Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today presented its 2011 Annual Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The report consists of five chapters that report on the activities carried out by the IACHR and its thematic rapporteurships in 2011 and provide information on the processing of petitions and cases and the granting of precautionary measures throughout the year.
Throughout the year 2011, the IACHR carried out numerous activities that include, among others, the celebration of three period of sessions, the approval of 67 admissibility reports, 11 inadmissibility, eight friendly settlements, 54 archives, 25 merits, the publications of five merits, and the presentation of 23 cases before the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Also, this includes the assessment of more than 400 requests of precautionary measures, the celebration of 91 hearings and 58 working meetings. Also, the Commission carried out more than 30 visits headed by the Commissioners as Rapporteurs of a country or thematic. The IACHR published 138 press releases, and held 5 academic courses. This is a reflection of the large amount and the diversity of the challenges that is placed upon the Commission, and the different ways it protects and promotes human rights in the hemisphere.
Also, the Commission continued its work in promoting human rights though the approval and publication of many thematic reports. In 2001, the Commission published the Report on “Immigration in the United Stated: Detention and Due Process”; “The Work, Education and Resources of Women: the Road to Equality in Guaranteeing Economical, Social and Cultural Rights”; Juvenile Justice and Human Rights in the Americas”; The Road to substantive Democracy: Women’s political participation in the Americas”; Access to information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective”; “Access to Justice for Women victims of sexual violence in Mesoamerica”; “Legal Standards related to gender equality and women’s rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System: Development and Application”; “The Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas”; and more recently, the “Second Report on Human Rights Defenders in the Americas”.
In addition, Chapter IV contains special sections on the human rights situation in Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela, countries the IACHR believed warranted special attention in 2011.
With respect to Colombia, the report states that the IACHR is aware of the complex situation the country is facing after five decades of violence, the effects of the drug-trafficking business on the violence, and the State's efforts to combat these phenomena. In this regard, the Commission recognizes the State's efforts to dismantle the armed structure of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia). Nevertheless, illegal armed groups continue to be involved in acts of violence against the population, peoples and persons historically discriminated or that have been subjected to vulnerable situations, such as women, human rights defenders and children. The report also notes that Colombia has carried out a series of legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to try to overcome the grave situations involving human rights violations, stemming from paramilitarism and illegal intelligence activities. However, the IACHR continues to receive complaints regarding the use of the military jurisdiction in situations involving human rights violations, and six years after the enactment of the Law on Justice and Peace, only one final judgment has been handed down. The information received by the Commission with respect to the occurrence of extrajudicial executions known as "false positives" could indicate a reduction in these cases, although the Commission cautions that there have been very few convictions of members of security forces for committing these extrajudicial executions and that it is critical to conduct speedy investigations and take steps to prevent acts of harassment and assassination attempts against those who report violations and their family members.
With respect to Cuba, the Commission again recognizes the strides it has made toward meeting the millennium development goals established by the United Nations. The IACHR particularly welcomes the progress made where maternal health is concerned, especially the fact that 100% of births were attended by qualified personnel. However, the IACHR reiterates that the restrictions on political rights and on the rights of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, the lack of elections, the lack of an independent judicial branch, and restrictions on freedom of movement have, over the decades, become permanent fixtures in systematic violations of the human rights of the Cuban people. The information available suggests that the general human rights situation has not changed in 2011. The same human rights violations mentioned above persist, as do severe repression of women, restrictions on human rights defenders, and laws and practices that violate the rights of children and adolescents.
With respect to Honduras, the Commission has taken particular care to monitor the human rights situation in the country, and has repeatedly expressed its concern with regard to serious structural problems in the area of justice, security, marginalization, and discrimination. The IACHR recognizes the best practices that have been carried out by the State of Honduras, such as the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by executive decree, as well as the creation by decree of the Secretariat for Justice and Human Rights and the Secretariat for Development of Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Peoples. Likewise, the Commission welcomes Honduras's ratification in 2011 of four inter-American human rights instruments as a positive step toward the universalization of the system. However, the IACHR notes in its report that in 2011 it continued to receive troubling information concerning the situation of journalists, human rights defenders, peasant farmers of Bajo Aguán, indigenous peoples, and LGTBI persons, among other groups, all in the context of a high rate of murder and impunity, which particularly affects women, children, and adolescents. The IACHR has also received information on murders of journalists, allegedly for exercising their right to freedom of expression, as well as on assaults and attacks on journalists and media outlets, among others.
With respect to Venezuela, in its report the Commission recognizes the progress the country has made on economic, social, and cultural rights through policies and measures designed to rectify the problems that afflict broad segments of the Venezuelan population, as well as the regulatory progress it has made in terms of protecting and guaranteeing these rights. The priority the State has given to these measures is essential to ensure that people have a decent life, and provides an important foundation for maintaining democratic stability. However, the report expresses the IACHR's concern over the situation of citizen insecurity and the high rates of violence, as well as the impunity for most crimes committed against the population. This is related to the provisional status of judges and prosecutors, which leads to weakness and a lack of independence and impartiality in the judiciary and in turn has a negative impact on the exercise of the right of access to justice. The IACHR also notes the troubling adoption of norms involving legal and administrative restrictions that hinder the enjoyment and exercise of human rights in the country, such as the "Enabling Law." The report also examines the abusive use of criminal law and the infringement of freedom of expression, as well as the grave human rights situation of persons deprived of liberty, among other issues. The Commission continues to request the State's consent to carry out an observation visit to Venezuela. The State thus far has denied the IACHR permission to visit Venezuela, which not only impairs the Commission's ability to comply with its mandate as the main OAS body for the promotion and protection of human rights, but also seriously weakens the protection system created by the Organization's Member States.
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.