1. On October 8, 1999, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission" or the "IACHR") concluded its 104th regular session. Participating in the session were Professor Robert K. Goldman, Chairman; Hélio Bicudo, First Vice-Chairman; Dean Claudio Grossman, Second Vice-Chairman; Professor Carlos Ayala Corao; Jean Joseph Exumé; and Alvaro Tirado Mejía.
2. In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the IACHR made reference to the recently initiated dialogue on the inter-American human rights system in the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. Commissioner Goldman highlighted the importance of strengthening the system's institutional structure, nationally and regionally, in order to enhance respect for the human rights of the inhabitants of the Americas. The Commission's Chairman referred to other issues, with special emphasis on the OAS member states' carrying out their international obligations in respect of human rights, compliance with the decisions of the system's organs, and the budget for the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the "Court").
3. On September 22, 1999, the Commission was honored to receive the President of the Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, at its headquarters, with his distinguished retinue, which included Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations José Vicente Rangel. President Chávez Frías expressed his support for the work of the Commission and conveyed the interest of the Government of Venezuela in respecting and observing human rights in the context of the process Venezuela is undergoing. He then invited the Commission to conduct an on-site visit to the Republic of Venezuela. The IACHR expressed its gratitude to President Chávez and accepted the invitation, whose date will be determined in the near future. Finally, the Commission told President Chávez that it will continue to cooperate, within its functions, in advancing the rule of law and the observance of fundamental rights in Venezuela.
4. On September 24, 1999, the Commission received the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Republic of Paraguay, José Félix Fernández Estigarribia. During the meeting, Minister Fernández Estigarribia reiterated the institutional support of the Paraguayan state for the work done by the organs of the inter-American human rights system. The Commission and Minister Fernández Estigarribia explored various possibilities for cooperation and human rights promotion.
5. Also on September 24, the IACHR held a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Relations of El Salvador, Eugenia Brizuela de Avila. She referred to issues related to the protection and promotion of human rights in El Salvador, and mentioned some initiatives taken by her Government. The Commission took the opportunity to reiterate its interest in the strengthening of democratic institutions and in the effective observance of human rights in El Salvador. The IACHR rapporteur on the status of migrant workers and their families, Commissioner Alvaro Tirado Mejía, stated the IACHR's interest in participating as a permanent observer at the Regional Conference on Migration, known as the "Puebla Process," and announced that this initiative will soon be formalized.
6. During the session, the Commission received Mr. Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Mr. Otunnu referred to the importance of addressing the issue of children in armed conflict in the context of the structural situation of societies; he also highlighted the serious consequences of armed conflicts in Latin America for minors and children. The IACHR rapporteur on the rights of the child, Commissioner Hélio Bicudo, mentioned some of the Commission's activities for protecting and promoting the rights of the child. It was agreed to establish regular communication.
7. On September 23, 1999, the Commission received a delegation from the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), including its president, Jorge Fascetto, and several top-level officers. The members of the IAPA delegation raised various problems related to the right to freedom of expression and filed four petitions alleging violations of the right to life and freedom of expression of journalists in Colombia and Brazil. The IACHR will analyze these petitions and process them in accordance with the standards established in the American Convention and the Commission's Regulations and any other applicable instruments.
8. The Commission held 51 hearings on individual cases, the general human rights situation in various states of the hemisphere, precautionary measures, and other issues under its jurisdiction.
9. In relation to friendly settlements, the Commission held hearings and working sessions concerning Argentina (4 cases), Brazil (3), Colombia (3), Ecuador (19), Guatemala (2), Mexico (4), Paraguay (5), and Peru (2). In addition to the 19 cases mentioned from Ecuador, the Ecuadorian state reported that it will soon sign friendly settlement agreements in eight cases in which discussions are under way to that end. The Commission will continue to place the utmost priority on solving cases pursuant to the mechanism provided for at Article 48(1)(f) of the American Convention.
