Annex to the Press Release Issued at the Close of the 149th Session
November 8, 2013
Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 149th regular session from October 24 to November 8, 2013. The IACHR is made up of José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Chair; Tracy Robinson, First Vice-Chair; Rosa María Ortiz, Second Vice-Chair; and Felipe González, Dinah Shelton, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, and Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. The Executive Secretary is Emilio Álvarez Icaza Longoria.
During the 149th session, the Commission held hearings and working meetings, and approved reports on individual cases and petitions. The hearings and 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 right to freedom of expression; and the situation concerning the rights of children, migrants, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, women, persons deprived of liberty, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, and intersex persons, among other issues.
The Commission notes that for the first time in the history of the IACHR, a hearing provided simultaneous interpretation into sign language for the hearing-impaired and easy-to-read texts for persons with intellectual disabilities. This service was offered during the webcast of the hearing on the human rights situation of persons with mental intellectual disabilities in Peru, and the interpretation into sign language is available in the video of this hearing on YouTube. The Commission considers it essential to make its hearings accessible for all persons with disabilities, and in the future it hopes to have the financial resources it needs to expand this program to all IACHR hearings. This step is an indication of the Inter-American Commission’s commitment to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the Americas.
During the 149th session, two civil society organizations launched publications at the Commission. On October 31, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) presented the publication “Notes on the Reforms of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rules of Procedure: Changes resulting from the Process of Reflection, 2011-2013.” The presentation was made by the organization’s Executive Director, Viviana Kristicevic, and the Chair of the IACHR offered welcoming remarks. In addition, on November 6, the organization Open Society Justice Initiative launched its report “From Rights to Remedies: Implementing International Human Rights Decisions.” Panelists at the event included IACHR Commissioner Felipe González; Christian De Vos, Advocacy Officer for Open Society, and Professor Alexandra Huneeus of the University of Wisconsin Law School.
The closing ceremony of the 149th session took place November 7, 2013, in the Simón Bolívar Room in the Main Building at OAS headquarters. Delegations from the Member States and Permanent Observer countries attended, as well as representatives of civil society.
Participation in Hearings
The Inter-American Commission would like to draw special attention to the participation in its hearings of several agencies and offices of the United Nations. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, participated in the hearing on the human rights situation of detainees being held by the United States at its naval base in Guántanamo, Cuba. For his part, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, participated in the hearing on communications surveillance by the United States. The Regional Office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presented information on the human rights situation of girls in Latin America and the Caribbean, in a hearing requested by that international agency. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) participated in the hearing on the human rights situation of refugees in the Americas. The Inter-American Commission values and underscores the importance of this collaborative effort between the regional system and the international human rights system for the purpose of better protecting and promoting the effectiveness of human rights in the region.
When victims and civil society organizations attend hearings before the Commission, they trust they will be met with a response that enables their human rights to be respected and guaranteed. As a result of the hearings, the Commission can adopt a series of decisions, within the scope of its mandate, which will be received by the States themselves. In this sense, the operating model for the inter-American system, and for the international justice system in general, requires the active participation of the States, precisely because they are the very guarantors of the rights of persons who live in their jurisdictions. This is how international monitoring systems created by democratic States are understood to function.
In the spirit of that understanding, the Commission expresses its concern over the State of Ecuador’s failure to appear at hearings on the right to freedom of expression and association and on the right of indigenous peoples in that country to prior consultation. For the Commission, hearings provide an important opportunity for dialogue between the States and civil society. The active participation of representatives of civil society and of the States in the hearings allows the Commission to receive firsthand information on the human rights situation in the region. In this regard, the State of Ecuador’s failure to appear hampers the fulfillment of the mandate given to the Commission by the States themselves, which in turn has a negative effect on the ability of all inhabitants of Ecuador to exercise their human rights. The participation in hearings and meetings is essential to help strengthen the work of protecting human rights throughout the region. The Commission regrets the absence of representatives of the State of Ecuador at these hearings and expresses its openness and commitment, within the scope of its functions, to work with the State to help overcome any obstacle that may affect its participation in future sessions.
Moreover, the IACHR regrets the limited participation of the United States in hearings on the human rights situation of detainees at the Guantánamo Naval Base; on freedom of expression and communications surveillance by the United States; on the human rights of migrants and legislative reforms in the United States; and on Case 12.831 and Precautionary Measure 160/11, in reference to Kevin Cooper. The delegation representing the State reported that, as it had announced in a letter dated October 18, 2013, it was unable to adequately prepare for the hearings, given the government shutdown in October. The representatives of the State reported that they would send their response in writing within 30 days. The Commission trusts that it will receive the responses within the specified time frame.
In addition, the IACHR expresses its concern over the stance expressed by some State delegations to the effect that before a hearing is convened on a subject, domestic remedies must first be exhausted. The Commission considers it essential to clarify that hearings on issues are one of the monitoring mechanisms the IACHR uses to keep itself informed about the human rights situation in the region, in fulfillment of its mandate. Exhaustion of domestic remedies is a prerequisite for petitions to be processed in the petition and case system, a means for the Commission to respond to past human rights violations for which no justice was able to be obtained within the national jurisdiction. During these sessions, there were two hearings involving cases being processed by the Commission and 50 hearings that did not involve the petition and case system; these addressed various human rights issues at the regional and national level. These hearings are an essential tool to raise awareness about current subjects involving human rights situations in the member countries.
In 2013, the IACHR held 114 hearings, a record in its history. It received 374 petitions for hearings, another record. The hearings addressed a range of human rights issues in 18 countries, and 10 regional hearings were also held. During this session, the IACHR website received 132,000 visits. The live webcast of the hearings was followed from 40,662 computers throughout the region and from other continents as well. During the transmission, comments on the hearings by users of the social media network Twitter, on which the IACHR has 40,000 followers, ended up trending in Bogotá and Buenos Aires. Photos from the hearings on the Commission’s Flickr site drew 82,432 visits over the week, while videos of the hearings on its YouTube channel were viewed 15,619 times.
Reprisals against Individuals who Attend Hearings and Working Meetings
The Commission expresses its deepest concern over threats, reprisals, and disparaging acts directed against some individuals who attend IACHR hearings and working meetings, both on the part of individuals and, in some cases, State authorities. Specifically, the IACHR received information indicating that after the two hearings held on Ecuador, high-level Ecuadorian authorities used insulting terms in referring to the individuals and organizations that presented information at the hearing. The Commissioner considers unacceptable any type of reprisal or stigmatization that a State may undertake because of the participation or actions of individuals or organizations before the bodies of the inter-American system, in exercise of their treaty rights. The Commission reminds the States that Article 63 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure establishes that 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,” and that 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.”
