Article 48.1.f of the Convention authorizes the Commission to place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned in an individual case, "with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in this Convention."
On November 4, 1993, a claim against the State of Guatemala was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It concerned the attack perpetrated on August 3, 1993 by members of the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols (PACs) against demonstrators, at the end of a march repudiating the action of those PACs. That attack resulted in the death of Juan Chanay Pablo and left Julia Gabriel Simon and Miguel Morales Mendoza wounded. Following those events, various eyewitnesses were the target of serious threats, attacks and other intimidating acts designed to keep them from appearing at the judicial proceeding against the parties responsible. This situation led the Commission to ask the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to adopt provisional measures to protect the physical integrity of the witnesses.
The Commission is grateful to the Government of Guatemala for its willingness to settle this case by means of reparation measures, including those necessary to ensure justice; community aid to the Colotenango communities affected; and indemnification to the citizens directly affected by those events. The IACHR also thanks the petitioners and the parties affected for accepting the terms of the settlement.
Finally, the Commission wishes to express its gratification at the acceptance of this amicable solution and to acknowledge the efforts and disposition of both parties to arrive at and comply with the agreement.
Washington, D.C. 20 February 1997
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, meeting at its 95th regular session in Washington today--on February 28, 1997--welcomed a delegation from the Republic of Bolivia, headed by Ambassador Carlos Casap, the Permanent Representative of that member country to the Organization.
The Permanent Representative again stated his country's request that the Commission make an in situ visit to Bolivia in order to familiarize itself with and acquire first-hand information about the events which took place in Capasirca and Amayapampa in December of 1996.
The IACHR told the Permanent Representative that it is very willing to cooperate with the democratic governments in the Hemisphere to promote and protect human rights. To that end, it agreed to schedule the visit as soon as possible, pursuant to the provisions of Article 18, paragraph (g) of the Commission's Statute and Article 58 of its Regulations.
Before making the visit, the Commission will send an advance team, consisting of members of the Executive Secretariat staff, to prepare for the forthcoming IACHR visit and to start work on the initial investigations concerning the events cited.
Washington, D.C. February 28, 1997
THE IACHR-OAS APPROVES PROPOSED AMERICAN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, principal organ of the Organization of American States, following a recommendation of the General Assembly, has approved a Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and recommended that OAS member states take the necessary steps to achieve consensus for the adoption of such instrument at the 1998 General Assembly, on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the OAS, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
Today, the IACHR formally delivered the Proposed Declaration to the OAS Secretary General, Dr. Cesar Gaviria. The IACHR Chairman, Ambassador John Donaldson, explained to the Secretary General the hemispheric consultation with governments, indigenous organizations and experts carried out since October 1995. Besides a wide distribution in all member states, national consultations were achieved in 15 member countries with the leaders of their indigenous peoples, as well as in regional meetings in Quito, Ecuador, and Guatemala City, in addition to presentations in several indian congresses and legal conferences. In all of them comments and suggestions were made and have been taken in account in preparing this text.
The Proposed Declaration begins by recalling "that the indigenous peoples of the Americas constitute an organized, distinctive and integral segment of their population and are entitled to be part of the countries national identity, and have a special role to play in strengthening the institutions of the state and in establishing national unity based on democratic principles."
Other topics touched upon in the Preamble are: the relationship which peoples and indigenous cultures have with ecology; the importance of eliminating poverty; the right to development; their coexistence and the respect they deserve; the survival of indigenous tribes and their relationships with the territories; and the juridical progress achieved thus far in countries of the Americas.
In its six sections, the draft declaration addresses special aspects of the application of human rights to indigenous peoples and persons; cultural development and the right to integrity, their own languages, education, family, health care and environmental protection. It then focuses on their organizational and political rights, including the right to self-government, indigenous law and its relationship with the juridical systems of the various states. The section on social, economic and property rights discusses traditional forms of ownership and cultural survival, labor rights, copyrights and the right to development.
The last section contains suggestions regarding the proposed scope of the Declaration. Emphasis is placed on the need for congruency with the principles of the OAS--including sovereign equality, territorial integrity and the political independence of the States.
