Press Release

IACHR achieves historical results in 2017 and presents its progress report on the first year of the Strategic Plan

March 12, 2018

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Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) approved its first partial report on the implementation of its 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, achieving in 2017 important results related to the reduction of the procedural delay of petitions and cases, to the improvement of its monitoring work, to the strengthening of its functions of technical cooperation and promotion. In addition, promoted measures to expand its protection capacity, such as the expansion of its budget of the Regular Fund of the Organization of American States (OAS), the change in the administrative structure and the preparation of the Financial Sustainability Plan; which will allow following with renewed steps the fulfillment of the integral mandate. A relevant stamp of the year was the expansion of channels and spaces for civil society participation in the duties and activities of the IACHR and the emphasis on the protection of human rights defenders.

In 2017, the IACHR approved its work agenda based on its second Strategic Plan, following an extensive process of participatory consultations with civil society, States and experts in the Inter-American Human Rights System. The Strategic Plan has as its main foundation the articulated and integrated use of the mandates of the IACHR - protection, monitoring and technical cooperation – with the purpose of achieving more effectiveness of the Inter-American Human Rights System, in the face of a regional environment of risks of setbacks and particular challenges for compliance with the recommendations of the organs of the system. Likewise, the General Assembly of the OAS  approved the duplication  of the IACHR's budget in three years and a new administrative structure for the organ. With the new structure, which has two Assistant Executive Secretariats, the capacity of supervision of the work of the IACHR was doubled, and new specialized sections were created seeking a better and more efficient response to the users of the Inter-American Human Rights System.

These three structural achievements have allowed the IACHR to set up the conditions to continue seeking the fulfill its integral mandate, prioritizing the reduction of the procedural delay without prejudice to the expansion of its monitoring, promotion and technical cooperation actions to the States and Civil Society. Essentially complementary actions to increase the levels of protection for the citizens of the region.

In relation to the Strategic Objective linked to the strengthening of its system of petitions and cases, friendly settlelments and precautionary measures, the IACHR approved 120 admissibility reports throughout the year, which constituted a historic record; 35 fund reports, which is more than double of those approved the previous year; 5 friendly settlement reports; and granted 45 precautionary measures. Likewise, the number of petitions in the initial study stage was reduced to a historical minimum; and 100% of the petitions received the previous year were evaluated. In this way, the IACHR reached the objectives of the year for the reduction of procedural delay.

The Special Program for the Reduction of Procedural Delay - Program 1 of the Strategic Plan - has systematized all the measures that were already underway in the second half of 2016; and added new measures, such as the strict application of the requirements for opening proceedings, the reduction in the number of requests for information, and the application of a policy of deactivating petitions without activity of the petitioner. Likewise, a set of complementary actions to the Action Plan of the Procedural Delay Program of the Strategic Plan were approved in August of 2017, as for example, in the admissibility phase, the use of a new model of shorter admissibility report; measures to reduce the factual framework and the size of the reports seeking to simplify the merits reports on recurring themes, which are the majority of the existing portfolio at IACHR; besides the specialization in work portfolios and the use of the figure of accumulation. It was also decided, as a general rule, to reduce the requests for observations to the parties to a maximum of two occasions, both for the merits reports and the admissibility reports. All these changes seek to significantly increase the production of reports on merits or merits of the cases before the IACHR, as well as to preserve an adequate factual framework so as not to close, a priori, the possibility of presenting cases to the Inter-American Court.

Additionally, the IACHR created a Processing Unit in September 2017 with new personnel hiring, which centralizes the processing of petitions and cases in the different procedural stages. This allows the legal teams to dedicate themselves exclusively to the preparation of the legal analysis and the preparation of reports. This Unit is also in charge of the elaboration and updating of protocols, instructions and guides; and the creation of new tools and generation of statistics related to the system of petitions and cases, through which it is intended to improve the possibilities of collecting and producing relevant information for the users of the system.

Thereby, in 2017, the IACHR made the initial evaluation of the 2,661 petitions received in 2016, achieving the objective of ensuring that 100% of the received in the immediately preceding year has an initial evaluation. It is the second consecutive year that the IACHR achieves this objective. In addition, it was continued the analysis of the requests received in previous years that had been evaluated once and on which it had been decided to request additional information, achieving a reduction of 58% of the requests in this situation compared to two years ago. In 2015 there were 9,673 petitions in the initial study stage, and at the end of 2017 this number was reduced to 4,012.