Progress on Friendly Settlements
The 149th session, included five working meetings on cases in the process of friendly settlement before the Commission. The IACHR would like to draw attention to the progress reached in Case 11.007, Trujillo Massacre–Colombia, in the meeting held between representatives of the Colombian State and the petitioners: the organizations Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP) and Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR). With a view to reactivating the friendly settlement process, the parties signed an “Act of Understanding,” in which they made a commitment to meet for the first time in November 2013 and then periodically for a period of one year to examine proposals by both parties, with the aim of developing joint formulas that will lead to a future friendly settlement agreement, one that guarantees the rights of victims, pursuant to the recommendations of the Comisión de Investigación de los sucesos violentos de Trujillo (Committee to Investigate the Violent Events in Trujillo).
Situation of Human Rights Defenders
The Commission was informed about ongoing murders, threats, and acts of harassment against human rights defenders; acts of violence in social protest demonstrations; and criminalization of the activities involved in defending human rights in various countries in the region. In addition, the IACHR continued to receive information on States’ failure to adopt effective protection measures for human rights defenders who are at serious risk. The IACHR reminds the States that protection measures should always be agreed upon with the beneficiaries. The Commission must once again urge the States to investigate the sources of risk to which human rights defender are subject, and punish those responsible for such acts of aggression and attacks.
During the hearings, the IACHR received information on criminalization of social protest, as well as on alleged reprisals and excessive use of force in peaceful demonstrations in Brazil, Guatemala, and Colombia. This includes the declaration of states of emergency, under which the army is used to control any acts of violence that may occur in the context of protest demonstrations. Along these lines, the Commission reiterates that peaceful social protest is part of the right to assembly and is a vital tool for the work of human rights defenders; thus the States must ensure that no human rights defender is kept from assembling or from leading or participating in a demonstration. Moreover, the Commission reiterates that the task of controlling any acts of violence that may arise as a result of protest demonstrations belongs to the police and not to military forces.
On another matter, the IACHR continued to receive information on the increase in indirect measures that seek to limit the exercise of the right to defend human rights in several countries of the region. Specifically, the IACHR received information indicating that criminal law has been used in Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Cuba, and Guatemala to charge human rights defenders with such alleged offenses as “inducement to rebellion,” “terrorism” and “sabotage,” or “justification of the crime.” Such proceedings are later closed for lack of evidence. Along these lines, the IACHR received troubling information on the criminalization of efforts being carried out in Brazil by indigenous, tribal, and Afro-descendant human rights defenders, specifically their activities related to the defense of ancestral territories and other indigenous rights. In addition, the IACHR received information on a mechanism used by the State of Guatemala to criminalize human rights defenders; this consists of opening baseless criminal proceedings with the aim of stopping the person’s efforts to defend human rights or creating an intimidating effect. The Commission calls to mind that, in addition to their duty to investigate and punish those who break the law within their territories, States have the obligation to take all necessary measures to ensure that individuals who legitimately claim the respect and protection of human rights are not subject to unjust or groundless trials. Opening groundless criminal investigations or judicial actions against human rights defenders not only has a chilling effect on their work but it can also paralyze their efforts to defend human rights, since their time, resources, and energy must be dedicated to their own defense. In this regard, the IACHR reiterates that the States must ensure that their authorities or third parties will not manipulate the punitive power of the State and its bodies of justice in order to harass those who are dedicated to legitimate activities, such as human rights defenders.
In addition, the Commission was informed about a publicity campaign in Guatemala called “the faces of infamy.” This campaign is being carried out by private individuals in order to delegitimize the work of human rights defenders. Along these lines, the IACHR was concerned to receive information on the Guatemalan State’s alleged failure to prevent, investigate, and punish the actions of private individuals in these types of campaigns.
With respect to Cuba, the IACHR received information concerning attacks, acts of aggression, threats, harassment, arbitrary detentions, and physical injuries reportedly being suffered by human rights defenders in that country. Along these lines, the IACHR was concerned to receive information about attacks in the context of peaceful protests carried out by the “Damas de Blanco” (“Ladies in White”), as well as the alleged persecution of human rights defenders within the national territory. The Commission received troubling information about the state of health of Sonia Garro, a member of the Damas de Blanco and a beneficiary of a precautionary measure granted by the IACHR in 2012 (PM-354/12); she is reportedly not receiving the necessary medical care from the Cuban State to protect her life and physical integrity. The IACHR was also informed about the Cuban State’s reported refusal to provide medical attention at health-care centers to people linked to the activity of defending human rights, even in cases in which the person’s condition is said to be extremely serious. On another matter, the Commission received information on alleged systematic actions taken by the State of Cuba to expel human rights defenders and their relatives from universities or deny them access to university education programs. The IACHR was also informed about an operation carried out by alleged police officers at the José Martí International Airport when Berta Soler, a leader of the Damas de Blanco, returned to Cuba after participating in an IACHR hearing.
Judicial Independence and Justice Operators
The IACHR was concerned to receive information on the lack of judicial independence in some States in the region. Specifically, the Commission was informed about reported restrictions allegedly being created for the process of nominating and selecting judges in Guatemala. The Commission also received information about the possibility of “reliability tests” being applied to justice operators in Honduras, involving asset investigations, toxicology tests, and the administration of polygraphs. Justice operators have indicated their concern that the implementation of these measures could be used to question the legitimacy of their work and could lead to arbitrary interference into their private lives, among other concerns. In addition, the Commission received troubling information regarding statements made to stigmatize justice operators involved in proceedings having to do with the punishment of human rights violations. In this regard, the IACHR was informed about alleged statements made by the executive branch and other public authorities to disparage the work of human rights defenders; and in the case of El Salvador, disparaging statements allegedly made by members of the Legislature against members of the Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court.
The IACHR stresses the importance that States offer security guarantees so that justice operators can continue their work under conditions of independence and impartiality. On this point, the Commission calls to mind that if States do not ensure that their judges and magistrates are safe from all types of external pressures, including reprisals meant to attack them personally and attack their families as well as those meant to affect their professional stability and future prospects, the exercise of the judicial function could be seriously hampered, keeping victims of human rights violations from receiving judicial protection and thwarting the free functioning of the judiciary and of the guidelines governing due legal process.
