IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Reports on Outcomes of Its Work in 2019 and Presents Progress Report for the Third Year of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021

February 10, 2020

A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its progress report for the third year of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and a progress report on the main outcomes of its work in 2019, with the aim of increasing the transparency of its work and its accountability to the international human rights community.

Introduction

The year 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the IACHR and brought a significant expansion in the organization’s activities in the region and unprecedented results.

The year was noteworthy for the progress made in overcoming procedural backlog, as was reflected by the high numbers of initial assessments of petitions, the significant increase in the number of merits reports and admissibility reports that were passed, the numbers of new petitions that states were notified of, and the marked drop in the time taken to evaluate requests for precautionary measures, which are now usually decided on in a single day. The IACHR has also sent the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) a record number of cases and requests for advisory opinions.

The IACHR continued to strengthen the integrated, coordinated work it engages in as part of its monitoring mandate, which enabled it to respond effectively and immediately to the human rights situations that transpired in various countries in the region, such as Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Haiti. This response entailed on-site visits by the IACHR and also brought together all of the organization’s mechanisms—monitoring, cooperation, follow-up, and protection—to address the situation through the creation and implementation of Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) to focus specifically on the human rights situation in these countries. A key part of these responses was the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to respond promptly and efficiently to the human rights crisis in Bolivia. Another milestone was the creation of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE) to strengthen the use of the IACHR’s protection and monitoring mechanisms and respond in an effective, timely manner to the new challenges posed by the serious human rights crisis in the country.

In 2019, the IACHR also consolidated the mechanisms for following up on its recommendations through the creation of the Technical Support Group (GAT) for the Ayotzinapa Affair, which is operating from Mexico City as part of the new phase in the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA); the new local stage for the Working Group on the Implementation of Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic; the new phase of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), which is now operating from the IACHR’s headquarters; the establishment of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE), as described above; and the creation of a Special Technical Advisory Group on compliance with human rights recommendations in Honduras (MESAT); and dialogues to establish new mechanisms for cooperating with states as part of the process of following up on and implementing the IACHR’s recommendations in countries such as Haiti.

The IACHR also wishes to draw attention to the progress it has made on raising its public profile in the region, through two on-site visits, working visits to 18 countries, and three periods of sessions held outside its headquarters. Also noteworthy is the significant rapprochement it achieved with the Caribbean countries, including by holding a period of sessions in the region and taking part in a working and planning meeting with representatives from Caribbean countries, holding a consultation on the rights of LGBTI people in one Caribbean country, and by paying visits to six Caribbean countries. Another significant achievement is the increase in monitoring coverage, the publication of ten thematic reports, one country report, and two declarations of principles. Three thematic units were also made into offices of special rapporteurs.

There was also an increase in technical cooperation through the signing of 11 interinstitutional cooperation agreements and the adherence of five national human rights institutions to the IACHR's Declaration of Commitment on Technical Cooperation. Human rights promotion activities also increased in 2019 as training and advocacy activities were held for public officials, human rights defenders, and other groups, which reached 6,254 people.

Following up on its close collaboration with the United Nations, in 2019 the IACHR took part in the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva for the first time ever. It also strengthened its institutional cooperation with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, with which it organized the third Inter-American System of Human Rights Forum, in which around 400 people took part.

Other significant achievements in 2019 included the launching of the IACHR Channel, a website containing up-to-date, accessible multimedia productions on different IACHR activities; the implementation of nine outreach campaigns on IACHR standards; the growing number of followers of the organization’s social media accounts; the implementation of the User Assistance Center; the creation of the Impact Observatory of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among other milestones mentioned in the report.

The IACHR is pleased to announce its main achievements for this period and describe the progress it has made on complying with the goals of the 21 programs set out in the Strategic Plan 2017–2021. The full text of the plan is available in spanish only.

As part of Strategic Objective 1, 60 years into its history, the IACHR notes how important the petition and case system is to its mandate at both the individual and collective and structural levels, and how significant its role has been in developing an effective, timely, and accessible inter-American justice system, overcoming the practices of impunity in the region, and achieving comprehensive reparations for victims.

The protection and defense system—which includes the system of petitions, cases, friendly settlements, and precautionary measures—is a fundamental tool for the IACHR and all people living in the Americas. It is a source of pride for the continent and its objectivity, seriousness, consistency, and high legal quality have earned it international renown. Given the importance of this role and the significant procedural backlog that has built up in the system since the 1990s, the IACHR is currently prioritizing a program to address and reduce this.

Since 2016, in addition to creating the Deputy Executive Secretariat for the Petition and Case System and the Precautionary Measures Section, the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR has also increased the number of professionals working in the system for petitions, cases, and protective measures and the areas that provide support for this (the Processing Unit and User Assistance Center), which has gone from 33 to 58.

P1: Special Procedural Backlog Reduction Program

In the first half of 2019, the IACHR’s achievements in tackling procedural backlog far outstripped those of previous years. To implement this program, the IACHR Executive Secretariat has allocated significant resources over the last two years to substantially modify the way it 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, which are being implemented in two stages.

The first stage entailed the creation of a full-time Deputy Executive Secretariat for Petitions and Cases. There was also a significant increase in staff numbers and in job stability for existing staff. Two new sections were also established: the Precautionary Measures Section and the Processing Unit. A working group was also created to provide support for the process of overcoming procedural backlog, which comprised the IACHR and the Executive Secretariat, which chaired the consultations held in June 2018 to launch the second phase of measures.

During the second stage, the most experienced professionals were reassigned to the petition and case system, particularly the admissibility and merits sections. A special team was also created to act as a taskforce for overcoming procedural backlog at the initial assessment stage and an archiving policy was implemented to reduce the acceptable inactivity period for parties before the archiving warning is sent from four to three years. A pilot program was also implemented on serial decisions on similar issues during the admissibility and merits stages, and cases that involved similar parties, events, or patterns continued to be aggregated while ensuring that parties’ rights to defense and equality were guaranteed. Another policy that was implemented was that of advance or per saltum petition analysis, particularly regarding cases in which a decision could demonstrably remedy serious structural circumstances that have an impact on the enjoyment of human rights, or other situations in which the passage of time may render the decision useless. Finally, the process management IT system was improved by adding new functions that will facilitate internal work processes, transparency, and effectiveness.

In 2019, the IACHR also approved Resolution 1-19 and the Annex to this [link in Spanish] during the 173rd Period of Sessions. The resolution regulates and clarifies the procedure for requesting that a petition be re-examined, with the aim of combating procedural backlog in a transparent fashion. The measure has enabled a significant number of cases to be re-evaluated, specifically those that are in need of a timely decision and meet the conditions set out in the resolution.

The task force for overcoming procedural backlog at the initial assessment stage had to review 8,295 petitions in 2018. Some 2,753 of these were requests for cases to be re-assessed. The task force examined all of these petitions and decided to permanently reject 2,405 of them and re-assess 348 of them in the first half of 2020. In 2019, notifications were issued regarding 726 decisions to initiate proceedings, more than in any other year in the IACHR’s history. In comparison, some 259 decisions were reached in 2018, 473 in 2017, and 208 in 2015.

The IACHR acknowledged that making progress on cases at the procedural stage implies a greater burden for states in terms of the observations they must present on the merits report. To address this situation, the IACHR decided to implement this resolution from 2016 gradually. As a consequence, the resolution is being implemented as follows: 116 cases in 2017; 326 cases in 2018; and 42 cases in 2019.

In addition to these measures, the IACHR has also been gradually reducing the period for which the petitioner is permitted to be inactive, which went from five years in 2015 to three years in 2018. Having verified a lack of activity of this sort and notified the petitioner of the decision to archive the petition, as indicated in article 42.2 of the Rules of Procedure, the IACHR decided to archive 77 cases in 2016, 109 in 2017, and 152 in 2018. In 2019, the IACHR decided to archive 309 petitions. The IACHR has also implemented measures to simplify procedures.

