IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Reports Unprecedented Outcomes of Its Work in 2018 and Presents Progress Report for the Second Year of the Strategic Plan

February 15, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has presented its progress report for the second year of the Strategic Plan and an overview of the main outcomes of its work in 2018, which seeks to increase the transparency of its work and its and accountability to the international human rights community.

The year 2018 was a busy one that brought unprecedented achievements for the organization, which repositioned itself over the course of the year, in the face of many human rights challenges. The most notable outcomes include the progress made on overcoming procedural backlog; the development of new standards for the case system; the increase in the coverage of monitoring activities and the scope of technical cooperation and human rights promotion; and the strengthening of follow-up mechanisms to ensure compliance with IACHR recommendations.

The IACHR passed 176 admissibility reports and merits reports in 2018, part of its efforts to implement its first program and take action on one of its strategic challenges, namely effectively reducing procedural backlogs and responding to the needs of users of the inter-American system promptly and effectively. These report numbers represented a 189% increase on the previous year’s figures and were the highest ever in the IACHR’s history. The use of friendly settlements and the monitoring of these were heavily promoted and an unprecedented number of requests for precautionary measures were solved in record time. Progress was also made on expediting the initial evaluation of petitions and on processing cases and petitions. In this regard, the number of open cases that moved to the initial analysis stage increased by 18.2% in comparison with 2017. Some 1,618 requests for precautionary measures were received in 2018, a 56% increase over 2017. All of these requests were evaluated and 120 were granted, the highest ever number in a single year. The process for analyzing requests was also streamlined. The Friendly Settlements Mechanism was also promoted through the launch of the updated version of the Friendly Settlements Impact Report and the provision of training for officials and users. Nine new friendly settlement agreements were signed in 2018 and progress was made on the implementation of 106 reparation measures. The IACHR also addressed sensitive, emerging situations through two resolutions on corruption and human rights and the situation of Venezuelan migrants in the Americas.

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR expanded and intensified the role that civil society played in all of its activities, including public hearings, consultations, training workshops, and bilateral and multilateral meetings. The involvement of civil society is essential for the IACHR to fully comply with its mandate to protect and promote human rights. The IACHR values the involvement of civil society organizations and thanks them for their active collaboration in its activities. A total of 535 civil society organizations took part in the 106 public hearings held during the four periods of sessions that took place in 2018, concerning both regional and human rights situations in 22 countries in the Americas. At each period of sessions, an open meeting was held with inter-American civil society and the host country. The IACHR board of directors also met with the coalition of NGOs working at the Inter-American System of Human Rights (IASHR) during the 167th, 168th, and 170th periods of sessions. At each period of sessions, working meetings between the state and civil society were also held to make headway on the case system by looking at precautionary measures, friendly settlements, cases, and the monitoring of recommendations. In 2018, approximately 100 such meetings took place during the periods of sessions. With regard to the petition and case system, as part of its plan to cut down on procedural backlog, the IACHR carried out broad, open, online consultations. The second phase of measures to overcome procedural backlog benefited hugely from the involvement of civil society. Member states also contributed to this process.

This year, the IACHR raised its public profile in the Americas by carrying out two historic on-site visits and holding three periods of sessions outside its headquarters, and by conducting 25 working visits to 12 countries in the Americas, which means that at least one of the commissioners spent time in another country in the region once a fortnight. The organization also strengthened its contribution to making the inter-American justice system more effective and accessible by reinforcing its timely, integrated responses to specific situations in four countries by establishing Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) in Brazil and Honduras, which it visited, and in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Other initiatives include the creation of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), which marked the first time in the IACHR’s history that it was permanently present on the ground in a country, and the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to respond in a timely and effective manner to the human rights crisis in the country. The IACHR also created the Special Follow-up Team (ESE) on the journalists who were murdered on the border between Ecuador and Colombia, which seeks to provide technical assistance to the two states during their investigation into these events. The Working Group to Follow Up on Recommendations to the Dominican Republic was created and held two meetings, and the work of the Special Mechanism for Follow-Up on the Ayotzinapa Affair implied monthly visits from the IACHR to Mexico over the year.

The IACHR strengthened its work monitoring the human rights situation in the region by creating and building on existing standards: in 2018, the organization drafted and passed 13 thematic and country reports, published three reports on the overall human rights situation in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and 276 press releases, and issued a large number of requests for information from states regarding human rights situations. It also received responses to these requests.

The IACHR promoted and strengthened the IASHR through initiatives in partnership with the IA Court and other international, regional, and subregional human rights organizations and mechanisms. In 2018, the IACHR and the United Nations designed collaboration programs, notably coordinate activities to protect human rights defenders. An agreement was also signed to draft a joint action plan with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The cooperation between the IACHR and the IA Court continued to grow, and the two bodies jointly organized the Second Inter-American Human Rights System Forum. The capacities of 5,695 civil society representatives and government officials regarding IASHR mechanisms and standards were strengthened through promotional workshops and activities held in 26 countries in the Americas. The IACHR also raised its profile before the political organs of the OAS by attending 23 different forums over the course of the year.

The IACHR made progress on its program to promote transparency and access to information: it drafted and presented the progress report on the first year of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and the progress report on the first half of 2018 to the OAS Permanent Council. Likewise, following the release of Resolution 3/18, the IACHR increased the transparency of its criteria and some of the issues or claims that it has historically viewed as not being appropriate for analysis using the precautionary measures mechanism. Furthermore, through three press releases, the IACHR revealed the measures it has taken to handle procedural backlog and strengthen the precautionary measures mechanism. These have made the organization’s internal workflows public for the first time.

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR also managed to sustain the institutional management outcomes it achieved in 2017. In this regard, it received the first third of the regular fund budget increase approved by the OAS states, which it used to move toward regularizing secretariat staff and implementing a new administrative structure. It succeeded in increasing its donor base from 24 to 28 states and organizations and diversifying and increasing the specific funds it receives by 5%. The number and countries of origin of staff at the Executive Secretariat also increased, going from 18 to 22 countries, with a particular increase in the number of staff members from the Caribbean and of African descent. The IACHR also made significant progress on its media activities by improving its visual image through photographs and videos and strengthening its social media presence through different campaigns. It was able to reach 88 million people through these tools.

The following section lists the IACHR’s main achievements in 2018 in the course of executing the programs for its Strategic Plan.

Plan for Overcoming Procedural Backlog

In 2018, decisions to open cases and start the initial review stage increased by 74% in comparison with 2016. Likewise, the processing of decisions on the admissibility and merits of cases increased by 189% in comparison with 2016, reaching a total of 176 reports. The Friendly Settlements Mechanism was also strengthened: the updated edition of the Friendly Settlements Impact Report was launched, a training program was implemented for staff and users, nine new friendly settlement agreements were signed, and it was confirmed that progress had been made on the implementation of 106 reparation measures.

The team has responded effectively to the huge increase in demand for precautionary measures that has arisen due to the worsening of the human rights situations in some countries in the Americas and increasing awareness around the mechanism. Staff have kept the analysis of issues up-to-date and there has been an increase in the number of precautionary measures granted, particularly in connection with the grave human rights situation in Nicaragua, which the IACHR has monitored closely through its Special Follow-Up Mechanism. The precautionary measures mechanism was strengthened following the legal evaluation of 100% of the 1,618 requests received in 2018, a 56% increase on 2016. Of these, 120 precautionary measures have been granted, the most ever in a single year in the IACHR’s history. The percentage of precautionary measures that were granted within a month of the date of application has quadrupled.

Over the last two years, the IACHR Executive Secretariat has allocated significant resources to addressing the procedural backlog that had built up since the 1990s. This has entailed substantially modifying the way in which the secretariat organizes its work, namely by making human resource management more efficient and strategic, changing the management and technological tools being used, and generating pilot management models, among other initiatives.

Significant administrative measures were also implemented over the course of the year, including the creation of an Adjunct Executive Secretariat which focuses exclusively on handling petitions and cases, friendly settlements, and precautionary measures; an increase to the number of staff working at the secretariat, which went up by 21 in comparison with August 2016, when the current executive secretary took office; and by making the team of consultants’ contracts more stable and raising the status of the protection group within the institution such that it is now part of the precautionary measures section. In September 2017, the IACHR Executive Secretariat also implemented a Processing Unit, which made significant headway in 2018 and was able to centralize the administrative processing of petitions and cases at different procedural stages to enable the IACHR’s lawyers to focus exclusively on legal work. Various actions will continue to be taken to update the process management computer system to add new functions that will facilitate internal work processes, transparency, and effectiveness. The new administrative structure was announced on August 17, 2017, and was published with the organization chart.

In 2018, the IACHR adopted new measures following a broad participatory process of regional consultations with state and civil society and with experts and technical staff from the IACHR Executive Secretariat in order to continue implementing the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and its action plans.

To generate continuity around this important process and highlight the importance of the petitions and case system, in February 2018 the IACHR created a working group to assist the process of overcoming procedural backlog. The group is made up of commissioners Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Joel Hernández, Francisco Eguiguren, and Luis Ernesto Vargas and the executive secretary, Paulo Abrão. The group led the second stage of consultations, which was open to all users of the Inter-American Human Rights System and was held in June 2018 to receive additional suggestions for taking on the challenge of years of procedural backlog. After reviewing all the suggestions, the IACHR decided to adopt the following additional measures for this second stage of the Action Plan for the Special Program to Combat Procedural Backlog, as established in its Strategic Plan:

Initial Assessment Stage: Creation of a task force to overcome procedural backlog at the initial assessment stage

The IACHR created a special team to act as a taskforce to overcome procedural backlog at the initial assessment stage. The IACHR was assessing the petitions it had received in 2017. However, in addition to these new petitions, there were a large number of petitions from previous years on which decisions were still pending. Moreover, those involved in the petitions assessed in the two previous years had not been fully notified. The IACHR decided to continue assessing and processing pending petitions back to modify current practices that have fallen short of providing timely responses to victims’ needs. The IACHR decided that this group would be temporarily supervised directly by the executive secretary’s office, which summoned a group of experts to establish the task force in question which is currently assessing all the petitions received up to December 31, 2018.

A total of 2,957 petitions were received in 2018, an 18.6% increase on the previous year and a 15% increase on 2016. Some 3,050 petitions are expected to be received in 2019. A total of 2,897 petitions were assessed in 2018. In the case of 251 of these petitions, it was decided that additional information should be requested from the petitioners, and decisions on whether to process the petition were reached on the remaining 2,580 petitions. It was decided that 591 petitions would be processed and 1989 would not be.

Admissibility:

1. Pilot decision-making plan on admissibility

The IACHR extended the use of the pilot scheme for making decisions in batches that had initially been implemented at the merits stage. To this end, the IACHR instructed the Executive Secretariat to work in a systematized fashion using model report formats for recurring issues. Part of the Admissibility Section team was assigned to this pilot plan, which entails preparing admissibility reports using model paragraphs and following the same analytical approach for different cases within a given topic.

2. Analysis of colorable claims

The IACHR decided to return to using the colorable claim format that was originally implemented to streamline the entire petition process, including the preparation, review, translation, discussion, and approval stages.

Common Measures for the Admissibility and Merits Stages

The IACHR approved and implemented the following measures during 2018:

1. Reassign the lawyers with the most experience in the Cases and Petitions System to act directly in the admissibility and merits sections as a way of focusing efforts to overcome procedural backlog at those stages;

2. Reduce the number of requests for observations at the admissibility and merits stages, while maintaining flexibility on a case-by-case basis;

3. Continue to move toward simplifying admissibility and merits reports;

4. Continue to aggregate cases that entail similar parties, events, or patterns, always guaranteeing full respect for parties’ rights to defense and equality;

5. With regard to its archiving policy, the IACHR decided to reduce the acceptable inactivity period for parties from four to three years before the archiving warning is sent, and to archive cases at the merits stage if the requesting party does not comply with a regulatory requirement, specifically, the failure to submit additional observations on the merits, in accordance with provisions a) and b) of Article 42.1 of the Rules of Procedure. Following a period of inactivity, warnings will be issued regarding the imminent archiving of a case, regardless of whether there are proceedings pending. The IACHR considers it appropriate to ask petitioners whether the reasons for the petition still exist and whether they wish to continue with the process since events facts may have transpired they may no longer be willing to continue processing the petition or case. In other words, the petition or case will be archived in those cases in which the IACHR does not have the information it needs to reach a decision despite the efforts made to obtain this information, due to a clear sign of lack of interest in the proceedings;

6. Continue to be extremely cautious when applying the policy of archiving petitions on which the petitioner has taken no action, taking the circumstances of the case into consideration along with the possible existence of information that would allow the IACHR to resolve the case even without support from the petitioner;

7. Continue implementing its policy of advance or per saltum petition analysis, particularly regarding cases in which a decision could demonstrably remedy serious structural situations that have an impact on the enjoyment of human rights, or other situations in which the passage of time may render the decision useless.

