Press Release

IACHR Concludes Extraordinary Period of Sessions in Mexico

September 8, 2017

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Mexico City - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held the 164th Extraordinary Period of Sessions in Mexico City, on September 4-8, 2017, at the invitation of the Mexican State. The IACHR expresses its gratitude to the State for the invitation to hold these sessions in the country and for its cooperation to facilitate the scheduled activities. Likewise, the Commission expresses its gratitude to the civil society organizations and the Mexican people for their collaboration and hospitality.

During this period of sessions, the IACHR analyzed draft thematic reports, requests for precautionary measures and reviewed and approved 2 thematic reports, as well as reports on petitions and cases: 24 admissibility reports, 6 merits reports and 1 resolution. During these sessions, the Commission held 15 working meetings: 7 on friendly settlements and 8 on precautionary measures. In addition, the IACHR adopted the resolution "Human Rights and the Fight against Impunity and Corruption", in follow-up to the monitoring carried out during its on-site visit to Guatemala in the previous month and to what was stated in press release 127/17. The IACHR has also discussed and updated its follow-up on the human rights situation in Venezuela in the framework of the drafting of the country report.

The Commission held 13 hearings on human rights situations in Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the United States, as well as 4 regional hearings on justice systems, migrants, refugees and stateless persons, and the right to food. The hearings were held before a wide audience in the building of the Inter-American Conference of Social Security, and were followed through webcast by thousands of people and accompanied via social networks throughout the region. The Inter-American human rights system is strengthened by holding sessions away from headquarters and by the active participation of States, petitioners, victims and their representatives, and civil society organizations. In this regard, the Commission regrets that the States of Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua have not participated in the hearings to which they were convoked, which limits opportunities for constructive dialogue.

During this Period of Sessions, the Commission received alarming information on the structural problems of justice systems in the region, resulting in a lack of access to justice. In some countries, the infiltration of organized crime groups into the justice systems, as well as processes that do not guarantee the adequacy and independence of justice operators, aggravate the impunity that perpetuates - and in certain cases encourages- the repetition of human rights violations. An independent and impartial judiciary is also indispensable for effectively combating corruption, which represents one of the greatest obstacles to democracy and the promotion, protection and effective enjoyment of human rights in the region. The IACHR considers it essential that the member States of the OAS adopt measures to strengthen and consolidate the independence of the judiciary.

The Inter-American Commission held meetings with more than 50 civil society organizations from the region and from Mexico, where it received alarming information about the situation of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from the Northern Triangle of Central America that cross through Mexico in their route to the United States. The organizations also highlighted their concern about the situation of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and situations of citizen insecurity. They also requested the Commission to monitor the situation of impunity and lack of access to justice, as well as the situation of journalists and human rights defenders in the country and in the region.

At the public hearings, the IACHR also received disturbing information about different human rights situations in the region, including on the situation of human rights defenders in the context of extractive industries and threats to judicial independence in Guatemala, as well as women defenders in Nicaragua. The IACHR was informed about the human rights situation of children in Haiti and in Honduras in contexts of violence. The Commission also received information on the situation of persons with disabilities in Cuba, as well as on persons deprived of their liberty and on freedom of expression in Costa Rica. The IACHR heard statements by States and civil society on extrajudicial executions and access to justice in the context of the unconstitutionality of the Amnesty Law in El Salvador, as well as on impunity in the Dominican Republic and allegations of human rights and due process violations against people on trial before U.S. military commissions in Guantanamo Bay.

During the 164th Period of Sessions, the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (ESCER), Soledad Garcia Muñoz, participated for the first time in a IACHR session after taking office on August 15. The incorporation of the Special Rapporteur to the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR is of great importance in the history of the Commission and represents a great step to strengthen and deepen its work of defending and protecting economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. Likewise, in the exercise of its regulatory powers and in accordance with its Strategic Plan, as part of the framework of cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the IACHR counted with the participation of OHCHR’s regional office in the public hearings.

In compliance with its mandate to promote human rights in the region, the Commission held a seminar on inter-American standards on equality, non-discrimination, justice and human rights at the Institute of Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The seminar included two simultaneous panels, which addressed inter-American standards on the rights of LGBTI persons, Afro-descendant and migrant women, as well as inter-American standards on democratic institutionality, access to justice, and pretrial detention. The Commission welcomes the interest shown by students, academics, human rights defenders and the general public in deepening their knowledge about the promotion and defense of human rights, which was evidenced in the wide participation in that event.

The Commission also launched the Report on Measures Aimed at Reducing the Use of Pretrial Detention in the Americas and presented the Report on Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons in the Americas. The IACHR held bilateral meetings with United Nations agencies in Mexico, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The 164th Extraordinary Period of Sessions was inaugurated with a ceremony at the Inter-American Conference on Social Security, with the participation of the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren Praeli; the First Vice-President of the IACHR, Margarette May Macaulay; the Second Vice-President of the IACHR, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño; and on behalf of the Mexican government, the Secretary of the Interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong; the Undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Socorro Flores Liera; and the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba.

"The invitation of the Mexican government to hold this extraordinary session is a recognition of the Commission's work in defending and guaranteeing human rights throughout the region," said IACHR President, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. "Off-site sessions are an important opportunity to get closer to the users of the Inter-American system and receive firsthand information about what is happening in the countries we have the mandate to supervise."

The IACHR will hold two more periods of sessions this year. The 165th Regular Session in Montevideo, Uruguay, from October 23 to October 27, 2017; and the 166th Extraordinary Period of Sessions will be held at the IACHR's headquarters in Washington, DC, from November 29 to December 7, 2017, at which time the Inter-American Forum on Human Rights and public hearings on Canada and United States will be held.

The IACHR takes note of the allegations of potential reprisals expressed by representatives of civil society at various hearings, who expressed their fear of returning to their country for this reason. The Commission recalls that any type of retaliation or stigmatization undertaken by a State motivated by the participation or action of persons or organizations before the organs of the inter-American system, in exercise of their conventional rights, is unacceptable. Article 63 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR provides 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 to the Commission" and 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."

The Inter-American Commission expresses its solidarity with those affected by hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and those affected by the earthquake that struck Mexico and Guatemala and reaffirms the importance of addressing the rights of victims of forced displacement due to natural disasters with a human rights approach.

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 and defense of 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.

No. 137/17