It achieved significant results at the admissibility stage in comparison with previous years: in 2016, the IACHR approved a total of 45 admissibility reports (43 were found to be admissible and 2 inadmissible); in 2017 this figure rose to 120 reports (114 admissible and 6 inadmissible); in 2018 to 133 (118 admissible and 15 inadmissible); and in 2019 152 reports were approved (129 admissible and 23 inadmissible).

At the merits stage, the IACHR has also managed to implement a more standardized approach to handling reports. It has reduced the length of reports so as to simplify them and protect the parties’ right of defense and improve their technical quality and has also worked toward portfolio specialization. These measures have brought about a significant increase in the production of merits reports since the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 was adopted. In 2016, before the adoption of the Strategic Plan, the IACHR approved 16 merits reports; in 2017, this increased to 35 reports; in 2018, to 43 reports; and in 2019, to 63 reports. This upward trend demonstrates the effectiveness of the measures that have been taken.

Before the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 was adopted, an average of 16 cases were sent to the IA Court each year. This number increased by 6% in 2017 and by 12% in 2018. In 2019, a total of 32 cases have been sent, which represents a 100% increase in the number of cases sent to the IA Court in comparison with 2016. The IACHR has taken part in all over 30 hearings convened by the IA Court, of which there were over 30, and has filed all the briefs required of it for cases at the preliminary phase and those at the sentencing stage.

The IACHR deems that all measures to overcome procedural backlog must be interpreted in line with the aim of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of responses to victims of human rights violations. To this end, after implementing the first two stages in the program, the IACHR has decided to maintain a regular six-monthly review and assessment of measures it has announced and implemented.

The changes and improvements in the efficiency of the IACHR's work are partly due to the doubling of the budget assigned to it by the OAS. It is a matter of public knowledge that the doubling of the regular fund budget did not necessarily imply that the IACHR’s overall financial budget also doubled, which is why it still requires voluntary contributions to operate.

P2: Program to Increase the Use of Friendly Settlements

In 2019, some 14 friendly settlement agreements were signed, more than the record high of 12 in 2001. In addition, 87 working meetings and 75 videoconferences were held on friendly settlement agreements. Five working visits were also made, and 32 press releases were issued.

As part of the IACHR efforts to promote the exchange of good practices and the construction of tools to facilitate users’ access to the friendly settlement procedure, a roundtable was held with member state missions to the OAS to launch a pilot project to expand the friendly settlement mechanism as part of the IACHR’s strategy to reduce procedural backlog.

P3: Program to Strengthen Precautionary Measures

Over the course of 2019, the precautionary measures mechanism has achieved a higher operating standard than ever before and is continuing to protect the rights of people throughout the Americas who are at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm. In this regard, the IACHR was able to significantly resolve the procedural backlog in assessing requests for precautionary measures, ensuring that these are efficient, provide timely responses, and fast-track the decision-making process. For the first time in its history, the IACHR has reached an optimal level of real-time reviews of requests for precautionary measures, which are assessed the same day that they are received.

In 2019, the IACHR received 1,158 new requests for precautionary measures, and managed to complete the legal evaluation process for 99% of these requests during the year, as per the requirements set out in Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure. This represents a 9% increase in the number of cases that were assessed the same year they were received in comparison with 2018. The IACHR also granted 64 precautionary measures and decided to extend 9 existing measures to protect human rights defenders, children and adolescents, survivors of acts of violence, indigenous people, people who are under arrest or whose whereabouts are unknown, and other people or groups of people who are in extremely vulnerable situations. The IACHR granted an average of 5.5% of the requests for precautionary measures it received in 2019. Most (59%) were granted in less than 90 days, and of these, 48% were granted within a month of being requested.

The IACHR also deliberated a total of 1,441 cases over the course of the year, which represented an increase of nearly 30% compared to 2018, itself a record-breaking year in terms of the number of requests that were received (1,618). Despite this unprecedented influx of new requests for precautionary measures, the number of requests on which a final decision is pending has been reduced in comparison with 2018.

To raise awareness of the precautionary measures that are currently in force, the IACHR published an interactive map of the precautionary measures that have been granted since 2013 (link in Spanish). In 2019, more than 850 follow-up letters were sent to states and representatives to request specific information to monitor the implementation of these measures. In addition, some 45 working meetings, 5 public hearings, and two working visits were held, one in Costa Rica and another in Argentina, to verify in person how precautionary measures are being implemented in these countries.

In 2019, the IACHR filed three requests for provisional measures with the IA Court in favor of 17 people who are deprived of their freedom, human rights defenders, and indigenous peoples. It also submitted 49 legal observations on measures that are currently in force to the IA Court, meaning that it complied with 100% of such requests.

Finally, to facilitate the process through which users of the Inter-American System on Human Rights (IASHR) request precautionary measures, the IACHR launched a specific form for these requests through the Individual Petition System Portal. These requests can be processed individually or in parallel with a petition being processed through the petition and case system.

P4: Program on Transparency and Access to Information

In 2019, the IACHR continued to step up its efforts to improve transparency, accountability, and access to information. The IACHR published 9 press releases on performance reviews, created new information sections on its web site, and presented the annual performance reports on the Offices of the Special Rapporteurs.

The IACHR signed agreements with the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Nonrepetition of Colombia and the Secretariat of Human Rights of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, which give Colombia and Argentina access to IACHR files and documents. It also responded to 21 specific requests made by states and relatives of victims for access to information from files on petitions and cases that are part of the IACHR’s historical archive.

Finally, it drafted a document on the guidelines that are currently being drawn up for the IACHR's Access to Information Policy, which will be discussed in 2020.

Through Strategic Objective 2, which seeks to impact preventive measures and the factors that give rise to human rights violations, this year the IACHR outstripped the results it achieved through all its monitoring mechanisms in 2018. The IACHR’s priority issues have also been covered through press releases and social networks, as well as in requests for information to states, working visits and public hearings, and the annual report, through which it was able to monitor the human rights situation in every country in the region.

P5: Program to Improve the Scope and Impact of Monitoring of Human Rights Situations by Topic and Country

The institutional changes around monitoring that the IACHR has fostered over the last two years have continued to bring major results in 2019: The number of publications released by the IACHR in 2019 outstripped the number for the previous year, which reflects the efforts made to improve its capacities for monitoring and covering priority human rights issues in the Americas. This translated into producing and developing more standards by drafting and approving 12 thematic reports and 1 country report; issuing 221 press releases on monitoring and technical cooperation; issuing 68 requests for information to states; conducting 22 working visits; and holding 100 thematic hearings.

The IACHR emphasized that it has raised its public profile in the region during this period and has been successful in its efforts to further rapprochement with the countries of the Caribbean. In 2019, the Commission conducted an on-site visit to Haiti (from December 18 to 21), paid six promotional visits to Caribbean countries (Barbados, the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago), and held a period of sessions in Jamaica. In Central America, it carried out an on-site visit to El Salvador from December 2 to 4, 2019, following which it published its preliminary observations and recommendations to the State; developed its agenda for technical cooperation in the area of transitional justice in the country; launched the Special Technical Advisory Group for Compliance with Human Rights Recommendations (MESAT) with Honduras; and continued to work with ombuds’ offices throughout the region.

The IACHR has continued to move toward integrating its monitoring functions and increasing the cross-cutting aspects of its work agenda on various issues and countries, as shown through the many publications the IACHR has created.

Working Visits

In 2019, the IACHR designed a work agenda that enabled it to make 22 working visits to 18 countries in the Americas (Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, United States, Uruguay, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago). Following most of these visits, 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 historically vulnerable groups of people such as women, children, displaced people and migrants, people deprived of their freedom, people of African descent, LGBTI people, and indigenous peoples, and the situation of the rights to memory, truth, and justice, freedom of expression, and ESCERs.

This led to outreach and advocacy work around the IASHR’s protection mechanisms, the strengthening of dialogue with civil society organizations, academics, and experts; and allowed for closer ties to be forged with national human rights institutions.