Washington, D.C., March 7, 1997
The Ninety-Fifth Regular Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ended on March 14, 1997. At this session, the Commission elected the following new members: Ambassador John Donaldson, Chairman; Dr. Carlos M. Ayala, First Vice Chairman; and Professor Robert Kogod Goldman, Second Vice Chairman. The following persons are also members of the Commission and participated in this session: Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Dean Claudio Grossman, and Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé.
During this session of the Commission, 35 hearings were granted. Participants were representatives of governments, non-governmental human rights organizations, and representatives of some of the victims whose cases are being processed by the Commission. Testimony was also heard regarding the human rights situation in various member states of the Organization and individual cases currently being processed by the Commission.
The Commission reviewed the status of several files that are being processed for human rights violations, and, taking into account the status of those files, approved various reports on individual cases involving a number of countries. In addition, the Commission considered and approved the 1996 Annual Report, to be presented to the OAS General Assembly at its Twenty-Seventh Regular Session, to be held in the Republic of Peru in June 1997.
At this session, the Commission spelled out four points to be presented to OAS member states that warrant special attention, and thus should be included in Chapter V of the Annual Report to be presented to the General Assembly.
- The first relates to those cases involving States run by governments that have not assumed power through popular elections by means of a secret, authentic, periodic, and free voting process, in accordance with internationally accepted legal guidelines.
- The second involves States where the free exercise of the rights enshrined in the American Convention or in the American Declaration have, in effect, been totally or partially suspended, owing to the imposition of exceptional measures such as a state of emergency, a state of siege, the suspension of guarantees, and other measures.
- The third pertains to a situation where evidence exists that a State is committing massive and serious violations of the rights guaranteed in the American Convention, the American Declaration, and in other applicable instruments. In this case, the violation of rights that cannot be suspended, such as summary executions, torture, and forced disappearance are cause for special concern.
- The fourth pertains to States that are in a process of transition with respect to any of the three aforementioned situations. Using these points as a basis, the Commission included a section on the human rights situation in some member states in Chapter V of the Annual Report to the OAS.
In the future, the Commission will attempt to develop additional areas with a view to identifying the measures taken by governments that demonstrate a commitment to improved observance of human rights. In this regard, the Commission will seek the cooperation of all member states in the identification of these measures in order to obtain the material necessary to prepare that section of its Annual Report. The foregoing notwithstanding, the Commission underscored, in its Annual Report, the progress made by States in the hemisphere in the field of human rights.
Special attention was devoted by the Commission to the rights of indigenous peoples during this session at which, in addition to the review of several cases related to specific situations involving their rights, the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved, following the recommendations of the OAS General Assembly. This draft Declaration takes into account the results of a consultation of the IACHR and other organs of the OAS with governments, indigenous organizations of all the States, 15 national meetings of consultation and several regional and technical meetings of representatives of the governments of the hemisphere, and with indigenous and human rights organizations. In January 1997, the IACHR arranged a technical meeting to propose a revised version based on all the responses, to be discussed by the IACHR at its Ninety-Fifth Regular Session. Participating in that meeting were Rapporteurs Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao and Ambassador John Donaldson, as well as experts hired by Dr. Magdalena Gómez Rivera (Director of Legal Procurement, National Indigenous Institute of Mexico), Dr. Patrick Robinson (former member of the Commission and former Rapporteur on the subject), and Wilton Littlechild, Q.C. (indigenous attorney, member of the Canadian Parliament), with the assistance of Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, principal specialist of the Commission. The Commission submitted a copy of the draft to the Permanent Council and also forwarded a copy to the Secretary General of the Organization.
The Commission recommended that member states "take the necessary measures at the domestic level and through the legal and political organs of the OAS to review the draft Declaration, with a view to achieving a consensus and adopting the appropriate instrument at the 1998 meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the OAS and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man."
The Commission also studied a number of requests for precautionary measures submitted with a view to avoiding irreparable harm to the individuals involved, and agreed, in cases that have been duly proven, to request from the respective governments the adoption of measures to prevent irreparable harm from occurring, with the requirement, also, that the Commission be informed of the measures adopted as expeditiously as possible.
