Press Release

Report on Public Hearings Held during the 163rd Session

August 16, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 163rd special session in Lima, Peru, on July 3-7, 2017, at the invitation of the Peruvian State. It held 15 public hearings on human rights situations in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Venezuela; two regional hearings; and one private hearing on Venezuela. The Inter-American Commission thanks the States and civil society for their active participation in the hearings.

Below are summaries of the hearings in the chronological order in which they took place.

1 - Impact of the Political and Economic Crisis on Children in Venezuela

The organizations that requested this hearing referred to the reform of the criminal justice system and its impact on adolescent offenders in Venezuela, and accused the State of not assuming responsibility for impacts on children and adolescents in the context of the protests. They also provided information on the hospital crisis affecting the country and on legal actions taken on behalf of children awaiting medical care, the severely limited supply of medicine, and the serious cases of infection in hospitals, which have even led to the deaths of children, as the mother of one victim testified.

For his part, the representative of the State of Venezuela expressed solidarity with the mother who was present and said that her son’s death is being investigated to establish who is responsible. The representative also talked about the State’s initiatives on health and social programs, and referred to measures to deliver food directly to the population. The State also claimed that the country’s calorie availability is higher than that established by international standards and that food security is guaranteed in Venezuela. Finally, the State delegation expressed its concern regarding the responsibility of leaders of the political opposition for the participation of children and adolescents in violent protests.

The Commission underscored the importance of attending to children not just in the early stages of life, but also in adolescence, and the importance of having an institutional system to comprehensively protect their rights. The Commission also called for political will to act for the benefit of the people, especially children affected by the serious human rights situation Venezuela is experiencing. Finally, the IACHR asked for an invitation from the State for the Inter-American Commission to visit the country. 

2 - Right to Free Legal Aid as Part of the Right to a Fair Trial in Venezuela

This hearing was requested by the State of Venezuela to present its achievements in the area of free legal aid. The authorities reported that the Public Defender’s Office has 1,500 public defenders. It explained that this office was removed from the executive branch to become an autonomous agency of the legislative branch, one that provides effective legal protection and a free and prompt legal defense for everyone, without distinction, with a sense of social equality and an emphasis on vulnerable groups. The State also noted that the Public Defender’s Office represents all people at different procedural stages, both criminal and administrative. The authorities indicated that 35,950 users had revoked the authority of their private attorneys, and argued that this reflects the great confidence placed in the Venezuelan justice system.

For their part, the civil society organizations represented at the hearing indicated that the Public Defender’s Office is not independent and that it is used as a political instrument. They also reported that there is an ongoing practice of trying to displace the private attorneys representing individuals who are arbitrarily detained during the protests or in cases that involve human rights violations, to prevent complaints and cover up evidence of torture and cruel treatment. They also reported that obstacles are being imposed on human rights defenders and indicated that 17 public defenders have been dismissed in 2017 for not attending marches convened by the government.

The Commission expressed its concern regarding any actions that could hamper a person’s right to have free legal counsel of his or her own choosing, and reiterated its request for the State’s consent for a visit by the Commission to Venezuela.

3 - Right to Housing in the Region

The organization that requested this regional hearing reported on the challenges related to access to housing in the region, the situation of slums and shantytowns in the countries of the Americas, and the violation of the right to housing and consequently of other economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. According to the information presented, more than 104 million people live in informal settlements in Latin America, with limited access to basic services. The hearing included accounts of cases in Colombia and Mexico, including testimony from residents of the settlements of El Faro, in Medellín, Colombia, and Huertos de Manchay, in Lima, Peru. With regard to Mexico, participants in the hearing underscored the importance for the State to recognize informal settlements and include them in the national census. With regard to Colombia, participants talked about the need to raise awareness about the problem through public policies developed through dialogue and consultation with people who live in slums and shantytowns. The civil society organization asked the Inter-American Commission to urge the OAS Member States to comply with the international treaties they had signed, giving effect to rights already recognized and developing cross-cutting public policies on the right to housing. They also requested that the Commission recognize informal settlements as places of human rights violations and that it prioritize the issue and the people affected by preparing specific reports and recommendations to the States. Finally, the participants asked the IACHR to urge the States to include informal settlements in national counts and census data and to make this information public so that people understand the situation.

