Press Release

IACHR Presents Its Annual Report for 2019

April 6, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its 2019 Annual Report, in compliance with Article 59 of its Rules of Procedure. The Annual Report summarizes the IACHR’s work between January 1 and December 31, 2019, its 60th anniversary year, and lists its most significant achievements during the year. The Annual Report is an accountability tool and one of the main instruments for monitoring the human rights situation in the Americas and for following up on the recommendations made by the IACHR through its different mechanisms.

“The IACHR obtained unprecedented results in 2019 and moved decisively toward fulfilling the objectives set out in its Strategic Plan 2017–2021,” said IACHR president Commissioner Joel Hernández. He went on to note: “On behalf of my colleagues the commissioners, I wish to thank the member states for their decision to strengthen the capacities of the main bodies of the Inter-American System of Human Rights by approving the budget increases. We also wish to express our appreciation to the start of the Executive Secretariat for their commitment and dedication to their work.”

As is reported in detail in the 2019 Annual Report and the 2019 Annual Progress Report on the Implementation of the IACHR Strategic Plan 2017–2021 (link in Spanish), over the year the IACHR has made significant progress toward meeting the goals and objectives set out in the Strategic Plan. The IACHR’s major achievements this year include making progress on overcoming procedural backlog and gradually developing international human rights law to consolidate inter-American standards; increasing its monitoring coverage; increasing technical cooperation and promotion activities; coordinating with other human rights organizations; strengthening internal capacities and optimizing management processes; and making progress on mechanisms for monitoring compliance with the recommendations issued through its different instruments.

The 2019 Annual Report contains an introduction, six chapters, and annexes. The introduction lists the IACHR’s main achievements, the progress made on human rights in the region, and the status of the universalization of the Inter-American System of Human Rights in 2019. Chapter I provides an overview of the IACHR’s activities during the year, including progress on the Strategic Plan 2017–2021, matters relating to the structure and reorganization of the Executive Secretariat, and information on sessions, resolutions, relationships with other organizations, and progress on cooperation and monitoring. Chapter II presents information on the petition and case system and precautionary measures, as well as the monitoring of recommendations on individual cases. Chapter III reviews the activities of the offices of the thematic and country rapporteurs and promotion and training activities. Chapter IV is divided into two parts. Chapter IV.A. contains a descriptive overview of the human rights situation in member countries, with a particular emphasis on the rights and issues prioritized by the IACHR while also covering other cross-cutting areas. Chapter IV.B  analyzes the human rights situation in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, which the IACHR once again included in this section because they require special attention according to the criteria established in article 59.6 of its Rules of Procedure. Chapter V monitors the recommendations made by the IACHR in its country reports on Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Finally, Chapter VI discusses the IACHR’s structure and personnel, staff training, financial resources and its use of its budget, resource mobilization, and project management, among other matters that relate to institutional development over the year. The Annual Report also includes the following Annexes: “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”; “Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders in Colombia”; “Compendium on Equality and Nondiscrimination: Inter-American Standards”; “Business and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards”; “Report on the Human Rights Situation in Honduras”; “Corruption and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards”; the report from the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression; and the report from the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Environmental, and Cultural Rights.

The IACHR observed a series of advances in the area of human rights within OAS member states in 2019. Specifically, it noted a series of measures that seek to strengthen human rights institutions, such as the creation of a series of new institutional spaces for the promotion and protection of human rights. Another notable trend this past year has been the growing participation in democratic life of groups that have historically been discriminated against, in terms of both exercising the right to vote and holding public office. The IACHR also noted the most significant state initiatives concerning public policies with a human rights focus. There were notable efforts by several states in the Americas to design and implement national plans and adopt significant measures regarding equality and nondiscrimination, social participation; truth, justice, and reparation; access to information as a guarantee of transparency and accountability; priority protection for vulnerable groups, particularly migrant and migrant populations; and the inclusion of the gender and diversity perspective. The IACHR acknowledged these efforts and encouraged states to continue to formulate and implement public policies that respond to the recommendations of the IASHR bodies and to endeavor to extend this approach to all state institutions and society as a whole. The IACHR is at states’ disposal should they require technical cooperation to achieve these objectives.

