Media Center



  November 13, 2009

As it concludes the last period of sessions of its 50th anniversary year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) observes that the region continues to face grave obstacles to the effective enjoyment of the political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights of the people of the Americas.

Throughout these 50 years of work, the IACHR has established that inequality and discrimination are serious structural problems in the hemisphere that pose major obstacles to the respect for the human rights of all the region's inhabitants. Discrimination against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, women, the poor, immigrants, and various groups based on sexual orientation, among others, is a serious problem in all countries of the region. The Commission calls on the States to adopt urgent measures in order to advance resolutely in preventing and combating all forms of discrimination and in eliminating poverty, especially extreme poverty.

In the course of these five decades, the IACHR has observed significant advances in political and civil rights, in that many countries that once suffered dictatorships and armed conflicts live today in democracy. However, the current challenge is to improve the quality of that democracy, including all political and civil rights. The situation is particularly grave in Honduras, where a coup d'état perpetrated on June 28 is having a direct impact on the human rights of that country's people. The IACHR believes it is essential to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya and reestablish the constitutional order as a guarantee of the effective exercise of civil and political rights.

With regard to its 137th period of sessions, the IACHR received a high-level delegation from the government of Colombia, headed by Vice President Francisco Santos. Without prejudice to the information it received, the IACHR views as extremely serious the intelligence activities carried out by Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS) as respects judiciary officials, political leaders, human rights defenders, and an IACHR Commissioner. The Inter-American Commission hopes that concrete actions will be taken so that this situation is not repeated and so that those responsible are identified and punished.

Notwithstanding the seriousness of the pending challenges, in its five decades of existence the IACHR has witnessed significant progress in the respect for and guarantee of human rights. The 137th period of sessions was the scene of progress in various areas.

Along these lines, the IACHR views very positively the fact that the State of El Salvador has recognized its international responsibility in the case of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and in four cases involving children who disappeared during the armed conflict, and that it has explicitly accepted the binding nature of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' decisions.

The IACHR also expresses its satisfaction over the progress made, in working meetings held during this period of sessions, in the friendly settlement process in cases related to Argentina and Paraguay. During these sessions, 52 hearings and 28 working meetings were held, and reports were approved on individual cases and petitions.

The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly and who act in a personal capacity, without representing their country of origin or residence. The members of the Commission are Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair; Víctor Abramovich, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Sir Clare K. Roberts, Florentín Meléndez, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.

On December 31, 2009, Commissioners Víctor Abramovich, Paolo Carozza, and Clare K. Roberts finish the terms to which they were elected. That same day Commissioner Florentín Meléndez's resignation will also take effect. In July 2009, Commissioner Meléndez took office as Vice President of the Constitutional Court of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice. The IACHR expresses its appreciation for and recognition of the work, dedication, and valuable contributions to the inter-American human rights system that Commissioners Abramovich, Carozza, Roberts, and Meléndez leave as a legacy.

For 50 years, the IACHR has been a principal and autonomous OAS body that derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area.

Reference: IACHR78/09