IACHR

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IACHR Releases 2018 Annual Report

March 21, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted today its 2018 Annual Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), in keeping with Article 59 of its Rules of Procedure. The report reflects the abundant work done between January 1 and December 31, 2018, and highlights the most relevant outcomes attained over the course of the year. The Annual Report is an accountability tool, as well as one of the main instruments to monitor the situation of human rights in the region and to follow up on the recommendations issued by the IACHR in case, country and thematic reports.

“Thanks to the Member States’ decision to strengthen the capacities of the main organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System by increasing their budget, and to the commitment and dedication of its Executive Secretariat’s staff, the IACHR has successfully consolidated and repositioned itself in the region through gains and results that are unparalleled in its history,” the IACHR notes in its Annual Report.

“The IACHR has made significant progress this year in achieving the goals and objectives defined in the Strategic Plan. Noteworthy among these accomplishments are foremost the progress made in reducing the procedural backlog and developing new standards for the case system; the expansion in the scope of monitoring; the increase in technical cooperation and promotion activities; and, the strengthening of mechanisms to follow up on compliance with recommendations issued through different instruments. These efforts seek to respond to the historic demand of States in the region to strike greater balance between thematic rapporteurships and achieve greater coordination between the IACHR’s three mandates,” the report says.

The latest edition of the Annual Report—which is the IACHR’s main accountability tool, as well as one of the main instruments to monitor the human rights situation in the region and to follow up on the Commission’s recommendations—features major innovations concerning methodology and content, in accordance with the provisos held in the IACHR’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021. In particular, such innovations involve adopting a new methodology to follow up on the recommendations made in individual cases (in Chapter II.G.) and in country reports (in Chapter V). Further, Chapter IV includes, for the first time, an analysis of the situation of human rights in all countries in the region. Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are addressed in Chapter IV.B., based on the special attention that the IACHR devoted to them in 2018, while the human rights situation in the remaining 32 countries is examined in Chapter IV.A. The methodology included requesting information from all countries—with 11 of those States submitting such information—and a public call for inputs from civil society organizations and other stakeholders—heeded by 34 institutions and organizations. The report focuses on rights and issues that the IACHR regards as priorities, and also on the following cross-sectional axes established by the Commission in its Strategic Plan 2017-2021: democratic institutionality, institutionality in human rights, access to justice and citizen security, and environmental rights.

The report includes an introduction, six chapters and several appendices. Chapter I features a summary of IACHR activities during 2018. Chapter II puts forward information about the petition and case system and about precautionary measures, and follows up on recommendations made in individual cases. Chapter III addresses thematic rapporteurships and country rapporteurships, along with promotion and training activities. Chapter IV is subdivided into sections A and B. Chapter IV.A. presents a descriptive scenario on the situation of human rights in Member States, with special emphasis on the rights and issues that the IACHR regards as priorities, and on the cross-sectional axes of democratic institutionality, institutionality in human rights, access to justice and citizen security, and environmental rights. Chapter IV.B. involves an analysis of the situation of human rights in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, three countries that the IACHR included in this section because they require special attention in accordance with the provisos set out in Article 59.6 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. Chapter V includes follow-up on the recommendations made by the IACHR in its country reports on Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Finally, Chapter VI addresses the IACHR’s institutional development over the course of the year.

During 2018, the IACHR has observed a series of improvements concerning human rights among OAS Member States. In particular, the IACHR noted several measures aimed at strengthening human rights institutions, like the creation of new institutional spaces to promote and protect human rights. This year has further seen stronger democratic participation by groups who have historically suffered discrimination, in terms of both the exercise of their right to vote and participation in public positions, as noted in the Report. Understanding human rights-based public policy as the set of decisions and actions that the State designs, implements, monitors and assesses in order to protect, promote, enforce and guarantee human rights for all the individuals, groups and communities who make up society, the IACHR considers it relevant to highlight the most significant State initiatives in this context. It is worth mentioning State efforts to formulate and implement national plans in several States in the region, as well as to take important measures in terms of equality and non-discrimination; social participation; truth, justice and reparations; access to information to ensure transparency and accountability; priority protection for vulnerable groups, especially migrants; and the adoption of gender- and diversity-based perspectives. The Commission acknowledges such efforts and asks States to keep formulating and applying public policies that incorporate the recommendations made by mechanisms of the Inter-American Human Rights System, as well as to extend such an approach to all their State institutions and to society as a whole. The IACHR offers to provide States with any technical cooperation they may need to achieve those goals.

In Chapter IV.A., as a conclusion, the Commission identifies the following trends concerning human rights problems and challenges observed in its work during 2018: persistent discrimination and violence against women, LGBTI persons, Afro-descendant and indigenous persons, children and adolescents, human rights defenders, journalists and social leaders; increased repression of social protests; increased militarization and excessive use of force as tools to address citizen insecurity; corruption, which directly impacts the enjoyment of human rights; forced migration; persistent impunity in connection with forced disappearances; and the serious situation of persons deprived of their liberty in the region.

Concerning Chapter IV.B., the report notes that the IACHR opted to include Cuba in this section in accordance with the provisos of point 6.a.i. in Article 59 of its Rules of Procedure, which notes that a State must be included in this chapter when “there is discriminatory access to or abusive exercise of power that undermines or denies the rule of law, such as systematic infringement of the independence of the judiciary or lack of subordination of State institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority.” The IACHR further noted that the situation in Cuba also fits the provisos of point 6.c. of the same article, which says that a State must be included in Chapter IV.B. when it “has committed or is committing massive, serious and widespread violations of human rights guaranteed in the American Declaration, the American Convention, or the other applicable human rights instruments.”

