Press Release

IACHR and the Offices of its Special Rapporteurs Celebrate the International Human Rights Day, Recalling States’ Duty to Protect These

December 10, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reminded states in the Americas of their obligation to guarantee the human rights of all people living in their respective jurisdictions or travelling through them. The year 2020 has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and impacted countless others. The pandemic has also increased structural inequalities and the risk faced by vulnerable people and groups, which obliges states to step up their efforts as they go about the duty of providing timely, effective public policy responses to curb the pandemic and its consequences and guarantee human rights.

International Human Rights Day is commemorated every December 10, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To mark this date, the IACHR pays tribute to all the people who have been victims of COVID-19 and those who have died, as a result of it, to their families and to health workers. Likewise, the IACHR urges states in the region to make the utmost effort to implement legislative, administrative, public policy-related, and other actions to guarantee human rights and to provide reparations for victims of human rights violations caused by violence and discrimination in the region.

The IACHR notes that through its monitoring work this year and during the pandemic, it has identified a series of challenges that States must address, such as ongoing discrimination and violence against women, LGBTI people, people of African descent and indigenous peoples, children and adolescents, older persons, human rights defenders, journalists, social leaders, and those with disabilities. Other issues that must be addressed include the increase in the disproportionate use of force to repress social protests in some countries in the region, the predicament of people in situations of human mobility and forced displacement, the conditions of detention of people who are deprived of their liberty in the region, and regressive situations such as new applications of the death penalty.

In Resolution 1/20, Pandemics and Human Rights, the IACHR stated that States in the region must include and apply intersectional approaches when issuing emergency measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, paying particular attention to human needs and differentiated impacts regarding these groups in a historical situation of vulnerability.

The pandemic is itself a human rights challenge, and the pre-existing context of violence and discrimination in the Americas has been exacerbated by the health emergency. In this regard, the IACHR notes that the rule of law, democratic institutions, and the principal of the separation of powers—particularly the judiciary and legislative branches, the functioning of which must be guaranteed even during a pandemic—are central to guaranteeing human rights in each State in the region, and also underlines the importance of making progress on the processes of memory, truth, and justice.

In this context, social protest and the right to freedom of expression have been seriously compromised, despite these being fundamental to ensuring that the response to the pandemic remains democratic and respects human rights. Likewise, the media play an essential role in public debate, but the pandemic has impacted their capacity and reach. However, online freedom of expression has become even more essential during the pandemic due to its critical role in debates around matters of public interest. As a consequence, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression are calling specifically on States to commit to guaranteeing this right due to the vital role it plays in democratic rule.

It should be noted that the COVID-19 health emergency is also an economic, social, and environmental crisis which is impacting people’s right to health and other economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, especially those of people in situations of vulnerability. In light of this, the IACHR and the OSRESCER urge states to place a comprehensive human rights approach at the heart of their actions, one that contemplates the interdependence and indivisibility of rights, and the gender and intersectional approaches. They also underscore that the right to health is an inter-American human right and public good and request that states prioritize respect and effective guarantees for the human rights of people with COVID-19, urging them to comply with the inter-American directives established in IACHR Resolution 4/20.

Each December 10 is an opportunity to confirm the importance of human rights and recommit to building societies on the basis of solidarity, without discrimination, with equality and equity for all. The IACHR joins in celebrating this anniversary from its role promoting the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas and emphasizes the fundamental importance of making progress on compliance with international and regional human rights standards, taking the Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights as the core of this process.

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. 295/20