Situation of Persons of African Descent
The Commission received information on a continuing pattern of systemic discrimination against people of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this regard, the Commission received statistical and other information on the disproportionate levels of poverty and infant mortality, as well as other violations of economic, social, and cultural rights suffered by persons of African descent in many countries, such as Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Haiti, and Honduras. Information was also received on discrimination based on the cultural identity of people of African descent, such as expressed through hairstyle and dress. The Commission noted that the Rapporteurship has made, and will continue to make, a concerted effort to increase the visibility of the issue of systemic discrimination against Afro-descendants in the Americas.
The Commission also received disturbing information—within a broader context of forced displacement—about a pattern of threats, murderers, and other violations being committed on human rights leaders of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) by armed groups. In this regard, the Commission received specific information on multiple incidents of persecution occurring between 2009 and now. With reference to its recent visit to Colombia, the Commission noted that the government of Colombia has initiated policy measures to address these issues. However, the Commission expressed concern about the limited effectiveness of these measures, given the existing structural problems that lead to or exacerbate human rights violations suffered by Afro-Colombians.
In a specific case involving racial issues, the IACHR held a hearing on the merits in Case 12.831 (Kevin Cooper), involving the application of the death penalty in the U.S. state of California. The Commission received recorded testimony from Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row in San Quentin Prison since 1985. In his testimony, Cooper asserted his innocence and said he had been convicted for being of African descent. Referring to the alleged climate of racial hatred in which he was tried and convicted, he noted that a monkey was hanged in effigy outside the courthouse with a sign that contained a racial slur. For their part, the petitioners referred to alleged violations of due process and the lack of adequate defense, as well as the alleged presentation of false evidence and the concealment of exculpatory information by the State. According to the petitioners, the State concentrated all its efforts on gathering evidence to implicate Cooper, ignoring evidence that showed that the real perpetrators of the crime were three white men.
Situation of Indigenous Peoples
In hearings during its 149th session, the IACHR continued to receive troubling information about the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in different countries of the region. The main issues involved the ongoing threat and impact of development and investment plans and projects and concessions for the extraction of raw materials in their ancestral territories; the persecution, stigmatization, and criminalization of ancestral authorities and indigenous leaders for reasons related to the defense of their territories; the failure to implement effective measures for the protection of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation in Peru; and the impact of the armed conflict on indigenous peoples in Colombia and their situation in the context of the peace process.
The IACHR received information from representatives of indigenous peoples from Honduras, Ecuador, and Colombia on the impact of plans and projects for development, investment, and exploitation of raw materials on the effective enjoyment of their rights over the land, territory, and natural resources. According to statements made to the IACHR by indigenous leaders and organizations, plans and projects—such as mining concessions, oil exploitation, hydroelectric dams, tourism investment, lumbering, or the establishment of protected areas—are being scheduled and implemented without free and informed prior consultation. In the words of an indigenous authority from the Sapara Nationality of Ecuador, “We are not living in peace. They are having a very negative impact on us.” As the petitioners told the Commission, the effects of these projects include profound environmental degradation, the destruction of ancestral territories, the displacement of entire communities, the invasion of non-indigenous actors into the territories, negative effects on societal organizational structures, and, ultimately, the physical and cultural extinction of their respective peoples.
The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the widespread denial of the territorial rights of the hemisphere’s indigenous peoples, despite inter-American standards that indicate the obligation of OAS Member States to ensure respect for and guarantee of indigenous peoples’ rights over their ancestral lands and natural resources. The IACHR particularly reiterates its call to the States to effectively meet their obligation to consult and, where appropriate, to obtain the prior, free, and informed consent of the indigenous peoples in decisions involving any measure that would affect them, through culturally appropriate processes carried out in good faith, following the standards established by the bodies of the inter-American system.
Likewise, the IACHR is extremely concerned to observe that representatives of different indigenous peoples in the hearings before the Commission concurred in reporting that there is a strategy of persecution, stigmatization, and criminalization of indigenous leaders, meant to silence and intimidate their efforts to defend their rights over the land, territory, and natural resources. Thus, for example, the IACHR received information about the significant increase in the last few years in the number of murders and attempted murders of indigenous leaders in Brazil in retaliation for their struggle to protect their ancestral territories. In addition, it was reported that three leaders of the San Francisco de Locomapa community in Honduras were killed by armed individuals hired by a company, and eight indigenous leaders were forced to move out of the area for fear that they would be victims of similar acts of violence and death threats. The Commission was also informed that 40-year prison sentences were handed down against four indigenous leaders and orders were issued for the arrest of another ten, all of them members of the 12 Kaqchikel Maya communities of San Juan Sacatepequez in Guatemala that are opposed to the activities of a cement company.
As the Commission has indicated, acts of aggression, attacks, and harassment against indigenous leaders have a serious impact on indigenous peoples’ cultural integrity and at the same time break the cohesion of peoples and communities regarding the defense of their rights. Because of that, the IACHR urges the Member States to adopt special and differentiated protection measures to prevent acts of aggression and harassment from being carried out against indigenous leaders and individuals. The IACHR also urges the States to promote any actions and measures needed to act with due diligence to investigate these complaints, punish those responsible, and provide reparation to the victims.
Likewise, the Commission received troubling information concerning the situation of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation in Peru, whose ancestral territories are reportedly being threatened by the granting and implementation of concessions for the extraction of natural resources, primarily hydrocarbons; legal and illegal logging activities; and the uncontrolled incursion of outsiders. As the IACHR has warned, such activities constitute a threat to the life and integrity of these peoples, as they can give rise to contact with the outside world, with all the consequences this implies for their health and physical and cultural survival. Because peoples in voluntary isolation lack immunological defenses against common illnesses, contact may lead not only to the loss of their worldview and cultural identity, but also to epidemics that can cause entire peoples to disappear. Thus, respect for the no-contact principle becomes essential to ensure the effective exercise of their fundamental rights, including the right to life and integrity, the right to their ancestral lands and territory, and the right to culture and to health, among others.
The IACHR welcomes the fact that Peru has a specific law geared toward protecting the regions of indigenous peoples in isolation, the “Act for the Protection of Indigenous or Native Peoples in a Situation of Isolation and in a Situation of Initial Contact.” Nevertheless, the Commission is concerned about information it received indicating that this law has not been adapted to the intangibility and no-contact principle, and by the lack of effective implementation of protection measures such as checkpoints, action protocols, and the sanctioning of clandestine entries. The IACHR reiterates to the Peruvian State the call it has made to the region’s Member States to guarantee respect for the human rights of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation through concrete, effective measures designed to provide legal and actual protection of their ancestral territories, and to refrain from taking actions that would go against their rights.
