Press Release

Report on the 164th Ordinary Period of Sessions of the IACHR

October 12, 2017

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 164th Extraordinary Period of Sessions in Mexico City on September 4-8, 2017, at the invitation of the Mexican State.

During this Period of Sessions, the IACHR examined draft thematic reports and requests for precautionary measures and reviewed and approved thematic reports, petition reports, and cases. The Commission also adopted resolution 1/17 Human Rights and the Fight against Impunity and Corruption, following up on the monitoring it conducted during its in loco visit to Guatemala in August 2017. The IACHR also discussed and updated its monitoring of the human rights situation in Venezuela in the context of preparing a country report.

During these sessions, the Commission held 15 working meetings, including meetings on matters at different stages of negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements: Case 11.677, Diego Velásquez Soc. and Matías Velásquez and Case 12.241, Herminia Isabel Campos, from Guatemala; Case 12.961, Juan González et al. and Case 11.545 Martha Saire, from Honduras; and Case 12.934 Frank Guelfi, Patients of the Santo Tomás Hospital, from Panama. The Commission appreciates the willingness of the parties to move these friendly settlement processes forward.

Also during this Period of Sessions, the Commission held 13 hearings on the human rights situation in Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, as well as four regional hearings on justice systems, migrants, refugees and stateless individuals, and the right to food.

The following are summaries of the public hearings held:

Situation of persons with disabilities in Cuba

Those requesting the hearing indicated that people with disabilities in Cuba face serious obstacles to enjoying their rights under the same conditions as other people, stating that this enjoyment depended mainly on political judgments made by government agencies. In this regard, they stated that the children of mothers and fathers opposed to the regime face greater difficulties accessing healthcare. Additionally, they described violations of the right to assembly and the right to association faced by those defending the rights of this population as a result of the persecution suffered by human rights defenders who do not support the Castro regime. They highlighted that registration of organizations that defend the rights of people with disabilities is only granted to organizations or individuals aligned with the government. The requesters also said the State violates the right to identity of babies born with disabilities and little chance of survival because the State tries to disappear infant mortality records to show Cuba has overcome infant mortality. The IACHR expressed its commitment to defending people with disabilities, especially with the recent establishment of its Unit on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It also welcomed the fact that people with disabilities were participating in the hearing, as their involvement was in line with the new paradigm on disability established in international standards on the issue. The IACHR also expressed concern regarding the alleged politics-based violations faced by those defending the rights of people with disabilities and regarding the alleged refusal to register newborns with disabilities and little chance of survival. Finally, the IACHR regretted the absence of the Cuban State at the hearing.

Transparency in the mechanisms for designating high-ranking authorities of the justice system in Central America

During this regional hearing, the requesting organizations informed the Commission of their concerns regarding the mechanisms for identifying and appointing judges, prosecutors, and other senior justice officials in the Central American States (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). According to the information submitted by the hearing requesters, the instruments for identifying candidates and the process for appointing them to positions in the judiciary entail a significant degree of politically-motivated discretion due to the influence of the executive and legislative branches. They also reported that the processes to identify candidates are not carried out with respect for inter-American standards on transparency or in adherence to the publicity requirements of the law on access to information. Those requesting the hearing described situations in which organized criminal groups had interfered in the selection of professionals for these positions who, in many cases, have conflicts of interests with the investigative nature of the duties they were to carry out. They expressed particular concern over the impact these appointments would have on the great efforts these countries were making in the struggle against corruption and organized crime. For its part, the Inter-American Commission highlighted the important role these positions played in the proper administration of justice and effective guarantee of the human rights established in the inter-American conventions. The IACHR also reiterated the need for assessment of candidates to be conducted in cooperation with other civil society actors—such as universities—to enable the building of mechanisms for better oversight of candidate selection, while also reducing the discretion granted to political agents. Likewise, civil society organizations asked the IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to prepare specific guidelines on access to information and transparency for the mechanisms for appointing senior justice system officials. In this public hearing, the IACHR counted with the participation of Alberto Brunori, representative of the regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Reports of extrajudicial executions in El Salvador