For its part, the Inter-American Commission underscored the importance of holding a hearing on economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights such as the right to housing. It also reiterated that States have the responsibility to guarantee the right to decent housing.

4 - Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Colombia

The organization that requested this hearing reported on acts of violence, assaults, attacks, threats, and pressure against journalists from 2016 to the present. It stated that 99.7 percent of killings of journalists go unpunished, as do 100 percent of threats. In terms of the mechanism to protect journalists, the organization characterized the work of the government and its Protection Unit as “reactive” to journalists’ requests, as well as slow and uncoordinated. In this regard, it argued for the need to create a national prevention system that includes the three branches of government. The organization also said there are ongoing serious challenges to safeguarding the right to information in Colombia, especially given the shortage of media outlets. The organization reported that 83 towns in Colombia have no media outlets, meaning that the only source of local information is that provided by the Ministry of Defense via military radio. On another matter, the civil society organization alleged that there is digital censorship in Colombia, in the form of removal of content from the Internet, as well as a lack of protection of rights in the digital environment ever since the application of legislation that allows for communications to be intercepted in intelligence cases without a warrant. The organization that requested the hearing also reported that community radio stations are “suffocating financially” and do not have any local news programming. Finally, the organization referred to the peace process and maintained that it is essential to guarantee that information can flow freely without interference via control of government advertising, and to ensure access to information on the peace process.

For its part, the State confirmed its commitment to freedom of expression and the practice of journalism in Colombia. The Attorney General’s Office reported that it has been complying with the inter-American standards on freedom of expression and working in coordination with civil society organizations to ensure that crimes against journalists are investigated. It also indicated that it established instructions for prosecutors on summoning journalists to testify in criminal investigations, so as to prioritize the protection of freedom of expression and confidentiality of sources. The State recognized that continuing difficulties have been identified from the standpoint of judicial investigations and said that it has designed a “specific strategy” geared toward journalists that allows for more effective investigations. The National Protection Unit reported that it currently has 139 reporters and members of the media under its protection. The State also maintained that it is working through various projects to bridge the digital divide and ensure that people are connected to the Internet, and indicated that it has granted radio frequencies: 669 commercial frequencies, 300 in the public interest, and 625 to community radio stations.

The Commission said it was troubled by the ongoing levels of impunity cited by civil society. For his part, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, expressed his office’s interest in continuing to provide technical support to Colombia to strengthen freedom of expression in the country. The Rapporteur asked for more information regarding reports of cases involving censorship in local areas that are transitioning to peace (Zonas Veredales) and actions planned by the National Prevention Unit to address the situation in areas identified as problematic. Finally, the Special Rapporteur talked about the need to amend the law on broadcasting services, expand implementation of the law on access to public information, and adopt a law regulating government advertising.

5 - Human Rights Situation of Afro-Descendants Affected by the Armed Conflict in Colombia

The organizations that requested this hearing denounced the countless effects of the armed conflict on Afro-descendant populations in Colombia, particularly women and displaced persons. They talked about how these groups are invisible and discussed the failure to implement the “Ethnic Chapter” of the Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace in Colombia. The organizations pointed out that the lack of public policies with an ethnic and gender-based approach has exacerbated the situation of these populations in the country’s Pacific Region. The organizations referred to the civic strike carried out in Buenaventura and indicated that this was a demand for access to sources of employment, housing, drinking water, education, health, and other economic, social, and cultural rights. They alleged that this peaceful protest was suppressed with an excessive use of force by the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD), leaving 19 people with gunshot wounds.

For its part, the State explained that it recognizes the marked impact of the armed conflict on populations of African descent, but pointed to agreements it signed with the Civic Strike Committee in Buenaventura, which include the creation of an investment fund exclusively for priority public works in the region. The State of Colombia also stressed that there are legal mechanisms in place to provide assistance and full reparation to the victims of the internal armed conflict, as well as mechanisms to provide assistance, care, full reparation, and restitution of land for victims who belong to black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero communities.