Requests for Information

In 2019, the IACHR improved its ongoing monitoring of the human rights situation in every country in the Americas.

Of the total 68 letters that it sent, 46 were answered by the states in question. Of the total letters sent, 58 were pursuant to article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights and 10 were pursuant to article 18 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Likewise, 14 were drafted by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, which worked alongside the Executive Secretariat to draft three of the letters. The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (OSRESCER) issued seven requests for information.

These achievements translate into greater coverage of human rights issues and countries in the region by the IACHR. The IACHR will continue to strive to analyze this information in connection with its various monitoring tools, particularly for the drafting annual, country, and thematic reports.

The letters requesting information addressed issues of particular relevance to human rights in 18 countries in the region—Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States—and the protests in response to human rights crises, the situation of people who are deprived of their freedom, the role of the police, excessive use of force, and repression.

Other notable issues which the IACHR followed up included Julian Assange’s situation; human rights violations in the context of protests; the eviction of indigenous people from their territories; the forced sterilization of indigenous women, girls, and adolescents; gender-based murders and other types of violence; suicides among women and adolescents who are victims of gender-based violence; acts of violence against trans women; the rights of migrants; investigations into murders, espionage, and journalists who have been deprived of their freedom; harassment, the deprivation of freedom, and acts of violence against human rights defenders.

Press Releases

In 2019, the IACHR released 221 press releases, an increase on the 204 it released in 2018.  Of the 346 press releases issued by the IACHR, 221 concerned the monitoring of and follow-up on the human rights situation in the region, other regional and subregional situations, and the IACHR’s priority issues. 

Through this mechanism, the IACHR also addressed the human rights situation in 26 specific countries (Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela) and provided an immediate, timely response to the various human rights situations that shook countries in the region, either as a general situation or in relation to specific issues and population groups. The IACHR paid particular attention to protests, repression by state agents, the excessive use of police force against demonstrators, and the lethal use of force by the police. This was expressed clearly in 11 press releases (on Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Honduras) in which the IACHR rejected all forms of violence in the context of the protests.

The IACHR also issued 19 press releases on Nicaragua, 17 of which referred to the weakening of the rule of law in the face of serious human rights violations, condemned the ongoing repression in the country, and spoke out against the escalation of attacks on the press and the persistence of human rights violations. In them, the IACHR called on the state to ensure that conditions in the country are conducive to the enjoyment of human rights, to guarantee memory, truth, and justice in accordance with its international obligations, and reiterated its ongoing commitment to the victims of human rights violations.

The IACHR published 16 press releases on the situation in Venezuela, 15 of which refer to issues of particular concern, including the weakening of the rule of law, the expansion of censorship mechanisms, the intensification of attacks against members of the National Assembly, and arrests in the context of protests.

Hearings

During the 108 hearings that were held as part of the IACHR’s periods of sessions in 2019, the IACHR analyzed topics relating to the overall human rights situation in 21 countries and examined regional and subregional situations involving groups in particularly vulnerable situations or who have historically been subjected to discrimination.

The hearings addressed particularly significant issues such as the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in several countries in the region and the death penalty in English-speaking Caribbean countries. The IACHR also considered current challenges regarding the defense of the human rights of people in a situation of mobility in the context of regional migration, human rights defenders, the effects of the climate on human rights, and pending issues with regard to memory, truth, and justice in the region. It also expressed its deep concern at the escalation of the serious human rights crises in Nicaragua and Venezuela and following the ex officio hearing on the human rights situation in Chile, during which it received information on the multiple forms of violence that were recorded and the ways in which human rights were affected while people exercised their legitimate right to protest.

Resolutions on Specific Issues

On November 9, 2019, the IACHR passed Resolution 3/19, Principles of Public Policies on Memory in the Americas, during its 174th Period of Sessions, which were held in Quito, Ecuador. These principles set out guidelines for designing, drafting, and implementing public policies on memory that comply with states’ obligations to provide truth, justice, reparation, and measures of nonrepetition regarding grave human rights violations. They also include general principles for public policy in this area and set out guidelines for educational, cultural, or other types of initiatives to promote and protect memory, as well as for memory-related sites and archives.

The IACHR also published Resolution 4/19, Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Trafficking. Through this resolution, the IACHR adopted a guide for states, civil society organizations, and international organizations based on the standards that have been developed by the IASHR and the good practices observed in countries in the Americas and other regions. It also sets out general principles for public policies affecting migrant and refugee populations, develops guidelines on how migration and border control systems and basic social services and local integration processes should function.

Transformation of Three Thematic Units into Offices of Special Rapporteurs

The IACHR decided to expand and deepen its existing institutional framework for following up on certain issues. Specifically, during the 171st Period of Sessions, which took place between February 7 and 16, 2019, in Bolivia, the IACHR has decided that the units on memory, truth, and justice, on the rights of older people, and on people with disabilities would become offices of special rapporteurs. It also extended the mandate of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty, which will now include the prevention and combating of torture; and that of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, will now also cover the situation of those working in the judiciary and legal system.

Reports and Standards

The IACHR’s main mandate is to promote and defend human rights in the Americas. On this basis, the IACHR has continually monitored the human rights situation in every country in the region, paying particular attention to the situations of the various individuals and groups who have historically been subject to discrimination or otherwise vulnerable. As part of this work, in 2019 the IACHR prepared and passed 12 thematic reports and one country report, which were intended to serve as tools for users of the IA system, public policy operators, judges, members of parliament and other state officials, civil society, academics, experts, and other key stakeholders.

These reports include “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Pan-Amazon Region; “Forced Migration of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica”; Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls: Good Practices and Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean” [link in Spanish]; “Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders in Colombia” [link in Spanish];  “Compendium on Equality and Nondiscrimination”; “Corruption and Human Rights in the Americas”; the report issued by the OSRESCER, “Business and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards” [link in Spanish]; the reports published by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression,Protest and Human Rights; “Report on Children’s Rights and the Media in Latin America”; Final Report of the Special Follow-Up Team (ESE) Created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Follow-Up on the Investigation into the Events that Resulted in the Kidnapping and Murder of Javier Ortega, Paul Rivas and Efrain Segarra” [link in Spanish].

The IACHR expanded its monitoring of the overall human rights situation in Honduras [link in Spanish], on which it published a country report.

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 2019 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.

P6: Special Rapporteur Program

IACHR Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

As part of the process of executing its 2018–2021 Action Plan, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression continued to implement projects focusing on democratic governance, defending civic space, and the challenges involved in protecting freedom of expression online. Using IASHR mechanisms, in 2019 the office met the goals it regarding progress on the petition and case system, developing standards on freedom of expression, and promoting and publicizing the inter-American legal framework among various stakeholders. Its noteworthy achievements in this regard include ongoing technical cooperation with OAS Member States, training programs for justice workers throughout the Americas, and cooperation with civil society organizations, the media, and academics in the region.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur organized and/or participated in more than 30 events to publicize inter-American standards on freedom of expression, including at regional and international forums such as the OAS General Assembly, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and the Inter-American Meeting of Electoral Authorities, and high-level national bodies such as the Constitutional Court of Colombia and the Ecuadorian legislature. It also took part in international events like the 2019 Global Conference for Media Freedom, the Latin American Conference on Investigative Journalism (COLPIN), the RightsCon digital rights conference in Tunisia, and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin. It also attended consultations from other areas of the OAS, such as the CICTE's Cybersecurity Program and the Electoral Observation Missions.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also successfully met major objectives related to monitoring the most serious human rights situations in the Americas. It published its first special report on the current status of freedom of expression in Cuba, which was approved in 2018, and presented and publicized this among Cuban media workers at significant events and in symbolic locations. Another noteworthy achievement is the publication of the report on the special rapporteur's official mission to Ecuador with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye. The special rapporteur also attended the 40th UN Human Rights Council, in the company of representatives and experts, at which he addressed restrictions on freedom of expression in Venezuela.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur took part in the IACHR's working visits to Ecuador and Bolivia and its on-site visits to El Salvador and Haiti. It also paid an academic visit to Guatemala in coordination with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

It published two thematic reports: “Women Journalists and Freedom of Expression: Discrimination and Gender-Based Violence Face by Women Journalists in the Exercise of their Profession” and “Protest and Human Rights”; and a guide entitled “Disinformation in Electoral Contexts,” which was adopted by the OAS Member States. It also presented the OAS Permanent Council with guidelines on recommendations to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information from a range of online sources during elections without undue interference, which was the outcome of a drafting process spearheaded by the Office of the Special Rapporteur in coordination with the OAS Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) in response to the mandate granted by the General Assembly through AG/RES. 2928-XLVIII-O/18. It also made progress on drafting two new thematic reports: “Children, Freedom of Expression, and the Media” (approved by the IACHR in February 2019) and “Access to Public Information and National Security,” which is still being drafted. These reports will be published in the first half of 2020. Finally, it also took part in the drafting of the “Corruption and Human Rights” report.

