7 de junio de 2005 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

President of the General Assembly, Mr. Secretary General, Mr.
Assistant Secretary General, distinguished representatives of Member States and Observers, ladies and gentlemen,

As President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I have the honor of addressing you today concerning the situation of human rights in the Hemisphere. Accompanying me is the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Santiago Canton.

I would like to begin by congratulating newly-elected Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza on the assumption of his post and to wish him every success in the execution of his mandate in the coming years.

On April 15, 2005, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submitted its Annual Report for 2004 to the OAS Permanent Council's Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. This report has also been presented for consideration by the General Assembly.

In its report, the Inter-American Commission provided an assessment of the human rights situation in the Hemisphere and the main challenges to the exercise of those rights. As in past years, the regular meeting of this General Assembly provides a valuable opportunity for Member States to reflect on these matters, which are of utmost concern for all of us.

In this regard, I can report on behalf of the Inter-American Commission that the human rights experience since the 2004 General Assembly has been mixed, with both important accomplishments and serious challenges.

On the one hand, we have seen positive advances over the past year in key areas for the protection of human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law. These developments have included progress in efforts to curb impunity for serious human rights violations committed in preceding
decades. In Chile, we witnessed the publication of an in-depth report that covers incidents of political imprisonment and torture during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Similarly, in Argentina, various legal obstacles were
eliminated that had impeded the judicial prosecution of disappearances and other human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship, and in Paraguay a Truth and Justice Commission was established to provide a historical record of the Stroessner regime and to contribute to prosecutorial efforts in this regard. Guatemala, Peru and Colombia acknowledged responsibility for serious human rights violations in cases before the Inter American Court.

Other significant advances during 2004 included the
launching of a comprehensive national human rights program in Mexico, the approval of constitutional reforms in Brazil aimed at modernizing the judicial system and amplifying the judicial mechanisms available to combat impunity for human rights violations and the successful carrying out of a referendum in Venezuela, in spite of conditions of extreme polarization. In addition, a number of important legal developments also took place during 2004, including the reaffirmation in the United States of the right to enjoy a
judicial remedy or review in the case of the detention of citizens or persons classified as enemy combatants in the framework of the war on terrorism and the decision of the US Supreme Court that banned the death penalty with respect to murders committed by minors, the consideration being given in Jamaica to legislative changes concerning the application of the death penalty, and the ability in Colombia of reopening criminal investigations based on decisions of international organizations, as well as the judicial confirmation of the need to comply with precautionary measures issued by the Commission.