In addition, throughout 2017 the IACHR approved 120 admissibility reports (114 admissibility reports and 6 inadmissibility reports), being the largest number of reports adopted in the IACHR's history. The 120 reports cover 129 petitions, given that three reports accumulated two or more petitions. In relation to the previous year, an increase of 167% was registered, since in that period 45 reports on admissibility were adopted. The IACHR exceeded by 95% the average of the last 10 years and by 45% the previous historical record, which had been reached in 2010.

On the other hand, a very relevant result was the beginning of the gradual implementation of Resolution No. 1/16 and the continuation of the archives policy. The implementation of Resolution No. 1/16 aims to accelerate all petitions that are under processing at the IACHR since 2006 or before, accumulating the admissibility and merits stages, allowing these older cases to enter to the priority order of resolution for the next years. Thus, in the year 2017, 335 requests left the admissibility stage: 129 through admissibility reports; 119 by the application of Resolution No. 1/16; and 87 through archive decisions.

Moreover, in 2017 the Commission facilitated the friendly settlement procedure in 124 cases of which 60 are in the admissibility stage and 64 are in the merits stage. Of this total, 46 have friendly settlement agreements subscribed between the parties, which are in the process of implementation. Throughout the year, the IACHR adopted 5 friendly settlement reports through which the IACHR approved the agreements between the parties and took into account the results achieved. At the same time, the IACHR facilitated 54 work meetings with the participation of States, petitioners and victims, on issues at various stages of negotiation or implementation of friendly settlement agreements. It is a historical record of work meetings held, an important indicator of the increase in the use of the mechanism. The meetings were held within the framework of the sessions of the IACHR, as well as in 5 work visits conducted specifically to boost the negotiations. In addition, a practical guide on friendly settlements process was published, and two meetings of experts were held on negotiation and implementation of friendly settlements and of recommendations, as well as two training workshops for civil society and for State representatives.

Additionally, in 2017 the IACHR adopted 35 reports on merits, that is, more than double the reports approved the previous year. This represents an increase of 119% compared to 2016, when 16 reports on merits were adopted; and exceeds by 84% the average of approved merits reports in the last 10 years. During that year, 52 cases came out of the merits stage: 35 through merits reports; and 17 for archive decisions. Among the approved measures that allowed this advance, the use of the figure of accumulation, the specialization according to thematic and the simplification of the report format stand out.

The Commission published 5 merits reports over the past year. Three of them, concerning to Colombia, were published after verifying substantive progress was made in complying with the recommendations of the Commission, and one case concerning to Ecuador was published in full compliance with the recommendations. The fifth report published corresponds to a case concerning to the United States. Through these reports, standards on protection of defenders of human rights, enforced disappearance, judicial protection and the death penalty were deepened.

Regarding the work of the Commission before the Inter-American Court, in 2017 the Commission sent 18 contentious cases: 5 regarding Guatemala, 4 about Peru, 3 about Argentina, 2 about Venezuela, 1 about El Salvador, 1 about Honduras, 1 about Chile and 1 on Paraguay. These cases address issues related to judicial independence, torture, enforced disappearance, the death penalty, the use of force, human rights defenders, including trade unionists and environmentalists, the right to judicial protection in respect of pensions, freedom of expression, and the right to reparation in face of serious human rights violations, due criminal and administrative process and preventive detention.

In addition, the Commission submitted four requests for provisional measures to the Court during 2017, with respect to Mexico, Argentina, Nicaragua and Brazil, two of them related to indigenous peoples and two regarding persons deprived of their liberty. The four measures were granted by the Court and are in force. Through the request in case No. 3/17 of Argentina, important advances were achieved in terms of protection through this mechanism with respect to persons deprived of liberty, with emphasis on the assessment of mental health as a decisive element.

A request for Advisory Opinion to the Court on democracy and human rights in the context of political trials was also presented during 2017. The purpose of the request is to promote an analysis and interpretation of the Inter-American Court on the inextricable relationship between democracy and human rights, specifically on issues related to due process rights, the principle of legality, political rights and judicial protection in this type of procedures.

Finally, in 2017 the Commission appeared in its conventional role before the Court in 15 public hearings on contentious cases, 5 hearings to monitor compliance with the judgment, 3 hearings on requests for advisory opinions and 3 hearings on provisional measures. It also presented to the Court 126 briefs of observations to State reports on supervision of compliance with sentence and 37 briefs on follow-up of provisional measures.

