Press Release

IACHR Completes 172nd Period of Sessions

May 29, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 172nd Period of Sessions on May 3-10, 2019 in Kingston, Jamaica. The IACHR thanks Jamaica for its invitation, and it also thanks the University of the West Indies for the support that made it possible to hold all scheduled events successfully.

This Period of Sessions was historic, the first one held in a country that belongs to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) since the IACHR was founded 60 years ago. This happened in line with the Program for Assistance and Collaboration with the Caribbean and Central America, in the Commission’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021, which mentions as a priority strengthening IACHR ties with Caribbean nations. The IACHR is delighted with the success of this crucial Period of Sessions, which enabled the Commission to get closer to the peoples of CARICOM countries. The IACHR remains committed to holding one period of sessions per year in a Caribbean country, as long as that is feasible.

This Period of Sessions included a productive meeting between the IACHR and high officials of CARICOM, where participants exchanged views and ideas on how to strengthen cooperation between the Commission and Caribbean nations. Delegations from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname took part in that meeting, where delegations featured officials from Justice and Foreign Ministries, Attorney Generals’ Offices and Permanent Representatives to the OAS. During the meeting, the IACHR informed CARICOM authorities of a series of initiatives that are currently either being implemented or at the planning stage and seek to deepen IACHR ties with those countries in the short or medium term. IACHR President Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño explained the Commission’s current strategic vision for the Caribbean, as put forward in the Strategic Plan. The two parties exchanged views on how to overcome persisting hurdles to ensure more intensive use of the inter-American human rights system by CARICOM countries. This was the first of a series of meetings that the IACHR is set to hold with Member States during each period of sessions.

The Commission also held in Kingston a promotional event on “The inter-American human rights system and access to justice,” which took place at the University of the West Indies. Attendees included many officials, academics, representatives of civil society and private individuals.

In the context of these sessions, the IACHR held 27 public hearings to address both regional matters and human rights issues concerning 13 countries: the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Venezuela. Videos of those hearings are available, as are high-resolution licensed photos that are free for public download and use.

In this Period of Sessions, the IACHR continued to develop—through several bilateral meetings—its coordination and articulation plan for joint efforts with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN representatives were also present at various hearings. The OHCHR’s regional representative for South America took part in the hearing on “The situation of migrants in Chile.” The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association took part in the hearings on “Businesses and human rights in the Americas” and on “Human rights, development and freedom of association.” The OHCHR’s representative for Colombia further took part in hearings on “Implementation of precautionary measures with differential and collective ethnic approach in Colombia” and on the “Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia.” Finally, the senior adviser for human rights took part in the hearing on “Complaints of threats to judicial independence in Guatemala.”

During this Period of Sessions, the Commission assessed several requests for precautionary measures and monitored the implementation of precautionary measures that are already in place, in one public hearing and several working meetings. Working meetings were held to address 15 precautionary measures concerning Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, and the following matters: PM-767-18-BR (Mónica Tereza Azeredo Benício); PM-1450-18-BR (Julio Renato Lancellotti and Daniel Guerra Feitosa); PM-12-09-CO (87 families in the Alto Guayabal-Coredocito community); PM-140-14-CO (Yomaira Mendoza and others); PM-70-99-CO (Cavida members-Afro-descendant communities in Cacarica); PM-125-06-CO (Iván Cepeda Castro and others); PM-125-13-GU (Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar, Patricia Isabel Bustamante García and Pablo Xitumul de Paz); PM-351-16-GU and PM-366-16-GU (Miguel Ángel Gálvez and his family); PM-412-17-GU (Evicted and displaced settlers from the Laguna Larga community); PM-431-17-GU (Gloria Porras); PM-75-19-HO (José David Ellner Romero); PM-416-13-HO (18 Members of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice and their families); PM-935-04-HO (Daisy Xiomara Flores and others, members of the Cerrito Lindo settlement) and PM-113-16-PE (“Tres Islas” indigenous community in Madre de Dios).

At the public hearing on Venezuela, the IACHR monitored the implementation of precautionary measures concerning the following matters: PM-70-19-VE (Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez and his family, Roberto Marrero and Sergio Vergara); PM-83-19-VE (Luis Alexander Bandres Figueroa); PM-102-19-VE (Luis Alejandro Mogollón Velásquez); PM-115-19-VE (Oswaldo García Palomo, José Romel Acevedo Montañez, Alberto José Salazar Cabañas, Miguel Ambrosio Palacio Salcedo and José Labichela Barrios); PM-178-19-VE (Persons—military and civilians—detained in the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence DGCIM); PM-150-19-VE (Concepción Palacios Maternity Hospital); PM-181-19-VE (Indigenous persons of the Pemon ethnic group in the San Francisco de Yuruaní or “Kumaracapay” community and one other).