Meanwhile, Colombian indigenous organizations informed the IACHR about ongoing, serious harm being done to the life and physical and cultural integrity of indigenous peoples, communities, and individuals in Colombia, and their concerns regarding the impact of the peace process negotiations on their rights. In that regard, the IACHR welcomed the Colombian State’s assertion that the protection of indigenous peoples is a priority matter in the peace negotiation, and its recognition of the impact of the armed conflict on the physical and cultural integrity of indigenous peoples in the country. The State indicated that mechanisms are in place for the participation of civil society in the peace process, through regional dialogue forums, and that more than 250 proposals have been received from indigenous organizations in the country.
While the IACHR values the information provided by the State, it calls on the State to intensify its efforts to protect the effective enjoyment by indigenous peoples and their members of their right to territory, as a first step to safeguard their fundamental rights in the context of the internal armed conflict and in the peace process in Colombia. The Commission urges the State to take into account the singular importance, recognized under inter-American law, of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples, and the central role that ancestral territories play in the impact on their rights caused by armed violence, economic interests, and dispossession.
Situation of Migrants, Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Beneficiaries of Complementary Protection, the Stateless, Victims of Human Trafficking, and the Internally Displaced
In the hearing on the human rights situation of refugees in the Americas, the petitioning organizations pointed out that there are nearly 5 million people in the region who have been forced to migrate within and beyond their countries’ territories. They also indicated that there is a need for States to guarantee the effective enjoyment of the right to seek and receive asylum, as thousands of people require international protection due to contexts of violence created by organized crime and internal armed conflict in their countries. The petitioners noted good practices in countries in the area of human rights protection for refugees, asylum seekers, and persons in situations similar to those of refugees. However, they also laid out some of the main challenges in some States in the region. They mentioned, among other things, the lack of access to a fair proceeding in cases in which statutes of limitations entail an infringement of due process in proceedings to determine the status of refugees. The petitioners also informed the Commission on the need for the principle of non-return (non-refoulement) to be guaranteed, and on the lack of an effective recourse, one that has the effect of suspending proceedings. The organizations indicated that it is necessary to move forward in applying the expanded definition of refugee contained in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, and to guarantee that asylum seekers, refugees, and individuals in need of international protection are not detained. Along these lines, they brought up as a special concern the use of detention in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The organizations also stated that while the majority of countries have a procedure in place to determine refugee status, there are still countries, mainly in the Caribbean, in which such procedures have not been established by law. In terms of these types of procedures, the organizations indicated that Latin American countries still require a greater strengthening and consolidation of these procedures and should ensure that these fulfill the guarantees related to due process and judicial protection, as established in case law by the bodies of the inter-American human rights system.
In the hearing on the human rights situation of Haitian migrants in the Americas, the IACHR received troubling information on the many risks and human rights violations of which Haitian migrants are victims in both transit and destination countries in South America. The main concerns they mentioned were the development of irregular migration routes, the main one running through the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, in many cases ending up in Brazil. Traveling via this migration route, Haitian migrants are victims of multiple human rights violations, exploitation by migrant trafficking networks and “coyotes,” and abuse at the hands of police and migration officials, all of which affect the migrants’ rights to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty. Another concern laid out by the petitioning organizations involved the conditions for taking in and sheltering Haitian migrants. It is estimated that close to 20,000 Haitians live in Brazil, more than half of them in a situation of irregular migration status. The Commission was informed that the increase in the flow of Haitian migrants had led some States to change their migration policies. One practice the organizations mentioned as a positive step was a procedure implemented by Brazil to regularize the status of Haitian migrants. The petitioners also indicated that it would be a positive step to effectively implement a “humanitarian visa” for Haitian migrants, and to begin a debate and regional coordination on the migration flow of Haitians toward other countries in the region. At the end of the hearing, the organizations asked the IACHR to make an effort to document and monitor the human rights violations that occur on the irregular migration route used by Haitian migrants. The Inter-American Commission urges the States to guarantee the right to migrate safely and with respect for migrants’ human rights. The IACHR particularly urges the States to investigate allegations of abuse in their territories and to implement information campaigns.
In terms of the situation of internally displaced persons in Mexico, the IACHR received information regarding the impact in recent years of violence by organized crime and violence between indigenous communities in the context of internal forced displacement. The organizations pointed to the need for the State to prepare a national assessment on internal displacement driven by violence, one that includes information on the causes of displacement and the destination cities of the displaced. They also called for the implementation of a specific program for providing care, protection, and assistance to victims of displacement as part of the Violence Prevention Program, which should be applied both at the federal and state level. For their part, the representatives of the Mexican State acknowledged that violence and crime have increased in recent years, reaching a peak in 2012. Along these lines, they reported that a national program on prevention of violence and crime is in the process of being prepared. The Mexican State also underscored the importance of the General Victims Act has in terms of the care, protection, and reparation of internally displaced persons. The IACHR underscores the need to raise awareness about the issue of international displacement, handle this issue differently than other migration phenomena, and implement specific policies to address the problem. It welcomes the approval of the General Victims Act but emphasizes the importance of moving toward more specific, concrete public policies on this issue and toward a federal law on internal displacement. It is also necessary to implement such measures as a registry to identify the displaced population, an early warning system to prevent massive displacements, and an entity to coordinate public policy on internally displaced persons.
Situation of Children and Adolescents
The Commission received information on citizen security and the rights of children in Haiti, and expressed its concern over the institutionalization of children and adolescents and the situation of street children.
In addition, the Commission was very interested to hear information concerning the human rights situation of girls and female adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially concerning the main problems and challenges they face in areas related to education, violence, child labor, migration, trafficking, disabilities, and health, and the especially vulnerable situation of girls and adolescents of African descent. The Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Rosa María Ortiz, underscored the challenges in adapting legislative agendas to protect girls and female adolescents, and the importance of working with international organizations to empower girls as being subject to rights. She also emphasized the seriousness of the statistics on pregnancies among girls aged 10-14, which have increased significantly in the region in recent years.
Finally, the IACHR received information on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity against children in Guyana; the corporal punishment of children and adolescents in schools by educational authorities; and the absence of sex education in school curriculums. The Commissioners were very concerned to hear the testimony of a girl who was a victim of corporal punishment, and they stressed the importance of putting an end to these types of practices, which are prohibited by international human rights law, according to the IACHR’s Report on Corporal Punishment and Human Rights of Children and Adolescents.