With the objective of improving the management and specialization in the analysis of the requests, as well as the monitoring of the current measures, the Commission decided to convert the Protective Group into a Section of Precautionary Measures and reinforced the recruitment of personnel within the Assistant Executive Secretary for the System of Cases, Petitions and Precautionary Measures.

With regard to protection measures, in 2017, the Commission adopted 45 resolutions of granting protection to individuals or groups of people who are at risk of irreparable damage. In addition, the Commission decided on 5 extensions of existing precautionary measures and 3 removal decisions. It convened 40 work sessions on compliance with current precautionary measures within its sessions and 7 as part of visits made by Country Rapporteurs in order to identify and solve difficulties in its implementation. Likewise, two work visits were made in relation to precautionary measures in process. The Commission received 1,037 requests for new precautionary measures in 2017, a figure similar to 2016. All applications received in 2017 were analyzed and classified. Likewise, by December the legal evaluation of 94% of the applications received during the year was made.

In addition, throughout 2017, the IACHR implemented various adjustments in its work protocol to facilitate and expedite decision-making regarding precautionary measures, including more expedited consultation strategies, the handling of requests and precautionary measures granted through portfolios, and the prioritization in the evaluation of applications that show signs of greater urgency. The IACHR adopted a series of measures designed to expedite decision-making regarding requests that do not clearly comply with the requirements established in Article 25 of the Regulations, do not have up-to-date information, or have prolonged inactivity because of the lack of presentation of additional information by the applicant.

Regarding Objective 2 of the Strategic Plan, which refers to the supervision of the human rights situation in the region, the IACHR adopted in 2017 an important multidimensional strategy, integrating its work of geographic monitoring and priority themes with a view of an articulated use of mechanisms and functions of the IACHR for a better capacity of monitoring and coordination of relevant, timely and adequate responses. In addition, sought to relieve inter-sectoral work, reinforcing the intersectional perspective of gender and diversity in the activities of the Commission. The integration, in terms of structure, was followed by a process of standardization and harmonization of work flows, processes and instruments, as well as the preparation of protocols, which will continue in 2018. The new Assistant Executive Secretary for Monitoring, Promotion, Technical Cooperation and Follow-up of Recommendations was also reinforced with new personnel, hiring a professional for each thematic Rapporteurship, which has allowed achieving a better thematic balance in the work of the IACHR. Each thematic report has developed an own action plan and has a minimum floor of financing.

In 2017, the IACHR created three new areas or thematic attention units: memory, truth and justice; right of the elderly; and rights of people with disabilities. Another important achievement was the launching of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights with the public selection of its first Special Rapporteur. The IACHR has also renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, which celebrates its 20 years of existence.

The reinforcement and change of the monitoring model expanded the IACHR's capacity to monitor the human rights situation, make problematics visible, request information on human rights measures and make recommendations to the States. In fact, in 2017, the IACHR issued 42 letters requesting information from States in the region. The IACHR reached a record number of 222 press releases, of which 161 are related to the monitoring of the human rights situation in the region, in relation to countries and thematic priorities of the IACHR. This result has broadened the IACHR's position in favor of human rights in the region. Of these, 20 were joint bodies of the United Nations, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (the headquarters and its regional representations); the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and special rapporteurs.

As a result of this effort to broaden the scope of the monitoring functions for the protection of the people of the Americas, the Commission developed and approved seven thematic reports to update, develop and establish novel human rights standards. In particular, the IACHR carried out diagnoses, established standards and formulated recommendations on the matter of human rights of indigenous women; the reduction of the use of preventive detention, particularly in relation to the criminal policy on drugs; poverty and human rights; national systems for the protection of children's rights; and effective policies of integral protection for human rights defenders and basic guidelines for the investigation of violations that affect them. In addition, the Commission, through its various instruments, advanced standards in corruption and human rights; forced evictions and internal displacement; the right to request and receive asylum; and the state obligation of investment in childhood. Additionally, it was pronounced on novel topics related to natural disasters and climate change; violence related to firearms; hate speech; the rights of the elderly; the sexual and reproductive rights of women; the guarantees of the rights of afro descendant people; and the respect and guarantee of the rights of LGBTI persons.