The IACHR asked the State to provide information on the specific measures it will take to promote access to economic, social, and cultural rights for populations of African descent in the Pacific Region. The Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination reiterated the importance of collecting disaggregated data on the gender and ethnic origin of the victims of excessive use of force in Buenaventura, and reiterated the importance of ensuring the right to peaceful protest for populations of African descent. The Commission called on the State of Colombia to take the necessary measures to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.

6 - Case 12.953 – Juan Carlos Martínez Gil, Colombia

The IACHR held a hearing on the merits in Case No. 12.953, which the alleged victim, Juan Carlos Martínez Gil, gave a statement about the facts related to the case. Mr. Martínez indicated that in June 2007, he was serving as a leader of a teachers’ union, Educadores Unidos de Caldas, and participated in a peaceful public demonstration. He added that in that demonstration he was attacked by a police officer, who shot him in the face, and that as a result of that attack, he had lost his vision in one eye. The petitioning organizations alleged that Colombia is responsible for this attempt on the life and integrity of Mr. Martínez. They indicated that the government authorities have yet to clarify what happened and have not punished those who are responsible.

For its part, the State maintained that it is not responsible for what happened because it adopted the necessary measures on a domestic level to investigate the event, so as to identify and punish those responsible. The Colombian State explained that a criminal proceeding, a disciplinary proceeding, and an adversarial administrative proceeding are all pending.

7 - Human Rights Situation of LGBTI Persons in Mexico

The civil society organizations that requested this hearing denounced the current crisis of violence and insecurity in Mexico, which has a greater effect on groups whose rights have historically been violated, particularly LGBTI persons. The organizations reported that in Mexico, six people are killed every month because of their gender identity and that between 2007 and 2015, there were 283 femicides of trans women. The organizations also indicated that there is a lack of official data on these victims of violence and that the authorities systematically fail to carry out proper investigations using a special, gender-based approach, which leads to high rates of impunity.

The Mexican State pointed to efforts it had made to adopt anti-discrimination measures. In 2014, the law was amended to prohibit gender-related discrimination, including homophobia, misogyny, and other related forms of intolerance. State authorities referred to the creation of the National Program for Equality and Non-Discrimination, which includes a strategy to encourage actions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and establishes measures for police personnel to properly serve the LGBTI community and to not discriminate. The State also mentioned a handbook that was produced on rights of victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

During the hearing, the Commission recognized the progress made by the Mexican State in connection with the rights of LGBTI persons, both at the legal level and in public policy. The IACHR stressed the need for civil society and the government to work together to give effect to already existing laws in Mexico. The Commission also reaffirmed the need for the State to invest efforts in making the principle of non-regression effective in the area of LGBTI rights.

8 - Justice and Impunity in Mexico

During this hearing, the participating civil society organizations alleged that the Mexican justice system is characterized by alarming levels of corruption and impunity. The organizations said that impunity is rooted in the failure to investigate and punish heinous crimes such as torture, forced disappearance, and arbitrary executions. Moreover, they indicated that investigations often include proceedings that are inefficient, insignificant, or delayed, leading to a loss of evidence; that there is a failure to mainstream gender-based perspectives or differentiated impacts on victims; and that the services of independent experts are lacking. The organizations also alleged that the Mexican State is incapable of investigating and punishing the serious crimes it committed in the past. They stressed that to address this problem, it is necessary to have a judiciary that is autonomous and independent from the political powers. The organizations asked the IACHR that it join in the signing of a cooperation agreement to consolidate an advisory council against impunity, which they said should be signed with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the State of Mexico and implemented in a format that allows for the broadest possible participation of civil society.

For its part, the State of Mexico recognized that it faces a significant challenge to bring about the full exercise of human rights in the pursuit and administration of justice. The representatives of the State indicated that Mexico has undertaken unprecedented structural reforms to implement an adversarial legal system, in the face of the enormous challenges posed by violence and organized crime, and that in doing so it has taken into account the justice reform process in countries such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru. With regard to serious human rights violations, the State representatives noted that a plan had been agreed upon to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders and journalists, one that includes mapping risk areas, creating state-level protection units to carry out strategic actions in coordination with the federal mechanism, and drafting a national protocol for the protection of rights defenders.