Friendly settlement procedures were initiated in two cases against the Republic of Argentina as a result of hearings that took place during this session. One of the cases involves the violation of the right to due process, and the other, freedom of expression. In both cases, both the representatives of the Government and petitioners indicated their desire for oversight by the Commission of the aforementioned procedures. Also, at the request of the petitioners and the Government, the Commission decided to begin negotiations regarding a friendly settlement in another case pertaining to due process and the right to citizenship. The Commission would like to note the goodwill demonstrated by the Republic of Argentina, as reflected in the numerous friendly settlements pending and those that resulted in the definitive settlement of cases in that country.
The Commission also studied the report of the Commission's delegation that traveled to the Republic of Colombia in February 1997, headed by Professor Robert K. Goldman, Rapporteur for that country, and Executive Secretary Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, and attorney Denise Gilman. The trip conducted by this delegation was aimed at supporting and overseeing the efforts being made in the friendly settlement process involving several cases being handled by the IACHR. The Commission noted, with great satisfaction, the willingness of the Government to seek friendly settlements and to provide clear and open assistance geared towards the achievement thereof.
As a result of this visit, the Government of Colombia approved an on-site visit in the near future for the purpose of direct observation of the human rights situation in that country.
During that session, the Commission also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Colombian Government to review the decision handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to lift the provisional measures at the time of a final ruling with respect to the case of Mr. Delgado y Santana. This decision by the Court raised some concerns on the part of the Commission and petitioners. They both thought that the danger faced by several persons could persist, since internal investigations and proceedings regarding this case are continuing. In light of this concern, the Government of Colombia decided to request the reinstatement by the Court of the provisional measures, which will remain in force until, in the view of the Government and Commission, they are no longer required. The Government sent a note to the Court regarding this matter on March 11, 1997. The Commission hopes that the action taken by the Government of Colombia will set an important precedent that will be followed in similar circumstances in the future.
The Commission also heard a report on joint action with the Government of the Dominican Republic to conduct an on-site visit in order to monitor the human rights situation in that country.
The Commission also studied the report of the delegation sent to Paraguay, headed by the Rapporteur for that country, Dean Claudio Grossman, to participate in friendly settlement procedures in that country. The Commission expressed its immense satisfaction with the progress made in the friendly settlement cases in Paraguay, as reflected in the extradition of two persons to the Republic of Argentina, and in the expediting of procedures that are currently pending for violations that occurred under the government of General Stroessner. Furthermore, the IACHR commends the Government of Paraguay for the invitation to the IACHR to conduct, with its assistance, promotional work in that country.
The IACHR also heard information about the friendly settlement reached in the Colotenango case in the Republic of Guatemala, through the mediation efforts of the Rapporteur for that country, Dean Claudio Grossman. This case was initiated in response to a complaint filed against the State of Guatemala for an attack on August 3, 1993, by members of the Civil Self-Defense Patrols (PAC) on peaceful demonstrators, which resulted in the death of Mr. Juan Chanay Pablo and the injury of Julia Gabriel Simón and Miguel Morales Mendoza.
During this session, the IACHR received a note from the Permanent Representative of Chile to the OAS, Ambassador Edmundo Vargas Carreño, stating, inter alia, "that the Government of Chile has decided to withdraw the request for an advisory opinion [OC-15], filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights."
During this session, consideration was given to the request from Bolivia for an on-site visit by the Commission to that country in order to obtain information on the events that occurred in Capasirca and Amayapampa in December 1996. To this end, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bolivia to the Organization of American States, Ambassador Carlos Casap, also appeared before the plenary session of the Commission to reiterate to its members the request of its Government.
In this regard, the IACHR informed the Government of Bolivia that it was showing the utmost willingness to cooperate with the democratic governments of the hemisphere in promoting and protecting human rights and, in light of this, it had decided to conduct the aforementioned on-site visit in the near future.
In 1996, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights comprised of Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Drs. Jean Joseph Exumé, Alvaro Tirado Mejía, and David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, and attorneys Relinda Eddie and Bertha Santoscoy visited three penitentiaries in the United States of America in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and two state penitentiaries in Louisiana, and prisons in Venezuela.
The Commission heard a progress report on the penitentiaries and decided to move forward with the report that is being prepared regarding this problem. The Commission also continued review of the draft report on the status of migrant workers and their families. Progress made in this regard will be studied at the next session. Furthermore, the Commission obtained information on the progress of its work on the study of the rights of women. The IACHR thanked those States that have responded to the questionnaire, which was aimed at analyzing the compatibility of laws with international obligations in this area. The Commission urged member states that had not yet done so to respond to the questionnaire.