Accompanying these advances, however, have been serious threats
and setbacks to the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and the
consolidating and strengthening of democracy in the Hemisphere. These
obstacles have grown out of an environment characterized by deteriorating
economic and social conditions in various countries, corruption in the public k and private spheres, increases in crime and citizen insecurity, and the
marginalization of sectors of our societies through social exclusion and
discrimination. Several situations have been of particular concern to the
Commission. In Bolivia, for example, a situation of social and institutional
unrest has imperiled the conduct of democratic governance.
Commission has expressed concern about the deterioration of democracy
and calls upon the member states to ensure the continuation of the
democratic process and full respect for human rights as stated in the Inter
American Democratic Charter. In Ecuador, the removal and dismissal of a
number of Supreme Court magistrates, judges of the Constitutional
Tribunal and of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the massive
demonstrations that led to the resignation of President Gutierrez have
raised deep concerns about the effective functioning of institutions crucial
to the rule of law and the respect for the principle of separation and
independence of powers in that country.
In Chapter IV of the Annual Report, the Commission included Cuba,
Colombia and Haiti as the countries that have been the subject of the
Commission's special attention. In Cuba, although some persons were ~
liberated over the past year after arbitrary detentions, there has been no
significant change in the situation of systematic repression against
dissidents, human rights defenders and independent journalists.
Generalized violations of public freedoms persist, especially with respect to
the right to political participation and freedom of expression. Regarding
Colombia, the Commission must reiterate its concern respecting the
impact of the internal armed conflict upon the civilian population and, in
particular, vulnerable sectors such as the indigenous peoples and afro
descendant and displaced communities. The Commission is particularly
concerned about the attacks and threats against human rights defenders.
Regarding the demobilization of paramilitary groups, this process has
moved forward despite complaints on the violation of the agreed cessation
of hostilities and the lack of an appropriate legal framework clarifying the
conditions under which those responsible for the commission of crimes are
to demobilize. While the support of the international community is an asset
to the demobilization process, such support ought to be reassessed to
ensure that the three key aspects of truth, justice and reparations for the
victims of the conflict are at the core of this effort. Haiti has continued t '
suffer a grave political and economic crisis under its transitional
government and its judicial system remains critically weak and ineffective.
Moreover, the situation of violence and insecurity has intensified over the
past several months notwithstanding the presence of an armed United
Nations stabilization mission. In this respect, I would like to mention that on
Friday, June 3, 2005 the Commission released its preliminary observations
on its visit to Haiti in April 2005, which discuss these and other pressing
issues facing Haiti today.
In light of these developments, the Commission has engaged in an
ongoing process of reflection, internally and with governments, civil society
and other interested parties, as to how the inter-American human rights
system can respond more effectively in addressing hemispheric problems
in the promotion and protection of human rights. Three matters are
particularly crucial to the future reinforcement and effectiveness of the
system: universal participation in human rights instruments and
mechanisms; compliance with the decisions of the Inter-American
Commission and Court; and the need for increased financing and
On universalization, the Commission has consistently emphasized
the need for all Member States to participate fully in the instruments and
procedures of the inter-American human rights system by ratifying the
Inter-American Convention of Human Rights and other relevant legal
instruments. As the Commission has observed on previous occasions, in a
hemisphere rapidly moving toward commercial and economic integration,
human rights must not be left behind.
Equally important is compliance by Member States with decisions of
the Commission and the Court. This situation is far from satisfactory and, to
the extent that it is not remedied, will continue to hinder the full potential of a system for the protection of individual human beings that states
themselves created. In this connection, the Commission once again urges
that the necessary measures be taken to enable states to act as the
collective guarantors of the system.
A third matter crucial to the effectiveness of the inter-American
human rights system is the endemic and urgent problem of budgetary
limitations. As the Commission has observed on previous occasions, it has
throughout the years responsibly assumed the various mandates assigned
to it by the General Assembly and Summits of the Americas. The
assignment of the mandates recognizes and reaffirms the Commission's
legitimacy and its important role to the States. However, the Commission's
capacity to do so in the future has reached a crisis, and there is an urgent
need to identify measures that lead to increased funding and resources in
order for the Commission to continue fulfilling its mandate and assigned
tasks. We cannot continue to operate without an increase in funding.
Indeed, for instance, at present the Commission does not have sufficient
resources in its regular fund to convene its second regular period of
sessions in 2005.
In closing, I would like to express the Commission's appreciation for
the vital support given by outgoing Assistant Secretary General Luigi
Einaudi to the work of the Commission over the years and, in particular, for
his unwavering efforts to advance the difficult situation in Haiti, and to wish
him good health and success following his time with the GAS.

We are living in crucial times in our beloved hemisphere. The great
victories of the last decade in deepening the democratic process seem to
have stalled in many countries, and receded in others; internal conflicts are
still taking the lives of hundreds of our inhabitants, discrimination still affects millions of indigenous peoples and afro-descendants; women -more than
half of our population- are victims of violence and almost half of our
population lives in poverty. These challenges, plus economic instability, the
insecurity caused by crime, terrorism, and armed conflicts, and the
destruction caused by natural and man-made disasters, continue to impede
the full realization of human rights in our region, and it is only through a
collaborative effort that we will overcome those challenges.