Of the total of 176 reports approved by the IACHR, 133 were admissibility reports and 43 were merits reports, which increased the output of reports by 14% in comparison with 2017 and 189% in comparison with 2016, the highest ever number of reports in a single year in the history of the IACHR.

In qualitative terms, in the merits reports that were issued this year, the IACHR deepened and consolidated its jurisprudence on a wide range of issues, including freedom of expression and subsequent responsibilities, the use of pretrial detention, the death penalty, state obligations toward young people serving in the military, enforced disappearance, access to military information and archives, racial discrimination in the exercise of the punitive power of the state, torture, the duty to protect the right to life, due criminal process of law, due punitive administrative proceedings, extrajudicial executions, noncompliance with judicial decisions, use of force against migrants, sexual violence, right to equality in relation to reparations in transitional contexts, due process in migratory procedures and in relation to the right to nonrefoulement, the right to health, judicial independence, prison benefits and the purpose of the sentence, conditions of rights and the position of guarantor of the state vis-à-vis people who are deprived of their freedom, and people with disabilities.

The IACHR also expressed its views in for the first time in merits reports on topics it had not previously addressed and developed case law on these matters. These issues include violence against LGBTI people, sexual orientation-related discrimination in the civil service and in the workplace, the right to health and medical confidentiality, the legal capacity of people with disabilities, institutionalization in psychiatric facilities, the regulation, supervision, and monitoring of business activities, especially for companies that perform hazardous work, the right to work, the worst forms of child labor, and sexual violence and harassment against girls in educational establishments.

The portfolio of petitions and cases at the admissibility and merits stages increased during 2018 due to the increase in activity at the initial assessment stage and the application of Resolution 1/16, which in 2017 joined the processing of petitions that had been pending for more than 10 years and which led to the greatest number of petitions reaching the merits stage in the history of the IACHR.

Action of the IACHR before the IA Court

In 2018, the IACHR sent 18 cases to the Inter-American Court and requested two provisional measures. It also continued to handle contentious cases in writing and submitted around 40 active case briefs. The IACHR complied with its mandate to appear at all hearings before the Tribunal, including those relating to contentious cases and those relating to the monitoring of sentences and provisional measures, of which there were 17 in 2018. Likewise, the IACHR sent over 80 written submissions on compliance monitoring and provisional measures to the IA Court.

Program to Increase the Use of Friendly Settlements

Some 15 new matters were added to the friendly settlement negotiation portfolio in 2018. It should also be noted that a total of 33 matters were removed from this portfolio when the negotiation process was shut down (at the request of the parties). At the time of the close of the 2018 overview and planning for 2019, there were 105 matters being negotiated or at the stage prior to approval.

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR facilitated 41 working meetings on issues at different stages in the process of negotiating or implementing friendly settlements, in which states, petitioners, and victims took part.
Nine new friendly settlement agreements were signed between parties during the year. The most notable of these was Costa Rica’s first friendly settlement agreement, signed in July 2018.

The IACHR is satisfied with the progress made on implementing friendly settlement agreements: six petitions and cases moved from partial to total compliance and one case went from pending compliance to partial compliance.
The IACHR also notes the progress was made on implementing 106 measures: full compliance was achieved on 69 reparation measures; partial substantial compliance on 20 reparation measures; and partial compliance on 17 reparation measures. Of the 106 measures on which progress was made in 2018, 48 are structural and 58 are individual. It should be noted that in 2017, the IACHR acknowledged full compliance under 16 measures, so the 2018 results mark a considerable increase in total compliance with reparation measures in comparison. The IACHR launched an updated version of its Friendly Settlement Impact Report. Progress was also made on publicizing the mechanism through five training workshops and a seminar on international arbitration and mediation.

Precautionary Measures

In 2018, the IACHR continued to implement its precautionary measures mechanism to protect the rights of people throughout the Americas who are at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm. The year was marked by a substantial increase in the number of requests for precautionary measures that the IACHR received and the number of these that were granted. Measures were also implemented to expedite processing procedures in order to make responses timelier.

In 2018, the IACHR received 1,618 requests for precautionary measures, more than any other year in the organization’s history. This figure is over 50% higher than the number of requests received in 2017. As of February 2019, 100% of the requests received in 2018 had been evaluated in accordance with the requirements set out in Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure.

The IACHR received a large number of requests for precautionary measures from highly vulnerable petitioners during its on-site visits. There was an increase in the use of technology to make the ways petitioners can describe risk more flexible, namely through audio or video recordings of testimonies taken during on-site visits. Many of these requests were submitted in connection with the human rights crisis that has been unfolding in Nicaragua since April 2018.

A total of 120 precautionary measures were granted, the highest number ever in a single year, which was also the highest percentage of measures granted in comparison with the number of requests that were received (7.2%) since the Rules of Procedure were modified in 2013. The measures in question concerned Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela. A large number of the precautionary measures that were granted (67) related to the human rights crisis in Nicaragua.

Measures were granted to human rights defenders, journalists, groups that are vulnerable or have been discriminated against historically, such as women, children, and adolescents, communities of African descent, indigenous peoples, forcibly displaced people, members of the LGTB community, people who have been deprived of their freedom, migrants, legal workers, and people with disabilities. Through its decisions, the IACHR has sought to protect life and personal integrity, health, identity and family life, freedom of expression, and other rights affected by the situations in question.

The time in which precautionary measures were granted was significantly reduced in comparison with previous years, averaging 74 days in 2018. Of these measures, the percentage of those granted within a month of the date of the request increased fourfold, from 11% in 2017 to 44% in 2018. Given the exceptional risk faced by many of the applicants, most of the measures granted in 2018 (58%) were granted without prior requests from information from the relevant state, as is set out in article 25.5 of the Rules of Procedure. In such cases, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the IACHR subsequently analyzed whether it was appropriate for these measures to remain in force based on information provided by states after the measures were granted.

In 2018, the IACHR held 41 working meetings and five public hearings at which it directly supervised the implementation of the precautionary measures it had granted, requesting information from states on the progress they had made, timetables or roadmaps, and agreements between the parties. The IACHR also sent over 700 communiqués to states and state representatives regarding the implementation of measures that were in force. During its on-site and working visits, the IACHR was able to dialogue with authorities and representatives regarding compliance with precautionary measures. In 2018, the IACHR issued 10 press releases relating to the precautionary measures that were granted.

Progress was also made on states’ involvement in working meetings on precautionary measures. In 2017, the following nine states took part in the working meetings the IACHR organized regarding precautionary measures: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. In addition to these states, Brazil, and Ecuador also took part in the working meetings on precautionary measures in 2018.

