Press Release

IACHR Presents Overview of the Results Achieved by its Special Follow-Up Mechanisms in 2018

February 8, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented an overview of the results achieved by the special mechanisms for following up on its recommendations in 2018. The IACHR announced that it would continue to strengthen these and work toward establishing new mechanisms as part of its work toward making the Inter-American System of Human Rights (IASHR) more effective.

Two years ago, the IACHR began to establish special mechanisms to follow up on the implementation of its recommendations—a novel practice in the field of international human rights law. In 2016, the IACHR established the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA) to follow up on the precautionary measure granted in favor of the 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in Ayotzinapa and on the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). In 2018, the IACHR extended this practice to the Dominican Republic by creating the Working Group on the Implementation of Public Human Rights Policies to follow up on IACHR recommendations from previous years and the commitments taken on by the state and civil society regarding 12 priority issues. In Nicaragua, following the grave human rights violations that began taking place in response to social protests in the country, the IACHR created the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI). In Ecuador and Colombia, the IACHR and its rapporteurship for freedom of expression established the Special Follow-Up Team to monitor precautionary measure MC-309-18 regarding journalists Javier Ortega Reyes and Paúl Rivas Bravo and worker Efraín Segarra from El Comercio newspaper in Quito, who were murdered on the border between Ecuador and Colombia in April 2018.

The executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, stated that “the Commission seeks to help the countries in the region comply with their international obligations and implement its recommendations in light of inter-American human rights norms and standards. The IACHR’s mechanisms for following up on its recommendations are a novel and effective way of achieving these ends.”

The IACHR is developing the Special Program to Monitor IACHR Recommendations (Program 21) as part of its Strategic Plan 2017–2021, as it believes that improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the recommendations it makes states through its different tools and mechanism is a priority. Some of the results that have been achieved are presented below.

Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA)

The MESA has been following up on precautionary measure MC 409/14 granted in favor of the 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in Ayotzinapa and on the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). On June 6, 2018, MESA presented a Performance Report on its first year in operation. On November 28, 2018, the IACHR presented the Final Report (in Spanish) on the mechanism’s work plan as part of the seventh official IACHR visit to Mexico. The two reports describe the actions taken by the Mexican state to clarify the whereabouts of the missing students through its search for them; the investigation to shed light on the events; the care given to victims and their relatives; and the measures of nonrepetition taken in relation to the horrifying events that took place on the nights of September 26 and 27, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero.

MESA made four visits to Mexico in 2018. The IACHR notes that representatives of the state and the victims took part in the meetings. Spaces for dialogue between the parties involved were also established, which facilitated the exchange of information. Two public hearings and working meetings were also held and questionnaires were sent to Mexican state authorities to assess progress on the investigation, particularly the issues prioritized by the parties included in the precautionary measure, which were part of the action plan. All questionnaires were answered by state authorities in a timely manner. The task of reading the 618 volumes of the legal case was completed, and the IACHR raised additional questions regarding lines of investigation carried out by the state that needed to be expanded on and explored in greater detail. In June 2018, the MESA presented its Performance Report in Washington, DC, in which it published the results of the first stage of its follow-up work on the precautionary measure and the GIEI’s recommendations. In early September 2018, the IACHR visited the Raúl Isidro Burgos School in Ayotzinapa, where it presented the Performance Report to the families of the missing students and the representatives of civil society organizations that are assisting and supporting them. The MESA presented its Final Report to the state, family members, and their representatives in December 2018. This report discusses MESA’s findings and recommendations regarding searches for the students, the investigation into events, and care for victims, as recorded in the Performance Report, and also includes other findings based on the information it received in 2018. Over the years that MESA has been operating, both the victims’ families and civil society have acknowledged its importance and historical value as a way of providing permanent specialized monitoring of the case.

“The Special Mechanism is one of the most representative ways that the IACHR can assist and support victims. We promised the victims’ mothers and fathers that they would not be alone in their search for their children and their quest for justice, and we have stood by that promise,” said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. “The work that the IACHR has been engaged in since the precautionary measure was granted has played a vital part in ensuring that the Ayotzinapa case complies with international standards in the quest for truth, justice, and care for victims,” she added.

