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IACHR presents balance, impacts and results achieved by its Coordination and Timely Integrated Crisis Response Room for the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 16, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presents the balance of actions taken and the results and impacts achieved through its Coordination and Timely Integrated Crisis Response for the COVID-19 Pandemic (SACROI-COVID-19). Since its inception, SACROI COVID-19 drafted Resolution 1/2020 on Pandemic and Human Rights which contains 85 recommendations to the States of the region; it has issued 17 press releases on the human rights situation in the context of the pandemic with a country or thematic focus; 33 newsletters; 5 social forums and three webinars or virtual seminars, among other results.

On March 27, 2020, the IACHR announced the installation of its Coordination and Timely Integrated Response Room to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis (SACROI COVID-19) to strengthen the IACHR's institutional capacities for the protection and defense of fundamental freedoms and human rights in this context. The SACROI COVID-19 is directed by the IACHR's Board of Directors and coordinated by the IACHR's Executive Sexccretariat, with the participation of the Special Rapporteurships for Freedom of Expression and for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights. The creation of the SACROI COVID-19 was part of a strategy already initiated by the Commission to monitor and closely follow up on the effects on the human rights of populations and groups in situations of vulnerability in the context of the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Following its creation, the IACHR approved the SACROI COVID-19 work plan, which consisted, inter alia, of monitoring and analyzing the state measures adopted to address the pandemic, as well as formulating recommendations to the states of the region for the effective protection and defense of human rights in the context of COVID-19; the constant review and evaluation of all requests for precautionary measures, with special attention to those that allege a situation of risk to rights as a result of exposure to COVID-19; strengthening the capacities of states and civil society in the region regarding the inter-American standards applicable to the protection of human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; and working to exchange information and coordinate with international organizations and civil society.

The first priority objective of the SACROI COVID-19 was to prepare Resolution No. 1/2020 on Pandemics and Human Rights, adopted by the IACHR on April 10, 2020. This Resolution is a comprehensive approach by the Commission to the situation of the pandemic, which sets out the standards of the Inter-American Human Rights System and formulates a set of recommendations to the states of the region for addressing the COVID-19 from a human rights perspective.

In this regard, the Resolution calls on the OAS member states to immediately and transversally adopt a human rights-centered approach in any strategy, policy, or state measure aimed at confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, including plans for social and economic recovery that are formulated, which must be consistent with unrestricted respect for inter-American and international human rights standards, particularly the right to health and other ESC rights; ensuring the functioning of the State's public powers. Likewise, the Resolution states that measures that result in restrictions of rights or guarantees must conform to the "pro person" principles of proportionality, temporality, and must seek strict compliance with public health and comprehensive protection objectives.

In addition, since the installation of the SACROI COVID-19, the Commission has issued 17 press releases on the human rights situation in the context of the pandemic with a country or thematic focus and recommendations to States. In this regard, the IACHR has expressed special concern about the situation of persons deprived of liberty; persons with disabilities; women; migrants, refugees, and displaced persons; LGBTI persons; the elderly; children and adolescents; Afro-descendants; indigenous peoples; and human rights defenders; the rights of relatives of persons who died in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; as well as the general situation in Nicaragua and Venezuela. In conjunction with its Special Rapporteurships on Freedom of Expression and on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, the IACHR issued an opinion on the exceptional measures adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic; restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information; and the comprehensive protection of human rights and public health. The IACHR also announced an extension of the suspension for an additional month of its deadlines for the system of petitions, cases, and remedies for the health emergency caused by COVID-19.

Within the framework of the SACROI COVID-19 Work Plan, public communication has been strengthened as a fundamental axis of support for the dissemination of public statements and declarations on the standards, defense and protection of human rights. In this regard, 17 press releases and 250 tweets on COVID-19 have been disseminated. Dissemination and awareness-raising campaigns have also been carried out based on the content of the press releases, with the production of audiovisuals on persons deprived of liberty, women, migrants and indigenous peoples, as well as other thematic communication tools.

The development and publication of the SACROI COVID-19 multimedia site contains strategic information on the pandemic such as the measures adopted by the states of the region, Resolution 1/2020 and the daily news bulletins produced with information published in the media referring to the national and regional situation; it also contains statistics on the cases of COVI-19 regionally and worldwide based on official data collected by specialized institutions in the field. Resolution 1/2020 on Pandemic and Human Rights had a reach of 350 thousand impressions (reaching users of the official IACHR accounts on social networks). The pronouncements and communications reached more than 1.2 million impressions. In addition, more than 30 interviews were conducted with the media on various topics related to the pandemic, in order to contribute to the media agenda from a human rights perspective.

Furthermore, direct dialogue with States is a key aspect of the functioning of the SACROI COVID-19. With a view to strengthening the channels of dialogue in the context of the pandemic, the IACHR has held meetings with the regional groups of the OAS and is currently initiating bilateral dialogues with a number of states. The purpose of these forums is to learn about the issues of concern to the states in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the measures being implemented in the various countries to protect human rights.

The participation of civil society is also a central element in the functioning of the SACROI COVID-19, in line with the efforts being made by the IACHR to broaden and deepen this participation in the fulfilment of its mandate to promote and protect human rights and in the framework of the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2017-2021.