The civil society organizations stated that El Salvador has one of the highest rates of violence and criminality the world, with almost 14,000 violent homicides taking place over the last three years. They estimate that 2017 will close with an average rate of 58 violent homicides per 100,000 residents. The organizations that request the hearing reported on the positive approach to the issue of citizen security with which the current administration began its term. The approach prioritized dialogue and addressing structural causes. However, in 2015, the State simultaneously launched an offensive against the gangs, which resulted in April 2016 in the adoption of "extraordinary measures" tending to be repressive, intimidating, and in violation of human rights. Along these lines, they expressed concern at the increase in murders of police officers and soldiers—between 2014 and 2017, the murders of 169 police officers and 69 soldiers were attributed to gangs—and the increase in armed confrontations between security forces and alleged gang members—between 2014 and 2017, 1,415 people died during police or military operations, with 90% of them alleged to be gang members, and in 2016, 59 civils died for every State security agent who died. The also reported on the resurgence of death squads within police/military agencies and the legal reforms that could provide protection to soldiers and police officers potentially responsible for extrajudicial executions and other grave rights violations. The civil society organizations alleged potential patterns of permissibility and impunity in the actions of the National Civilian Police, the Armed Forces, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, and the Judicial Branch. For its part, the State’s representation reaffirmed its commitment to human rights and recognized that El Salvador is facing a critical situation of violence as a result of criminal structures known as maras or gangs that are beyond the control of national authorities. This violence has claimed the lives of many people, including police officers and soldiers and their relatives, as well as judges and prosecutors. The State also reported that it was implementing measures to prevent violence, control and prosecute crime, provide rehabilitation and social reintegration, offer comprehensive care for victims of crimes, and strengthen its institutions, with a priority on the 50 municipalities where violence rates were highest. The State’s representation categorically denied any responsibility on the part of the Salvadoran State for acts that violate human rights and guaranteed it would try and punish those responsible for such acts. The Commission expressed great concern at the rates of crime and violence in El Salvador. Regarding the fact that 59 civils died for every State security agent who died in 2016, the IACHR stated that it is almost certain that there is a pattern of extremely excessive use of force by State agents. The IACHR also announced it would take the steps necessary to conduct a country visit. In this public hearing, the IACHR counted with the participation of Alberto Brunori, representative of OHCHR’s regional office.

Access to Justice in the Context of the Declaration of Unconstitutionality of the Amnesty Law in El Salvador

After recognizing some positive signs following the judgment of July 2016 of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice declaring the 1993 Amnesty Act unconstitutional, civil society organizations emphasized that progress on access to justice remains slim. According to these organizations, there has been no progress toward pursuing criminal prosecution and punishment for crimes in the past, and impunity reigns. One hundred or so reports that have been filed of grave human rights violations have not been processed judicially, and two of the three cases to which the Amnesty Acts was applied were reopened, with some procedural movement on the case of the Massacre at El Mozote and the neighboring areas. The organizations requesting the hearing reported, for example, the use of strategies by the defense of the accused to cause delays; inactivity by prosecutors and a lack of empathy for victims and relatives on the part of some officials as they work through the process; a lack of response or refusal to turn over information held by the State; and the destruction of valuable historical and evidentiary material. In response to a failure to comply with the orders of the Constitutional Chamber in the aforementioned judgment, the organizations reported that a broad segment of civil society has submitted a proposal for a comprehensive reparations act, and that the State has announced it is drafting a national reconciliation or transitional justice act, for which it has not consulted with victims or their representatives. For its part, the State reported the 2009 adoption of a policy to recognize responsibility and provide reparations for the victims. It also pointed to the existence of ongoing dialogue with victims and their representatives, the establishment in 2010 of the National Search Committee to find children disappeared during the internal armed conflict; the creation of a specialized prosecutor unit to investigate grave human rights violations; and, more recently, on August 30 of this year, the adoption of an Executive Decree creating the National Search Committee for Disappeared Adults (CONABUSQUEDA) in the same context. The State’s representation also recognized the importance of the close supervision performed by the Constitutional Chamber of its judgment finding the Amnesty Act unconstitutional. Finally, the Commission reflected on the close link between the failure to discuss, teach, and administer justice for the grave human rights violations that took place during armed conflicts and the current concerning rates of violence and criminality in these countries. It also pointed to the relevance and importance of the issue in the region, for which reason the Commission recently created the Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice. The IACHR highlighted a worrying trend in which the setbacks in the matter predominate. In this public hearing, the IACHR counted with the participation of Alberto Brunori, representative of OHCHR’s regional office.

