was organized by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).
On March 8-9, the Office of the Rapporteur participated in the Fourth "Inter-Mechanisms" Meeting on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, which took place in Geneva and included discussions on issues related to undue restrictions to civil society organizations' freedom of association. Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton participated on behalf of the IACHR.
On March 14, 2012, the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, along with the rapporteurs on human rights defenders from the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission) issued a joint statement expressing their concern over acts of reprisals against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the regional and UN human rights systems.
Finally, in the context of the IACHR's 144th session, a presentation was made in Washington of the Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. The presentation, which took place March 28, 2012, was attended by human rights defenders from around the region, as well as by representatives of some States.
h. Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression participated in the hearing on the Case of Néstor José and Luis Uzcátegui et al. v. Venezuela, which took place during the 93rd regular sessions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in San José, Costa Rica. The Special Rapporteur also participated in the II Latin American Congress on Reproductive Rights, in the city of San José, Costa Rica, speaking on a panel that addressed the keynote topic: "Access to Information: A Right for Reproductive Autonomy." On February 9, the Special Rapporteur participated in a panel organized in Bogotá by Javeriana University and the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP), with remarks on the status of freedom of expression in the region. From February 22 to 26, Special Rapporteur Catalina Botero and attorney Michael Camilleri participated in the hearings on the Case of Vélez Restrepo and Family Members v. Colombia, which took place during the 94th sessions of the Inter-American Court in San José, Costa Rica.
i. Unit on the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, and Trans, Bisexual, and Intersex Persons
The Unit on the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, and Trans, Bisexuals and Intersex Persons, created in November 2011, has begun carrying out its functions in three lines of work: handling individual petitions and cases; providing specialized technical advice to OAS Member States and the OAS political bodies; and drafting a regional report on the human rights situation of these persons.
In the context of drafting a regional report on the human rights of LGBTI persons, the Unit has conducted a series of expert meetings. In June 2011, the IACHR, UNAIDS and the Pan American Health Organization held an expert meeting on health and LGTBI persons, which was led by the IACHR’s then-Chair, Commissioner Dinah Shelton. At this meeting, more than 15 experts presented valuable and extensive information regarding the obstacles and challenges faced by lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual, and intersex persons in accessing health services and in exercising their right to the highest attainable standard of health, according to international standards on availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality.
On February 24-25, 2012, the IACHR held a meeting of experts on violence and impunity, under the auspices of UNAIDS. The meeting was chaired by Commissioner Tracy Robinson and gathered more than 20 experts, who provided information with respect to violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the prevailing impunity surrounding these acts.
In this context, the Unit's work plan for 2012 includes holding more expert meetings on other issues, such as interpersonal relations, work, culture, education, and political participation. These will provide different perspectives on the problems and obstacles that lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual, and intersex persons face in the full enjoyment and exercise of their human rights, enshrined in inter-American and universal human rights instruments.
j. Friendly Settlement Group
With the support of the European Commission, the IACHR created the Friendly Settlement Group in 2011, for the purpose of strengthening the friendly settlement mechanism established in Article 48(1)(f) of the American Convention and 40(1) of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. To that end, several activities are planned for 2012, such as conducting training workshops for Commission staff; drafting internal policies and protocols on best practices carried out by this body; and publishing a manual with information on friendly settlement agreements reached to date.
With regard to the questionnaires on the IACHR friendly settlement process published on October 26, 2011—one for States and civil society organizations and another geared toward experts, programs, schools, and mediation and alternative dispute resolution clinics—the Commission has received responses from 16 States and 17 civil society members. This information will prove essential in preparing the manual on friendly settlement proceedings. The manual is expected to be published in the course of this year.
V. Work Related to the Inter-American Court
The Inter-American Commission has submitted 181 contentious cases to be heard by the Court. From January to March 2012 it submitted six cases: Case J. (Peru), Liakat Ali Alibux (Suriname), Melba del Carmen Suárez Peralta (Ecuador), Rodríguez Vera et al.-Palace of Justice (Colombia), Pacheco Tineo Family (Bolivia), and Allan Brewer Carías (Venezuela).
Of the total number of cases taken to the Court, the last 4 that were submitted are pending notification of the respective State; 15 are awaiting public hearing; 10 are awaiting judgment; 127 are in the stage of compliance with judgment; and 19 are closed.
The Commission participated in the hearings during the Court's regular period of sessions held in San José, Costa Rica, from February 20 to March 2, 2012. During those sessions, public hearings were held in the following cases: Vélez Restrep et al. (Colombia), Furlán et al. (Argentina), Pacheo Teruel et al. (Honduras), Palma Mendoza et al. (Ecuador), and Castillo González et al. (Venezuela). The Commission also participated in the following public hearings on provisional measures: LM (Paraguay), Gladys Lanza Ochoa (Honduras), and Juan Almonte Herrera (Dominican Republic); and in the following hearings on supervision of compliance: Castañeda Gutman (Mexico) and Pueblo Bello (Colombia), as well as nine Colombian cases involving supervision of compliance with measures related to medical care.
VI. Financial Contributions
The IACHR would like to express its special appreciation for the significant financial contributions made by countries both 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 2011 by the governments of the following OAS member countries: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, and Mexico. The Commission would also like to thank the observer countries that support the Commission’s activities: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, and Switzerland. The Commission also values and appreciates the contributions it has received from the United Nations Population Fund, the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Save the Children/Sweden, and the University of Notre Dame. These donations contribute concretely to the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system in the Americas.
In the first three months of 2012, the IACHR has received contributions from Chile, Spain, the European Commission, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Save the Children/Sweden.