Remarks by the IACHR President

Speech by Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño,
President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Presentation of the 2018 IACHR Annual Report to the OAS General Assembly

Medellín, June 28, 2019

Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Mr. Secretary General of the OAS,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished Heads of Delegation,
Distinguished Representatives of Civil Society Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my capacity as president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it is my honor to address this distinguished General Assembly to present the Annual Report for 2018. I am joined today by the first vice president of the IACHR, Commissioner Joel Hernández; the second vice president, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola; Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay; the executive secretary, Paulo Abrão; the special rapporteurs; and staff from the Executive Secretariat.

Three years ago, the OAS member states made the historic decision to prioritize the Inter-American System of Human Rights and strengthen its operational capacities by doubling the budgets for its two main bodies, the IACHR and the IA Court, thus improving the predictability and stability of their operations. On that occasion, the IACHR undertook to make its operations more efficient and to advance new initiatives. It has honored these commitments seriously and efficaciously by attempting to respond to the historic demands member states have made: greater balance among the thematic rapporteurships and among the three pillars of the IACHR (the case and petition system; monitoring work; and promotion and technical cooperation). I wish to inform the Honorable General Assembly that due to this increase in our expenditure as set out in the Strategic Plan 2017–2021, 2018 was a year of intense activity and unprecedented achievements in the IACHR’s history.

In compliance with Article 59 of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure, I shall now proceed to summarize the main achievements included in the Annual Report for 2018.

With regard to protection activities, the IACHR focused its efforts on reducing procedural backlog and published more reports than ever in its history. In fact, in 2018, the IACHR approved 176 reports from the petition and case system: 133 admissibility reports for petitions and 43 merits reports on cases, which added up to a 189% increase in relation to 2016. It also assessed a total of 2897 petitions. The IACHR prioritized and encouraged the use of the friendly settlement procedure in which states and petitioners jointly agree on the terms of reparation for human rights violations. In qualitative terms, the IACHR deepened and consolidated its jurisprudence on a wide variety of issues in the merits reports adopted this year, moving toward new inter-American standards for protection.

With regard to the strengthening of the precautionary measure mechanism, the IACHR assessed 100% of the 1618 requests it received in 2018 and granted 120 precautionary measures through a rigorous technical process. A record number of requests for precautionary measures were handled in a timely fashion.

Turning to the promotion mandate, the IACHR increased its outreach activities and provided training for 1310 people who took part in events it organized or sponsored. Likewise, around 5500 people took part in outreach activities on the IASHR.

The IACHR also committed to consolidating and creating special mechanisms for monitoring its recommendations. These included the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA), concerning Mexico; the Working Group on the Implementation of Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic; the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI); and the Special Follow-up Team (ESE) on the events that took place on the border between Colombia and Ecuador. We have also continued developing the Inter-American System for Monitoring IACHR Recommendations (SIMORE), in cooperation with the government of Paraguay. For the first time ever, a special plan for the Caribbean is being implemented. The IACHR needs to understand and be able to respond to specific legal and cultural issues.

Finally, it also made progress toward consolidating a monitoring system that is swifter, broader, and more diverse, which it has achieved by better articulating its different functions and mechanisms. It conducted two on-site visits, one to Honduras and another to Brazil, and thanks these states for their assistance and for the information they provided to ensure that the visits were successful. It also organized 25 working visits to 12 countries in the region. The IACHR’s other achievements include establishing Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) to identify risk factors for human rights violations and send out early warnings around emerging situations and/or design immediate action strategies for responding to these. Ten thematic and three country reports were approved. The IACHR organized 107 public hearings during its four periods of sessions, at which it monitored and raised the profile of a significant number of human rights situations, including regional and subregional matters and others affecting 22 specific countries. These hearings also covered new human rights trends and followed up on recommendations made by the IACHR. It issued 204 press releases, sent 7 letters to member states requesting information; and publish two resolutions, one on corruption and human rights and the other on the forced migration of Venezuelans.