Human Rights Situation of Children in Contexts of Violence in Honduras

The organizations that requested a hearing reported on the grave situation of the rights of children in the context of the violence in Honduras and this group’s high degree of vulnerability. According to the data presented by these organizations, children under 18 account for almost half of the Honduran population, and one quarter of them live in poverty. The organizations describe the gravity of violence against children in light of high rates of homicide and other deaths, caused mainly by firearms. The organizations also presented concerning information on children and adolescents in conflict with the law and expressed their concern at proposals to reduce the age of criminal liability—which currently stands at 12 years old—the poor conditions in prisons, and the State’s "Guardians of the Fatherland" program, asking that the IACHR urged the State to cancel it. For their part, State representatives reported that Honduras has made significant progress in relation to children, which is reflected in the 5-point improvement in the Global Peace Index (GPI) of 2017, as well as in the design of policies for children that respect international standards. The representatives of the State also affirmed that, with respect to children and adolescents in conflict with the law, efforts have been made to avoid imprisonment as much as possible, except when there are no other alternatives. They also reported that the detention centers have a social reintegration policy that includes social assistance like training courses and psychological support. The State also noted the establishment of the Technical Committee for Juvenile Justice, a body made up of a number of national and international organizations. For its part, the Inter-American Commission expressed its concern to the State regarding the prevalence of a law-and-order approach to the problem of violence, reflected in the high rates of imprisonment for children and adolescents. The IACHR also urged the State to implement public policies that protect the rights of children from a holistic and human rights perspective and that follow international standards on the subject, promoting effective social reintegration for children and adolescents who break the law.

Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Costa Rica

During this public hearing, the IACHR received information on the situation of broadcasting in Costa Rica. Participating organizations stated that the legal framework under which broadcasting in the country currently operates is obsolete and does not recognize inter-American standards on freedom of expression. The civil society organizations also noted that the media in Costa Rica is significantly concentrated. For its part, the State’s delegation announced it is preparing a bill aimed at regulating two aspects of broadcasting: the payment of fees by the concessionaires and the regime for issuing fines in the event of breaches of the regulations. The State expressed its readiness to guarantee a participatory process that would involve discussing strengthening the regulatory framework. The IACHR asked the State to provide information on media concentration levels and on measures to guarantee diversity and plurality in the sector.