The Inter-American Commission held six working visits in 2017 to the following countries in the region: Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. Likewise, it also made an on-site visit to Guatemala, with the objective of observing the human rights situation in the country on the ground; it published its preliminary observations and approved a report with recommendations to the Guatemalan State. Likewise, it held 130 public hearings (compared to 102 hearings in 2016), another record in its history, which, in practice, meant an expansion of the Civil Society space to present its issues, concerns and complaints. Of these, 125 public hearings were related to the monitoring functions of the IACHR and the follow-up on its recommendations, made by direct demands of Civil Society.

In order to better deal with emerging situations and expand its protection measures, the IACHR strengthened its internal mechanisms of rapid and integrated response aimed at preventing possible violations of rights and protecting those who might face a risk with the creation and installation of the Coordination and Timely and Integrated Response Room (SACROI) foreseen in the new Strategic Plan. The SACROIs were activated in urgent situations with respect to six countries in the region. For example, through the Coordination Chamber for Venezuela, the IACHR coordinated to respond to the critical and alarming situation in that country, with the issuance of 20 press releases, the request for information through letters article 18 of the American Declaration on the Duties and Rights of Man, the identification of precautionary measures for their rapid evaluation, the convening of public hearings, the preparation of technical notes to inform the region and also the preparation of the Country Report, in view of the repeated denials of the State to accept a country visit.

On the other hand, to promote democracy, human dignity, equality, justice and fundamental freedoms in the terms of its Strategic Objective 3, the IACHR strengthened its promotion and training activities on the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) in the hemisphere throughout 2017.

In order to promote greater understanding and understanding in civil society, networks of social actors and in the Member States of human rights standards, various awareness and prevention campaigns were carried out. The Inter-American human rights standards generated in the thematic reports were disseminated through campaigns on the Commission's social networks. For example, the dissemination of the reports on Freedom of Expression in Chile, on Indigenous Women, on Poverty and Human Rights and on Pretrial Detention reached more than 5 million people on social media.

Regarding training, 454 people participated in the different courses and workshops held or sponsored directly by the IACHR. 146 promotional activities were carried out in order to disseminate the standards of the IAHRS and to develop the performance capacities of public officials and organizations and networks of social and academic actors in the defense of human rights. In December 2017, the IACHR, together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, held its first IAHRS Forum. Held in Washington, D.C., the Forum was attended by 507 people, in its 24 parallel events, in order to promote and disseminate a culture of respect for human rights in the region. In carrying out these activities, the Commission strengthened its collaboration with civil society organizations, regional and international institutions and States.

Additionally, the IACHR created a Program of Attention and Collaboration with the Caribbean and Central America. The Commission implemented the Project on Democracy and Human Rights in the Northern Triangle, carried out in conjunction with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). During the first year of the execution of the project, 219 people were trained, including state officials, civil society representatives and ombudspersons. With respect to the Caribbean, the IACHR held 3 training events for officials of the Caribbean missions to the OAS and created an Advisory for Caribbean Affairs that succeeded in preparing a specific Action Plan for the region.

One of the main focuses of action of the IACHR in 2017 was the expansion of mechanisms of collaboration and social participation with academia and civil society. During the year, 9 regional consultations were held to define the priorities of the Commission: four regional meetings for the preparation of its Strategic Plan; two social consultations to build the agenda of the new Thematic Units; a social consultation on human rights defenders; and a meeting with civil society to define the strategic agenda of the new DESCA Rapporteurship. In addition to a questionnaire for the preparation of the Report on LGBTI people in the Americas. There were also 12 meetings with Civil Society during the Period of Sessions and with the NGO Coalition to render accounts, and receive contributions and suggestions to the work of the Commission. The IACHR also worked in 2017 to strengthen ties with universities in the region and signed five new agreements for academic exchanges, training and dissemination of the IAHRS.

In 2017, the IACHR expanded its collaboration with United Nations bodies in a significant manner, holding exchange meetings, publishing joint communications and inviting experts to collaborate in its hearings. During 2017, 18 activities were carried out jointly, including the collaboration to the on-site visit to Guatemala and joint visits of rapporteurs of the two bodies. 20 joint communiqués were issued, especially regarding the protection of defenders of human rights, freedom of expression, refugees, indigenous peoples and women's rights. The IACHR also collaborated with the Universal System through the submission of contributions to the Universal Periodic Review on Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Canada and Colombia. A joint workshop on corruption and human rights was also held.

The Commission and the UN Office for Human Rights initiated a new and deeper cooperation plan to address one of the most pressing problems in the region: the protection of human rights defenders. In the framework of the 165 Period of Sessions of the IACHR held in Montevideo, Uruguay, the President of the IACHR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights launched the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.