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
In the hearing on the “situation of economic, social, and cultural rights of campesinos in Latin America,” the IACHR learned with concern about the disproportionate impact that economic policies, economic crises, and problems with food supply have on rural populations. This situation has hampered any progress in the levels of poverty and indigence that affect peasants in the region. The Commission received information in the hearing on the further impact the development of industrial agriculture is having on rural areas in the countries of the region. The organizations indicated that major transnational corporations are taking up large tracts of land with single crops, in many cases using genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals. Industrial agriculture has moved into many areas where the land was once used for subsistence farming, on which generations of peasant farmers have based their diets. Petitioners also said that industrial agriculture has a negative impact on the environment. Moreover, the organizations indicated that campesinos face increasing problems in obtaining access to land due to the installation of hydroelectric facilities and the development of mining, among other factors, which the petitioners described as “land hoarding.” They indicated that the end result is that the situation of poverty and indigence that affects campesinos has worsened with an exacerbation of the obstacles they face in having access to sufficient nutrition, which has a serious impact on their health. The petitioning organizations indicated that multinational companies manage to influence public policies due to their significant economic power, and as a result, many of these policies have a negative effect on campesino interests. The organizations also referred to problems that arise with the genetic modification of seeds and as a result of the intellectual property that applies to them. The organizations also maintained that peasants who defend their rights are being persecuted and criminalized, and they asked the Commission to prepare a report with standards on the matter.
The Commission also received information on obstacles and restrictions to the right of free association, which are said to be hampering the right of workers to unionize. Specifically, organizations in different hearings mentioned the existence of legal mechanisms some States are said to be developing to hamper and restrict the right to free association. Along these lines, the IACHR was informed that Ecuador’s Executive Decree No. 16 establishes restrictions on the type of work human rights defenders can do. In addition, the IACHR received information on alleged restrictions on the free association of workers and union leaders in Chile and Venezuela, both States of which have imposed legal limitations on workers’ ability to freely belong to a trade union association. The IACHR was also informed about alleged legal restrictions in Venezuela on providing funding for civil organizations. The Commission reiterates that the right to association is a human right, one that is essential for the consolidation of democratic societies, and that any restriction must be justified by an imperative social interest.
In particular, in a hearing on union freedom in Chile, the Commission received information from the petitioners indicating that Chilean law on union rights has reportedly been in effect since the era of the dictatorship. According to the information received, this legislation significantly restricts the exercise of the right to freedom of association. In particular, the petitioners indicated that there are restrictions on the right to strike and limitation on collective bargaining, among other laws they cited as problematic. For its part, the State presented detailed information on the legislation in question, and emphasized that during the current government, unemployment had dropped by 3.3%, with the creation of close to 826,000 jobs, of which 67% corresponded to salaried employment. It added that the increase in employment had been accompanied by measures tending to expand protection of worker rights and improve working conditions. The government delegation also said that job security had increased in all economic activities and that efforts designed to improve workers’ quality of life are being reflected in the different laws passed and bills presented to the National Congress.
Situation of Women
In hearings held during this session the Commission received troubling information on barriers that exist in terms of women’s access to emergency contraception; ongoing violence and murders of women; constant attacks and threats suffered by human rights defenders such as the “Damas de Blanco” in Cuba; forms of violence against trans women of African descent in Brazil; gender-based discrimination; forms of violence suffered by girls throughout the region; and the effects of human trafficking on girls and women in Mexico, among other issues.
The Commission also received troubling information regarding the persistent situation of violence against women that exists in all countries of the region. Examples of this include gender-related murders in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, among other countries. The Commission also received information on the high percentages of murders of women that take place in countries with serious problems related to citizen security. The Commission calls to mind that the obligation to act with due diligence requires States to organize their governmental apparatus to prevent, investigate, and punish all acts of violence against women. Moreover, States must combat the discrimination that is perpetrated by the repetition of such acts. Public policies related to citizen security must include the necessary protections for the segments of the population at greatest risk for violence and crime, such as women and children, as the Commission stated in its Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights. On the matter of violence against women, the States should take steps to guarantee an effective legal framework for protection; adequate training for justice and security officials on gender equality issues; availability of support services for victims; awareness campaigns to end discriminatory practices that promote tolerance of these crimes; and the collection and production of statistics related to these incidents.
The Commission also received information concerning the challenges that girls in the Americas face in fully exercising their human rights. Such challenges include high rates of school drop-out, teen pregnancy, educational systems that reinforce gender inequality, and the prevalence of sexual violence against girls at school and in the home, among other problems. According to information the Commission received, the increase in girls’ access to education has not led to equality in employment conditions for women compared to those of men, nor in a more important role for women in the decision-making process. Although the Commission acknowledges that important progress has been made, such as achieving gender parity in education, it insists on States’ obligation to incorporate the specific needs of girls and adolescents in their legislation, public programs, and services designed to end, with all due diligence, current forms of discrimination and violence.
The Commission also received information, in the context of the hearings, confirming the relationship between the problem of violence against women and girls and the full application of their sexual and reproductive rights. In this regard, the Commission was informed about the major challenges women face for complete access to emergency contraception, as well as a troubling tendency to restrict or ban its availability. The organizations presented information linking the limitation of access to emergency contraception with high rates of clandestine abortions, a higher rate of teen pregnancy—which is often the result of sexual violence—and cases of suicide among adolescent girls. In light of the information it received, the Commission reiterates that States have an obligation to closely examine laws, rules, practices, and policies whose language or implementation may have discriminatory repercussions in terms of women’s access to reproductive health services. In addition, the IACHR emphasizes that States have the duty to eliminate all factual and legal barriers that may hinder women’s access to the maternal health services they need, and to take into account that restrictive laws tend to especially affect girls and women who are poor, have low levels of education, and live in rural areas. As the IACHR established in its report Access to Maternal Health Services from a Human Rights Perspective, the Commission also notes that States must ensure that women have access to information that is complete, accessible, reliable, and timely when it comes to reproductive issues and services at the national level.
Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty
As part of its strategy of keeping up on the situation of detainees at the Guantánamo Naval Base, the Inter-American Commission held a public hearing in which it was informed about the persistence of significant legal and political obstacles to transferring the detainees and closing the prison. Along these lines, it was reported that since May of this year, only two inmates have been transferred, both to Algeria. Information was also received indicating that of the 164 detainees that remain at Guantánamo, 90 are citizens of Yemen and face additional restrictions to being transferred. The Commission also learned that 14 inmates remain on a hunger strike as a measure to protest the indefinite detention to which they are subject. In the hearing, the Commissioners reiterated that the State must act resolutely to adopt measures that would lead to the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center, and allow the Commission to carry out a visit in which it can go through all the facilities and freely and privately interview any inmate it chooses.