In 2019, the Office of the Special Rapporteur published 22 press releases, which were replicated by different media around the world. It also consolidated the use of its social media accounts for publicizing press releases, promotional and training events, and advanced standards, among other advocacy and strategy work. 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also requested information from states regarding situations that could affect freedom of expression, through 14 letters issued under Article 18 of the IACHR Statute and Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

In December 2019, it presented the Final Report from the Special Follow-Up Team (ESE) that the IACHR had created in connection with the precautionary measure that ordered the states of Colombia and Ecuador to investigate into the kidnapping of journalists Javier Ortega Reyes and Paúl Rivas Bravo and worker Efraín Segarra from El Comercio newspaper in Quito, who were murdered on the border between Ecuador and Colombia in April 2018.

In January 2019, the case of Tulio Alvarez v. Venezuela was filed with the IA Court, enabling it to develop inter-American standards on the use of criminal law in cases of public interest that involve information and opinions on matters of alleged corruption. The ruling on this case has already been made public. The case is also decisive with regard to the criminalization of journalists and independent media outlets in Venezuela.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also presented merits reports on the cases of Emilio Palacio Urrutia v. Ecuador; Carlos Baraona v. Chile; Moya Chacon et al. v. Costa Rica; and the Maya Kaqchikuel Indigenous Peoples v. Guatemala, all of which were approved by the IACHR. The IACHR also decided to submit the cases of Jineth Bedoya v. Colombia and Palacio Urrutia v. Ecuador to the IA Court. Finally, the special rapporteur took part in a working meeting on Case 13.007 (José Alfredo Jiménez Mota v. Mexico). The Office of the Special Rapporteur also presented two admissibility reports, which were approved by the IACHR: P-403-08: Juan Carlos Tafur Rivera (Peru) and P-1500-12: Charles Eduardo Macedo (Brazil). Finally, it contributed to the study of 14 requests for precautionary measures.

Working in partnership with UNESCO, the Office of the Special Rapporteur provided training for 2,146 judges in the Americas on applying inter-American standards on freedom of expression, through an online course based at the University of Austin (Texas) led by a team of experts and in which Special Rapporteur Edison Lanza and former IACHR and UN rapporteurs on freedom of expression took part.

Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (OSRESCER)

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has been effective in carrying out several of its major functions, including assisting the IACHR in promoting international instruments related to ESCERs and organizing and participating in promotional activities for government authorities, members of civil society organizations, trade unions, journalists, and human rights defenders. It has also been actively and continuously monitoring the status of ESCERs in the Americas so as to provide member states with advice and assistance in the process of adopting legislative, judicial, administrative, or other measures to make the exercise of ESCERs effective.

In 2019, the IACHR and the OSRESCER submitted a request to the IA Court for an advisory opinion pursuant to Article 64.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which concerns states’ obligations in relation to the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining for the protection of labor rights and to guarantee women’s effective participation as members and leaders of trade unions, in compliance with the principles of equality and nondiscrimination.

The OSRESCER continued promoting its mandate and initiatives through traditional media outlets and social media platforms. It has also continued to maintain a fruitful agenda of meetings with states, public and private institutions, academics, rights holders, members of civil society, other OAS bodies, intergovernmental organizations, and donors.

In 2019, the Office of the Special Rapporteur carried out numerous promotional and academic activities in different countries in the region (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, United States, and Uruguay) on a range of issues related to its mandate.

Since the beginning of its mandate, the OSRESCER has been carrying out its monitoring work in close coordination with the teams of the IACHR Executive Secretariat, seeking and receiving information on the situation of ESCERs in the Americas. Key achievements in its monitoring work include: drafting or helping to draft 14 press releases; sending of 8 article 41 letters and one article 18 letter; technical support, creating inputs, and taking part 32 public hearings on ESCER issues during the periods of sessions held in Bolivia and Jamaica; taking part in the visit to Honduras led by Commissioner Joel Hernández between May 22 and 24; taking part in the work and period of sessions organized by the Working Group for the San Salvador Protocol; taking part in monitoring the social rights situation in Nicaragua as part of the crisis caused by the repression that followed the protests that began in April 2018; taking part in the working visit to Ecuador; and taking part in the on-site visit to El Salvador.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has also provided the IACHR with expert inputs for the petition and case system at all stages in the process. In 2019, the OSRESCER evaluated ESCER-related issues for 51 admissibility reports, 11 merits reports, and analyzed 18 requests for precautionary measures. It also issued two technical opinions on MC 1548/18 (UR) for the IACHR to evaluate directly.

The IACHR approved the “Business and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards” report during its 173rd Period of Sessions. The OSRESCER also completed the first draft of the report on the collection of standards relating to labor rights. Likewise, working in partnership with the offices of the rapporteurs on people of African descent and indigenous peoples, it made progress on drafting the questionnaires and tables of contents of two reports relating to the protection of ESCERs among these two vulnerable populations. Likewise, the OSRESCER drafted the sections on ESCERs for the report on the IACHR visit to Ecuador the preliminary ESCER-related observations on the on-site visit to El Salvador, and the relevant parts of the Annual Report and the report on the situation of human rights in Cuba.

P7: Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs)

To respond more effectively to critical situations and expand its protection measures, as was mentioned above, the IACHR strengthened its internal rapid integrated response mechanisms for preventing potential human rights violations and protecting those who may be at risk by creating Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) for Haiti, Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia, and maintained the SACROIs it created in previous years for Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

In 2019, the IACHR also established a SACROI to address the situation in Haiti. This initiative included an on-site visit to Haiti between June 3 and 4, 2019, to promote dialogue with state authorities and civil society on the human rights situation in the country and to identify opportunities for collaboration with the IACHR. The IACHR also conducted an on-site visit to Haiti in December.

As part of the work of the SACROI for Ecuador, the IACHR carried out an observation visit to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground in the context of the social protests that took place between October 3 and 13 in the wake of the economic measures announced by the government on October 1. To that end, the IACHR visited four cities, state facilities, and detention centers and also spoke with numerous sectors of Ecuadorian society and local organizations.

As part of the work of the SACROI for Chile, the IACHR convened an ex officio hearing, “The Human Rights Situation in the Context of Social Protests in Chile” as part of the 173rd Period of Sessions, which took place in Ecuador. It also conducted a preparatory visit to receive first-hand information and documentation from a broad range of authorities, civil society organizations, and international bodies on the human rights situation in relation to the social protests that have been taking place since October 18, 2019, following the increase in the cost of various public and private services. An on-site visit to the country is planned for the last week of January 2020.

Finally, as part of the work of the SACROI for Bolivia, the Executive Secretariat conducted an observation visit to the country in November at the IACHR’s request. The visit took place at the invitation of the state and sought to gather information on the human rights situation in the country in relation to the political and social crisis that began around the recent elections on October 20. In December, the IACHR announced that it had signed an agreement with the Plurinational State of Bolivia to create an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to assist with investigations into the recent violence and human rights violations in the country, and to conduct an on-site visit in 2020.