Actions Taken to Streamline Procedures and Make the Precautionary Measure Mechanism More Predictable

The IACHR adopted Resolution 3/2018, through which it increased the transparency of some of the criteria, issues, or claims that it has historically viewed as not being appropriate for analysis using the precautionary measures mechanism because they would entail a detailed pronouncement on the situation in question, which corresponds to the petition and case system. Likewise, the IACHR decided not to continue processing applications for which the regulatory requirements for granting the measure were not met, and regarding which no response was received regarding requests for additional information from the applicants after a prolonged period of time. This has improved the predictability of the precautionary measure mechanism and has sped up decision-making regarding those issues that showed the greatest signs of risk according to IACHR precedents and on which up-to-date information is available.

In 2018, the Executive Secretariat continued to adopt measures to streamline the decision-making process and the handling of requests and precautionary measures granted through portfolios, ensuring that cases that showed signs of being extremely urgent were prioritized appropriately. To ensure the IACHR could continue to provide timely responses to requests, there was a substantial increase in the number of staff working in the Precautionary and Provisional Measures Department in comparison with previous years: the number of legal and administrative personnel doubled in comparison with August 2016, the start of the current executive secretary’s term in office.

Monitoring and Coordination of Appropriate, Timely, Relevant Responses to the Human Rights Situation

The IACHR also made progress on consolidating broader monitoring processes that are timelier and more diverse by articulating its different functions and mechanisms; increasing its on-site and working visits; establishing and monitoring Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) to identify risk factors for human rights violations and send out early warnings around emerging situations and/or design immediate action strategies; increasing requests for information on human rights measures from states and publishing its position in press releases; and by responding to human rights crises in the region in real time. As a result, the IACHR has been able to map emerging and structural human rights trends and situations and generate coordinated strategies to tackle these.

The integration and coordination of the human rights monitoring function that the IACHR carries out in compliance with its mandate is expressed in its work, such as visits, thematic and country reports, press releases, letters requesting information from states, memoranda, and hearings. Likewise, in an effort to standardize and improve the efficiency of its processes and harmonize workflows, processes, and instruments, the IACHR worked toward creating annual action plans, establishing six protocols action for working visits, on-site visits, thematic reports, promotional activities, letters requesting information, and country and issue-specific monitoring.

Its success in overcoming fragmentation and duplication in human rights monitoring initiatives and in defining action strategies for the integrated, articulated use of the various mechanisms at the its disposal resulted in a huge increase in the use of certain tools in comparison with previous years. More letters and press releases were issued than in 2017. All of the IACHR’s priority issues were addressed in its press releases, which led to more balanced coverage of issues. The human rights situation in 29 countries in the region was monitored in relation to general or specific issues that the IACHR tackled through press releases, private requests for information from states, or public hearings.

On-Site Visits

In relation to the observation and promotion of human rights in the Americas, the IACHR also led an on-site visit to Honduras between July 30 and August 3, 2018, at the end of which it published its preliminary recommendations from the visit and 25 recommendations to the state. The aim of the visit was to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground. To this end, the IACHR gathered testimonies from victims of human rights violations and their families and visited different regions of the country, including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Tela, Puerto Lempira, and Bajo Aguán. It also visited various state-run institutions, including prisons and military bases.

The IACHR also paid an on-site visit to Brazil from November 5-12, 2018, in which it traveled to different parts of the states of Bahia, Maranhão, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Roraima, and the Federal District. Its preliminary observations from the visit and 77 recommendations to the state were announced at a press conference held in Rio de Janeiro. The IACHR also visited state institutions, including detention centers; the reception and care center for migrants and refugees on the Venezuelan border; the drug-use zone known as Cracolândia, in São Paulo; and a socio-educational detention center for children and teenagers. It visited quilombos (settlements of people of African origin), indigenous community lands, informal settlements inhabited by rural workers and the homeless, and areas affected by environmental disasters.

Working Visits

Continuing with its strategy of focusing on a series of crosscutting priority issues contained in the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and the intersectional nature of its entire work agenda, the IACHR designed a schedule of working visits that would enable it to significantly raise the profile of the different human rights situations in OAS member states. To this end, it made 25 working visits to 12 countries in the region (Bahamas, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the United States and Uruguay), including eight promotional visits, one ceremonial visit, nine follow-up visits, and seven human rights monitoring visits. In most of these cases, the IACHR publicized its conclusions and recommendations to states through press conferences or press releases.

Through its working visits to these countries, the IACHR was able to observe the human rights situation of people who have been historically discriminated against, such as women, children, people deprived of freedom, people of African descent, LGBTI people, and indigenous peoples, and the right to memory, truth, and justice, freedom of expression, and ESCERs. These visits were also used by the IACHR to promote standards to protect these groups and priority issues. It was also able to promote roundtables for dialogue between the state and civil society organizations, hold ceremonial meetings with state authorities, and meet with civil society to discuss the human rights situation in these countries and to strengthen partnerships with other stakeholders such as academics and social platforms.

Requests for Information

The IACHR issued a total of 78 letters requesting information from states in the region in 2018: 64 were issued pursuant to article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights and 14 were pursuant to article 18 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. This represents almost twice the number of letters sent in 2017 (42 letters). The letters address multiple human rights situations in 26 countries in the Americas: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru. Of the total number of letters sent, 49 were answered by the states in question and 29 were not, which represents a 63% response rate. The information the states provided is still being analyzed by the IACHR in connection with its various monitoring tools, particularly the preparation of country and thematic reports. In the specific case of Nicaragua, the IACHR also sent 80 letters requesting information regarding the situation of specific people and events in connection with the current human rights crisis.

The IACHR used this mechanism to address the following issues: threats and violence against human rights defenders; the rights of people belonging to indigenous communities; the involvement of the armed forces in public security; obstetric violence and forced sterilization; the rights of elderly people and LGBTI people; the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers; and forced internal displacement, among others.

In this regard, the IACHR reacted in a timely manner to human rights violations and situations entailing risk in the region such as the so-called migrant caravan. It also requested information from Mexico and Guatemala on measures to protect the human rights of the migrants and asylum-seekers that form part of the migrant caravan. Another such example was its request to visit Mexico and the United States concerning the policy of separating migrants. Authorization of this visit by the United States is still pending. Ten requests for information on access to political rights for people with disabilities were also issued.