The Commission commended the State of Mexico’s recognition of the challenges it faces in the area of justice. It questioned the State delegation about the possibility of appointing a group of experts in the field of human rights and the fight against impunity to advise the Mexican State on strategies and reforms to foster the capacities to investigate and prosecute and to reverse the impunity rates prevailing in the country, and expressed the IACHR’s willingness to support the implementation of this recommendation. The Commission also reiterated that the State of Mexico must combat impunity in all levels of government.

9 - Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Ayotzinapa, Mexico

In this hearing, which the IACHR convened on its own initiative, representatives of civil society noted that, following the intervention of the Inter-Disciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its initials in Spanish), the State opened new lines of investigation and established a timeline of activities; nevertheless, they said, the State has not made any progress in determining the whereabouts of the students and it has yet to determine who is responsible. The organizations also informed the Commission about alleged acts of espionage committed by the federal government against representatives of the relatives of the students and members of the GIEI using Pegasus spyware.

For its part, the State maintained that all lines of investigation remain open and that it is committed to meeting the schedule within the times proposed. The State also reported that there has been progress in terms of capturing images in flyovers and analyzing the cell phones of the missing students. It also reported on the results of the expert tests performed on the “fifth bus.” The State also expressed its commitment to investigate the alleged acts of espionage.

The Commission stressed that the State has the obligation to continue investigating and to clarify what happened to the students, making the utmost effort and respecting the proposed timeline. The Commission reported that a questionnaire had been sent to the State in the context of the monitoring being done by the Special Follow-Up Mechanism. In addition, the Commission expressed its concern regarding the allegations of espionage and requested information from the State on the investigation into these incidents. It also reported that it had received a letter from members of the GIEI stating that several members of the group may have been victims of espionage on the part of the Mexican State.

10 - Special Jurisdiction for Peace and Third-Party Responsibility in Colombia

The organizations that requested this hearing voiced their concerns regarding Law No. 1820 of 2016 and Legislative Act No. 01 of 2017 on the implementation of the Peace Agreement. They reported that this legal framework is limiting, as third parties who financed serious human rights violations committed during the armed conflict could be excluded from prosecution by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), or afforded special treatment, if it is not established that their participation was active and decisive. The organizations also discussed the absence of regulations concerning reparations to be paid by companies and business owners for the human rights violations they committed, as well as the high rates of impunity for such violations. The civil society organizations recommended that the Commission speak out about the obligation of the Colombian State to investigate everyone who, while not part of armed groups, bears responsibility for violations, and to safeguard the victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition. They also recommended that the Commission ask the State to provide a report on the status of regulations for implementing the jurisdiction for peace and the measures carried out to safeguard victims’ rights, and that it ask the State to comply with its duty to investigate all those responsible.

The State noted that victims are the crux of the Peace Agreement. It explained that the JEP lays the foundation to identify, prosecute, and punish civilian third parties who had an active or decisive role in the most serious crimes subject to compulsory jurisdiction and to resolve the legal situation of all third parties who bear some responsibility in the crimes and are willing to recognize their participation, whether direct or indirect. The State also indicated that the JEP serves to correct the impunity for crimes by third parties.

For its part, the Commission stressed the importance of guaranteeing that the victims can participate in proceedings before the JEP and indicated that the indirect actions of third parties should be investigated and punished in line with international standards. The Commission also reiterated its support for the peace process and called for continuing efforts to achieve peace in Colombia.

11 - Right to Freedom of Expression and Democracy in Venezuela

The participating civil society organizations denounced a structural pattern of impunity that persists in cases involving violence against journalists in Venezuela. They indicated that in the context of the protests, there has been excessive repression against demonstrators and properly identified reporters and photographers, including the theft of equipment and destruction of reporters’ and photographers’ materials. The organizations reported that in 2017 more than 400 media workers have been injured, arrested, robbed, or harassed while they were covering protest demonstrations in the country. They also reported having documented hundreds of complaints of violations of the right to freedom of expression. The organizations asked that the Commission insist on carrying out an on-site visit to Venezuela and that it address the requests for precautionary measures to protect journalists who are at risk.