Human Rights Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Costa Rica

The requesting party for this hearing indicated that overcrowding is one of the main concerns regarding the rights of persons deprived of liberty in Costa Rica, having one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Latin America (352 inmates per 100,000 residents). Those who requested the hearing indicated that the main cause of the situation was mano dura policies that seek to address citizen security problems through legislative reforms that increase prison sentences based on standards of proportionality and the regulation of crimes for which conditional release is not allowed. They also highlighted that judicial authorities who supported the use of alternative measures face disciplinary proceedings, severely affecting their judicial independence. Likewise, they underscored a lack of a differentiated treatment for people who are members of groups that face particular risk, mainly LGBTI persons. For its part, the State recognized that increased overcrowding was the result of prison policies and excessive use of pretrial detention. In that context, it informed the IACHR of a series of measures taken to guarantee the rights of inmates, such as relocation of inmates from prison facilities to semi-institutional or semi-open programs; the use of electronic surveillance as an alternative to imprisonment; construction and remodeling of new facilities to increase the real capacity of prison; and establishment of public policies with participation from inmates. The State also expressed concern over media harassment in response to actions taken by the Ministry of Justice and Peace to reintegrate inmates, actions that were criticized because they supposedly put the country’s security at risk. For its part, the IACHR expressed satisfaction at the measures taken recently by the Justice Ministry, describing them as exemplary practices for the region that guarantee the human rights of inmates. Specifically, the Commission recognized the importance of reducing the use of imprisonment without release, humanizing penitentiaries, and establishing an office on post-release reintegration. The IACHR also expressed concern at the disciplinary proceedings launched against judges who granted alternative measures. This concern was shared by the regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, who participated in the hearing. In this public hearing, the IACHR counted with the participation of Alberto Brunori, representative of OHCHR’s regional office.

Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua

The groups requesting the hearing reported that women who defend human rights in Nicaragua face violations every day in retaliation for the work they performed to ensure respect for the rights of their fellow Nicaraguans. The attacks they described include harassment, threats, searches of homes, arbitrary arrests and severe physical attacks, rape, and even murder. They stated that in several cases, the mechanisms of attack were accompanied by campaigns to discredit them via government-aligned media. The civil society groups noted the existence of a gender dimension regarding the type of attacks aimed at the women, as they are often defamed based on social norms or guidelines that are used to justify violence against women. In that sense, the requesting parties stated that women who have been victims of defamation have been branded as “lazy," “hysterical," and “having nothing to do at home." Based on these facts, the organizations requested, among other things, that the Commission urge the State to publicly and socially recognize and legitimize the fundamental role played by human rights defenders. They also called for the State to investigate and punish perpetrators of violence. Finally, they asked the Commission to take the seriousness of the information presented into account and recalled that the IACHR's most recent report on Nicaragua was from 1981. They therefore hoped it would visit to confirm the violations and take the measures necessary. For its part, the Commission, after expressing regret over the absence of any representation from the State, invited Nicaragua to recognize the essential role played by human rights defenders in all democratic systems. The IACHR also expressed concern at the situation reported by the civil society organizations and said it would monitor the human rights situation in Nicaragua. It expected to be able to take measures to provide protection and start a dialogue with the State.

Reports on Violence and Insecurity of Migrants, Refugees or Asylum-seekers returned to Countries of the Northern Triangle

The civil society organizations stated that migration from the countries of the Northern Triangle is a phenomenon with a history. However, as a result of an increase in violence in those countries, forced migration from them to other countries has increased. The violence is often associated with the actions of maras, gangs, organized crime, or land disputes, but acts of violence have also been perpetrated by State authorities involved in abuse, criminal activities, and even extrajudicial executions. According to the civil society organizations, impunity is widespread in the judicial systems in these countries and extortion is common. People in situations of vulnerability are the ones most affected by the violence, particularly children, women, and LGBTI people. In this regard, they stated that as a consequence of the hardening of migration and asylum policies in the region's main destination countries—mainly the United States and Mexico—the number of people deported to the countries of the northern triangle of Central America has increased dramatically. A significant number of the people deported would be recognized as refugees if they had effective access to the right to request and receive asylum in the context of a procedure for determining refugee status that guaranteed due process and judicial protection. Additionally, the civil society organizations reported that the countries of the Northern Triangle do not have comprehensive plans to protect those who are deported or returned. Most of them cannot opt for resettlement or relocation because the context of insecurity forces them to leave the country. Then when they are deported, they face the same conditions of imminent risk from which they had fled. During the hearing, a trans woman who was returned to El Salvador testified to the IACHR. The civil society organizations also stated that the United States pays El Salvador when it deports people. Additionally, they referred to Decree C717 of July 6, 2017, in El Salvador, which establishes that returned people who are suspected of having criminal ties are subjected to exhaustive monitoring, including an affidavit sworn before the national police which can require the individual to check in every several days. Those requesting the hearing indicated that the authorities do not have the capacity to properly orient and inform returned individuals, and that there is no mechanism to identify cases in which special care is needed, such as cases of migrant children. Finally, they asked the IACHR to monitor the refugee crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America; request information from the States; urge States to create comprehensive mechanisms for identifying the protection needs of deported persons; urge the States to collect information and compile statistics on returned persons in the region; conduct visits and prepare a report on the theme of the hearing; and urge the States to provide physical and psychological care for returned persons.