At those hearings and working meetings, the IACHR heard with concern statements from several participants who alleged that regressive policies, regulations and decisions has been adopted concerning the human rights of indigenous peoples, including the criminalization of indigenous authorities for exercising their traditional standards and culture along with their territorial powers. The IACHR stresses that States have a duty to refrain from taking any regressive legislative or administrative measures that may affect indigenous peoples’ enjoyment of their rights, and that States must take special, specific action to protect, favor and improve the exercise of human rights by indigenous peoples and by the individuals who belong to those peoples.

The IACHR appreciates the participation of States and civil society at the hearings, working meetings and public events that took place during this Period of Sessions. The Inter-American Commission highlights how important it is for States to get involved in all hearings, in good faith and contributing relevant, substantial information, to move constructively toward solving the region’s human rights problems. The active participation of States, victims of human rights violations and their representatives, and civil society organizations makes the Inter-American Human Rights System stronger.

The IACHR is sorry that the States of Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago failed to take part in the hearings to which they had been summoned. The absence of delegations from those States makes the IACHR’s work substantially more difficult, or even impossible. Hearings are an essential tool to obtain information, so the IACHR may fulfil the mandate it has been granted by Member States of the OAS (to protect, promote and defend human rights in the region).

The Commission is happy to report that the meeting with civil society drew many participants and allowed for a lively dialogue. The fact that such meetings are being held in several countries allows the IACHR to get closer to the individuals and peoples whose rights it protects, and it enables greater democratization of access to the system.

During sessions, the IACHR assessed the overall situation of human rights in the region and examined the situation in several specific countries. In private internal sessions, the Commission defined a joint strategy concerning the serious situation of human rights in Nicaragua and Venezuela. The IACHR will continue to monitor that situation very closely through its Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Units (RIRCUs).

The IACHR also debated two thematic reports during this Period of Sessions: “Business and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards,” which has attained preliminary approval, and “Digest on the Admissibility and Competence Criteria of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”

In its internal sessions, the IACHR approved 14 case reports (13 merits reports and 1 admissibility report). A total of 25 working meetings were also held during the 172nd Period of Sessions.

The Commission held eight working meetings about the friendly settlement procedure—in its various negotiation and implementation stages—on the following matters: P-687-11 Gabriela Blas and CBB, and 12,433 Sonia Arce, Chile; 12,941 Nicolasa and her family, 12,362 Relatives of Luis Hernando Lalinde, and 12,908 Jorge Adolfo Freytter Romero and others, Colombia; 11,545 Marta Saire, Honduras; and 12,791 Jesús Ángel Gutiérrez and P-735-07 Ismael Mondragón, Mexico. In those meetings, the parties made progress—facilitated by the Commission—toward developing potential work plans and identifying interests to negotiate and implement friendly settlements. The IACHR also held two meetings on monitoring recommendations, concerning the following cases: Case 11,565 (González Pérez sisters, Mexico) and Case 12,130 (Miguel Orlando Muñoz Guzmán, Mexico).

The IACHR held a meeting with Honduran authorities for the solemn handover of three friendly settlements concerning Case 12,961 (Juan González and others, Honduras). The Commission values the will of the parties in this case to seek progress in negotiating and signing friendly settlements that enable victims to obtain comprehensive reparations for the human rights violations involved in the case. The Commission congratulates the State of Honduras for its will to develop a friendly settlement policy. The IACH will monitor the full implementation of those settlements very closely.

The Commission also values efforts made by States to implement settlements reached on the following matters: P-687-11 Gabriela Blas, Chile; 12,941 Nicolasa and her family, Colombia; 11,545 Marta Saire, Honduras; and 12,791 Jesús Ángel Gutiérrez and P-735-07 Ismael Mondragón, México. The Commission congratulates those States for the progress they have made toward compliance with individually and structurally relevant measures in those cases. The IACHR urges those States to keep working toward full compliance, to ensure either approval or an end to supervision in the monitoring stage of published settlements. The Commission observes with great satisfaction the joint development of work methods among the parties, and urges them to keep dialogue open, so they may make further progress toward executing any measures that remain pending.

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. 129/19