Working Groups on the Dominican Republic

In 2018, the IACHR established the Working Group on the Implementation of Public Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic, which is responsible for following up on the recommendations made by the IACHR in its 2015 country report and in Chapter IV of the 2016 Annual Report. This tool complements the IACHR’s strategy and was implemented in response to demands from Dominican civil society for a different approach to the country’s long-standing human rights challenges.

The Working Group covers 12 issues relating to commitments on acquiring citizenship, migration, policies to combat all forms of discrimination, and policies on women’s rights and gender equality. The First Working Group was held on July 24 and 25, 2018, in Washington, DC; the Second Working Group took place on November 20 and 21 in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. The IACHR praised the creation and consolidation of this space that civil society can play a part in, along with state authorities, in order to work on proposals relating to the issues listed above. It also acknowledged the unprecedented, frank, productive dialogue between the state and civil society regarding the progress made on implementing recommendations regarding the human rights situation in the Dominican Republic and the challenges still being faced. The IACHR will publish these results in Chapter V of its 2018 Annual Report. The IACHR wishes to remind the Dominican state of the importance of maintaining regular dialogue with civil society in the spirit of making headway on the commitments it has taken on with the Working Group.

“Adding this mechanism to the IACHR’s existing mandates has been an essential part of the support and assistance we offer Dominican civil society and the technical cooperation we provide Dominican state authorities on issues that are a priority for the country,” said Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, rapporteur for the Dominican Republic. “The state’s openness to this initiative and the results that have been achieved have been fundamental for drawing the attention of other countries in the region to the importance of this approach,” he added.

IACHR president Margarette May Macaulay commented that “this initiative sets a major precedent because it shows that implementing IACHR recommendations is a task that includes state authorities, civil society, and the Commission itself. In the long term, these strategies will undoubtedly contribute to promoting and consolidating public human rights policies as a state agenda.”

Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI)

On June 24, 2018, the IACHR established the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) in Managua. It now represents the longest field mission ever deployed in the history of the IACHR. Over the course of six months, the on-site operation of the mechanism kept the international community informed of the developments in the human rights crisis that has been unfolding in Nicaragua since April 18, 2018. More importantly, it has provided support and assistance for Nicaraguans during this serious human rights crisis and the rapid decline of the rule of law in the country. This was achieved by monitoring the situation, following up on recommendations and precautionary measures, and providing capacity building for civil society.

MESENI permanently monitors the human rights situation in Nicaragua for purposes that are relevant to the IACHR’s mandate. As part of this mechanism, the IACHR carried out six technical visits and four working visits to Nicaragua in 2018. In July, country rapporteur Commissioner Antonia Urrejola visited Managua to set up the mechanism and the GIEI; Commissioner Joel Hernández, the rapporteur on persons deprived of liberty, visited Nicaragua from September 18 to 20 to learn more about the predicament of people who are still being deprived of their freedom in the country; and Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, the rapporteur on the rights of migrants, paid a working visit to Costa Rica to monitor the situation of Nicaraguan asylum-seekers and people in need of international protection. From October 25 to 27, IACHR president Margarette May Macaulay visited the country, where she observed how the rights of women, human rights defenders, and people of African descent were being affected.

MESENI monitors compliance with the 67 precautionary measures granted during 2018 to people whose lives or physical integrity are currently at serious risk. It also follows up on the recommendations made by the IACHR in its Preliminary Observations and in the Final Report on its visit to the country between May 17 and 21, 2018. During its time in the field, the MESENI recorded first-hand the serious human rights situation in the country and carried out rigorous technical work to consolidate the data that the IACHR has recorded and published, which has also played a fundamental part in the monitoring work that the political bodies of the Organization of American States (OAS) are engaged in. Based on MESENI’s work, the IACHR reported on the situation in Nicaragua through 28 press releases and four reports that it submitted to the OAS Permanent Council.

As part of its mandate, MESENI provided technical assistance in the field to the Verification and Security Commission (VSC) established in the National Dialogue Agreement. It provided support for the VSC in connection with the release of 65 people who were arrested during the protests in the country and was part of three observation missions to the Jinotepe, Juigalpa, and Masaya blockades. Through MESENI, the IACHR promoted capacity building on international human rights standards for Nicaraguan civil society. The technical team carried out nine training events in Managua, Matagalpa, and Costa Rica, which 273 people took part in.