The results achieved over the course of 2019 have confirmed the importance of the SACROIs. The IACHR has succeeded in making a timely, effective impact on some of the most serious human rights crises in the region by taking coordinated action on its different mandates and preparing its visits in a comprehensive fashion that is tailored to each country’s needs.

P8: Integrated Information Analysis and Management Platform (IIAMP)

The Integrated Information Analysis and Management Platform (IIAMP) seeks to establish a consistent methodology for the IACHR to collect, record, analyze, manage, and create information. To better carry out its functions at a time when resources are limited, the IACHR plans to build strategic alliances with observatories and other relevant stakeholders. In this regard, progress was made in 2019 toward signing information-exchange alliances with such institutions.

The IACHR is continuing to raise resources to implement the IIAMP and its different management and IT departments through the Technology Unit.

Three panels on the human rights situation were also held: one in Washington, DC, on the situation in Nicaragua, and two in Miami on the situations in Nicaragua and Cuba, respectively.

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 2019.

P9: Expanded Training and Promotion Program on Thought and Culture in Human Rights

Throughout the year, the IACHR was able to build on its outreach and promotion activities on human rights. During this period, the IACHR carried out 322 activities: 68 training activities and 254 promotional activities. Approximately 6,254 people took part in these activities, 3,052 of whom were women. Approximately 3,673 people took part in the promotional activities, 1,640 of whom were women. The IACHR provided training to 2,581 people, 1,412 of whom were women. These activities took place in 23 countries in the Americas, including Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay.

These outcomes are the fruit of a coordinated strategy to strengthen the IACHR’s outreach and training activities, which are one of the mainstays of its work. These achievements included developing initiatives in partnership with other institutions, including inter-American human rights conferences; seminars and events; activities to publicize reports; training courses on public policies on human rights and on the IASHR and inter-American standards; thematic courses; and support for national and regional capabilities relating to the inter-American system.

In this regard, various promotional activities took place at the OAS General Assembly, the Permanent Council, and in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, and Germany to mark the IAHCR’s 60th anniversary. Similarly, at the 173rd Period of Sessions, the IACHR held a series of events to commemorate this anniversary, including a presentation of academic papers on the impact of the IACHR throughout its 60-year history. Some 157 submissions were received from 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe, put forward by academics such as professors, students, and researchers.

In addition, nine information and awareness-raising campaigns were implemented and four new microsites were developed based on strategic information contained in IACHR reports, some of which were in three languages (the report on women journalists and freedom of expression—campaign and microsite; the report on the human rights situation in Venezuela—212;campaign and microsite; recognition of the rights of LGBTI people—campaign and microsite; internal displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America—campaign and microsite; freedom of expression in Cuba—campaign; police violence against African Americans in the United States—campaign; report on public policies with a human rights approachcampaign; forced migration of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica—campaign; report on protest and human rights—campaign [link in Spanish]).

The Third Forum on the Inter-American System of Human Rights was held on November 6 and 7 at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito, under the auspices of the Office of the Attorney-General of Ecuador. The event was attended by nearly 400 people. The aim of this initiative was to reflect on the historical impact of the IASHR and promote debate on present and future challenges in the current regional context, the effectiveness of the system, and other key issues on the human rights agenda in the Americas, through a constructive exchange between states, civil society, international organizations, universities, social and trade union movements, and the general public.

In 2019, MESENI conducted 15 training sessions for 257 people, including students, human rights defenders, journalists, and people who have gone into exile in response to the human rights crisis in Nicaragua.

Another training event that took place was the fourth International Course on Public Policies on Human Rights, which was the second time the course was run by the IACHR in partnership with the MERCOSUR Institute for Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH). The aim of the course was to provide training on the human rights-based approach to public policy for people from the region who work in the field.

The IACHR also held two courses for human rights defenders on the strategic use of the ISHR. The course was held for the first time in Lima, Peru, and then again at the IACHR headquarters in Washington, DC. It also comprises a stage in which participants must pass on the knowledge they acquired by replicating the course in their own organizations and/or communities, which significantly expands the scope of this training activity.

P10: Program for Assistance and Collaboration with the Caribbean and Central America

Over the course of 2019, the IACHR made progress on technical cooperation initiatives on development and human rights for the states of the Caribbean and Central America.

During the year, it published a new report on the subregion, “Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle. Public Policymaking Guidelines.” Likewise, as part of this same technical assistance strategy, the IACHR published a specialized microsite and the “Practical Guide on Guidelines for the Formulation of Public Policies on Internal Displacement.”

With regard to technical assistance, the IACHR has been working in El Salvador to build knowledge, reflection, and dialogue on the process of transitional justice in the country, which it has been implementing since 2018. The mechanism organized a series of activities, including specialized training for public officials working in the justice sector, spaces for dialogue, and forums for discussion and high-level cooperation, which were attended by an estimated 350 people.

The IACHR also expanded its presence in the Caribbean in 2019, holding a period of sessions in Kingston, Jamaica, in May. It also made working visits to several Caribbean countries (the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname) and conducted an on-site visit to Haiti in December.

As part of the period of sessions it held in Jamaica, the IACHR met with high-level CARICOM authorities to exchange views and ideas on how to further the cooperation between the two. Delegations from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname took part in the meeting. At the meeting, the IACHR informed the CARICOM authorities of a series of initiatives that are underway or in the planning stage and that seek to improve the IACHR's relations with these Caribbean countries.

Other activities for assisting and collaborating with the Caribbean included drafting a technical assistance plan and making progress on establishing a Working Group for Technical Cooperation Working Table in Haiti, including collaborative initiatives that emphasize the inter-American human rights approach and standards when designing and implementing public policies.

The IACHR also took part in and provided support for a videoconference training session for CARICOM civil society on IACHR hearings. This took place in September 2019.

It also co-organized the Annual Human Rights Seminar for CARICOM state agents, which took place on October 2 and 3, 2019.

A videoconference on the IASHR was held for students at the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill on October 31, 2019.

Also in October, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People and the UN Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity held the first joint consultation on the inclusion of LGBTI people in the economic, social and cultural spheres and the eradication of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Caribbean. This consultation was organized as part of a strategic partnership between these two mandates, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and took place in Barbados.

Finally, requests were made for guidance and cooperation with public organizations and academic bodies in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.

P11: Technical Cooperation Program on Institutional Matters and Public Policies with a Human Rights Focus

With regard to the function of providing advisory services for member states on human rights issues, including through the IACHR's relations with OAS political bodies, in 2019, the IACHR held bilateral meetings with delegation leaders during the General Assembly in Medellín; organized presentations before the Permanent Council on the work it has done on different countries and issues (with emphasis on the topic of religious freedom, which is being developed within the Permanent Council with technical support from the IACHR); and held meetings to review case portfolios and petitions with states that requested them, as well as meetings with representatives of member states and observers.

The IACHR has also made progress toward strengthening coordination and cooperation with the region's National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). In this regard, in 2019 five national institutions signed the Declaration of Commitment on Technical Cooperation, meaning that at a total of 10 NHRIs had joined the mechanism at the time this report went to press. The objective of this initiative is to generate coordinated information exchange processes, expand the channels through which NHRIs can participate independently in the IACHR's human rights promotion and protection mechanisms, and develop technical cooperation activities.

The IACHR continues to be involved in the Permanent Council’s sessions on Nicaragua and the situation in Venezuela. The IACHR has maintained its leading role in providing technical inputs for member states’ decisions before OAS political bodies and providing support for the Permanent Council as it develops its agenda on religious freedom in the Americas. In 2019, the IACHR made 27 presentations to the OAS' political bodies, four more than in 2018. Four of these were on Nicaragua, two were on religious freedom, and two concerned the anniversaries of the American Convention and the creation of the IACHR.

