María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 161st regular session on March 15-22, 2017. As this was the first session of the year, and pursuant to its Rules of Procedure, on the first day of the session the IACHR elected its board of officers, as announced in Press Release No. 34/17, which also reported on the reassignment of certain thematic and country rapporteurships.
During the session, the IACHR worked on the analysis of petitions, cases, and precautionary measures; held 40 public hearings and 32 working meetings; and met with States, civil society organizations from around the region, and experts, among other activities. Specifically, the IACHR held a productive meeting with the member countries of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).
In the public hearings, the IACHR received information regarding a range of human rights issues, some addressed at the regional or subregional level, others focusing on situations in the following 16 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. In two of the hearings, the Commission heard arguments from the parties regarding cases in the merits stage. Forty hearings were held in all, four of them at the request of the States of Argentina, Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela; 31 at the request of civil society organizations; and five at the IACHR’s own initiative. The IACHR welcomes and values the active participation of delegations of the OAS Member States, as well as of hundreds of civil society organizations.
The States of Cuba, Nicaragua, and the United States did not appear at the hearings on their countries. The IACHR regrets these absences. It is troubling that the State of Cuba decided not to participate in the hearing on the human rights situation of Afro-descendants in that country. Also troubling is the absence of U.S. representatives in three hearings: one on Case 12.545, Isamu Carlos Shibayama and others; another on policies that prevent access to asylum in the United States; and another on the impact of the following executive orders: “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” and “Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects.” Finally, the State of Nicaragua’s failure to appear at the hearing on the situation of freedom of expression in that country is troubling.
The Inter-American Commission underscores the importance that the States participate in all hearings, in good faith and with adequate substantive information, in order to work constructively toward solutions to human rights problems in the region. The inter-American human rights system is strengthened by the active participation of States, victims and their representatives, and civil society organizations.
During this session, the IACHR approved its Strategic Plan for 2017-2021. To put together the plan, the IACHR held public consultations with civil society organizations, experts, and OAS Member States. This participatory, democratic process made it possible to broaden the regional context, evaluate the plan’s proposals, and help generate a more democratic and transparent culture within the institution. The plan is structured around five strategic objectives. The first is to contribute to the development of a more effective and accessible inter-American justice system in order to overcome impunity practices in the region and achieve the integral reparation of victims through decisive measures for strengthening the petition and case system, friendly settlements, and precautionary measures. The second strategic objective seeks to impact precautionary measures and the factors that lead to human rights violations through the coordinated use of IACHR mechanisms and functions for a better capacity for monitoring and coordinating relevant, timely, and adequate responses. The third strategic objective is to promote democracy, human dignity, equality, justice, and fundamental freedoms by means of an active contribution to the strengthening of State institutions and public policies with a human rights approach, in accordance with inter-American regulations and standards, and by building the capacities of civil society organizations and networks of social and academic actors in the defense of human rights. The fourth strategic objective aims to promote the universalization of the inter-American human rights system through coordinated initiatives with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and other international, regional, and subregional human rights agencies and mechanisms. The fifth strategic objective is to guarantee the human resources, infrastructure, technology, and the necessary budget for the fulfillment of the IACHR’s mandate and functions, by means of institutional results-based management for efficient, effective, and measurable institutional development.
During this session, the IACHR again continued to study alternatives for handling its procedural backlog. Along these lines, it held discussions seeking to implement the measures needed to provide a timely and effective response to the victims and the States. The IACHR will continue to make this issue a priority, as it stresses in its Strategic Plan.
In the context of this session, the IACHR also held a consultation with experts on pretrial detention, to validate the conclusions and recommendations from its thematic report “Measures to Reduce Pretrial Detention in the Americas.” The report emphasizes the application of alternative measures and the incorporation of a special protection approach with respect to women and other individuals and groups at special risk.
In addition, the Commission held a dialogue on “The Rights of Intersex Persons in the Americas,” in which participants highlighted the need to end the violations of the human rights of intersex persons and their family members. They stressed the negative, permanent impact on people’s lives and family relationships when they are forced to undergo “normalizing” surgeries or cosmetic surgeries at an early age and without their consent.
The Commission also held a meeting with representatives of the labor union movement in the United States, to explore actions involving the work plan of the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, in order to address human rights issues related to the U.S. labor and trade union movement.
With regard to the competition to select the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, the IACHR is processing the 96 applications it received, in order to select the finalists. The list of those selected as finalists will be posted for comments on May 30, and the candidates will be interviewed by the IACHR during the session that will take place July 3-7 in Peru.
Finally, the IACHR signed two cooperation agreements with Brazil’s Office of the Federal Public Defender and with the National Institute of Human Rights of Chile. Through these agreements, both institutions have made a commitment to strengthen their collaboration. Based on these agreements, the IACHR’s Executive Secretariat will welcome defenders from both institutions, as visiting professionals, among other promotional and training activities.
The Commission will publish a report on the 161st session in the coming days.
The IACHR is made up of Francisco Eguiguren Praeli, President; Margarette May Macaulay, First Vice-President; Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Second Vice-President; and Commissioners José de Jesús Orozco, Paulo Vannuchi, and James Cavallaro. The Executive Secretary is Paulo Abrão, and the Assistant Executive Secretary is Elizabeth Abi-Mershed.
A principal, autonomous body of the 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 area. 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.