In Chapter IV.A., the IACHR identifies the following trends in human rights issues and challenges that were observed through its work in 2019: the persistence of discrimination and violence against women, LGBTI people, people of African descent and indigenous people, children and adolescents, and in particular against human rights defenders, journalists, and social leaders; the growing repression of social protest in some countries in the region through the disproportionate use of force, as well as acts of violence and vandalism that took place during these contexts; people in situations of human mobility and, in particular, forced migration; and the seriousness of the conditions in which people who are deprived of their freedom in the region are being held and setbacks concerning the death penalty.

The IACHR decided to once again include Cuba in Chapter IV.B, in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 6.a.i. and 6.c. of article 59 of its Rules of Procedure. Throughout 2019, the IACHR continued to observe the status of representative democracy in the Americas, noting changes in high political offices such as the appointment of President Miguel Díaz-Canel, while also noting that there continue to be restrictions preventing all Cuban citizens from accessing political offices. The fact that the Communist Party is identified in the Cuban Constitution as the sole political party in the country prevents people with different political convictions from participating in public political life and holding political office. Furthermore, authorities such as the National Assembly of People’s Power continue to hold a wide range of powers for public decision-making, which blurs the separation of powers. The IACHR has not observed any changes in the conditions that provide guarantees for judicial independence. As regards serious, systematic human rights violations, the IACHR remains concerned over serious impacts on the political right to vote and hold office, freedom of opinion, expression, and to impart information and ideas, the right to residence and transit, and protection against arbitrary detention. According to the information received by the IACHR and the testimonies which it had access to, there continue to be restrictions on these rights in Cuba. The exercise of these rights is allegedly limited by the authoritarian exercise of power: political dissidents or those who are perceived as dissidents allegedly face continual restrictions. Through this report, the IACHR is intensifying its monitoring of the human rights situation in Cuba during this transition period. Given that the IACHR cannot visit Cuba, it continues to listen to the voices of the Cuban people and include them in its monitoring of the situation in the country.

With regard to Nicaragua, the IACHR continued to closely monitor the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country that began with the violence of April 18, 2018, which entailed state repression of social protests. The situation in Nicaragua relates to the provisions of paragraphs 6.a.i, 6.b, 6.c y 6.d.i), 6.d.ii) 6.d.iii) of article 59 of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure. In 2019, the IACHR documented arbitrary exercises by the state in all three branches of power. The outcomes of this include a lack of independence of the judiciary and other public bodies. The IACHR noted that the grave human rights crisis in Nicaragua has continued throughout 2019 following the de facto implementation of a state of exception that entails the abusive use of public forces to repress dissidents, raids, the closure and censorship of media outlets, the imprisonment or exile of journalists and social leaders, the closure of civil society organizations without guarantees of due process, and interference by the office of the president in other branches of government. The IACHR also deemed that the situation in Nicaragua falls within what is described in paragraph 6.c. of article 59 of its Rules of Procedure, which refers to states committing massive, serious and widespread violations of human rights guaranteed in the American Declaration, the American Convention, or the other applicable human rights instruments. The IACHR observed that the prolonged weakening of democratic institutions in Nicaragua has led to a perpetuation of the human rights crisis and has caused a situation of structural impunity around the serious human rights violations that have been committed.

The IACHR decided to include Venezuela in Chapter IV.B. because it considers that it falls under the provisions of paragraphs 6.a.i., 6.b., and 6.d. of article 59 of its Rules of Procedure. The IACHR observed that the indefinite, unrestricted extension of the state of emergency, the suspension of the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly, the lack of judicial independence, the overreaching of the functions of the Constituent National Assembly, the lack of guarantees for holding free, democratic elections, and the general lack of subordination of state institutions to civil authority are all clear indications of alterations to the constitutional order. This is compounded by a widespread humanitarian crisis that has impacted the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights and has caused millions of Venezuelans to migrate. The IACHR’s decision to include Venezuela in chapter IV.B of its Annual Report was also due to the state’s reluctance to adopt decisive measures to re-establish the separation and balance of powers and to fully comply with its international obligations. These include the IACHR’s decisions and recommendations and the rulings issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The IACHR prepared this report based on information gathered in accordance with article 59 of its Rules of Procedure.

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, Luis Almagro, and his team, and to the entire team at the IACHR Executive Secretariat for the part it played in enabling the organization to reach the landmark achievements presented in the 2019 Annual Report. The IACHR also wishes to thank the member states for strengthening its work by increasing the regular fund. 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.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 068/20