States have expressed great interest in reviewing the portfolio of petitions, cases, precautionary measures, friendly settlements, and follow-up on recommendations. In 2019, a total of 16 meetings were held with the following states (a 33% increase on 2018): Uruguay (April 1); Canada (April 17); Ecuador (May 6 and 7); Colombia (June 4 and November 21); Nicaragua (July 30); Argentina (August 13 and 14, October 31 to November 1, and December 11); Bolivia (September 3 and 4); Costa Rica (September 19 and 20); Chile (October 3 and 4); Panama (November 21); Guatemala (December 9 to 11), and Brazil (December 16 to 18).

P12: Program to Foster Social Participation and Build Capacities for Action Among Organizations and Networks of Social and Academic Stakeholders to Defend Human Rights

Over the course of 2019, the IACHR has expanded and intensified the role that civil society played in all of its activities, including public hearings, consultations, training workshops, and bilateral meetings, particularly through the use of online and multimedia tools.

In the first half of the year, the IACHR issued a public invitation for applications to form part of a specialized academic network for technical cooperation with the IACHR to provide technical support for its work, particularly through the work of the 13 offices of the thematic and special rapporteurs and the section for monitoring recommendations. It received 64 project proposals in response to this invitation. The IACHR will make the academic network official in the course of 2020.

At the IACHR’s periods of sessions in Bolivia, Jamaica, Ecuador, and its headquarters, meetings were held with inter-American civil society organizations to gather information on the human rights situation in the region and hear their demands. Holding periods of sessions outside the IACHR headquarters ensured greater access to the IACHR for civil society organizations from different parts of the region. Around 330 civil society organizations took part in the public hearings and the open meetings that were held during the periods of sessions. Some 143 working meetings between the state and civil society were also held to make headway on the petition and case system. These covered precautionary measures, friendly settlements, cases, and the monitoring of recommendations. More than 60 bilateral meetings were held with civil society to discuss human rights issues of interest to the organizations that took part. In 2019, the IACHR commissioners also took part in the events organized by civil society organizations around the periods of sessions.

The IACHR also kept in contact with civil society organizations as part of proceedings before the IA Court regarding precautionary measures.

The IACHR also organized meetings with civil society during the visits it made to different countries in 2019, including Argentina, Barbados, the Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay. The support of civil society was fundamental in preparing for the on-site visits to El Salvador and Haiti. It also held meetings with civil society organizations during the 49th OAS General Assembly and as part of the activities organized by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Over the course of 2019, the IACHR also held online meetings with civil society organizations from Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela regarding the work of its various mechanisms. It also held four rounds of online dialogue with civil society organizations working on children’s rights issues, and in which more than 80 people took part.

With regard to its thematic reports, the IACHR continued to prioritize and fulfill its commitment to holding public consultations to obtain input from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations. In connection with this, the IACHR published five questionnaires to consult with civil society on drafting reports in 2019. In addition to these questionnaires, the IACHR implemented innovative methodological strategies for drafting two other thematic reports, “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Pan-Amazon Region” and “Corruption and Human Rights,” which included instances of consultation with civil society. For the first of these, the IACHR organized meetings and events at which contributions were obtained from the academic organizations that make up the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM). In the case of the second report (and in line with the methodology that was implemented in 2017), the IACHR held a public hearing on human rights and corruption as part of the 171st Period of Sessions. It also held a series of meetings with civil society and state representatives to gather information on different regional experiences of this.

These included public consultations on citizen security; the inclusion of LGBTI people in the economic, social, and cultural spheres in the Caribbean; and memory, truth, justice and guarantees of nonrepetition in the Americas, as part of the ongoing process of public participation in the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur.

As part of the process of drafting the 2019 Annual Report, the IACHR once again invited civil society organizations and other actors in the 35 OAS Member States to send information on the human rights situation in the region for chapters IV.A, IV.B, and V.

In connection with the special follow-up mechanisms, the IACHR continued to promote permanent dialogue with civil society organizations, social movements, state authorities, and the victims of human rights violations.

In 2019, the IACHR published a questionnaire to consolidate and expand its policy on civil society's participation in its activities and undertakings. The aim of this consultation is to increase civil society's participation in the IACHR's work and to find new mechanisms and channels for doing so.

Finally, in 2019, the IACHR continued to work to strengthen civil society's capacities through promotional and training activities that were implemented in various countries in the region as part of Program 9 of its Strategic Plan.

With regard to the Executive Secretariat's Associate Personnel Program, negotiations continued on institutional agreements that would enable the IACHR to receive scholarship holders or staff from other organizations, universities, or academic institutions. This exchange program is helping to publicize IASHR mechanisms and also support the work of Executive Secretariat. In 2019, three professionals joined the IACHR as part of the Associate Personnel Program. As part of bilateral cooperation agreements, these included two professionals from Office of the Public Defender of the Union of Brazil; one professional from the Office of the Labor Prosecutor of Brazil; one professional from the Office of the Public Defender of the City of Buenos Aires; and one professional from the Office of the Criminal Public Defender of Chile.

Other professionals joined the team as scholarship holders as part of cooperation agreements with academic institutions. These included 10 people from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela.

As part of Strategic Objective 4, the IACHR promoted and strengthened cooperation with other international, regional, and subregional human rights organizations and mechanisms and the IA Court.

P13: Program for Cooperation and Coordination with the Universal Human Rights System and Other International Agencies

In 2019, the IACHR deepened its collaboration with the United Nations Human Rights System by sending inputs for the universal periodic reviews of Bolivia and El Salvador; receiving representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); special rapporteurs; and other United Nations representatives to participate in 11 hearings at its 171st and 172nd Period of Sessions; coordinating with UN agencies; publishing 17 joint press releases and eight letters with the OHCHR or special mechanisms from the UN system; and implementing joint activities to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia and Other Forms of Intolerance Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and/ or Expression, and Sexual Characteristics and World Press Freedom Day in Latin America.

Over the course of the year, the IACHR engaged in a series of advocacy initiatives before the United Nations Human Rights System. Specifically, during the 40th Period of Sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it took part in side events and debates on the grave human rights situation in Nicaragua and Venezuela. For the first time ever, the IACHR took part in the high-level segment of the sessions, where it gave a presentation that focused mainly on the situation in Nicaragua. The IACHR also took part in an interactive Human Rights Council debate, which it contributed to by discussing the situation in Nicaragua. In addition, the IACHR held a parallel event on the situation in Nicaragua and the work of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on Nicaragua (MESENI), in which 18 delegations from the Americas, Asia, and Europe took part. It also participated in two other events, the first of which was organized by Amnesty International and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the second by Human Rights Watch, both on Nicaragua.

The IACHR was represented at the 41st Period of Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council by the special rapporteurs for freedom of expression and for economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. At the 42nd Period of Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, the IACHR took part as a guest on a high-level panel on the High Commissioner's report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua. The IACHR also took part in the interactive dialogue on the situation of migrants in the Americas; put forward comments on the report from the Special Rapporteur on Memory, Truth, and Reparation; took part in parallel events on Nicaragua and Brazil; and held meetings with civil society and OHCHR representatives.

A dialogue began between the technical areas that are responsible for following up on the recommendations made by the OHCHR and the IACHR Executive Secretariat in order to exchange information, methodologies, and good practices. The IACHR also sent inputs for the universal periodic reviews of El Salvador and Bolivia. Dialogues were held with the OHCHR’s Americas department regarding updating the UPR for Nicaragua, work on which began in May, so as to finalize joint advocacy strategies such that the recommendations made by states take into account the IACHR’s monitoring work and the recommendations from two of its mechanisms, the GIEI and MESENI.

In 2018, the IACHR signed a Road Map with UN special procedures mandate holders to expand and strengthen their joint work. As part of this agreement, 23 joint initiatives were implemented throughout 2019, including press releases, letters, and public activities. The methodology was also developed and implemented to monitor the core areas set out in the road map.

Another noteworthy achievement was the first joint consultation on the inclusion of LGBTI people in the economic, social, and cultural spheres that was organized by the IACHR and the UN Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in October in Barbados.