The Commission also reviewed the results of the Seminar on the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights which took place here in December 1996. The report containing the conclusions of the Seminar was approved and it was agreed that it would be submitted to the Permanent Council of the Organization, to the Secretary General, and to the Permanent Representatives of the Organization. Moreover, the report will be made available to interested persons.
The Commission also studied the results of the Seminar on the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, held in Brasilia. This event was organized by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice of Brazil, with the assistance of the IACHR. Sixty persons participated. Representing the Commission were its former Chairman Dean Claudio Grossman; Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary; and Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the approval of the Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man at the Ninth International Conference of American States held in Colombia in May 1948, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will organize various commemorative and ceremonial events. In this regard, the IACHR has received invitations from the Governments of Venezuela and Colombia to hold special sessions and human rights promotional events in Caracas and Santafé de Bogotá. The respective Permanent Representatives of the two member states, Ambassadors Francisco Paparoni and Carlos Holmes Trujillo appeared before the Commission to extend the invitations and to discuss their importance. The Commission accepted these invitations and will hold these sessions in the aforementioned capitals, in addition to the commemorative and ceremonial events planned.
Washington, D.C., March 14, 1997
On April 26, 1997, in response to an invitation from the Government of Bolivia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights began an on-site visit aimed at investigating events that occurred in December 1996 in Amayapampa, Llallagua, and Capasirca in the northern part of the Department of Potosí.
The visit by the Inter-American Commission is being carried out under the legal framework of the American Convention on Human Rights and its Regulations and the Commission's findings will be presented in a report indicating whether or not it considers the Bolivian State responsible.
The Delegation sent by the Commission comprises its Chairman, Ambassador John S. Donaldson and Commissioners Dean Claudio Grossman and Jean Joseph Exume. The Commissioners will be assisted during this visit by Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge Taiana, the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla, and by Milton Castillo and María Noel Rodríguez, who are lawyers. Mrs Cecilia Adriazola will provide administrative support.
The IACHR is one of the principal organs of the Organization of American States, created to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the hemisphere and to serve as a consultative organ in this matter.
The seven members of the Commission are elected in a personal capacity by the General Assembly of the Organization for a four-year term and they represent all Member States. The powers of the Commission derive mainly from the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights, an international instrument ratified by the Republic of Bolivia on July 19, 1979.
During its stay in Bolivia, the Commission will interview Government authorities, members of Congress, representatives of organizations dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights, trade union leaders, relatives of persons who died in the events in Amayapampa, Llallagua and Capasirca, and a group of those who were wounded. The Commission will also receive the testimonies of police and military officers involved in those events.
Part of the IACHR delegation will visit the scene of the events on Wednesday, April 30, in order to carry out an inspection and gather testimonies from miners and farmworkers [CHECK: campesinos] in the area.
As indicated at the beginning of this press release, the visit is pursuant to the provision of the American Convention and [CHECK] the Commission's Regulations. Consequently, it should be pointed out that Article 58 of the Commission's Regulations stipulates that governments commit themselves to furnishing -- as the Government of Bolivia is doing in this case -- all necessary facilities for the Special Commission to carry out its mission and bind themselves, in particular, not to take reprisals of any kind against any persons or entities cooperating with it by providing information or testimony.
After completing its visit, the IACHR delegation will return to headquarters in Washington, D.C., and proceed to study and evaluate its findings, with a view to preparing a final report.
The Commission would like to that the Government of Bolivia for its assistance in the preparations for this visit and reiterates, once again, its willingness to cooperate with the democratic governments of the Americas in promoting and protecting human rights.
La Paz, Bolivia, April 28, 1997.
Today, May 2, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights completed the on-site visit it paid, in response to an invitation from the Government of Bolivia, in order to investigate the events that took place in December 1996 in Amayapampa, Llallagua, and Capasirca, in the northern part of the Department of Potosí.