Legal and Judicial Process for the Recognition of Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Beneficiaries of Complementary Protection in the Americas (EX OFFICIO)

The civil society organizations expressed concern at the situation of people needing international projection who are rejected at airports, such as in Mexico. The principle of non-refoulement is regulated in all the countries of the region, however the way it is regulated calls into question its character of jus cogens. In international airports, interpretation of asylum laws is subject to discretion. The organizations stated that one of the challenges faced by people seeking asylum, complementary protection, or recognition as stateless is lack of or insufficient legal representation, with the corresponding impact it has on their procedures. For example, regarding Border Patrol officers in the United States, civil society organizations said they are not trained and tend to be hostile toward those seeking asylum. The organizations also said that deportation orders often do not comply with the requirement that they be well founded, but migrants do not have legal representation for these cases. Legal representation is essential for these proceedings, and public defenders have played an important role in them. Translators and interpreters are included in Panama, Uruguay, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica, although availability is limited and their use is not comprehensive. Regarding appeals, the organizations highlighted that Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and Uruguay are countries that grant stays when rulings to deny are appealed. With regard to statelessness, they stated that only four countries on the American continent have a solid legal framework for determining statelessness: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Brazil. Others take the matter into consideration but have no established proceedings: Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and Argentina. Still others—such as Uruguay—have legislation in place. In cases such as that of Chile, even in the absence of a legal framework, its practices have made progress possible. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the majority of countries have ratified the legal instruments and have domestic legislation on asylum and refugees in place. The current situation is one of steadily increasing requests for asylum in a context of mixed migratory movement in the region. The civil society organizations asked the IACHR to conduct a diagnostic of the circumstances blocking and obstructing the right to request and receive asylum, as well as to assess the situation of statelessness in the region and analyze access to the asylum process for humanitarian reasons for all those requesting international asylum and for unaccompanied minors; to define the due process standard that must be followed in the procedures for the refugee and stateless population; and to continue to monitor the situation of statelessness in the region. The Commission announced it is working on a report on due process guarantees and judicial protection in the framework of procedures for recognizing refugee status and statelessness and granting complementary protection.

Reports of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders by Extractive Companies in Guatemala

The organizations requesting the hearing and the witnesses reported to the Commission that the individuals defending the environment and natural resources in Guatemala face a policy of State persecution, which is manifested particularly through processes of defamation, stigmatization, and criminalization. According to the organizations and witnesses, companies—mainly mining and hydroelectric companies—enjoy the protection of the Guatemalan State as they violate the rights of local populations, by both threatening and killing human rights defenders. Also, the defenders at the hearing described attacks on them, which they say a mining company is responsible for. The party requesting the hearing also alleged illegal evictions. At the same time, the organizations and witnesses recognized the efforts of some judges and the Office of the Public Prosecutor in the struggle against impunity and underscored that the lack of investigations, sanctions, and reparations for the human rights violations alleged is due in large part to lack of budget and political support for the judiciary to give them the capacity to address the violations taking place. For their part, the representatives of the State told the Commission that Guatemala’s constitution established State sovereignty over decisions on nonrenewable natural resource exploitation when such exploitation is for the nation’s economic development. The representatives of the State noted the establishment of a program to provide human rights defenders with protection. The Inter-American Commission expressed concern that the State would adopt economic development policies the consequences of which were the failure to protect people who live in areas where projects were carried out. The IACHR also urged the State to promote efforts to establish policies to provide comprehensive protection to human rights defenders and investigate and punish violations committed against them.

