CIDHHeaderEn.GIF (11752 bytes)


Nº 21/98


1. The 101st Special Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission" or " the IACHR") concluded on December 9, 1998. The Session was attended by the members of the Commission: Prof. Carlos Ayala Corao, Chairman; Prof. Robert K. Goldman, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Dean Claudio Grossman, and Dr. Hélio Bicudo. Also in attendance were Amb. Jorge E. Taiana in his capacity as Executive Secretary of the IACHR; as well as Dr. David J. Padilla and Dr. Hernando Valencia-Villa, in their capacity as Assistant Executive Secretaries.


2. On December 9, 1998, the IACHR held a ceremony to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man ("the American Declaration") and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Americas Room at the Headquarters of the Organization of American States. The Commission was honored to have Ms. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, take part in the ceremony. Initiatives concerned with cooperation and exchanges of information within the purview of the legal instruments governing both institutions were also discussed at the event.


3. On December 1, 1998, the legislative bodies of the Federative Republic of Brazil ("Brazil") and the United Mexican States ("Mexico") approved the declarations recognizing the obligatory contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ("the Inter-American Court"). The IACHR praises these decisions adopted by both chambers of the Legislature in Brazil and by the Senate of the Republic of Mexico, on the recommendation of the Executive branch of each State, as they constitute fundamental steps towards consolidating the protection of human rights.

4. Both States have announced the deposit of the respective instruments of acceptance of the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court with the OAS General Secretariat. Once this stage has been accomplished, a total of twenty States parties to the American Convention on Human Rights ("the American Convention") will have recognized this jurisdiction. These States are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

5. The Commission considers this to be cause for celebration by all member States of the inter-American system, particularly in view of Human Rights Day, observed on December 10.

 6. In accordance with the practice followed in its Annual Report, the IACHR again urges all OAS member States that have not yet done so to ratify the American Convention and accept the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.


7. The Commission continued to study numerous individual petitions alleging violations of human rights guaranteed in the American Convention and the American Declaration. In addition to approving preliminary reports on the merits in five cases, the IACHR also decided to publish admissibility reports in the following cases:

- Andrés Aylwin et al. (Report No.95/98, Case 11,863), Chile

- Leonor La Rosa Bustamante (Report No.54/98, Case 11,756), Peru

- Lori Berenson (Report No.56/98, Case 11,876), Peru


8. In accordance with its powers under Article 41(b) of the American Convention, Article 18(b) of its Statutes, and Article 63(f) of its Regulations, the Commission decided to make the following recommendations on specific issues to the OAS member States:

A.    Access to files and documents in the possession of the State

To recommend that the member States of the Organization of American States adopt legislative and such other measures as may be necessary to effectuate the right of free access to information in files and documents in the power of the State, particularly in cases of investigations to establish criminal responsibility for international crimes and serious violations of human rights.

B.    Universal jurisdiction and International Criminal Court

To recommend that the member States of the Organization of American States adopt legislative and such other measures as may be necessary to invoke and exercise universal jurisdiction against individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

To recommend that the member States of the Organization of American States that have not yet done so sign and ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court, approved by the Diplomatic Conference in Rome on June 17, 1998.

9. The full texts of these recommendations are found in documents OEA/Ser/L/V/II/.101 Doc.69 and in document OEA/Ser/L/V/II/.101 Doc.70, both of which are dated December 8, 1998. These documents are available at the Commission's Internet address:


10. During the present session, the Commission received a report from its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression detailing his activities during his first month of work. Also, the Rapporteur reported to the IACHR on various situations that had adversely affected the media and journalists in the Hemisphere. Among the most notorious incidents were the case of Baruch Ivcher Bronstein, where petitioners allege that legal actions taken by the Government of Peru against Mr. Ivcher have effectively deprived him of his right to own a television station, as well as other actions being taken against his wife and daughters by that government. The Rapporteur also received information concerning the assassination of the photographer Miguel Pereira de Melo in Brazil and on the cases of harassment and censure against independent journalists in Cuba. The Commission asked the Rapporteur to continue monitoring these and other cases and to keep the Commission informed.

* * * * *

11. The Commission will hold its 102nd regular session from February 22 to March 13, 1999.

Washington, D.C. December 15, 1998