P14: Program for Articulation and Complementarity with Regional Systems and Subregional Human Rights Mechanisms

The IACHR followed up on its collaboration with the MERCOSUR Institute for Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH) following the successful conclusion of the fourth International Course on Public Policies on Human Rights, which the two organizations run in partnership with one another. The course is an initiative of the IPPDH’s International School, and its main objective is to train strategic stakeholders from the public sector and civil society organizations so as to contribute to strengthening human rights public policies in the continent. 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 was attended by 100 people. The course was run for a second time in 2019, and the in-person stage will take place in Buenos Aires in February 2020.

P15: Joint Action Mechanism Between the IACHR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Protect Human Rights Defenders

Building on the achievements of 2017 regarding the design of its work agenda and public consultations on these and the results obtained in 2018, the IACHR and the OHCHR continued to implement the Joint Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders through specific courses of action 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. Progress was also made on drafting three biannual action plans with the OHCHR country offices in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Over the course of 2019, the two bodies implemented a series of joint actions including the issuing of two joint statements on situations of shared concern in the region as a whole and in specific countries; joint participation in monitoring, promotional, and training 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.

As part of this mechanism, the Office of the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders spearheaded the drafting process for quarterly press releases/reports on the situation of human rights defenders in the region. May 30 saw the publication of the press release entitled “IACHR and UN Human Rights Offices Expressed Their Concern Over the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the First Quarter of 2019,” which was adopted by the OHCHR's offices in Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Chile, and Honduras. A second press release/report was published on November 7, entitled “IACHR and UN Human Rights Presences Once Again Call for the Creation of a Safe, Favorable Environment for Human Rights Defenders in the Americas,” which was signed by the OHCHR’s offices in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Chile, and Honduras.

Specifically, information was shared on the increase in killings in Mexico which was then systematized. The IACHR also provided inputs for the document drafted by the OHCHR's Mexico office entitled “Diagnostic Exercise on the Functioning of the National Protection Mechanism.” As part of this mechanism, different kinds of information were shared on the predicaments of leaders and activists involved in the protests in Honduras in connection with the national strikes in the health and education sectors. On May 6, the IACHR and the OHCHR Regional Office for South America sent a joint press release to the state of Peru expressing their support for the Ministry of Justice's protocol on protecting human rights defenders.

In January 2019, the IACHR and the OHCHR's Mexico office held a joint training program in Chihuahua, Mexico. The two organizations’ first joint diagnostic study on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas is currently in its final phase. Progress has also been made on creating materials for drafting a manual on good practices.

P16: Program for the Universalization of the IASHR and Institutional Cooperation with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The board of directors of the IACHR and the president of the IA Court met during the 49th OAS General Assembly in Medellín, Colombia, to continue the dialogue on collaboration between the two bodies and to make headway on conversations to lay the groundwork for the 3rd Inter-American System of Human Rights Forum.

On November 6 and 7, the IA Court and the IACHR held the Third Forum on the Inter-American System of Human Rights, which took place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito, under the auspices of the Office of the Attorney-General of Ecuador, which helped organize it.

The IASHR Forum revolved around celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the IACHR and the 40th anniversary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The aim of this initiative was to reflect on the historical impact of the IASHR and promote debate on present and future challenges in the current regional context, the effectiveness of the system, and other key issues on the human rights agenda in the Americas, through a constructive exchange between states, civil society, international organizations, universities, social and trade union movements, and the general public.

In connection with Strategic Objective 5, the IACHR has been redoubling its efforts to ensure that it has the human resources, infrastructure, technology, and budget it needs to fully comply with its mandate and functions through a results-based management approach and effective institutional development.

P17: Management and Institutional Development Program

In 2019, the IACHR sought to improve the administrative structure of its Executive Secretariat as part of Program 17 of its Strategic Plan 2017–2021. The new structure was formally implemented on September 24, 2019, when the OAS Secretary General issued Executive Order 19-01. This new administrative structure is divided into several major areas: the Assistant Executive Secretariat for the Petition and Case System; the Assistant Executive Secretariat for Monitoring, Advocacy, and Technical Cooperation on Human Rights; the Office of the Chief of Staff; the Office of Specialized Advisors; and the Office of Administration and Institutional Affairs. The new structure is in keeping with the spirit of the Strategic Plan, which seeks to establish an “administrative structure that reflects a more comprehensive and horizontal design.”

As noted above, the IACHR has continued to expand its public presence in the region by holding periods of sessions outside of its headquarters. In 2019, it held periods of sessions in Bolivia, Jamaica, and Ecuador, through which it facilitated encounters between civil society and the states in question. In the two and a half years since the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 was implemented, the IACHR has increased its public presence throughout the Americas by holding sessions in ten different countries.

Over the course of the year, efforts continued to complete the roster of staff needed to carry out the activities the IACHR implements through its Executive Secretariat. The competitive selection processes to fill the 11 new positions that were approved in the IACHR budget for 2018 were finalized, as were those for five of the six new positions approved in the budget for 2019. The sixth appointment was made on January 1, 2020. A total of 76 interns worked at the organization, and there was also headway on different programs for academics to collaborate with the IACHR. Eight scholarships were also awarded to professionals from OAS Member States. In terms of geographic representation and diversity, there are 133 staff members (including consultants and associate professionals) from 24 different states working at the IACHR's Executive Secretariat. Some 68% of the total are women and 32% are men.

Initiatives stemming from the Working Environment Committee’s work plan continued to be implemented—this group is made up of government officials and consultants from the IACHR Executive Secretariat. An “open doors policy” has been implemented such that staff can meet with the Executive Secretary to raise issues of interest to them. A suggestions box was also set up, and meetings were held with the Ombudsperson of the OAS General Secretariat to work together to continue improving the working environment at the Executive Secretariat. A space for active listening was also implemented at which all staff from the IACHR's Executive Secretariat had the opportunity to express their concerns and put forward proposals regarding job satisfaction. The results of these processes were presented to staff in November.

The IACHR continued to strengthen its communications using a multiplatform strategy. In 2019, the IACHR Channel [link in Spanish] was created, which uses inspiring stories, reports, and interviews to raise the profile of people who are fighting for their rights and attempting to change the places where they live. The channel has already published 12 interviews with iconic individuals like María da Penha and also contains more than 40 videos on the visits the IACHR has conducted to different countries, such as its visits to Chile and Ecuador. The channel also contains a map of the precautionary measures the IACHR has granted since 2013.

There was a notable increase in the number of followers of the IACHR's social media accounts: its Twitter account (@iachumanrights) gained more than 150,000 new followers, while the number of Facebook followers increased by 45,000 to a total of 571,000.

Other noteworthy achievements include the creation of a new section to follow up on recommendations and the creation and launch of four multimedia microsites and nine campaigns to promote IACHR reports. The IACHR reported on its main activities and observations regarding the protection and promotion of human rights in the Americas by publishing 346 press releases over the course of the year. It continues to use social media to publicize its work and raise awareness of inter-American standards and has a growing number of followers.

As part of the process of holding the period of sessions in Jamaica, the IACHR made the most of the opportunity to include the Caribbean media in its work. To do so, it organized a videoconference with members of the Caribbean media community to encourage them to cover the 172nd Period of Sessions in Jamaica.

P18: Program of Technological Innovation Applied to Human Rights

In 2019, the IACHR began the process of redesigning its core IT systems. At present, this entails analyzing data, functions, and processes. By updating these systems, the IACHR will be able to streamline its information processing, respond to users more rapidly, and stabilize and improve automated work. At the same time, in response to feedback from users of the Individual Petition System Portal, member states, and civil society, the IACHR has implemented new features such as allowing users to view the procedural status of cases in chronological order.

A specialized online form for submitting requests for precautionary measures through the Individual Petition System Portal was also launched in all four of the IACHR's official languages. This form will help users to supply the information the IACHR needs to evaluate their applications more quickly and to provide more timely responses, thus better safeguarding their rights.

Progress was also made on implementing the Inter-American System for Monitoring Recommendations (IA SIMORE). The system is currently being tested to ensure it includes the required features and complies with technical and data and information security standards before it is officially implemented.

