Press Release

IACHR Concludes 178th Virtual Period of Sessions

December 22, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 178th Period of Sessions online between December 3 and 15, 2020. It is continuing to use an online format to comply with its mandates and functions while responding to the seriousness of the situation in the Americas and the rest of world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the event, the IACHR held 19 public hearings concerning Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. Seven of these hearings addressed regional issues, including the human rights situation of victims of human trafficking; the sexual abuse of children and adolescents in religious institutions; the role of public prosecutors’ offices in protecting human rights; the human rights situation of LGBTI people in the Caribbean; police violence and racism against people of African descent; the human rights situation of people in movement in Mexico and the Northern Triangle; and search commissions.

During the hearings and meetings held as part of the 178th Period of Sessions, the IACHR received a variety of information on the overall human rights situation in the region. In response, the IACHR noted with concern that people who are especially vulnerable due to historical or structural discrimination—such as women, children and adolescents, LGBTI people, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, people who are deprived of their freedom, and persons in movement—continue to face serious obstacles to having their rights to life, personal integrity, or health guaranteed, among other rights enshrined in the American Convention, a situation that has been aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IACHR received information on the difficulties that victims of human trafficking in the region are experiencing in exercising their rights, particularly for populations in particularly vulnerable situations, such as women, girls and adolescents. It also learned about emblematic cases of sexual abuse against children and adolescents on the part of religious authorities, as well as about the impunity that persists in these cases in some countries in the Americas.

The situation of people who are deprived of their freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic is of particular concern to the IACHR. On this point, the IACHR received information on the situation of women deprived of their freedom in El Salvador, and on that of people deprived of their freedom for political reasons in Nicaragua. In response to the latter, the IACHR regretted that the State of Nicaragua did not attend the Period of Sessions.

With regard to the human rights situation of LGBTI people, the IACHR heard about the persistence of practices that seek to modify, divert, or suppress the sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression of this group in some Caribbean States. On the matter of the human rights of people in movement, the IACHR received complaints about the increase in forced migration to Mexico and the southern United States, as well as about human rights violations in the context of policies implemented to contain the pandemic.

The IACHR also received information on the situation of the right to freedom of expression in the region, and on the evident increase in campaigns of harassment, threats, and insults against journalists from government circles. It also heard about the institutional weakening of Public Prosecutors’ Offices in the region and how their independence and autonomy are being jeopardized. In addition, the IACHR received information from the search commissions of Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, and Peru, which discussed different challenges they are facing and emphasized the importance of the legal recognition of the right to be searched for.

As part of the 178th Period of Sessions, the IACHR continued its dialogue with representatives of 28 OAS Member States through four meetings with different regional groups. At these, it presented an overview of what had been achieved in 2020 and discussed the human rights situation in the countries in the region with state representatives.

The IACHR also held a meeting with civil society organizations from the Americas to gather information on the human rights situation, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This online meeting was attended by representatives of organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela.

Five working meetings were also held on the implementation of precautionary measures concerning Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, and Mexico, as well as three working meetings to follow up on compliance with recommendations on cases concerning Chile and the United States for which merits reports have been issued.

At the 178th virtual Period of Sessions, the IACHR also deliberated a total of 13 merits reports that covered emblematic issues that are part of the inter-American public agenda. With regard to these reports, the IACHR continued to explore strategies for dealing with procedural backlogs and the build-up of cases in greater depth.

Additionally, as part of the process to select the next Executive Secretary, the IACHR selected ten finalists for the position at its Internal Session on December 14, 2020, and published their names and resumes on its website.

An outreach event was also held as part of the 178th Period of Sessions, entitled “Contributions Regarding Access to the IACHR’s Decisions within the Petition and Case System, Overseen by the Petition and Case Department.”

The IACHR also expressed its gratitude to States and civil society organizations for having made the effort to take part in the 178th Period of Sessions despite the online format. By doing so, they helped make headway on defending and promoting human rights in the Americas.

The IACHR also reminded States that according to the terms of article 63 of the IACHR Regulations, they must adopt protective measures to guarantee the safety of all people who have taken part in the period of sessions or who use any of the tools available to the entire population of the Americas.

Videos of the hearings are available, as are high-resolution photos, which are licensed for download and use by interested parties. This press release is accompanied by an annex containing summaries of the public hearings held during this Period of Sessions.

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. 311/20