Accordingly, the SACROI COVID-19 has held five social forums with civil society organizations from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Colombia and Peru. These social forums, spaces for direct dialogue between the IACHR and civil society, have had the objectives, among others, of disseminating the IACHR's activities within the SACROI framework; receiving updated information on the human rights situation in each of the countries; monitoring the actions taken by the States to address the pandemic and its various impacts; and following up on the recommendations made in Resolution 1/2020. Further social forums are planned with organizations from other countries in the coming weeks.

In addition, three webinars have been held on the role of the IACHR in the context of the pandemic, the human rights situation in Venezuela, and the role of the National Human Rights Institutions in this context. The IACHR has approved a schedule that provides for two weekly webinars to be held in the coming months.

With regard to precautionary measures, as of May 11, 2020, the IACHR has received 106 requests for precautionary measures related to the SAR-CoV2 virus, which represents 26.5% of the 2020 portfolio. The first request on the matter was received on March 15, 2020. The 106 applications received in less than two months represent about 60% of new applications in that period.

As for the geographic distribution of the applications, they were received from 16 countries (1 opened ex officio by the IACHR on Chile). The countries for which the largest number of requests were received were Peru (21), Colombia (17), Mexico (16), Argentina (15) and Brazil (11). Most of the issues raised in the requests have been general in nature, requesting the IACHR to address issues related to the implementation of measures to deal with the pandemic; measures implemented by the States that are excessively restrictive; the situation of persons deprived of liberty; and the protection of migrants who have been denied entry into the country of which they are nationals. To date, 80% of the applications have been evaluated (84) and the rest are being evaluated (22).

In addition, in accordance with the provisions of article 25.5 of its Regulations, the Commission has requested information from various States in 21 cases, in which it has received prompt and effective responses from the States concerned, enabling it to observe the actions taken in response to the situations for which its observations have been requested, including as a result of requests for information.

On the other hand, with regard to the impact of its recommendations, the IACHR observes that various authorities and branches of the states of the region, including judicial bodies, have adopted decisions and resolutions in which reference is made to the recommendations issued by the IACHR in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this regard, the IACHR notes that, on April 15, 2020, the Argentine Agency for Access to Public Information adopted Resolution 70/2020, which provides for the exception of suspension of administrative deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining the effectiveness of the policies of access to public information in Argentina. This Resolution expressly mentions the recommendations of IACHR Resolution No. 01/2020.

The Commission takes note of the publication, on April 28, 2020, of Presidential Decree No. 4226 of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, which provides for an amnesty and pardon for humanitarian reasons and national health emergencies in that country, as part of its response against the spread of COVID-19. This Decree expressly refers to recommendations 42, 46 and 47 of IACHR Resolution No. 01/2020.

The IACHR also welcomes the fact that on April 27, 2020, the Presidency of the Republic of Costa Rica adopted Directive No. 082-MP-S, addressed to the Central and Decentralized Public Administration of this country, "on the protocols for the reactivation and continuity of the sectors during the State of National Emergency by Covid-19. The IACHR notes that this directive cites Resolution No. 01/2020 and states that policies and measures against the pandemic "must be based on a human rights approach that contemplates universality and inalienability; indivisibility; interdependence and interrelation of all human rights; equality and nondiscrimination; a gender, diversity, and intersectionality perspective; inclusion; accountability; respect for the rule of law; and the strengthening of cooperation among States.

In the judicial sphere, the IACHR emphasizes that on April 2, 2020, the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation of Argentina requested the organs of the jurisdiction to "take reason and adopt the pertinent measures in order to comply with recommendations 1 and 2" formulated in communiqué No. 066/20, in relation to persons deprived of liberty.

For its part, in Bolivia, on April 7, 2020, the Supreme Court of Justice issued Circular No. 06/2020, in which it resolved, "in accordance [inter alia] with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights," to order judges to "attend to and resolve, on an exceptional basis, all requests related to the effectiveness of the process and the right to liberty of persons. In El Salvador, on April 8, 2020, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice issued a decision in habeas corpus referring to IACHR Resolution No. 01/2020 as the binding source of the Chamber's rulings in the context of habeas corpus, in addition to emphasizing the importance of state measures to contain the pandemic with respect to human rights and inter-American standards.

In Brazil, on April 13, 2020, Constitutional Judge Ricardo Lewandowski of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, in deciding a labor case, referred to IACHR Resolution No. 01/2020, particularly on the issues of protection of ESCR and labor rights in particular.

One month after the operation of SACROI-COVID-19, the Inter-American Commission appreciates the efforts adopted by the OAS Member States to implement the recommendations issued by the IACHR to address the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on full respect for human rights and the comprehensive protection of the human rights of all persons in the context of the pandemic. The IACHR calls on all States in the region to join this effort. In this regard, the IACHR will continue to provide special follow-up to the complex challenges presented by the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas and reiterates its willingness and readiness to provide technical assistance to states, regional bodies, social organizations, and other institutions for institutional strengthening and the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of public policies aimed at combating the pandemic in the Americas with a human rights approach based on the relevant inter-American and international standards.

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. 114/20