For its part, the State delegation argued that there is no systematic pattern of attacks on journalists in Venezuela and that the cases that exist are limited and have occurred in contexts of violence and to control law and order. The State recognized that situations of abuse had occurred in the use of force by security forces against journalists; however, it argued that attacks on journalists are taking place in an area that is not under the control of the national State but rather under the control of opposition authorities. The State further maintained that there is no policy in place to block Internet signals, though there have been specific administrative actions.

The Commission expressed concern over the impact of the political polarization in Venezuela on freedom of expression. The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, referred to the hostility, attacks, and threats against journalists on the part of even high-level officials and called to mind that the State has the obligation to prevent, provide protection, and investigate these cases.

12 - Reports of Human Rights Violations in Venezuela

Private hearing.

13 - Human Rights Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina

The organizations that requested this hearing indicated that the prison system in the province of Buenos Aires is in a state of collapse and is characterized by a critical situation of overcrowding, primarily due to policies of mass incarceration and the excessive use of pretrial detention. The organizations also alleged that police station lockups are used as permanent jails, and they expressed their concern about this situation, since police stations do not have suitable accommodations. According to the information presented by the organizations, in the last five years 43 people have lost their lives in police stations in Buenos Aires province. They also indicated that 3,010 people are currently being held in police jails, where there are only 1,037 beds.

For its part, the State expressed its agreement in the sense that the prison situation requires a political consensus which has yet to be reached. It also pointed to some measures that have been adopted to respond to the prison crisis, including the declaration of a prison emergency, the adoption of protocols for searches, the dismissal of prison authorities, and investment in food and infrastructure.

The Commission reiterated its concern about the situation of people locked up in police jails, a situation that is not compatible with human dignity. The Commission expressed its interest in the State cooperating with civil society to find ways to reduce the use of pretrial detention, such as the application of alternative measures.

14 - Reports of Killings of Women on the Basis of Gender in Argentina (Ex officio)

In this hearing, which the IACHR convened on its own initiative, civil society organizations expressed their concern regarding the high rates of femicides seen in Argentina, which are rooted in inequality and gender-based discrimination. The organizations reported that in 2016, 254 women were killed because of their gender and that of the total number of cases, only 9 percent have resulted in a conviction. They also underscored the situation of particular risk faced by women migrants, who are exposed to diverse situations of violence in transit and at their places of destination.

For its part, the State indicated that eliminating the problem of gender-based violence is part of its political agenda and that its lines of action revolve around a differential approach and intersectionality. The State also reported that the measures it had adopted to address this problem include a national working group, with the participation of the three branches of government; the creation of the strategic litigation area on judicial matters; and the establishment of an observatory to monitor violence against women.

The Commission reiterated its concern about the increase in acts of violence and femicides. It called on the State to diligently investigate such occurrences and to promote the protection and security of victims. The Commission also reiterated to the State that it should—urgently and in cooperation with civil society and other interested parties—intensify its efforts to prevent and eradicate femicides, rapes, and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls.

15 - Human Rights Situation of Venezuelan Migrants, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees in Countries of the Americas

The organizations that requested this regional hearing informed the Commission about the situation of vulnerability of people who have emigrated from Venezuela due to the “humanitarian crisis” the country is experiencing. According to the information they presented, there has recently been a significant increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants who have left the country and headed to other States in Central and South America. They reported an alarming increase in requests for asylum: from 4,000 such requests in 2014 to 34,000 in 2016. The organizations indicated that many States in the region have adopted best practices that have allowed Venezuelans to stay and look for work in their countries; however, they said that such States must take a stronger position on the problem and implement public policies to address it. The organizations alleged that the lack of real information about the number of people who have emigrated contributes to making the problem invisible. They also alleged that in most States in the region there is still a perception that Venezuelans are not refugees and do not need international protection, a position that fails to consider the massive violation of human rights going on in the State of Venezuela. Finally, the civil society organizations made a plea for more solidarity among the States of the region toward Venezuelans.

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, expressed his concern over this situation and asked about whether Venezuelan migrants are able to access justice. The Commission called on the OAS Member States to adopt measures to strengthen mechanisms of shared responsibility with regard to the situation of Venezuelan migrants, while urging them not to adopt measures that would limit or violate the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers from Venezuela.