Press Releases

The IACHR was able to broaden its position supporting human rights in the region through the press releases it issued in 2018. Of the 276 press releases issued by the IACHR, 204 concerned the monitoring of and follow-up on the human rights situation in the region in connection with the countries and issues the IACHR is currently prioritizing; and 8 concerned technical cooperation and promotion and training activities. This number outstrips that of 2017, when the IACHR published 161 press releases on monitoring and follow-up, which was itself an increase on the previous year. Through its press releases, the IACHR also addressed the human rights situation in the entire region and in 22 specific countries either as a general issue or in relation to particular issues or populations. It also touched on issues such as forced evictions and internal displacement, migration policies that result in the separation of children from their families, military interventions in matters of citizen security and public order, the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, the rights of LGBTI people and the elderly, racial discrimination, the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, the right to freedom of expression and economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.

Since the onset of the crisis in Nicaragua, the IACHR has issued 41 press releases expressing its concern over state repression that is keeping the human rights the Nicaraguan population’s enjoyment and exercise of their human rights in a critical state. Four of these press releases concern the specific monitoring of the situation of journalists and media by the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression; and one relates to the monitoring work of the Special Rapporteurship on ESCERs in Nicaragua.

Hearings

The IACHR monitored and publicized a significant number of human rights situations by holding 107 public hearings during its four periods of sessions in 2018. These concerned the monitoring of situations in the region, some subregions, and/or 22 specific countries. Other topics included new trends in human rights and follow-up on IACHR recommendations to states. The hearings covered the 13 topics and 6 crosscutting priority areas set out in the Strategic Plan, which constitutes an improvement and a better balance of issues than in 2016. As part of its work to make the inter-American system fully accessible, the IACHR facilitated sign language interpretation at two public hearings.

Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs)

To make more of an impact on emerging situations and expand its protection measures, the IACHR strengthened its internal rapid integrated response mechanisms, namely by creating and monitoring Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units for Brazil and Honduras, which the organization visited, and Venezuela and Nicaragua. The aim of these initiatives is to prevent possible human rights violations and protect those who may be at risk.

With regard to Brazil, the Executive Secretariat held coordination meetings in preparation for the on-site visit that was scheduled for November 2018. During these meetings, it reviewed key issues and preliminary agenda proposals. After the visit, other meetings with the SACROI were held to follow up on the requests for precautionary measures that the IACHR received, to begin preparing the country report for Brazil, and to identify the petitions that had been received and pending cases that relate to the core issues of the preliminary observations from the visit.

The SACROI that was established in Venezuela in 2017 was strengthened to prepare for the various launches of the country report and to monitor the human rights situation in the country. The SACROI also met to identify petitions at the admissibility and merits stages on which reports are ready to be issued, and it has drafted an IACHR position paper regarding Venezuela’s denunciation of the OAS Charter, which is still being evaluated.

One matter of particular concern is the grave human rights situation that has arisen in Nicaragua since the violent events of April 18, 2018. The IACHR established a SACROI in the country to closely monitor the human rights situation there. The IACHR’s initiatives regarding Nicaragua include a working visit undertaken between May 17 and 21 to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground, document events, and make initial recommendations to the state in the form of preliminary observations. The IACHR also published a report entitled “Gross Human Rights Violations in the Context of Social Protests in Nicaragua.” The IACHR has also established two special investigation and follow-up mechanisms: the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) and the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the results of which are discussed below.

These mechanisms were created and implemented in record time: the MESENI and the GIEI were established just two months after the IACHR created the SACROI, held its country visit, and published the report. All of this has enabled the IACHR to make a timely, comprehensive impact on events by informing the international community of the serious effects of the human rights crisis that continues to affect Nicaragua and which entails loss of human life, the criminalization of social protest, and forced displacement within and outside the country.

With regard to the latter, the IACHR has been paying special attention to the situation of Nicaraguan asylum-seekers who have been forced to flee their country in search of international protection. To address this, the IACHR carried out an observation visit to Costa Rica between October 14 and 18, 2018. During the visit, the IACHR interviewed 250 people and gathered 165 testimonies from asylum-seekers and/or those in need of international protection, which enabled the organization to identify the causes that prompted them to flee Nicaragua, the hazards and obstacles they faced on leaving the country, and their current predicament in Costa Rica.
The results achieved over the course of the year have confirmed the importance of this approach. The IACHR has succeeded in making a timely, effective impact on one of the most serious human rights crises in the region by acting on its different mandates and preparing its visits in a comprehensive fashion that is tailored to each country’s needs.

Resolutions

In 2018, the IACHR passed two new resolutions on vital regional issues which it has been paying particular attention to corruption and human rights; and the forced migration of Venezuelans. In Resolution 1/18, the IACHR analyzes for the first time ever how corruption affects human rights as a whole, weakens governance and democratic institutions, fosters impunity, undermines the rule of law, and increases inequality. The IACHR’s efforts and those of its special rapporteurships were subsequently reflected in the Lima Commitment, a document agreed upon by the heads of state and government of the OAS member states during the VIII Summit of the Americas, which was held in Peru in April 2018. Through this document, states committed to tackling systematic corruption by strengthening democratic governance and transparency, access to information, protection for whistleblowers, and human rights, including freedom of expression, and promoting transparency in the financing of political organizations and electoral campaigns.

Resolution 2/18 addresses the causes for the massive forced migration of Venezuelans to various countries in the region and around the world; the risks they face in the absence of safe, regular, legal channels to migration; and the multiple obstacles to obtaining international protection in addition to discrimination; threats to their lives and personal integrity; sexual and gender-based violence; abuse and exploitation; human trafficking; the disappearance of migrants and refugees once they arrive in the receiving country; and obstacles to accessing humanitarian assistance. In the resolution, the IACHR urges OAS member states to implement a series of actions to respond to the serious, complex crisis occasioned by the forced migration of Venezuelans to other countries, in accordance with states’ international obligations to respect and guarantee the human rights of all people under their jurisdiction.

Reports

As part of its mandate to monitor and promote human rights in member states, the IACHR drafted and passed ten thematic reports and three country reports. The thematic reports include “People of African Descent, Police Brutality, and Human Rights in the United States”; a compendium of norms and standards relating to the right to seek and receive asylum, the right to nonrefoulement, and guarantees of due process in procedures for determining refugee status; “Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle. Public Policymaking Guidelines”; “Public Policies with a Human Rights Focus”; “Progress on and Challenges to the Recognition of the Rights of LGBTI People in the Americas”; three reports from the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression, namely “Special Report on the Freedom of Expression in Mexico,” “Women Journalists: Gender-Based Discrimination and Violence against Women Journalists,” and “Freedom of Expression in Cuba”; and the progress report and final report on the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair.