The IACHR observed a series of advances in the area of human rights within OAS member states. Specifically, in some countries, the IACHR has observed a series of measures that seek to strengthen human rights institutions, such as the creation of new institutional spaces for the promotion and protection of human rights. Similarly, in the area of public policies with a human rights approach, we have witnessed an increase in efforts to formulate and implement national plans to this end in many states in the region. The IACHR acknowledges these efforts and urges states to continue to formulate and implement public policies that respond to the recommendations of the IASHR bodies and to endeavor to extend this approach to all state institutions and to society as a whole. The IACHR is at the states’ disposal should they require technical cooperation to achieve these objectives.

With regard to the challenges that remain, in Chapter IV.A of the Annual Report, the IACHR observed that situations of violence and discrimination against women and groups that have been historically marginalized persist. In particular, there has been growing violence against human rights defenders, journalists, and social leaders. Examples of the repression of social protest have also been observed, along with militarization and the excessive use of force as measures to address public security. Other challenges that have been identified include the direct impact that corruption has on human rights and the need to address situations of extreme poverty. The issue of forced migration in search of protection from large-scale human rights violations has also received special attention from the IACHR. Other challenges include the worrying figures on the numbers of forced disappearances and the ongoing impunity surrounding this.

Finally, Chapter IV.B includes special member state reports on Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as these require special attention.

With regard to Cuba, there are serious ongoing restrictions to political rights, the right to assembly and freedom of association, the right to freedom of expression, and economic, social, and cultural rights.

In Nicaragua, a serious human rights crisis began in 2018 which has resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and thousands of injuries, arrests, and forced displacements. The report is an outcome of the MESENI’s permanent monitoring work and discusses the different stages in the large-scale, widespread, systematic campaign of state repression against dissidents and the means through which this has been implemented. It also reports on the closing of democratic spaces since April 2018. The IACHR wishes to reiterate that it is ready and willing to return to the country and serve as a guarantor of respect for human rights there.

With regard to Venezuela, the IACHR observed that the ongoing structural problems in the country are seriously affecting Venezuelans’ human rights, which has led to a serious humanitarian crisis and the absence of the rule of law. Shortages of food, medicines, and medical treatment, high rates of violence and insecurity, and persecution based on political opinion have led to the mass exodus of migrants and asylum-seekers from Venezuela to other countries in the region. A coordinated response is required to address this.

Exactly 60 years ago, the American states created the IACHR after a time of intense social struggle. To mark this occasion, the IACHR wishes to state once more how committed it is to protecting and promoting human rights in the region. To achieve this, it will continue to provide support for states as they go about their duty of building fairer, more peaceful societies that respect the rights enshrined in the American Declaration, the American Convention, and other instruments that the IASHR has adopted and ratified.

The IACHR is grateful for the trust that the member states place in its work and acknowledges the responsibility this entails. It is committed to continuing to work tirelessly to address the challenges facing the region ever more effectively and it trusts it will continue to garner support from state and society as it goes about this work.

The IACHR wishes to thank the member states for strengthening its work by implementing the increase in the regular fund. It also wishes to thank the OAS member countries, observer states, and donors whose voluntary contributions have played a decisive role in achieving the outcomes the IACHR has discussed in its different reports. We would like to say a special thank you to the Secretary General for the unconditional support he has given us and our Executive Secretariat, whose team I would also like to thank for their tireless work.

For 60 years, the IACHR has sought to ensure that human rights are fully observed in the Americas. Its initiatives have focused on victims of human rights violations, their families, civil society organizations, and all those who turn to it for protection during their quest to find truth, memory, justice, and reparation. These lofty goals can only be achieved with active support from civil society and states, on the basis of a permanent, fluid dialogue that generates trust and legitimacy. I am convinced that this is the best way to continue identifying and addressing new challenges, to promote the strengthening of democratic institutions, and to deepen cooperative relations with states of the benefits of all the inhabitants of the Americas.

Our personal commitment to human rights seeks to promote dignity, equality, inclusion, nondiscrimination, love, and solidarity with all people without distinction.

Thank you.