Reports of Threats to Judicial Independence in Guatemala

The organizations requesting the hearing provided information on persistent patterns of threats and intimidation toward judges and prosecutors, and even direct attempts on their lives. They highlighted that the mechanisms of protection offered by the Guatemalan State are ineffective, and in some cases, the National Police is itself directly involved in the attacks on justice officials. In this context, they highlighted that many of the attacks on the judicial independence of the justice officials originate in the highest reaches of the Judicial Branch, indicating along these lines that the Court Oversight Office, which is in charge of disciplinary actions, is used to pressure certain justice officials. The civil society organizations asked the IACHR to urge Guatemala to establish a Judicial Service Council in accordance with the provisions of the current law. For its part, the State recognized the grave situation of violence and threats against the work of independent judges and prosecutors and reiterated its commitment to providing the corresponding measures of protection in cases where they are necessary. It also recognized it would be important for the Country Rapporteurs and the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to visit Guatemala to monitor the situation discussed at the hearing. The Commission underscored the importance of actively monitoring threats to judicial independence in Guatemala and reiterated its desire to make a visit to the country with this specific objective. It also announced the IACHR would issue a strong statement regarding this issue.

Human Rights and Reports on Impunity and Corruption in the Dominican Republic

Civil society organizations indicated that corruption and impunity are common in the Dominican political system, noting it this has a direct impact on human rights, particularly those of people in situations of vulnerability. They also stated that diversion of public funds to benefit the political class and national and international private interests is part of a failure to guarantee social, economic and cultural rights for the entire population. The organizations also provided information on the right to protest and social movements in the fight against corruption and impunity, as well as on cases of repression used to ensure impunity for corrupt officials. For its part, the Dominican State expressed its surprise at the IACHR's decision to accept a request for a thematic hearing when the subject of corruption had not been on the IACHR's priority agenda, saying that it would have seemed more reasonable to approach this issue more broadly, as it affects many countries in the region. State representatives indicated that the hearing request was replete with incomplete descriptions that give the impression of a system that was totally collapsed and that nothing worked in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican State said demanding a fight against corruption was legitimate and that the authorities, representatives of the people, and those in power should be held accountable for providing transparency and justice. They also indicated that denying there was work to be done would be foolish, but added that just because work remained pending did not mean this fact should be used to delegitimize and call into question the governability and political stability that the Dominican Republic so badly needs. The Dominican State indicated that reforms to the justice system had made way for its depoliticization with regard to procedural guarantees to fight impunity. The State also reported that 4% of GDP is being invested in education, all through public works and contracting with transparency, accountability, and information made available to the public. They also reported that a single account had been set up to improve budget management, expenditure control, and mechanisms for citizen access to public information designed for transparency, accountability, and institutional improvement. The Dominican State rejected allegations of a system of to repress those protesting on issue of corruption and impunity in the country. The Dominican State said it is open to discussing corruption, but added that if the IACHR wanted to make it a priority, it should broaden its approach to look at the region as a whole, rather than focusing on a specific country when the issue affects all the countries in the region. The Commission asked for information on the implementation of the law on access to public information in the Dominican Republic and on the existence of investigations into and punishment of police officers involved in excessive use of force.