One participant in this hearing was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, who stressed that the indefinite detention of individuals for long periods of time causes a state of suffering, stress, fear, and anxiety, which in itself constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. He also criticized the use of coercive measures against inmates who have decided to go on a hunger strike. He indicated that the authorities instead should look for other ways to resolve the situation, such as trying in good faith to engage in dialogue with the detainees. Along with the IACHR, the UN Rapporteur on Torture insisted on the need for U.S. authorities to allow a monitoring visit under acceptable conditions.
The IACHR once again expresses its concern over the United States’ failure to comply with Precautionary Measure 259/02 for the individuals detained by the United States at the Guantánamo Naval Base. On July 23, 2013, the Commission, at its own initiative, expanded the scope of these precautionary measures, in order to require the closure of the detention facility. The expansion of the measures was based on the United States’ failure to comply with the precautionary measures already in force for the detainees since March 12, 2002; the continuation of prolonged, indefinite situations of detention; and allegations of widespread abuse and mistreatment, including unnecessary and humiliating searches, the forced feeding of detainees who chose to participate in a hunger strike, and the increased segregation and isolation of detainees. The Commission once again calls the government’s attention to the international standards requiring respect for personal autonomy and dignity. Taking into account the international human rights obligations of the United States as a Member State of the OAS and signatory of the American Declaration, and given the ongoing risk of irreparable harm to the rights of the detainees, which is aggravated with the passage of time, the Inter-American Commission once again urges the government of the United States to proceed to immediately close the Guantánamo detention facilities; transfer the detainees to their countries of origin or to third countries, in observance of human rights guarantees, principally the obligation of non-refoulement; expedite the release of the detainees who have already been cleared for transfer; and house any detainees facing trial in appropriate detention conditions, according them applicable due process rights.
Finally, the IACHR reiterates its interest in carrying out a visit to the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo, a visit that would include direct and private access to the detainees and would have no other preconditions. The IACHR in 2007 asked the United States for its consent to visit the detention center at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo in order to monitor detention conditions. Representatives of the U.S. government communicated to the Commission that the visit could take place, but that the delegation would not be allowed to communicate freely with the detainees, a limitation the IACHR considered unacceptable. In 2011, the IACHR again requested consent for a visit. The Commission received a response from the United States, dated August 26, 2011, indicating that the consent is granted under the same “terms and conditions” conveyed to the Commission in 2007. One of these conditions indicates that the United States recognizes only the International Committee of the Red Cross as the protection body for the detainees at Guantánamo, and that therefore it allows direct access to the detainees only to members of that organization. The Inter-American Commission carries out visits to prison facilities on the condition that it will have direct and private access to those being detained. The Inter-American Commission repeated its request for consent on July 24, 2013, and received the same reply.
On another matter, the Commission received information indicating that the prison population in Panama has grown to more than 15,000 people, while the official capacity of the prison system is for 8,648 slots. It was indicated that over 80% of the total prison population is being held in 12 of the country’s 23 prison facilities. It was also learned that Panama has one of the highest rates in the world of persons deprived of liberty, with 411 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants. The Commission was informed that Panama is one of three countries in the Americas with the highest rate of people in pretrial detention, over 63%. The Commission was also informed that the State is planning to build a prison with a capacity to hold more than 5,000 inmates. However, the organizations suggested that if the prison population continues to grow at the same pace as it has in the last five years, capacity will continue to fall short. The IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, reiterated that responding to the problem of overcrowding requires the adoption of comprehensive public policies that include measures geared toward reducing the use of imprisonment and applying pretrial detention only exceptionally and sparingly, among other measures designed to make the criminal justice system efficient, and placing emphasis on prevention and not on repression. Merely building prisons, while justified in some cases, is not a sustainable measure over time. The Rapporteur also referred to the principle of transparency under which the prison system must operate.
In a hearing on the situation of individuals deprived of liberty at the Islas Marías Prison Complex, a federal prison facility located 112 kilometers from the coast in the state of Nayarit, Mexico, the Commission called attention to the situation in which the inmates are separated by a large distance from their families. The Commission was apprised of the low percentage of visits to this prison facility due to this circumstance, and indicated that persons deprived of liberty need family contact to be able to reintegrate into society. The Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty indicated that the distance from family that comes with being in custody at the Islas Marías Prison Complex is an unacceptable situation from a human rights perspective. The Commission also expressed its concern over the information received indicating that inmates are frequently mistreated and subject to arbitrary punishment, including solitary confinement and some unacceptable forms of physical coercion. Finally, the Commission reiterates that the State has a duty to provide adequate food and sufficient drinking water to persons deprived of liberty at the Islas Marías Prison Complex. The Commission takes note of the explicit invitation made by the State of Mexico the IACHR, and to civil society organizations, to carry out monitoring visits to the Islas Marías Prison Complex.
Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual, and Intersex Persons
During this session the IACHR acknowledges some signs of progress on the part of El Salvador, Brazil, and Guyana in the advancement of equality for LGTBI persons. Nonetheless, the Commission calls for the adoption of urgent measures to protect lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, and intersex (LGTBI) persons from violence and discrimination. The IACHR remains concerned about the growing levels of intolerance and discrimination against LGTBI persons, especially against trans women and children who are LGTBI or perceived as such. The IACHR notes that there is a general lack of disaggregated data on violence against LGTBI persons, which makes it difficult to develop public policy to protect and guarantee their rights. In this regard, the Commission urges all three States to adopt measures in accordance with OAS resolutions on sexual orientation and gender identity. The IACHR also notes with concern the difficulties and obstacles trans persons face in travelling and exercising their right to freedom of movement. This is due to several factors, including the legal impossibility of having access to documentation that reflects their gender, as well as the criminalization of trans persons. This was reflected in this session, in which several trans women who were to participate in hearings had difficulties or were unable to secure a visa in time to travel to the United States. This situation also hampers access to places, such as the Commission, where they can denounce the very human rights violations they have suffered.