On December 19, the state of Nicaragua informed the IACHR of its decision to temporarily suspend MESENI’s operations in Nicaragua and IACHR visits to the country from that point on. In its statement, the IACHR reported that MESENI continues to monitor the human rights situation in Nicaragua from its headquarters in Washington to guarantee the protection of people’s lives and physical integrity and to defend the Nicaraguan people’s freedom of expression. To this end, it remains in permanent contact with civil society organizations, social movements, state authorities, and the victims of human rights violations.

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was the first organization to reach Nicaragua and put the state’s serious repression of social protest on the public agenda. Creating MESENI and working in the field has enabled as to keep international attention on the country throughout this time,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, rapporteur for Nicaragua. “Establishing MESENI to provide support for the National Dialogue and having it operate first in Nicaragua and now from our headquarters was a response from the IACHR to demands from Nicaraguan society. I want to reassure Nicaraguans that they are not alone and that we are still hard at work,” Rapporteur Urrejola said.

Commissioner Joel Hernández noted that “the Nicaraguan authorities’ decision to allow the IACHR to visit the country and facilitate the creation and operation of MESENI was very positive. We are thus entirely willing to dialogue with the state of Nicaragua in order to resume the IACHR’s activities in the country. Openness to international scrutiny plays a positive part in guaranteeing any democracy.”

Special Monitoring Team (SSM)

On July 25, the IACHR and its rapporteurship for freedom of expression established the Special Follow-Up Team (ESE) in Quito to follow up on precautionary measure MC-309-18 regarding journalists Javier Ortega Reyes and Paúl Rivas Bravo and worker Efraín Segarra from El Comercio newspaper, who were murdered on the border between Ecuador and Colombia in April 2018.

The ESE agreed on a work plan with the states of Colombia and Ecuador, in consultation with the victims’ families and their representatives. It also held working meetings with stakeholders at the IACHR headquarters on June 15, 2018. The ESE and the special rapporteur for freedom of expression also paid a working visit to Ecuador between July 24 and 27, 2018. The ESE then visited Colombia from September 24 to 26, 2018. In compliance with the ESE’s objectives, particularly providing technical advice and monitoring the progress of the investigation and punishment of the events in question, the ESE and the IACHR have reviewed the initiatives being implemented separately in Ecuador and Colombia to achieve this and have made specific recommendations on these. The IACHR wishes to thank both states and the civil society organizations that are monitoring the process for their assistance and cooperation.

Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, rapporteur for Colombia, stated that “the ESE is a response to requests from the victims’ families and representatives regarding their need to play a part in the investigations into the events and to have first-hand knowledge of the actions taken by the states of Colombia and Ecuador to clarify what took place.” Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the rapporteur for Ecuador, stated that “the ESE has been an exemplary form of specialized follow-up that has assisted the investigation into complex crimes and events that should not go unpunished. It has also allowed the victims’ families and society to be fully involved so that they can fully understand what actually took place.”

The IACHR special rapporteur for freedom of expression, Edison Lanza, noted that “one of the most valuable aspects of this mechanism is that its main objective is to support the victims’ families and respond to their needs.”

In the IACHR’s view, the special follow-up mechanisms favor a more holistic analysis of the IACHR’s decisions and recommendations, give the international community access to up-to-date information on specific situations or cases, benefit the IACHR’s presence in the field, favor systematic regular follow-up on priority issues, open up dialogue with the parties concerned, and facilitate the quest for concerted solutions. The outcome of this is in-depth, specialized follow-up activities on the part of the IACHR regarding compliance with the human rights-related commitments and obligations that states have taken on. The IACHR acknowledges that it is important for it to continue improving the way these mechanisms function to ensure it is providing effective follow-up for the different human rights situations and predicaments in the region.

The IACHR acknowledges the trust that states have placed in it to establish and implement these special follow-up mechanisms, which are based on openness, dialogue, and technical cooperation with the IACHR in order to comply with the human rights-related obligations that they have voluntarily committed to. Similarly, the IACHR appreciates and values the involvement of civil society in creating and strengthening these processes, which seek to ensure that states implement recommendations promptly, effectively, and efficiently. It also welcomes civil society’s insistence on the importance of the special mechanisms and its desire for them to continue providing support for human rights agendas in the Americas.

In 2019, the IACHR will continue implementing innovative programs and mechanisms to promote effective follow-up on its recommendations. To this end, it hopes to maintain constructive channels of dialogue with states, civil society, and all stakeholders involved in the IASHR.

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. 029/19