Since its earliest days, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has devoted particular attention to the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas. From its first special country reports, on Cuba and the Dominican Republic, to the ones on Venezuela and Honduras, adopted in December 2009, the Inter-American Commission has consistently referred to the rights of persons deprived of liberty. Along these lines, visits to detention centers have been a constant part of the more than 90 onsite visits this autonomous OAS body has made in the last 40 years. In addition, in the context of its litigation-related mandate, in the period 2000-2010, the Inter-American Commission has approved 59 admissibility reports and 29 reports on the merits and granted 52 precautionary measures related to violations of the human rights of persons deprived of liberty.
Given the importance it has always placed on respect for the rights of persons deprived of liberty, the Inter-American Commission established, during its 85th and 86th sessions, a working group—composed of Commissioners Álvaro Tirado, John Donaldson, and Leo Valladares—to examine detention conditions in the Americas. This could be considered the immediate forerunner of the current Office of the Rapporteur. During this same period, the OAS General Assembly, in its 26th regular session, held in June 1996 in Panama, approved Resolution AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96), which resolves the following in paragraph 16:
To recommend to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it continue to give priority to adoption of the necessary measures to remedy the situation of persons held in custody awaiting trial and the overcrowding of prisons, and to request that the Commission present a report on these topics to the General Assembly at its next regular session.
Subsequently, during its 119th session, in March 2004, the Inter-American Commission formally established the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas and designated Commissioner Florentín Meléndez Padilla, of El Salvador, as its first Rapporteur; he remained in the post until December 2009. The OAS General Assembly referred to this institution for the first time in its Resolution AG/RES. 2037 (XXXIV-O/04), in which it resolved:
To encourage member states to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Freedom of the IACHR to visit their countries.
To call upon member states to consider allocating more funds to the IACHR to enable it to support the effective fulfillment of the mandate assigned to its Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Freedom.
During the 2004-2010 period, the Office of the Rapporteur conducted 18 working visits to 14 countries in the hemisphere; organized the First Seminar on Best Practices, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2007; worked directly on the preparation of Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, approved by the IACHR in its 131st session; participated in many academic and promotional activities; and provided technical assistance in the processing of petitions, cases, provisional and precautionary measures, and other matters having to do with persons deprived of liberty.
RAPPORTEURSHIP ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS
DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20006, USA
Commissioner James L. Cavallaro
Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty