The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago presented to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States its Instrument of Denunciation, dated May 26, 1998, by which it gave notice of its intention to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights, in one year, pursuant to article 78 of that Convention. This decision is without precedent in the inter-American system since no other State has expressed its intention to denounce the American Convention since its entry into force in 1978.
The Commission regrets this unfortunate decision, especially during this important year in which the OAS is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The Commission notes that once its denunciation of the American Convention enters into effect, Trinidad and Tobago, as a member State of the Organization of American States, will continue to be subject to the Commission's jurisdiction, and be bound by the Charter of the OAS, the American Declaration and the Statute of the Commission.
In the Commission's view, this decision of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago represents a serious step backwards in the hemispheric attempt to strengthen the inter-American human rights system, ratified by the Heads of State and Government at the recent Summit of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile.
The Commission calls on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to reconsider its decision to denounce the Convention and trusts that, in the meantime, it will continue to cooperate with the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in their consideration of pending cases and will respect the decisions of both bodies rendered pursuant to the Convention and their Regulations.
Washington, D.C. May 28, 1998
At the invitation of the Federal Government of the United States of America, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will conduct an on-site visit to California, from July 6 to July 9, 1998, for the purpose of observing and gathering information concerning immigration and asylum processes in that region. During its stay in California, the Commission will visit Los Angeles from July 6 to July 7, 1998, and San Diego from July 8 to July 9, 1998.
The Commission’s delegation is composed of Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, Chairman of the Commission; Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé, Second Vice-Chairman; Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Commission member; Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary; Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Drs. Relinda Eddie, human rights attorney, and Pablo Saavedra, attorney; Ms. Tania Hernandez, administrative assistant; Mr. Marcelo Montecino, and Ms. Michele De Grauwe, interpreters.
The Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) which was created pursuant to its Charter, to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas, and to serve as a consultative organ to the OAS in these matters. The visit is being conducted within the framework of the OAS Charter, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as the Commission’s Statute and its Regulations. These instruments define the international law of human rights within the Inter-American System for persons in the United States of America.
The Commission appreciates the openness with which the Government of the United States of America extended the invitation to carry out this visit.
Los Angeles, July 6, 1998.
Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its on-site visit to California, USA, at the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, for the purpose of observing and gathering information concerning immigration and asylum processes in that region. During its stay in California, the Commission visited Los Angeles from July 6 to July 7, 1998, and San Diego from July 8 to July 9, 1998.
The Commissions delegation was composed of Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, Chairman of the Commission; Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé, Second Vice-Chairman; Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Commission member; Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary; Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Drs. Relinda Eddie, human rights attorney, and Pablo Saavedra, attorney; Ms. Tania Hernández, administrative assistant; Mr. Marcelo Montecino, and Ms. Michele De Grauwe, interpreters.
The Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) which was created pursuant to its Charter, to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas, and to serve as a consultative organ to the OAS in these matters. The visit is being conducted within the framework of the OAS Charter, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as the Commissions Statute and its Regulations. These instruments define the international law of human rights within the Inter-American System for persons in the United States of America.
During its stay in Los Angeles, the Commissions delegation met with Mr. Richard K. Rogers, District Director of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), U.S. Department of Justice; Ms. Rosemary Melville, Deputy District Director of INS, and other staff members in Los Angeles; Mr. Tom Graber, Port Director of Los Angeles Airport; and Mr. Art Subia, from INS Field of Operations in Washington, D.C. The Commission also met with the following persons from the office of the Governor of California: Mr. John Duncan, Director of Industrial Relations, Mr. Jose Millan, Director of Labor Enforcement Standards, and Mr. Mark Carleson, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA).
In San Diego, the Commission met with Ms. Adele Fasano, Deputy District Director, INS; Mr. Kim Porter, Deputy Assistant District Director, INS; Mr. Peter Saldiana, Deputy Assistant Port Director, San Ysidro; and Ms. Ralia Sarinetti, Assistant Port Director, San Ysidro; Ms. Sally Carrillo, Assistant Area Port Director, Otay Mesa; and Phyllis Yodz, Chief Inspector for Customs, Otay Mesa; Mr. Kenneth Stitt, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent, Chula Vista; Mr. Mario Villareal, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent, Chula Vista; Mr. Tom Wacker, Chief Border Patrol Agent, El Centro; Mr. Ramon T. Ortega, Deputy Chief Patrol Agent, El Centro; and Mr. Hector Najera, Jr., Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer, El Centro; Mr. T. S. Thorpe, Acting Director of Calexico Port of Entry; and other staff members of INS.
During its stay in Los Angeles and San Diego, the Commission also met with attorneys, advocates, and representatives from non-governmental organizations including the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the United Farm Workers Union (UFW), California Rural Legal Assistant Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, North County Health Services Clinic, and San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health and Behavioral Studies, Project on Study of migrant minors.
In addition, during its stay in the area, the Commission visited various ports of entry and detention centers. These included the Los Angeles Airport, Calexico, Chula Vista, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, and El Centro. In all of the detention centers the Commission interviewed detainees. At El Centro, the Commission spoke to several detainees who had been on a hunger strike, protesting the conditions of their confinement. During its visits to the centers and ports of entry the Commission also observed detention and removal hearings as well as the processing of asylum seekers and immigrants in general.
Moreover, during its stay in California, the Commission received information on issues relevant to the purpose of its visit which included, the Immigration and Naturalization Services mandate, procedures for processing asylum seekers and migrants, Operation Gatekeeper, the expedited removal procedure under the Immigration Act, conditions of detention, access to attorneys and legal representation, trafficking in migrants, alleged human rights abuses of migrants, as well as the educational, working, medical and housing conditions of migrants there.
During the Commissions visit it received a great deal of information which it intends to use in the preparation of a report on the human rights situation of migrant workers and their families in the hemisphere. This project was endorsed by the Presidential Summit of the Americas recently held in Santiago, Chile as well as by a resolution adopted last month by the General Assembly of the OAS held in Caracas, Venezuela. In furtherance of this study, the Commission plans to carry out a series of visits to different ports of entry and immigration detention centers in the United States as well as other countries in the region.
The Commission wishes once again, to thank the United States of America, its officials, attorneys, advocates, and non-governmental organizations for their cooperation and assistance during its visit.
San Diego, July 9, 1998
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) would like to express its satisfaction at the act of admittance of responsibility by the Colombian State in the violent events that occurred in Villatina, Caloto and Los Uvos, and in the cases of Roison Mora and Faride Herrera. The act of admittance took place yesterday at Casa de Nariño in Bogota and was led by the President of Colombia, Dr. Ernesto Samper Pizano.
In his public address, President Samper Pizano said that the Colombian State admits its responsibility "in the grave events in which 49 innocent Colombian men and women lost their lives", in accordance with its "international obligations and, in particular, with the undertakings given to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights".
The Colombian Head of State also said that the cases of Roison Mora and Faride Herrera, a minor and a female attorney, who died at the hands of the security forces in 1992 and 1993, are the first that his country has agreed to resolve via a friendly settlement proceeding in the framework of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The IACHR appreciates the attitude of the Colombian authorities in admitting their responsibility and living up to their international obligations with respect to the above five incidents, and trusts that, in accordance with the Constitution and the law of the land, the events will be clarified, the guilty punished, and compensation provided to the families of the victims.
The IACHR takes the opportunity to wish the new Government of Colombia every success, especially in seeking and achieving the peace so longed for by Colombian society, and reiterates its readiness to continue cooperating with the incoming administration for ensuring the full effect of the human rights instruments of the inter-American system.
Washington, D.C., July 30, 1998
At the invitation of the Government of Guatemala, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today, on August 6, 1998, starts an on-site visit with the aim of observing the general human rights situation in this country. This visit will take place from August 6 to 11, 1998.
For many years the IACHR has accompanied the struggle and efforts of the Guatemalan people to live in peace and with full respect for human rights. This is the first visit that the IACHR has undertaken since the signing of the Peace Agreements, which put an end to decades of armed conflict and ushered in a new period in history of great hope for all Guatemalans. Just as they have in the past, the IACHR and the international community will accompany Guatemala in this new period. As with the hemisphere in general, the success of this new, promising state of affairs will depend on the contribution of all to creating and strengthening modern and fair judiciaries and efficient police forces, ensuring that no one is above the law, offering equal opportunities without discrimination, and guaranteeing the security to which the citizenry justly aspire, under the only framework possible: respect for the rule of law, the law itself, and human rights.
The IACHR offers its international experience to the people and Government of Guatemala to help in the noble task of ensuring respect for the values that the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights represent; values which Guatemala shares with the community of the Americas.
The IACHR is an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) in charge of promoting the observance and defense of human rights in the hemisphere. The Commission is composed of seven members elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly for a term of four years. The Commissions powers derive fundamentally from international treaties: the American Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of the OAS, these instruments having been ratified by Guatemala.
The IACHR Delegation will be composed of its Chairman, Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, and Commission members Dean Claudio Grossman and Professor Hélio Bicudo. The Commission will receive technical support from its Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana; from Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla; and from attorneys Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, and Verónica Gómez. Mrs. Martha Keller and Mrs. Ana Cecilia Adriazola will provide administrative support.
During its stay in Guatemala, the IACHR Delegation plans to meet with government authorities, including the President of the Republic and his Ministers, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the officers of the Congress, the State Attorney General, the Chairwoman of COPREDEH, and the States Attorney for Human Rights [Procurador de Derechos Humanos]. The IACHR Delegation will also meet with various sectors of the population, such as human rights organizations, grassroots groups, church representatives, trade union leaders, alleged victims of human rights violations, and others. The Commission will also visit prisons and travel to various regions of the country.
As usual on such visits, the IACHR, during its stay in Guatemala, is prepared to receive complaints from anyone alleging, either in person or through representatives, violation of their human rights. It will also receive pertinent information from anyone with cases being processed by the IACHR. To that end an office has been made available in Hotel Camino Real in Guatemala City, which will be open from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00 from August 6 to 11.
At the end of the visit the Commission will hold a press conference at Hotel Camino Real in Guatemala City.
After concluding its visit the Commission will return to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it will continue to study and evaluate the information received with a view to preparing its final report.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation and facilities provided in the preparation of this visit by the Government of Guatemala, and by nongovernmental organizations, civil society institutions, and international organizations, and reiterates once more its readiness to cooperate with the democratic governments of the hemisphere in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Guatemala, August 6, 1998