The delegation comprised the Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador John S. Donaldson and Commissioners Dean Claudio Grossman and Jean Joseph Exume. The Commissioners were assisted during this visit by Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge Taiana, the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla, and by Milton Castillo and María Noel Rodríguez, who are lawyers. Mrs Cecilia Adriazola provided administrative support.
In La Paz, the President of the Republic, Dr. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, received the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and asked it to investigate and ascertain the truth of what happened. The Commission also met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Antonio Araníbar Quiroga; the Minister of Justice, Dr. René Blattman Bauer; the Interior Minister, Dr. Víctor Hugo Canelas; the Minister for Human Development [CHECK] (former Minister of the Interior at the time of the events), Lic. Franklin Anaya Vásquez; the Minister for Economic Development, Ing. Jaime Villalobos; Labor Minister, Dr. Alberto Vargas; Defense Minister, Lic. Alfonso Kreidler; and the Attorney General, Dr. Oscar Crespo.
The Commission also interviewed former Ministers: Mauricio Balcazar (Media) - Comunicación Social]; Carlos Sánchez Berzaín (Interior); and Hugo San Martín (Labor).
As part of its activities during this trip, part of the Delegation visited the scene of the events on Thursday, May 1, carrying out an inspection and collecting numerous testimonies from miners and farmworkers in the area. The Commission also met at the Siglo XX University in Llallagua, with relatives of persons who died in the events and with a group of those wounded, and travelled to Amayapampa and Capasirca, where it gathered testimony from trade union leaders and farmworkers. This visit had been preceded by another preparatory technical IACHR mission, composed of Assistant Executive Secretary Dr. David Padilla and Dr. Milton Castillo, the Executive Secretariat's lawyer in charge of Bolivian affairs. They also met with Government authorities and other representatives of civil society, and travelled to the scene of the events in early April, 1997.
The IACHR also held meetings with the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. It met Committee Chairman, Dr. Juan del Granado, and Deputies Jorge Albarracín, Lucio Felipez, Jorge Suárez, Rosario Paz Ballivian and Luis Vázquez Villamor. Senators Gonzalo Balda Cárdenas, Joaquín Aguirre Lavayen, Luis Lema Molina, Martín Quiroz Alcalá, Raúl Gallo, Valentín Abecia, and Walter Zuleta Roncal also had meetings with the IACHR.
In the course of its investigations, the Commission took testimony from Army Chief of Staff [CHECK -Jefe de Estado Mayor] General Daniel Saavedra; Colonel Alberto Vélez Ocampo, Commander of Section III of the Army; and Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Pozo, Commander of the Illimani regiment. The Commission also received statements from General Willie Arriaza, former Commander in Chief of the Bolivian National Police.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also received abundant testimony and information from civilians, including Dr. Waldo Albarracín, Chairman of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights; Edgar Ramírez, leader of the Bolivian Workers Confederation [CHECK -Central Obrera Boliviana]; Milton Gómez and Guillermo Dalence of the Miners' Federation; and Román Loayza of the United Bolivian Farmworkers' Confederation [Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia] (CSUTCB); Rev. Roberto Durete, Director of Radio Pío XII and Chairman of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights in Llallagua; Tomás Quiroz, Chairman of the Multiactiva Cooperative; Silvia Rojas, a leader of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights in Llallagua; Dr. Rodrigo Flores (a doctor wounded at the scene of the events); Yerco Kukoc (former Prefect of Potosí); and Mr. David Collins, General Manager of Da Capo.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also received the widow of Colonel Eduardo Rivas and the police officers wounded in the events.
The extensive investigations carried out by the IACHR during this on-site visit and the testimony received during it afford a complete picture of the complex and tragic events that took place in the northern part of the Department of Potosí in December 1996. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pointed out in its first press release, this on-site visit was carried out under the legal framework of the American Convention on Human Rights and its Regulations and the Commission's findings will be presented in a report indicating whether or not it considers the Bolivian State responsible.
The Commission would like to express its gratitude to the Government and people of Bolivia in the person of its President, Dr. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada; to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Antonio Araníbar Quiroga; and to the other government and state authorities for the hospitality, facilities, and cooperation they provided it would also like to thank the nongovernmental organizations and individuals whose frank, open, and valuable testimony contributed to the successful fulfillment of this mission.
La Paz, Bolivia, May 2, 1997.