Media Center



  March 18, 2004

Police abuses, violations of due process of law, unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression and problems in the administration of justice are some of the “structural deficiencies” that weaken democracies in the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) says in its 2003 Annual Report.

The report, which gives a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in the hemisphere, was published today on the Commission’s Web site (

“Periodic elections and the expansion of democratic regimes have not achieved a democratic institutionalization and culture sufficient to bring stability and unity to our societies, thereby hindering the rule of law, undermining the enjoyment of fundamental rights, and generating a climate susceptible to social crises that impact at the political and institutional levels” the report says.

The report has been presented to the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) for their consideration. In the near future the Commission will appear before the OAS Permanent Council’s Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs to hear comments from the delegations.

In its Chapter IV, on “Human Rights Developments in the Region,” the IACHR Annual Report identifies five OAS member states whose human rights practices merit special attention, under criteria established by the Commission. The five countries are Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti and Venezuela.

With respect to Colombia, the report highlights the continued violence related to the armed conflict, the involvement of police with criminal groups, and the violation of the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law by participants in the conflict. It reiterates the Commission’s concern over the continued activities of paramilitary forces in vast areas of the country, despite the presence of the armed forces.

In Cuba, the situation of civil and political rights “has deteriorated substantially” since a government crackdown in March 2003 on human rights activists and independent journalists, the report says. It notes that many of the people detained in the crackdown were Cuban citizens who promoted the Varela Project.

The situation in Guatemala also merits concern, according to the report. It concludes that “the rule of law and democracy in Guatemala cannot be consolidated as long as there is an inefficient judicial branch that fails to properly investigate the notorious past human rights violations and the current violations, thus giving impunity free reign.”

In Haiti, political tensions and violence have limited the full exercise of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the right to assembly, according to the Commission. It also expresses concern about the reported existence of “armed groups who act unlawfully and with impunity, sometimes terrorizing the population in certain areas.”

In the case of Venezuela, the Commission notes the “extreme political polarization,” which has led to growing intolerance and violent confrontations between demonstrators from different groups. The report also says the Venezuelan state has repeatedly refused to comply with decisions of the Commission.

Washington D.C., March 18, 2004

Reference: IACHR-10