16 - Case 12.918 – Amafer Guzmán Cruz and Others, Mexico

The IACHR held a hearing on the merits in the case of Amafer Guzmán Cruz and Others, in which Abdellán Guzmán Cruz—one of the alleged victims in the case—testified about the persecution his family suffered beginning in 1974, resulting in the alleged forced disappearance of five of his family members. Guzmán Cruz also indicated that his brother, Alexander Guzmán Cruz, was arrested and tortured and that as a result of these acts of torture he currently suffers from a mental disability. He also indicated that, later on, because of his pursuit of justice, his home had been searched at least three times—in 2008, 2012, and 2015—and that he and some of his family members had received many death threats. The petitioning organizations presented arguments on the merits and reiterated their request to the IACHR that it issue a report on the merits in this case.

For its part, the State partially recognized its international responsibility with regard to some of the human rights violations alleged by the petitioners. It indicated that it has, in general, investigated the facts of the case in accordance with international standards and that it has put into motion various mechanisms to provide comprehensive redress to the alleged victims in the case.   

17 - Reports of Violence and Harassment against Human Rights Defenders in Ecuador

During this hearing, the participating civil society organizations regretted the absence of representatives of the State. They noted that nowadays people in Ecuador who defend human rights experience different situations of vulnerability, not only because of the type of work they do but because of the political, economic, and social context in which they carry out their activities. The organizations that requested the hearing reported that threats and harassment have come from private as well as public actors and that no specialized institution exists for filing complaints when human rights defenders are criminalized or attacked. They also alleged that there is no due diligence or adequate investigation in cases involving violence and harassment against human rights defenders, and said that there is no adequate system for protection. The organizations also said that the crime of attacking or resisting authority is the one most used in criminal prosecutions of rights defenders in Ecuador. In this regard, they asked the IACHR to recommend that the State of Ecuador take any necessary measures at the administrative, legislative, or judicial level to protect the work of human rights defenders in accordance with international standards, especially the creation of safe environments that are conducive to defending human rights. The organizations also asked the Commission to continue following and monitoring the human rights situation in Ecuador, endeavoring to ensure that Ecuadorian civil society has sufficient opportunity to present its complaints and proposals.

After expressing its concern about the State’s failure to appear at the hearing, the IACHR also voiced concern about the information presented by the participating organizations regarding the attacks and threats against human rights defenders in Ecuador. It urged the State to adopt urgent measures to recognize and protect the work of rights defenders.

18 - Extractive Industries and the Right to Cultural Identity of Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador

The government of Ecuador excused itself from participating in the hearing by means of a written report. The organizations that requested the hearing presented information about the impacts of mining and petroleum projects in their territories on the right to their communities’ cultural identity. They alleged that the affected indigenous peoples are not properly consulted when extractive projects are implemented, which causes them irreversible harm. The organizations alleged that, despite a judgment by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that determined that the indigenous community involved must be consulted, the State continues to open bids for oil blocks in the territory of the Kichwa indigenous people of Sarayaku without holding prior consultations. The XI Oil Round, which began in 2012, sought to grant concessions for 21 oil blocks covering more than 2.4 million hectares. But only 7 percent of the affected population had reportedly been consulted. The civil society representatives reported that the Sapara people have been affected since 2015 by incursions into their ancestral territory, without prior consultation, with the intention of ensuring future oil development in an area said to affect 68 percent of the surface of the Sapara territory. The organizations also reported that the Shuar Arutam people currently face one of the most heated disputes in the Shuar territory, over the development of the Panantza-San Carlos copper mining project.

The Commission reaffirmed that prior, free, and informed consultation on issues that affect the territory and way of life of indigenous peoples is a right established in IACHR resolutions, and stressed that it is the duty of the State to ensure that any development initiative or natural resource development project includes the participation of the indigenous peoples involved. The Commission also said that such projects must respect the identity of the indigenous peoples and bring them concrete benefits. The Commission said that the absence of a delegation from the State of Ecuador prevents or severely hampers the IACHR’s ability to fulfill its mandate. For the Inter-American Commission, hearings are an essential mechanism by which to receive information and fulfill the mandate given to it by the States themselves, to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region.

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. 122/17