In the hearing concerning El Salvador, the IACHR received troubling information indicating that trans persons, including those deprived of liberty, are constantly harassed and easily become victims of hate crimes. The Commission was informed that the discrimination they face is linked to the State’s lack of recognition of their right to identity. The IACHR welcomes the progress made by the government, including the creation of a 24-hour hotline to report instances of violence, and training provided to members of the judiciary and prosecutors. However, the Commission remains concerned over the high levels of violence and the number of murders and attacks against trans persons. The IACHR emphasized in its Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights that States must have specialized police forces and infrastructure to provide quality services to those sectors of the population that are most vulnerable to violence and crime, such as LGTBI persons. In the context of countries with high levels of citizen insecurity and organized crime, it is particularly important for States to adopt a differentiated approach to guarantee the rights to life and physical integrity of LGTBI persons and of LGTBI human rights defenders. Additionally, the IACHR urges El Salvador to adopt measures to respect and guarantee the right of LGTBI defenders, especially trans human rights defenders, to defend human rights without discrimination or violence of any sort.
In the hearing concerning Brazil, the IACHR received troubling information on the high level of violence directed against Afro-descendant trans women, as well as numerous cases of arbitrary detention, torture, and excessive use of force against trans persons of African descent; the limited access of trans women to health services; and the lack of federal laws to protect the rights of LGTBI persons. The IACHR is concerned about the social and economic inequality of trans women of African descent, which has resulted in their having limited or no access to government programs and benefits at the local and federal level. This in turn leads to high levels of illiteracy. The Commission was stunned by the information it received estimating that approximately 90 percent of trans women in Brazil are functionally illiterate because of social exclusion in school settings. The IACHR welcomes the State’s efforts to produce disaggregated data regarding crimes motived by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the IACHR urges the State to include race as a criterion for data collection, in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, the Commission urges Brazil to adopt measures to guarantee, without discrimination, the economic, social, and cultural rights of trans women, and trans women of African descent, particularly their right to education and health. Finally, the IACHR urges the State to adopt legislation and other measures at the federal level to afford due protection of the rights of LGTBI persons, especially trans women of African descent.
In the hearing concerning Guyana, the IACHR received troubling information on the discrimination, harassment, and abuse suffered by children and youth, based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity, in their homes, the community, and at school (by peers and teachers). This leads to a lack of interest in education, school absenteeism, and drop-out. The IACHR is concerned about the alleged underreporting and lack of documentation of these cases by the State authorities. The Commission was informed that sex education and school curriculums do not take into account the needs of LGTBI students or those exploring their sexuality and identity. The Commission notes that Guyana continues to criminalize adult same-sex relations between men, as well as cross-dressing for an “improper purpose,” which disproportionately affects trans persons. The IACHR was informed by the State about an initiative to conduct a national consultation on the criminalization of adult same-sex relations. During the hearing, the Commissioner Rapporteur for Guyana called to mind that human rights cannot be put to a vote for the majority to decide. The Inter-American Commission urges Guyana to adopt all measures to prevent and punish violence and discrimination against children who are LGTBI or perceived as such, in schools, within families, and in society in general.
Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression
The IACHR was concerned to receive information regarding the situation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to association in Ecuador. In particular, it received troubling information concerning the Organic Communication Act and Executive Decree No. 16, which reportedly establish serious limitations to the exercise of these rights. The Commission also received troubling information about possible reprisals against petitioners for having attended the hearing.
The IACHR was also concerned to receive information about the situation of the right to freedom of expression and access to information in Venezuela. This includes, in particular, information about ongoing attacks and harassment directed against journalists and communications workers, in many cases coming from public officials; the difficulties and hostilities faced by journalists in covering electoral events; and the increase in judicial proceedings against media outlets and journalists who disseminate information on subjects of public interest. In addition, the IACHR received troubling information on the difficulties that exist in the country when it comes to accessing public information, as well as on the problems the recently created Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Fatherland (Cesppa) could pose in this regard.
The Commission expresses its concern over the information it received indicating that in Argentina disparaging statements were made about the journalists who petitioned for the hearing on the situation of freedom of expression in that country. The Commission received information in the hearing regarding attacks on journalists, the lack of objective and transparent rules regarding official advertising, the lack of regulation on access to information, and the use of official authority to reward media outlets sympathetic to the government and punish those that are critical. The State presented information on official advertising and sent the Commission information on the state of legal proceedings involving the petitioners; a complaint regarding a cyber-attack; Law 26.522, passed in 2009, on audiovisual communication services; Law 26.551, of 2009, amending the criminal code; Law 26.571, of 2009, “on democratization of political representation, transparency, and electoral equity”; Resolution 210, of 2011, of Argentina’s Ministry of Security, which created a working group to develop protocols governing the actions of police agencies and federal security forces in public demonstrations; and Law 26.736, passed in 2011, on “cellulose pulp paper for newspapers.”
In the hearing on freedom of expression and communications surveillance by the United States, the Commission was concerned to receive information on the scope of surveillance technologies and techniques developed by the U.S. National Security Agency and the implications of this type of surveillance for the exercise of human rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, and access to public information. The Commission also received information on the lack of adequate protection for public officials who disseminate classified information involving national security, on grounds that it is in the public interest (whistleblowers). The State pledged to send information on the matters discussed in the hearing within 30 days.
Situation of Persons with Disabilities
The Commission was pleased to receive information on the progress made by the State of Peru with regard to disabilities, particularly the enactment of the General Act on Persons with Disabilities (Law No. 29973), which was also acknowledged by the petitioners. In the hearing, the Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos (Democracy and Human Rights Institute) of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru underscored that implementing rules have yet to be issued for this law, and that the committee to review the Civil Code has not yet been set up to implement and adapt the content of the statute. The State representatives said that, as a result of the hearing convened by the IACHR, the Vice Minister of Justice and Human Rights urgently requested debate and approval of a draft law to create the review committee. The day before the hearing, the Peruvian Congress approved an order for representatives of that committee to be appointed within 60 days. The IACHR is satisfied by this important initiative taken by the State and recognizes the commitment of the Peruvian government when it comes to the rights of persons with disabilities. The Commission trusts that the implementation of this new law will ensure that individuals with mental or intellectual impairments enjoy legal capacity under the terms established in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Other Subjects of Hearings
In a hearing on the use of unmanned drones and its impact on human rights in the Americas, the petitioning organizations said that at least 15 countries in the region use these devices or have announced plans to do so. According to these organizations, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela are the countries that are using these types of devices, for different purposes. In many of these countries, drones have begun to be used even though, according to the petitioners, the countries have no legislation regulating them, or they have laws that are vague and inadequate. The petitioners indicated that the proliferation of drones is proceeding at a much faster pace than the creation of regulatory frameworks governing their use. According to the petitioners, if a process to regulate these devices is not begun soon, their use could pose serious threats to the rights to life, physical integrity, and privacy, and could lead to negative effects on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association. The petitioners also stated that the use of drones by the United States should be adapted to international human rights law and the principles of international humanitarian law. The organizations proposed to the Commission that there is a need to begin a process to clarify States’ legal obligations regarding the use of unmanned drones and to draft a legal framework to regulate the use of these devices.
