Media Center



October 7, 2002 - Washington, DC

Distinguished Permanent Representatives, and Observers,
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General
Mr. Executive Secretary of the Commission and members of its Secretariat,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address you on the occasion of the opening of the 116th Regular Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

It is also an honor for me to welcome Commission member Susana Villarán, who was elected on March 27, 2002. We know the Commission is already benefiting from your active participation, and will continue to benefit from your leadership and expertise in the field of human rights law. We wish you every success in carrying out your important mandate.

Ladies and gentlemen, having just marked the first anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and bearing in mind the developments of the past year, we are especially mindful of certain core principles that define this Organization. In this regard, in adopting the Inter-American Democratic Charter the member States reaffirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights is a basic prerequisite for a democratic society, and that it is essential that the regional human rights system be continuously strengthened in order to play its key role in consolidating democracy in the hemisphere.

The Commission, as the principal organ charged by the OAS Charter with promoting and protecting human rights, has since its inception played an indispensable role in the protection and development of these principles. While the Commission has a distinguished record of advancing these goals, we are all aware that the hemisphere faces serious challenges in elevating the security, well-being and prosperity of its inhabitants. These challenges can only be met through a robust and fortified inter-American human rights system.

Among the challenges to be met, the events of the last year have focused our attention on the grave threat posed by terrorism. At the same time, as the member States reaffirmed during the last General Assembly, the fight against terrorism “must be waged with full respect for the law, human rights, and democratic institutions, so as to preserve the rule of law, freedoms, and democratic values in the Hemisphere.” Accordingly, we welcome the Commission’s initiative to prepare a report on terrorism and human rights, and look forward to its presentation as a means to assist the member States in adopting measures in the fight against terrorism that fully respect their human rights obligations.

It is precisely with the gravity of these and other present challenges in mind that the political organs of the OAS have identified the strengthening of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights as a key initiative. The international promotion and protection of human rights enhances and complements the guarantees afforded under the domestic law of the member States and accordingly warrants increased and improved support. In this regard, during the last General Assembly the member States recommitted themselves to efforts in favor of: universal ratification of the inter-American human rights treaties; follow-up to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission and the sentences of the Inter-American Court; enhancing the access of individuals to the system; and the allocation of the resources necessary to support a strengthened system. It is only by implementing such commitments that the Commission and other components of our human rights system can be expected to achieve the formidable responsibilities that comprise their mandate.

It is in pursuit of these objectives that the Permanent Council has continued its consideration of measures to strengthen the system, and has sought to enhance dialogue among the member states, with the Commission, Court and other organs of the system, and with representatives of civil society, in order to clearly define the challenges to be met and seek consensus in our shared goal of ensuring the effective exercise of basic rights by all. The Permanent Council, and in particular the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, have enjoyed close collaboration with the Commission in strengthening this dialogue, and look forward to continued fruitful cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the effective promotion and protection of human rights is a principal objective for our hemisphere, and the regional human rights system and its strengthening are vital means to this important end. The inter-American human rights system has saved and continues to save lives. It has helped open democratic spaces and contributes to consolidating democracy in our countries. As an organization, we continue on the path toward a hemisphere united in protecting values fundamental for human dignity, and it is in this spirit that I look forward to our future work with the Commission

y me complace haber tenido la oportunidad de participar en esta ceremonia inaugural.

Muchas Gracias.