Press Release

IACHR Concludes 171st Period of Sessions

February 21, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 171st Period of Sessions in Sucre, Bolivia, between February 7 and 16, 2019. The IACHR wishes to thank the state of Bolivia for its invitation and for all its help in ensuring that the scheduled events were a success. The IACHR is grateful to the state of Bolivia for having implemented a transportation system to allow all attendees, including representatives of states and civil society organizations and the general public, easy access to the Convention Center where the sessions and public hearings were held.

“We are deeply grateful to the government and people of Bolivia for their invitation and for the hospitality they extended to the IACHR,” said IACHR president Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. “It was thrilling to hear the opening ceremony in Quechua and to discover how many people were interested in attending the hearings and speaking to the Commission. It has been a hugely enriching experience, one that once again confirms how important it is for us to continue holding periods of sessions away from the IACHR headquarters as a way of bringing the Commission closer to the people it works for,” she said. It was the first time that an opening ceremony for an IACHR period of sessions was held in Spanish and Quechua.

The IACHR elected its new authorities on the first day of the period of sessions, as per its Rules of Procedure. Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño is now president of the board of officers, Joel Hernández García is first vice president, and Antonia Urrejola Noguera is second vice president, as was announced in a press release.

During these sessions, the IACHR decided to expand and deepen the existing institutional framework for following up on certain issues. Specifically, the IACHR has decided that the units on Memory, Truth, and Justice; on the Rights of Older People; and on People with Disabilities will become thematic rapporteurships. In addition, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty will now have a mandate to prevent and combat torture, and the Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders will now have a mandate on the situation of those working in the judiciary and legal system.

During this period of sessions, the IACHR held 24 public hearings on regional matters and on the specific human rights situation in 12 countries: Chile, Haiti, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. Videos of the hearings are available, as are high-definition photos, which are licensed for download and use by interested parties.

During these sessions, the IACHR continued to develop its plan to coordinate and articulate work in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by holding several bilateral meetings. Representatives of the OHCHR and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also took part in five hearings. The OHCHR took part in the hearings entitled “The Maintenance and Safeguarding of Sites, Memorials, Archives, Museums, and Memorial Spaces in the Americas” and “The Situation of Environmental ‘Sacrifice Zones’ and the Consequences of Industrial Activity on the Right to Health in Chile.” The OHCHR also gave a presentation at the hearing entitled “Trials and the Amnesty Law in El Salvador.” A UNICEF representative spoke at the hearing entitled “The Rights of Venezuelan Migrant Children in the Americas,” and Inés Carrasco from the OHCHR took part in the hearing entitled “Good Practices on Prevention, Investigation, and the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.”

The IACHR is pleased to report that many people attended the meeting with civil society and wishes to congratulate civil society representatives on the energetic dialogue that took place. The meeting was attended by 478 people and was addressed by representatives of almost 100 social organizations from Bolivia and other countries in the region. Among those present were a significant number of peasant farmers, indigenous people, students, members of the LGBTI community, women, and children. A total of 2,085 people came to take part in the different activities that took place during the period of sessions.

Some 30 working meetings were held during the 171st Period of Sessions: 15 meetings on friendly settlements, 5 on monitoring recommendations, 8 on precautionary measures, and 2 on cases. In addition, 37 bilateral meetings were held, including 7 with Bolivia, 5 with other states, 3 with the United Nations, 15 with civil society organizations, 4 with petitioners, and 3 with representatives of academia. Workshops, courses, consultations with experts, and other dialogues were also held during the sessions, and the commissioners took part in or were panelists for five external events: the regional conversation entitled “Pretrial Detention and the Challenges of Penal Reforms in Latin America” organized by Fundación Construir; the dialogue with survivors of sexual violence and human rights defenders organized by Equality Now; the event on maternal health and obstetric violence organized by ReproRights; the International Seminar on Violence and Hate Crimes against LGBTI People in Latin America and the Caribbean organized by Fundación Diversencia and the LGBTI Coalition at the OAS; and an event on Venezuelan migrant children organized by Save the Children.

During the sessions, the IACHR assessed the overall human rights situation in the region and analyzed the situation in several countries in particular. At the start of the period of sessions, the commissioners held a teleconference with OAS secretary general Luis Almagro to assess the overall human rights situation in the region. At private internal sessions, the IACHR collectively defined its strategy on the serious human rights situations in Nicaragua and Venezuela. These situations will continue to be monitored closely through the Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs). The IACHR also decided to publish two new reports on Nicaragua and Venezuela and will conduct virtual visits for the purpose of drafting these as the two states in question have refused to grant their consent for the IACHR to conduct field visits. In addition, the IACHR expressed its deep concern over the serious crisis in Haiti, which it issued a press release on.

The IACHR also reviewed the outcomes of its work in 2018. It approved the 2018 progress report and concluded that the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 is progressing according to schedule and is yielding highly satisfactory results. The IACHR approved the Executive Secretariat’s action plans for 2019, and the work plans of the Special Rapporteurship on the Freedom of Expression and the Special Rapporteurship Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, and the action plan for the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA). It also reviewed the implementation of the measures that have been adopted to reduce procedural backlog and it adopted complementary measures to ensure it continues to make progress on complying with program 1 of the Strategic Plan. The IACHR also evaluated measures to strengthen the use of friendly solutions and greenlighted a plan to promote them.

At its internal sessions, the IACHR approved 11 merits reports and analyze the possibility of requesting two advisory opinions from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It approved a compendium of inter-American standards on equality and discrimination, as well as a thematic report on children, freedom of expression, and the media in the Americas that provides standards on promoting and protecting the rights of children and adolescents to freedom of expression, and on states’ obligations and the media’s responsibility in dealing with matters involving them. The report was prepared jointly by the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression and the Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child. The IACHR examined and approved the index and concept note for the compendium of labor rights being prepared by the Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (ESCERs) in coordination with the Public Policies and Promotion Section, the index and concept note for a new thematic report on ESCERs and structural racial discrimination being prepared by the Rapporteurship on ESCERs and the Rapporteurship on the Rights of People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, and the index and concept note for the report on corruption and human rights.

The IACHR decided to move forward with drafting new advisory opinions for the IA Court on trade union rights with a gender perspective and on differentiated approaches for people who are deprived of their liberty.

It also discussed progress on the IACHR academic support network. It decided to continue requesting consent to visit the border between Mexico and the United States to observe the situation regarding the separation of migrant children from their families and the overall policy on migrants. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of the IACHR, and it was decided that a plan would be implemented to commemorate the occasion. Information on the activities this will involve will be provided in due course. It also confirmed that the Forum of the Inter-American System on Human Rights would be held by the end of this year.

During the sessions, a meeting of experts was held as part of the process of drafting the IACHR report on corruption and human rights for the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF). The second public consultation on Memory, Truth, and Justice was held with the support of the Latin American Transitional Justice Network (RLAJT) and the Latin America and Caribbean Sites of Conscience Network (RESLAC).

The IACHR held 14 working meetings on matters relating to friendly settlement procedures at different stages of negotiation and implementation, namely the following cases: 12.182, Florentino Rojas, and 12.854, Ricardo Javier Kaplun, concerning Argentina; 12.277, Fazenda Ubá, and 12.200, José Henrique Trindade and another, concerning Brazil; 11.990, Oscar Orlando Bueno Bonnet and others, and 11.144, Gerson Jairzinho González, concerning Colombia; 12.787, Natividad de Jesús Ramírez and others, concerning El Salvador; 12.891, Adán Guillermo López Lone, concerning Honduras; P-1014-06, Antonio Jacinto López, concerning Mexico; 12.934 A, Frank Guelfi, and 13.017 A, relatives of victims of the military dictatorship between October 1968 and December 1989, concerning Panama; 12.330, Marcelino Gómez, and 12.359, Cristina Aguayo Ortiz and others, concerning Paraguay; and 12.191, María Mamérita Mestanza, concerning Peru. At these meetings, the IACHR facilitated the creation of potential work plans and helped identify areas of interest in the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements. The IACHR also facilitated two meetings exploring willingness to make use of the friendly settlement mechanism in cases 13.503, Fernando Villavicencio, concerning Ecuador, and 12.717, Ngobe Indigenous Communities and others, concerning Panama. The IACHR values the parties’ desire to make progress on friendly settlement agreements that will enable victims to obtain comprehensive redress for the human rights violations perpetrated in relation to these events. On February 13, 2019, a working meeting was held on case 12.332, Margarida Maria Alves, concerning Brazil, which relates1 to the murder of a prominent human rights defender. The aim of the meeting was to gather information from both parties on compliance with the recommendations set out in the merits report issued by the IACHR.

The IACHR values the efforts made by the states in question to implement the written agreements regarding Fazenda Ubá, concerning Brazil; Oscar Orlando Bueno Bonnet and Gerson González, concerning Colombia; Antonio Jacinto López, concerning Mexico; and Cristina Aguayo, concerning Paraguay, respectively. The IACHR welcomes the progress that has been made on complying with individual and structural impact measures in these cases and urges these states to continue moving toward achieving full compliance with its recommendations. The IACHR wishes to express its satisfaction regarding the joint construction of working roadmaps by the different parties in these instances and urges parties to keep channels of dialogue open that will further the implementation of measures that have yet to be complied with.

Seven working meetings were also held to identify obstacles to the implementation of precautionary measures and ways to overcome these. Country-specific meetings were held for Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The IACHR also held a public hearing to monitor compliance with precautionary measure MC 412-17, Evicted and Displaced People from the Laguna Larga Community, concerning Guatemala.

Finally, the IACHR calls upon states to continue focusing on financing the inter-American human rights system. For the IACHR to continue to function as it currently does, it is essential for it to receive voluntary contributions to ensure that the doubling of the Regular Fund, which was approved by member states, becomes a reality and expands the organization’s ability to finance its mandate.

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. 038/19