Situation of the Right to Food in Central America

The organizations requesting the hearing reported human rights violations with regard to access to food, water, and a healthy environment, perpetrated by companies that perform monoculture farming in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They allege that the exploitation of certain natural resources such as sugarcane, palm oil, and bananas has impacted neighboring populations in multiple ways. They also reported that the use of pesticides has contaminated their land, causing health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, and renal illnesses, and that the construction of dams for those plantations has rerouted rivers, forcing several villages to relocate. The civil society organizations also commented that development based on monoculture farming has not been legitimized through a democratic process and reported that the individuals who try to raise awareness regarding this issue have been attacked, persecuted, and even murdered. Civil society organizations asked the IACHR to request information from governments on what public policies are being used for environmental management. They also asked the ESCER Special Rapporteur to visit the states in question to observe the situation and, based on its observations, issue a report on compliance with inter-American standards on food, water, and a healthy environment. Finally, they asked for the IACHR to call on the States to stop expanding monoculture farming and investigate reports of human rights violations filed by community leaders. For its part, the Commission congratulated the organizations for having requested the hearing and expressed concern at the violations described. It also said that it would begin working on Inter-American standards on the issue. Finally, it asked the civil society organizations for visual evidence to support the reports legally.

U.S. Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay

The party requesting the hearing describe the situation of a 40-year-old Pakistani man has been held at Guantanamo since 2003 after having been tortured in various clandestine sites over the course of three and half years. The organizations requesting the hearing stated that holding people at Guantanamo is illegal, and it is done based on the Muslim religion and nationality. They allege that the military commissions do not provide due process and denounced a lack of access to defense, prejudgment on the part of the judges, the illegal destruction of evidence of torture, and a lack of treatment for its effects on the victim. They held that the State did not demonstrate that the victim was a combatant. For its part, the State highlighted that the issue of Guantánamo had been addressed on numerous occasions and through a variety of IACHR mechanisms, and that at this time, the party requesting the hearing was presenting an individual case, for which domestic remedies must first be exhausted. It added that the Inter-American Commission did not have jurisdiction to apply international humanitarian law and justified the detention and the actions of the military tribunals, created during the conflict between the United States and Al Qaeda. It stated that the United States categorically opposes the use of torture because it violates international law and its own values, and stated that should the IACHR request a visit to the detention center, it would seriously consider it. The Inter-American Commission, for its part, expressed concern over issues related to due process for the individuals being held at Guantánamo, including reports of torture, a lack of judicial independence, a lack of respect for the presumption of innocence for the detainees, and opportunities to present exculpatory evidence.

Case 12.865 – Djamel Ameziane (MERITS), United States

The group requesting the hearing alleged violation of the human rights of Djamel Ameziane, who was reportedly illegally detained and held at the Guantanamo detention center in 2002. According to the information submitted by the applicant organizations, Ameziane was a victim of inhuman treatment, was not allowed to practice his religion, and never had contact with his family while at the detention center. Ameziane's defense attorneys reported that, although his transfer was approved in 2008, it did not take place until five years later. Ameziane was transferred against his will to Algeria, where he has been subject to persecution. Due to the physical and psychological damage he has suffered, as well as his difficult financial situation, the defense asked the Commission to urge the United States to apologize and provide the victim with medical care and financial support. The defense also asked the IACHR to remain involved in issues related to the Guantánamo Bay detention center. For its part, the State said it has held several working meetings to address the issue of Guantánamo and questioned the need for the IACHR to become more involved. In addition, the State refused to be held responsible for Ameziane's financial destitution. It also commented that the Commission does not have competence with regard to Ameziane’s allegations and should therefore reject the petitions. Finally, it recalled that the Commission is not a judicial body and that the State is not required to follow its recommendations. For its part, the Commission reminded the United States that the reason for the hearing was to receive allegations for a report on the merits and that arguments with regard to competence had been addressed in the admissibility stage. It also asked the State to provide detailed information on the procedure for determining the location to which Amezanine would be transferred, as well as a justification for the extended length of the transfer process. Finally, the Commission recalled that any person who is still in prison without any criminal charge has the right to receive financial compensation for the damages suffered.

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 to defend 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. 157/17