Concerning Cuba, the Commission notes that it observed over the course of 2018 two relevant events in the country’s socio-political context: a change of government and constitutional reform. In connection with both processes, the IACHR has been informed of several events that amount to serious hurdles for the enjoyment of participatory rights for people who are under the jurisdiction of the Cuban State, such as arbitrary restrictions of the right to freedom of assembly, the availability of a single party, the ban on association for political purposes, and a refusal to adopt proposals made by groups who oppose the government, among others. The IACHR has also been informed of persistent restrictions of political rights, the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right to freedom of expression and to disseminate thought, as well as mass violations of the rights to freedom, safety and personal integrity, to protection from arbitrary arrest, to the inviolability of one’s home and to circulate correspondence, to residence and movement, to basic judicial safeguards and to judicial protection, that continue to systematically restrict the human rights of the people of Cuba, particularly affecting activism and dissidence and targeting human rights defenders, social and political leaders and independent journalists, as well as Afro-descendant persons, women and LGTBI persons, among other historically vulnerable groups.

Concerning Nicaragua, the IACHR specifically monitored the gradually worsening situation of human rights in the country, particularly since the start of acts of violence that took place after April 18, 2018 in the context of State repression of protests. The report notes that the country’s situation fits the provisos of point 6.a.i. in Article 59 of its Rules of Procedure, which says that a Member State must be included in Chapter IV.B. when it is experiencing “a serious breach of the core requirements and institutions of representative democracy mentioned in the Inter‐American Democratic Charter, which are essential means of achieving human rights,” including cases where “there is discriminatory access to or abusive exercise of power that undermines or denies the rule of law, such as systematic infringement of the independence of the judiciary or lack of subordination of State institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority.” The Commission has documented an arbitrary exercise of power by the three branches of the State, as a result of a lack of independence by the judiciary and other public institutions, among other aspects.

The Commission also applied the provisos held in point 6.b., that says a State needs to be included in Chapter IV.B. if “the free exercise of the rights guaranteed in the American Declaration or the American Convention has been unlawfully suspended, totally or partially, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures such as a declaration of a state of emergency, state of siege, suspension of constitutional guarantees, or exceptional security measures.” The IACHR noted that the serious human rights crisis in Nicaragua has been ongoing for more than eight months due to the de facto adoption of a state of emergency. According to the Commission, the situation involves an abuse of public force to repress voices that oppose the government, confiscation, closure and censorship of media outlets, arrests or exile of journalists and social leaders, cancellation of the status of civil society organizations without due process, and the executive’s interference with and control of other branches of government. The Commission regarded the adoption of such a de facto state of emergency as the decisive element to include Nicaragua in this chapter. Finally, the IACHR also noted that the situation in the Central American country fits the provisos of point 6.c. of Article 59 in its Rules of Procedure, which mentions States who have committed massive, serious and widespread violations of human rights guaranteed in the American Declaration, the American Convention, or the other applicable human rights instruments. The report details the findings of the IACHR’s Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, by its Spanish acronym) and mentions different stages in the mass, systematic State repression that has marked the serious human rights crisis since April 2018. Such events have involved various violations of human rights, including the rights to life and personal integrity, health, freedom of expression, political participation, freedom of association, education, employment and due process. The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts concluded, in accordance with its mandate, that there had been a widespread and systematic attack on civilians.

Concerning Venezuela, the IACHR decided to include it in Chapter IV.B. in the belief that it fits the provisos of point 6.a.i. in Article 59, which says that a given State needs to be included in that chapter when it is experiencing “a serious breach of the core requirements and institutions of representative democracy mentioned in the Inter‐American Democratic Charter, which are essential means of achieving human rights,” including cases where “there is discriminatory access to or abusive exercise of power that undermines or denies the rule of law, such as systematic infringement of the independence of the judiciary or lack of subordination of State institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority.” The Commission also considered that the provisos held in point 6.b.—that says a State needs to be included in this chapter if “the free exercise of the rights guaranteed in the American Declaration or the American Convention has been unlawfully suspended, totally or partially, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures such as a declaration of a state of emergency, state of siege, suspension of constitutional guarantees, or exceptional security measures”—are applicable to Venezuela. The IACHR further considered that Venezuela fits the provisos of point 6.d. in Article 59: “the presence of other structural situations that seriously affect the use and enjoyment of fundamental rights recognized in the American Declaration, the American Convention or other applicable instruments.” The IACH considered that points 6.d.i. (“serious institutional crises that infringe the enjoyment of human rights”) and 6.d.iii. (“serious omissions in the adoption of the necessary measures to make fundamental rights effective, or in complying with the decisions of the Commission and the Inter‐American Court”) are particularly applicable to Venezuela.

The IACHR observed that various structural issues persist in Venezuela that affect the human rights of the Venezuelan people and have led to a serious political, social and economic crisis. The Commission concluded that such a critical and gradually worsening situation has led to an absence of the rule of law.

The IACHR thanks inter-American civil society organizations active in the defense of human rights, OAS Member States and Observers, international and regional organizations, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and his team, and its own Executive Secretariat for all their support, which has enabled the Commission to attain the unprecedented achievements that are presented in its 2018 Annual Report. The IACHR thanks States for strengthening the Commission by applying an increase in the regular fund that is allocated to the institution. It also thanks the Member States, Observers and Donors whose voluntary contributions have been instrumental in achieving the results featured in the report: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the European Union, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Uruguay, as well as other organizations including the UNHCR, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the SOS Children's Villages Foundation, the Freedom House Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Google.

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. 072/19