In the hearing on the situation regarding the disappearance of persons in Mexico, the IACHR reiterated its deep concern over the continued existence of this scourge. According to records of the Secretariat of the Interior and the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, 26,121 individuals disappeared in Mexico from 2006 through 2012. The State acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and reported that it is taking steps in this regard. The IACHR noted with concern that there has been a lack of a rapid, effective State response to end this practice and to ensure that victims have access to justice, truth, and fair reparation. The IACHR urged the State to adopt a comprehensive, effective public policy to act with due diligence in investigating crimes, punishing those responsible, and supporting the victims.
The Commission also held a hearing on human rights, development, and the extractive industries in Colombia, during which it received information on alleged infringements of human rights—mainly affecting peasant, Afro-descendant, and indigenous communities—due to the implementation of development projects. Along these lines, the IACHR was apprised about a series of mega-projects underway in Colombia and the alleged negative impact of their implementation on economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. In particular, the Commission received information on the human rights consequences of the Hidrosogomaso project in the department of Santander and the Hidroituango project in Antioquia. The issues put forward to the IACHR include shortcomings in the process of raising awareness and undertaking prior consultation among the communities that would be affected by these projects, and the actions the State is reportedly taking to ensure their right to information and participation. Along these lines, the Commission also received information on the obstacles said to exist in terms of access to justice, judicial representation of the affected communities, and the adoption of appropriate measures to guarantee their participation in the respective administrative and judicial proceedings. On another point, the Commission was concerned to receive information on the alleged practice of forced evictions in some of the territories in which development programs are being carried out, as well as the displacement of the affected communities, and in some cases, allegations regarding acts of violence and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement during these evictions. In this context, the information received also indicates a complex situation unfolding within a framework of incidents related to the armed conflict in the territories and communities being affected. In addition, the IACHR received information on alleged judicial proceedings being carried out against social and community leaders and environmental rights defenders said to be opposed to the implementation of these mega-projects, and the reported criminalization of traditional practices, such as precious-metal panning and artisanal fishing, carried out by the communities being affected.
In another hearing, the Commission received information on allegations of human rights violations purportedly committed by paramilitaries in Colombia. In that regard, the information received by the IACHR indicates that notwithstanding the efforts carried out by the State through 2006 to demobilize these structures, allegations continue to exist on the existence of armed groups that reportedly act in similar ways and share certain operating patterns. The Commission has followed the situation regarding the so-called “criminal bands” and the allegations regarding possible ties to paramilitary structures in Colombia. In this regard, the Commission received information on elements of concern that would seem to confirm their existence, primarily allegations involving continued recruitment of the civilian population by these groups. In addition to that, the petitioning organizations presented information on the way these structures are organized, and the ties they allegedly have to members of law enforcement and political players in Colombia.
The information presented during the hearing indicates that there are certain structural factors such as impunity in cases involving allegations of human rights violations committed by paramilitaries; incidents of judicial actions being brought through the implementation of the legal framework developed to address these issues; and a failure to investigate the financial, economic, and political structures connected with this phenomenon, all of which are said to contribute to the fact that these structures have not been able to be dismantled effectively, according to the information presented during the hearing. Nonetheless, the Commission also received information on processes underway as part of the Justice and Peace Law, and actions taken by the authorities to investigate the so-called “parapolitics” cases. On another point, the IACHR was concerned to receive information on continued allegations of threats and acts of harassment directed against victims’ relatives and representatives and witnesses connected with related investigations.
With regard to Venezuela, the Commission was informed about alleged violations of the right to life and to integrity, as well as about the situation of human rights defenders. In that regard, civil society organizations presented information about the acts of violence that took place following the April 2013 electoral process. The IACHR was informed about cases of purported arbitrary detentions, torture, and cruel treatment, with the participation of members of State security forces. In that context, allegations were also presented concerning disproportionate use of force by agents of the State. The Commission was also informed about an alleged increase in the numbers of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela and the situation of citizen insecurity. The IACHR also received information on public security programs that anticipate the participation of military officials, and on allegations concerning violations of the right to life and humane treatment in which members of the armed forces are reportedly involved. The Commission also received information on the measures taken by the State on economic, social, and cultural rights and the progress made in these areas, especially in terms of improving access to education and overcoming social inequality.
Reports on Individual Petitions and Cases - 149th Session
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.
During the 149th session, the Commission approved the following friendly settlement agreement, having deemed that the agreements reached by the parties are in line with the object and purpose of the American Convention on Human Rights:
Following is the list of the petitions and cases for which admissibility reports, inadmissibility reports, and archive reports were approved during this session. Once the parties have been notified, these reports will be published on the IACHR website. In addition, the IACHR approved nine merits reports, which are confidential.
The 149th session included the following working meetings:
On October 28, 29, and 31 and November 1, 2013, the Commission held hearings related to individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general human rights situations and issues. Videos and photographs from the public hearings are available on the multimedia section of the IACHR website. In addition, this page provides access to the same materials and to the audio recordings of the hearings. The photos are also available via the IACHR’s Flickr account and the videos via the IACHR’s YouTube account. These materials may be published, reproduced, or used in the preparation of other products (such as documentaries) as long as appropriate credit is given to the OAS.
The following hearings were held during this session:
Reports on Individual Petitions and Cases - 148th Session
During its 148th session, held in July 2013, the Commission approved the following reports on petitions and cases:
Friendly Settlement Reports:
Reports on Merits with Decision to Publish:
The IACHR would like to express special appreciation for the significant financial contributions made thus far in 2013 by countries in the region and beyond, as well as by international organizations and agencies, foundations, and other entities. These donations make it possible for the IACHR to carry out many of its activities related to mandates from the political bodies of the OAS.
The IACHR particularly appreciates the recent contributions made by the governments of the following OAS member countries: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, United States, Mexico, and Paraguay. It would also like to thank the OAS observer countries that support the Commission’s activities: Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, and Sweden. The Commission also values and appreciates the contributions it has received from the European Commission, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children International, Aldeas Infantiles, and the University of Notre Dame. These donations contribute very concretely to the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system across the Americas.