The IACHR has expanded its monitoring of the overall human rights situation in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through the publication of three country reports in 2018.

The drafting and publication of these thematic and country reports, resolutions, and press releases and the permanent collaboration around monitoring work for the petition and case system and precautionary measures brought significant progress in 2018 on standards that widen the scope of protection for the people of the Americas and help build on the interpretations of human rights set out in the inter-American instruments. The new issues which the IACHR has developed standards on include: harassment in various settings, including in schools, which was prompted by the rape of an indigenous girl; evictions and internal displacement-related issues, including establishing standards in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; forced migration, with specific standards to address the situation of the forced migration of Venezuelans in the region from a perspective of human rights and shared responsibility; the separation of children from their parents at borders; the privileges that derive from the application of maximum security regimes that conflict with guaranteeing the human rights of persons deprived of liberty and their families; the importance of creating outpatient services to treat people with problematic drug-use issues; and LGBTI people’s right to political participation, public policies, and services and the important of creating a culture of respect for these people, such that freedom of religion or belief cannot be invoked to justify discrimination against LGBTI persons. The IACHR also urged states to refrain from adopting measures that represent setbacks to the respect and guaranteeing of women’s rights, as any measures that do so may constitute a violation of women’s human rights. On International Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women’s Day, the IACHR called on states to encourage and strengthen these groups’ political participation. The IACHR noted that the phenomena known as “doxing,” “sextortion,” and “trolling” and the nonconsensual distribution of intimate content (so-called revenge porn) have already been used to intimidate women human rights defenders, women who are active in politics, journalists, bloggers, young women, women belonging to ethnic minorities, indigenous women, women of African descent, women from the LGBTI community, women with disabilities, and women from other marginalized groups. Internet stakeholders (such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and others) and states have a joint responsibility to prevent and address these forms of cyberviolence against women.

Joint Action Mechanism between the IACHR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Protect Human Rights Defenders

Given that the current context for human rights defenders in the Americas currently is one of grave risk, marked by an increase in the numbers of people killed, aggression, and threats, 2018 was marked by the implementation of the Joint Action Mechanism between the IACHR and the OHCHR, building on the achievements of 2017 regarding the design of its work agenda and public consultations around this. The first meeting between focal points for the joint mechanism took place in Bogotá in March and was attended by the focal points of the IACHR and the offices of the OHCHR in Central America, South America, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, who discussed the implementation of the mechanism.

At this meeting, the OHCHR offices and the IACHR agreed to step up joint actions to advance the effective implementation of the Joint Action Mechanism to contribute to the protection of human rights defenders in the Americas. They also made headway on consolidating the Joint Action Mechanism through specific proposals in five priority areas: 1) joint investigations, 2) monitoring and protection, 3) advocacy, 4) promotion and 5) technical assistance.

To implement these actions, it was agreed that there would be a periodic exchange of information between the two organizations to analyze issues and situations of particular concern and define actions to implement effective, timely protection for human rights defenders who are at risk. A draft document on the predicament of human rights defenders in the Americas (2012–2017) was also presented, which will help define the joint actions that will be implemented.

Over the course of 2018, the two bodies implemented a series of joint actions including the issuing of two joint statements on situations of shared concern (regarding Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, and regional issues), joint participation in monitoring and promotional activities, and an increase in the exchange and analysis of information on the human rights situation of human rights defenders in the region, including relevant information on precautionary measures. The activities that were carried out included a seminar and a forum on standards relating to human rights defenders in Honduras; the participation of the OHCHR representative in Honduras in the IACHR’s on-site visit to the country; a meeting of experts on good practices regarding the protection of human rights defenders and the prevention of and investigation into crimes against them; and preparatory activities for drafting two reports to be published jointly, such as a consultation with experts. The focal points met in December 2018 to evaluate achievements and decide on the schedule of actions for the first half of 2019.

Implementation of Three New Thematic Units

The IACHR notes that this was the second year of operations for the thematic units that were created in 2017: Memory, Truth and Justice; Older People; and People with Disabilities. The thematic unit on the Rights of People with Disabilities held a public consultation in Lima on June 22, 2018. The 70 attendees included people with disabilities, activists, organization representatives, experts, academics, and authorities from 17 countries. They identified challenges facing people with disabilities in the region and reviewed proposals to tackle these and other potential areas of work for the thematic unit. On July 26, 2018, the IACHR Unit on the Rights of Older People and the Mercosur Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH) carried out activities to build on understandings of the human rights situation of older people in the region and promote the universalization of the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Older Persons. These included discussion panels, a book launch, and the joint launch of the Living with Dignity photo exhibition, which was on display in the OAS main building until August 6, 2018. The Memory, Truth and Justice Unit carried out training activities as part of the cooperation with El Salvador under Strategic Objective 3. Like the IACHR rapporteurships, the three new units now have their own staff and budgets.

Annual Report Redesign

In response to different stakeholders commenting on the need for the IACHR Annual Report to be more streamlined and accessible, the document was redesigned using a new format. Through this new design, which follows the IACHR Rules of Procedure, the organization is hoping to provide a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in the region while reporting on its activities and achievements in relation to the objectives set out in its Strategic Plan. The main monitoring-related changes implemented were as follows: a) all information relating to the IACHR’s monitoring and promotion work was consolidated in chapter III through reports and information from thematic and country units, along with information on training and promotion activities; b) in chapter IV.A, the IACHR decided to include an annual overview of the human rights situation in the Americas based on its monitoring work, which will identify the main trends, problems, and challenges, and will note any progress that has been made and list best practices in relation to civil and political rights and social, economic, and cultural rights. To this end, the IACHR has strengthened its participation strategy by calling on civil society to provide states with information by letter to inform it of progress and challenges in relation to the crosscutting themes of 2018. With regard to the report’s coverage of the IACHR’s monitoring work, chapters V and II.D were redesigned based on the new definitions of the criteria for analyzing compliance with recommendations, each of which is analyzed individually, while also seeking to present information in a clearer format. To follow up on recommendations for individual cases, specific records were designed for each merits reports to be published, including details of the challenges they entailed and the results that were achieved. Guidelines were also drafted for presenting information in response to IACHR requests for this from states, civil society, and petitioners.

Advocacy and Training

To promote democracy, human dignity, equality, justice and fundamental freedoms in the terms set out in Strategic Objective 3, the IACHR strengthened its outreach and training activities on the IASHR throughout 2018.