The IACHR also strengthened the collaboration and the exchange with the African System of Human Rights and granted a special work commission to the Press Office to provide on-site advice to the Commission and the African Court, as part of a project to Strengthen the African System. Together with the African Commission, the IACHR presented its report on extractive industries in 3 UN events.

The protection of human rights defenders was at the center of the priorities of the Commission's work in 2017. In addition to building a Joint Actions Mechanism with the UN, the IACHR has contracted 2 new professionals for its section on Precautionary Measures and 1 specialist responsible for the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders. The IACHR approved a new thematic report on the protection of human rights defenders and provided technical assistance for the construction of guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders for the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. Alongside civil society, the IACHR has promoted an important meeting with environmental and land leaders from Asia, Africa and America in a three-day training during the Period of Sessions in Uruguay.

The articulation and harmonization with the Inter-American Court was also a central axis in 2017, for which a Working Group of the respective executive boards and Executive Secretaries of each body was installed, which met on three occasions. Through these meetings, dialogue was promoted on the challenges, priorities, harmonization of calendars and coordination within the framework of the ISHR. The IACHR participated in 26 hearings before the Court and presented 163 briefs of information. After 10 years, the IACHR submitted a request for an Advisory Opinion to the Inter-American Court, in addition to the joint realization of the First Forum of the Inter-American Human Rights System.

As for the inter-American normative framework, it should be noted that in 2017 the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance entered into force. The IACHR has incorporated the dissemination of these two instruments into its work plans.

Within the framework of its special follow-up program of recommendations, an important innovation was the creation of a Specialized Section in Follow-up of Recommendations. Likewise, it also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Paraguay for the exchange of experiences and reciprocal technical cooperation and support for the establishment of the Inter-American System for Monitoring Recommendations of the IACHR (SIMORE).

During 2017, the IACHR consolidated the Follow-up Mechanism of the Ayotzinapa case, and continued to carry out the corresponding activities within the Follow-up Mechanism to the precautionary measure granted in favor of the students of the rural school "Raúl Isidro Burgos" of Ayotzinapa (MC 409 -14) and regarding the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), with three official visits and 12 technical visits to Mexico.

The IACHR also approved the creation of a Working Table to follow up on the implementation of Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic, to move forward with commitments, recommendations and lines of work related to the rights of nationality and regularization of migrants, the rights of women and policies against discrimination and xenophobia against people of African descent.

In terms of its capacity for deliberation and hearing, in 2017 the IACHR held six sessions, which represented a milestone in its history and more public presence in the region, since four of them took place outside its headquarters, namely in Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Uruguay, which allowed the participation of civil society organizations at the local level, created spaces for direct contact and approach with victims, and disseminated and democratized the access to the Inter-American System.

In sum, the IACHR took important steps in the modernization of its management, with the approval and implementation of its Strategic Plan 2017-2021, prepared with the participation of multiple actors; with the design of organizational instruments necessary for its management; with the restructuring of the Executive Secretariat, with a more integrated administrative structure, with elements of administration based on results, and modernizing its operation, giving greater horizontality and agility to the institutional organization chart; with the mapping of processes and the training of key personnel in management by results. It also took important steps towards its financial sustainability, based on the decision of the OAS General Assembly in 2017 to increase the budget; as well as through the elaboration of a sustainability plan that details the way for the IACHR to reach that goal. The Strategic Plan, together with the new administrative structure and the duplication of the Regular Fund budget, represent important achievements regarding the institutional stability of the IACHR. In 2017, we sought to maintain a renewed dialogue with the various donors that contribute to the work of the IACHR, improve its internal processes for the achievement and administration of resources, and implement management for results. The IACHR thanks all donors for their indispensable and fundamental support.

Finally, within the framework of an accountability practice, the IACHR presents these results of the first year of implementation of its Strategic Plan and a balance of its activities in 2017 to public scrutiny. The complete document with the balance of the first year of execution of the Strategic Plan can be accessed here. The IACHR evaluates that this balance points to significant structural achievements that allow affirming that the implementation of this first year of the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan has been satisfactory and is fulfilling its ultimate goal of contributing to the effectiveness of the Inter-American Human Rights System, as a pillar and common commitment of the Americas. Suggestions and comments can be sent to [email protected]. The IACHR thanks the inter-American civil society of human rights, the member States and observers of the OAS, international and regional organizations, as well as the team of its Executive Secretary.

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. 045/18