Media Center

Press Release


  March 5, 2003

While terrorism poses a major threat to hemispheric security, combating it must be approached with absolute respect for human rights. That was reaffirmed at an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting of experts March 4. .

Convened by the OAS’ Committee on Hemispheric Security, which is chaired by Mexico’s Ambassador Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, the meeting discussed a variety of issues related to human rights, terrorism, and security, international humanitarian law, refugees’ rights and gender, as preparations continue for the Special Conference on Security, slated for Mexico City, May 6 to 8.

Juan Méndez, a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, argued that “more effective strategies to make citizens more secure must be a priority for the OAS and the international community as a whole.” Referring to terrorism as a major threat, Mendez stated that “if states sacrifice fundamental rights in order to fight terrorism, then the rule of law and democratic freedoms will have been eroded, thus definitely enhancing rather than suppressing terrorism’s objectives.

Human Right Watch’s Executive Director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, agreed that the fight against terrorism must not be at the expense of human rights. He denounced torture as “a prohibited practice that denigrates any country that engages in it. It is a crime against humanity.”

Meanwhile, International Committee of the Red Cross legal consultant for Latin America, Antón Camen, talked about the rising incidence of violence and internal strife in a number of countries of the region, explaining that the Red Cross “has always been steadfast in calling on the international community to find adequate cooperation strategies and mechanisms to help protect victims of armed violence.”

According to Liliana Tojo, Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), any consensus or commitments arrived at during the upcoming Conference must be in keeping with the rights and privileges set forth in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. “Respecting and guaranteeing fundamental human rights must be an essential component of ensuring security in the Americas,” she stressed.

On the gender question, Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) Executive Secretary Carmen Lomellin proposed that the OAS incorporate gender perspective into hemispheric security issues. She underlined as well the need for “full participation of women in all initiatives to promote democracy, peace and security in the Hemisphere.”

Sharing that view, Helene Laverdiere, representing Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said her country was fully committed to implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace and Security. She said the Mexico City conference “represents a historic opportunity to move security beyond the traditional concept to one that is more broad-based,” which also takes into account the participation of women in maintaining and promoting peace and stability.”

Delegates from the OAS’ 34 member states attended, along with Permanent Observers as well as representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a coalition of NGOs, who all outlined the work of their respective organizations in this particular area.

Reference: E-050/03