Press Release

IACHR Concludes 176th Period of Sessions

July 19, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 176th Period of Sessions between July 7 and 15, 2020, using an online format for the first time ever. It decided to hold the period of sessions virtually to comply with its mandates and functions while responding to the seriousness of the situation currently affecting millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean and the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues analyzed over the course of the 176th Period of Sessions included the processing of petitions, cases, and precautionary measures and the monitoring of the human rights situation, particularly with regard to how COVID-19 is impacting the protection of human rights. Working meetings were also held to discuss precautionary measures, friendly settlements, and the monitoring of recommendations, along with meetings with states and civil society and bilateral meetings. A total of 34 working meetings and 22 bilateral meetings took place.

During the period of sessions, the IACHR also continued its dialogue with representatives from 29 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) at four meetings with different regional groups. At these meetings, detailed presentations were made on the milestones that have been achieved in the process of executing the Strategic Plan 2017–2021, the measures taken by the IACHR in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the measures to reduce procedural backlog. Major exchanges with states also took place. 

The IACHR held three meetings with civil society to gather information on the human rights situation in the Americas, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These online meetings were attended by 100 representatives from organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela. Participants reported on how human rights had been impacted in their respective countries.

The IACHR also deliberated a total of 10 merits reports that covered emblematic issues on the inter-American public agenda. The topics addressed included the prevention and investigation of serious human rights violations; access to justice and the scope of judicial protection; the traditional property of peoples of African descent and the right to consultation and informed consent; indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and the death penalty; the protection of the rights of children and adolescents being deprived of their freedom; the prevention and investigation of acts of violence against women; the rights of migrants; equal access to public service positions; and the prohibition of discrimination.

During the 176th Period of Sessions, the IACHR reviewed the implementation of precautionary measures that are currently in force through 15 working meetings on 18 precautionary measures concerning Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. The IACHR was grateful to the state authorities that attended the meetings, as these enabled it to promote implementation of the precautionary measures that are currently in force and bring parties together through the principle of consultation to address the risks being faced by beneficiaries. In this regard, the IACHR regretted that representatives from the state of Trinidad and Tobago were absent from the meetings, although the state did respond in writing regarding the case in question.

Holding the 176th Period of Sessions online enabled the IACHR to hold nine working meetings on matters relating to friendly settlement procedures at different stages of negotiation and implementation, namely Case 11.755, Carlos Alberto López de Belva; Case 12.182, Florentino Rojas; and Case 12.289, Guillermo Santiago Zaldívar and others, concerning Argentina. It also facilitated working meetings in connection with Petition 1186-09, Adela Villamil, concerning Bolivia; Case 12.673, José Dutra da Costa, concerning Brazil; Cases P 108-00 on the Segovia Massacre, Case 12.756 on the El Aracatazzo Massacre, and Case 12.714 on the Belén AltaVista Massacre, concerning Colombia; Case 13.050 on the Q’oq’ob Community in the Municipality of Santa María Neba, concerning Guatemala; Petition 735-07, Ismael Mondragón, concerning Mexico; and Case 13.017-A, relatives of victims of the October 1968 to December 1989 dictatorship, concerning Panama. At these meetings, the IACHR facilitated the creation of potential work plans and helped identify areas of interest in the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements. The IACHR appreciated the efforts made by the states of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama to move forward with various processes toward negotiating and implementing friendly settlement agreements. The IACHR wishes to express its satisfaction regarding the joint construction of working roadmaps by the different parties in these instances, and urges parties to keep channels of dialogue open that will further the implementation of measures that have yet to be complied with.

The IACHR also held working meetings on four cases at the follow-up stage concerning Brazil, the United States, and Mexico. At these meetings, the IACHR facilitated opportunities for constructive dialogue with the aim of helping the states make progress toward complying with its recommendations and helping parties agree on mechanisms for implementing these.

On this point, the IACHR values the commitment parties showed by attending the meetings and providing information on compliance with the recommendations for each case. The IACHR also called on all states in the Americas to continue implementing the recommendations it has issued in its merits reports, and to agree on the ways it will do so with victims and their representatives, so as to guarantee that all victims of human rights violations receive full and comprehensive reparation.

The IACHR also decided to submit case 12.380, Members of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), concerning Colombia, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court). The case concerns acts of violence, intimidation, harassment, and threats that members of CAJAR have experienced since the 1990s in connection with their work defending human rights.

The IACHR held six working meetings to follow up on compliance with its recommendations concerning cases for which a merits report has been issued and to decide to submit these to the IA Court. These online meetings looked at cases concerning Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru and seek to make decisions at this stage faster and more effective. The IACHR wishes to thank both states and petitioning parties for participating in these meetings.

It also expresses its gratitude to states and civil society organizations for having made the effort to take part in the 176th Period of Sessions despite its online format. By doing so, they helped make headway on defending and promoting human rights in the Americas.

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. 167/20