Throughout the year, the IACHR was able to build on its outreach and promotion activities through its rapporteurships, thematic units, and other working areas. In 2018, the IACHR carried out 162 activities to promote the IASHR, reaching approximately 6,000 people. These activities took place in at least 19 countries in the Americas, four OAS observer states, and other states. Many were organized in partnership with other stakeholders, thus consolidating collaboration with civil society organizations, regional and international institutions, and states. Activities were run in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Senegal, China, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Thailand. One major outreach activity was the Second Inter-American System of Human Rights Forum, which was organized jointly by the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and was held on December 10, 2018. On this occasion, the event was organized under the auspices of the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. The second forum included celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the American Convention on Human Rights, and International Human Rights Day. This joint initiative organized by the two human rights organizations sort to generate and promote debate on the current and future states of human rights in the Americas, the effectiveness of the system, the need to increase member states’ compliance with IACHR recommendations, and other key issues on the human rights agenda in the Americas.

The second half of 2018 saw the start of the International Course on Public Policies on Human Rights, which the IACHR is running in partnership with the Mercosur Institute for Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH). The course will continue into 2019. The course was designed for government officials who are responsible for designing, managing, implementing, and evaluating public policies, members of social organizations and movements, academics, and the general public, and is being attended by 100 people.

These outcomes are the fruit of a well-organized strategy to strengthen the IACHR’s outreach and training activities, in partnership with other organizations, which are one of the mainstays of its work. The notable achievements of 2018 included: awareness-raising and prevention campaigns; inter-American human rights conferences; seminars and events; activities to publicize reports; training courses on public policies on human rights and on the inter-American system and inter-American standards; thematic courses; and support for national and regional capabilities relating to the inter-American system.

The IACHR also provides guidance on outreach and training activities on inter-American human rights standards that have been generated through IASHR doctrine and jurisprudence. The aim of this is to promote greater understanding within civil society, the networks of social actors, and in member states on the scope of the standards and, where relevant, that application and inclusion in decisions and regulatory frameworks and in public policies with a human rights focus. The IACHR is developing practical guidelines and a compendium of standards on their use as advocacy tools. In 2018, it approved guidelines for drafting public policies on internal displacement and began preparation work on a series of three compendia of standards, including the mapping and systematization of the standards established by the IACHR since 2000 regarding the principle of equality and nondiscrimination in 445 case reports, thematic reports, and country reports.

Technical Cooperation

The IACHR has continued to strengthen its collaboration with Central America through the Project on Democracy and Human Rights in the Northern Triangle, particularly regarding the standards relating to migration and forced displacement and knowledge of the IASHR. As part of a project seeking to strengthen public institutions with a human rights focus in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, training courses were held in 2018 for state officials from all three countries. For the first time ever, three training and capacity-building workshops were held for government officials from the countries’ human rights ombudsman’s offices (i.e., the national human rights protection systems) around knowledge and use of the Inter-American System of Human Rights mechanisms and inter-American standards. These training sessions took place in El Salvador, where 30 people took part; and Honduras, where 34 people took part, and in Guatemala, where 28 people took part.

Three other technical assistance and capacity-building workshops were held for government officials on human rights standards for migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless people, victims of human trafficking, displaced people, and other groups affected by movements of people. These training days took place in El Salvador, where 33 people took part; and Honduras, where 20 people took part, and in Guatemala, where 12 people took part.

In July, Honduras hosted the First Regional Forum to Exchange Experiences on International Standards and Good Practices Regarding Internal Displacement, Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and LGTBI Populations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. The forum was a great success and brought together some 200 people, including representatives of various state institutions, members of civil society, academia, and the general public.

The Second Meeting for National Human Rights Institutions was held in Guatemala City in November. The purpose of the meeting was to create a space for exchanging good practices and analyzing challenges facing national human rights institutions. It was attended by the representatives of the human rights ombudsman’s offices of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia and representatives of human rights institutions from Honduras, Mexico, and Chile. Progress was made toward signing a declaration of commitment between the IACHR and national human rights institutions on technical cooperation and the creation of a contact point mechanism. This instrument has been signed by the national human rights institutions of Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and is open to other national human rights institutions from the Americas.

As part of this cooperation initiative, the Executive Technical Unit of the Judiciary of El Salvador requested technical assistance from the IACHR to promote capacity-building for the judiciary as part of the development of transitional justice processes that have been unfolding there since the Amnesty Law was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Chamber in 2016. The IACHR designed a training workshop in four consecutive modules that ran from August to November 2018. During these modules, which were attended by 70 representatives of El Salvador’s legal sector, IACHR specialists and international experts discussed various key aspects of transitional justice.

As part of the IACHR’s immediate response to the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, the IACHR ran a series of ten training sessions through the MESENI to build capacities for civil society in Nicaragua. Between June 24 and December 19, 2018, 273 students and members of social movements took part in these training sessions on IACHR mechanisms, the standards of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, and transitional justice in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The IACHR made progress on signing different cooperation agreements as part of the plan to work with the regional network of experts on the IASHR and academic research centers that focus on this. To this end, a total of 21 new interinstitutional cooperation agreements were signed, including eight agreements with universities. The IACHR established formal partnerships with the following institutions: the Attorney General’s Office, Colombia; the Executive Committee for Victim Assistance, Mexico; Benito Juárez University of Oaxaca, Mexico; the Metropolitan University; the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, Guatemala; the National Council of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, Brazil; the University of Oklahoma College of Law, United States; the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED), Mexico; the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Chile; Torcuato Di Tella University, Argentina; the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Nonrepetition, Colombia; the International Land Coalition; the School of Law of the National University of Córdoba, Argentina; the University of Los Angeles and Brown University, United States; the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Labor, Brazil; the Catholic University of Peru; the Institute of Social Responsibility and Human Rights (IRRESODH); Save the Children; and REDLAMYC.

As part of these agreements, progress is being made on expanding the Grant Program and Associate Personnel Program and on developing training, outreach, and research activities. Over the course of the year, seven professionals joined the IACHR as part of the Associate Personnel Program.

As part of the program on public policies with a human rights focus, concrete progress was made in 2018 on structuring the Section for Technical Cooperation and Public Policies on Human Rights. Progress was also made on drafting instruments and inputs for public policymakers and consolidating ties for providing technical assistance, supporting states’ institutional strengthening strategies, and establishing cooperation initiatives with other institutions. The IACHR also made headway on drafting general guidelines for public policy design with a human rights approach which may be useful for government officials in the Americas. This work scheme will be replicated to address other issues and will be adapted as appropriate.