A new online voting system (E-Vote) is also being tested in the run-up to its launch in March 2020. The system will help the IACHR and the Executive Secretariat optimize the organization's discussion and decision-making processes. Automated online systems for gathering information were also implemented, which has made it possible for the IACHR to receive requests for hearings at periods of sessions, applications for scholarships, and requests to take part in public consultations on corruption and human rights as part of the drafting process for a thematic report, as well as applications for the training course for human rights defenders on the strategic use of the inter-American system.

P19: Financial Sustainability Plan

The increase in the budget for the regular fund approved for the IACHR Executive Secretariat for 2019 and the increase granted in 2018 have allowed the organization to consolidate its administrative structure and build on its capacities, which led directly to it being able to achieve the results presented in this report.

In the first half of 2019, the Executive Secretariat worked with the member states and the OAS General Secretariat to present the proposed budget program for 2020. The budget approved for the IACHR Executive Secretariat for next year, which includes the final phase in the process of doubling the budget, was set at USD 10,627,900.

The IACHR continued to implement the various components of its financial sustainability plan, particularly the communications strategy and the improvements to accountability processes for donors. The IACHR also continued to mobilize funds as part of the resource diversification strategy it is implementing in 2019 and 2020. 

The IACHR wishes to thank member states for their hard work and commitment to doubling the regular budget assigned to it by the OAS.

P20: User Support Center

The User Support Center was officially opened on January 15, 2019. The User Support Center was created in response to the need to improve support for users of the IASHR and to help more people in the region access this. To achieve this, it was decided that the center would focus its initial efforts on mapping and assessing the current demands of IASHR users; standardizing internal flows, procedures, and processes; and outlining the guidelines needed to guarantee a rapid, transparent process for providing consistent, high-quality information to all those who approach the IACHR.

The gradual consolidation of the User Support Center over the course of 2019 brought concrete results almost immediately, which included reductions in the time needed to record new petitions and precautionary measures, which were kept with a maximum of four and two days, respectively; the provision of professional in-person support to more than 800 users both at the IACHR headquarters and outside of this during observation visits or periods of sessions; the reception and distribution of information regarding petitions, cases, and precautionary measures, including entering more than 40,000 files in the Document Management System (DMS).

To achieve this, work focused on providing training for staff and creation manuals and protocols to standardize user support and design new workflows and strategies that would address the most pressing obstacles to providing quality support. Examples of such efforts that were implemented in 2019 include the creation of the User Manual, the Document Digitization Guide, the IACHR Protocol for the Content Digitization, and the Manual for Recording Petitions and Precautionary Measures.

Another initiative that the User Support Center helped with was the launch of a new specialized online form for submitting requests for precautionary measures through the Individual Petition System Portal (IPSP). This form seeks to facilitate access to information for people who turn to the IASHR because their rights are at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable damage. This form was designed to help users to supply the information the IACHR needs to evaluate their applications more quickly and to provide more timely responses, thus better safeguarding their rights.

Finally, the User Support Center has played a major part in increasing new user records and the use of the IPSP, thanks to efforts to actively promote it among users and thus help more people access information on their cases before the IACHR.

P21: Special Follow-Up Program on IACHR Recommendations

In 2019, the IACHR took major steps to develop and perfect its methodologies for following up on its recommendations and verifying how far states are complying with and internalizing the human rights commitments they have taken on. The drafting process for the 2019 Annual Report included gathering information on the methodological innovations that have been reformulated since 2018. As part of developing these new methodological approaches, the IACHR approved and published the General Guidelines for Following up on Recommendations and Decisions to facilitate access and provide transparency on the mandates, methodologies, criteria, and procedures it applies to follow up on the recommendations made by its different mechanisms.

Over the course of the year, the IACHR held 22 working meetings to follow up on merits reports; eight portfolio meetings with the states of Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Uruguay; and a large number of bilateral meetings with petitioners. The major achievements regarding compliance with IACHR recommendations include the fact that two cases on which merits reports have been published and which are at the follow-up stage have moved from pending to partial compliance. Likewise, the IACHR verified the implementation of 23 recommendations and 8 clauses from compliance agreements signed by parties, as a result of which full compliance was achieved on 4 reparation measures; substantial partial compliance on 6 reparation measures; and partial compliance on 13 reparation measures. The IACHR also wishes to acknowledge the efforts of the states of Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Grenada, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States and welcomes the progress they have made on implementing the recommendations contained in IACHR merits reports.

By means of IACHR Resolution 2/2019, the Commission created the Impact Observatory of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a collaborative platform to reflect on, systematize, and make visible the impact of its actions on the defense and protection of human rights in the Hemisphere and instructed the Executive Secretariat to adopt the necessary measures to implement this decision.

In 2019, the IACHR approved the follow-up report entitled The Impact of Violence and Discrimination against Women, Girls, and Adolescents [link in Spanish] as an annex to a thematic report, “Violence and Discrimination against Women, Girls, and Adolescents: Standards, Recommendations, Challenges, and Good Practices in Latin America and the Caribbean.” This follow-up report analyses the structural effects of the recommendations issued in merits reports published on discrimination and violence against women, girls, and adolescents in the region. The IACHR also made progress on drafting a thematic on a country-specific system for implementing IACHR decisions. As part of this process, it published a questionnaire for OAS Member States, civil society organizations, academics, international organizations, and other relevant stakeholders.

The IACHR also strengthened its work with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ombuds’ offices, academic networks, and civil society. It organized 21 outreach activities, in addition to ten training sessions for human rights defenders, social leaders, members of civil society, and students in the Americas.

The IACHR has also committed to consolidating and creating special mechanisms for following up on recommendations, which has included outreach activities on the results of these. Noteworthy achievements in this area include the creation of the Technical Support Group (GAT) for the Ayotzinapa Affair, which is operating from Mexico City as part of the new phase in the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA); the new local stage for the Working Group on the Implementation of Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic; the new phase of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), which is now operating from the IACHR’s headquarters; the creation of the Special Technical Advisory Group for Compliance with Human Rights Recommendations (MESAT) in November 2019, in relation to the human rights situation in Honduras; the creation of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE) in October 2019, and dialogues to establish new mechanisms for cooperating with states as part of the process of following up on and implementing the IACHR’s recommendations in countries such as Haiti. The IACHR’s Special Follow-Up Mechanisms are a new, more appropriate way of helping countries in the region to comply with their international obligations and implement the IACHR’s recommendations regarding inter-American human rights norms and standards.

The IACHR also made significant progress on developing the prototype for the Inter-American System for Monitoring IACHR Recommendations (SIMORE). To this end, it organized dialogues and meetings to learn about states’ national recommendation systems in order to learn about good practices in the region, exchange experiences, and explore the possibility of these systems eventually including IACHR recommendations. As a result of this progress, the Inter-American SIMORE is now in the test phase, which includes consultations with different kinds of users (such as government officials, members of society, and academics, among others). Its launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2020. Resolution AG/RES. 2941  on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was passed at the 2019 OAS General Assembly. The resolution acknowledges the IACHR’s efforts to implement the Inter-American SIMORE.

Acknowledgments

The IACHR is grateful to civil society human rights organizations throughout the Americas, OAS member and observer states, international and regional organizations, the Secretary General of the OAS and his team, and the entire team at the IACHR Executive Secretariat for their role in enabling the organization to reach the landmark achievements presented in this report. It wishes to thank the OAS Member States for implementing the second stage in the increase of the regular fund, and for approving the third phase in this increase. 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, Bolivia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, United States, Uruguay; the European Commission, Spain, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Balearic Islands, Norway, and Switzerland; the ARCUS Foundation, Google, Freedom House, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the Ford Foundation, OXFAM, and UNHCR. The IACHR’s work is dedicated 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 on Human Rights is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States whose principal functions are to promote the observance and defense of human rights and to serve as an advisory body to the Organization 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. 033/20