The IACHR signed a technical cooperation agreement with the state of Colombia to promote the IASHR by providing it technical assistance in implementing the Peace Agreement. As was set out in Program 10, the Technical Unit of El Salvador’s legal sector requested technical cooperation from the IACHR to increase knowledge, reflection, and dialogue with the judiciary on transitional justice processes in the country.

The year brought similar progress on the design of proposals for technical cooperation work with various government institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The aim of these initiatives is to support national efforts to promote human rights and to formulate public policies with a human rights focus on various issues of mutual interest, including the rights of LGBTI people, mechanisms for protecting human rights defenders, support for the implementation of national human rights plans, and mechanisms for social participation.

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR expanded and intensified the role played by civil society in all of its activities, including public hearings, consultations, training workshops, and bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Monitoring of Recommendations

In 2018, the IACHR took major steps toward implementing the Section on Monitoring Recommendations with the ultimate aim of making the Inter-American Human Rights System more effective. These steps included developing and improving methodologies for monitoring recommendations; preparing the monitoring portfolio; redrafting the chapter on monitoring recommendations on individual cases in the Annual Report; developing criteria for analyzing compliance with recommendations in such cases; increasing the number of monitoring actions with a view to designing roadmaps for compliance with recommendations on which there is consensus. This resulted in an increase of over 200% in states’ and petitioners’ response levels to the IACHR. There was also a rise in the number of responses from English-speaking countries and a substantial increase in the number of working meetings, portfolio meetings, and meetings with petitioners in cases on which merits reports had been published. Two thematic studies on compliance with recommendations in merits reports were also published in 2018: one related to 34 instances of the death penalty and the other to 12 cases in which women or girls’ rights to life or integrity had been compromised.

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR also strengthened its work with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the monitoring of recommendations through networks of ombudsmen and academics in order to coordinate initiatives and exchange information on good practices. Fifteen outreach activities and talks were held, in addition to training for state officials, ombudsmen, social leaders, and civil society. Initiatives to establish partnerships with academic networks included the signing of a declaration of understanding Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Heidelberg, Germany). The IACHR is also working on the project to create jurisprudence records in relation to merits reports and friendly settlements, which it is implementing in partnership with the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (IDEHPUCP).

The IACHR is also developing the Inter-American System for Monitoring IACHR Recommendations (SIMORE), a database of all recommendations made by the IACHR and its different mechanisms to OAS member states. The IACHR is working to systematize this information, which will include a database of the 4,113 recommendations to member states that are included in thematic, country, and merits reports. SIMORE is based on a tool developed by the state of Paraguay to systematize the international human rights recommendations made to it. It allows public access to information on the actions taken by the state to comply with and implement these recommendations. The OAS has recognized how significant the system is.

In June 2018, the OAS General Assembly passed a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights that recognizes the IACHR’s efforts to implement an online system for monitoring its recommendations, as stipulated in its Strategic Plan 2017–2021, and urged it to continue developing its capacities for monitoring its recommendations (AG/DOC.5641/18). The system contains a specific tool to promote civil society involvement in this process. Progress was also made in 2018 on training the IACHR team and developing a prototype for this system. A workshop to present the system and train IACHR focal points was held in Washington and was attended by over 50 people, including representatives from ten state missions to the OAS. The state of Paraguay presented the source code for the system to the IACHR at the event. As part of the implementation of the plan, a document entitled “Comparative Study of Data Indexing Models—Systems for Monitoring Recommendations” was drafted. A proposal for indexing data on IACHR recommendations through SIMORE was also drawn up.

The IACHR also committed to consolidating and creating special mechanisms for monitoring its recommendations. These included as the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA), concerning Mexico; the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI); and the Special Follow-up Team (ESE) on the murder of the team of journalists from El Comercio newspaper. These special follow-up mechanisms facilitate a more holistic analysis of the IACHR’s decisions and recommendations, raise the public profile of the case or situation, establish a system for periodic monitoring of the issues/country which leads to deeper, more focused monitoring by the IACHR, and allows the it to provide better support for outcomes.

In 2018, the IACHR approved a second phase of work on the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA) and presented its Progress Report on this phase, which describes monitoring activities regarding the precautionary measure granted in favor of the 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in Ayotzinapa (MC 409-14) and on the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI).

Over the course of 2018, the IACHR organized two working groups on the implementation of public policies on human rights in the Dominican Republic, which were established to monitor recommendations and commitments on acquiring citizenship, migration, policies to combat all forms of discrimination, and policies on women’s rights and gender equality. The First Working Group was held on July 24 and 25, 2018, at the IACHR headquarters in Washington, DC. The Second Working Group took place on November 20 and 21 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The IACHR praised the creation and consolidation of this space that civil society can play a part in, along with state authorities, in order to work on proposals relating to the issues listed above. The creation of this working group is an opportunity for progress on the implementation of human rights policies in the Dominican Republic and is a complementary tool that is part of the IACHR’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2021.

Over the course of 2018, the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) assisted the Verification and Security Commission established as part of the National Dialogue Agreement and provided support for the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for Nicaragua. Through MESENI, the IACHR is continuing to promote capacity-building on international human rights standards for Nicaraguan civil society. From its arrival in Managua, MESENI recorded the human rights situation in the country and consolidated the data that the IACHR had gathered, analyzed, and published following rigorous technical monitoring work. Thanks to this presence in Nicaragua, the IACHR published reports and press releases informing the international community of the serious human rights violations that have taken place in the country due to state repression that began with the protests of April 18, 2018. Despite the temporary suspension of the MESENI as of December 19, the IACHR will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Nicaragua from its headquarters in Washington to guarantee the protection of human lives and physical integrity and to defend the Nicaraguan people’s freedom of expression. To this end, it will remain in permanent contact with civil society organizations, social movements, state authorities, and the victims of human rights violations.

Acknowledgements

The IACHR is grateful to civil society human rights organizations throughout the Americas, OAS member and observer states, international and regional organizations, the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, and his team, and to the entire team at the IACHR Executive Secretariat for the part it played in enabling the organization to reach the landmark achievements presented in this report. It wishes to thank the member states for implementing the first stage in the increase of the regular fund, which was approved in 2017 to be instated over the course of three years. It also wishes to thank the OAS member countries, observer states, and donors whose voluntary contributions have played a decisive role in achieving the outcomes presented in this publication: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the European Union, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and Uruguay, as well as other organizations such as UNHCR, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the SOS Children’s Villages Foundation, the Freedom House Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Google. The IACHR dedicates its work to the memory of victims and recognizes the leading role of civil society organizations and social movements in building fairer societies that are more respectful of human rights.


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..

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