10. The Commission continued to study several individual communications alleging violations of the human rights protected by the American Convention and/or the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, adopting a total of 42 reports on individual cases and petitions. The following is a list of the 19 reports on cases and petitions in which the IACHR's decision is public. The Commission will present a summary of those reports in a forthcoming press communiqué.
11. Pursuant to Article 48(1)(b) of the American Convention and Article 35(c) of the Commission's Regulations, the IACHR examined the record in several cases and decided to close the following cases:
12. The Commission has submitted four cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights since its previous session. In addition, it has undertaken various steps in ongoing cases and has sought provisional measures from the Court in several cases currently being processed by the Commission.
13. The Commission has submitted the following cases to the Inter-American Court, on the dates indicated: Case 11,816 - Haniff Hillaire (Trinidad and Tobago), on May 29, 1999; Case of Miguel Aguilera et al. (Venezuela), on June 7, 1999; Case of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza (Bolivia), on June 9, 1999; and Case 11,760 - Constitutional Court (Peru), on July 2, 1999. With these new filings, the Commission now has a total of 23 contentious cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
14. On September 24, 1999, the Inter-American Court issued decisions on jurisdictional issues in the Baruch Ivcher Bronstein and Constitutional Court cases, both against the Republic of Peru. The Court declared that it has jurisdiction to hear both cases, and ruled that "the attempt by the Peruvian state to withdraw its declaration recognizing the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, with immediate effect, is inadmissible." In its Press Communiqué No. 25/99, of September 29, 1999, the Commission highlighted the solid legal basis of the Court's decisions, and stated that "they constitute a significant contribution to strengthening the inter-American system for the protection of human rights." The Commission reiterates its hope that the Peruvian state will take advantage of the opportunity to carry out fully its freely-contracted international obligations in respect of human rights.
15. The Commission also took note of Advisory Opinion No. OC-16/99, "The right to information on consular assistance in the context of the guarantees of due process of law," issued by the Inter-American Court on October 1, 1999, at the request of the Mexican state. Among other things, the Court was of the opinion that "Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations recognizes that a foreign detainee has individual rights, including the right to information regarding consular assistance" and that "the failure to observe a foreign detainee's right to information, recognized in Article 36(1)(b)" of the Vienna Convention, "affects the guarantees of due process of law and, in these circumstances, the imposition of the death penalty constitutes a violation of the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's life in the terms spelled out in the relevant provisions of the human rights treaties."
16. On September 29, 1999, the Inter-American Court issued its judgment on the merits in the case of Cesti Hurtado, in which it declared that the Peruvian state had violated Articles 7(6) and 25 of the American Convention, to the detriment of the victim. Consequently, the Court ordered the Peruvian state to "comply with the resolution issued by the Specialized Chamber of Public Law of Lima on February 12, 1997, on the writ of habeas corpus filed by Mr. Cesti Hurtado." In addition, the Court declared that the Peruvian state had violated Articles 7(1), 7(2), and 7(3), and 8(1) of the American Convention, to the detriment of Mr. Gustavo Adolfo Cesti Hurtado, and ordered that the reparations stage be initiated to determine the fair compensation to be paid to the victim for the violations found.
17. Consistent with its practice of recent years, the Commission will hold a joint meeting with the Inter-American Court on November 20, 1999, in San José, Costa Rica. The meeting will coincide with several activities organized by the Government of Costa Rica and the Court to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the installation of the Court.
18. During the 104th session, the Commission considered the observations submitted September 10, 1999, by the Government of the Dominican Republic on the preliminary text of the report on the situation of human rights in that country. The Commission analyzed this information, and, where appropriate, incorporated it into the final version of the report on the Dominican Republic, which was approved by the Commission.
19. The report analyzes the administration of justice and the conditions of prisons and prisoners. In addition, it studies the situation of migrant workers, women, and minors. The Commission notes in its report that the problems that affect the full observance of human rights in the Dominican Republic are not the result of a state policy aimed at violating human rights. The Dominican authorities face structural problems, cultural patterns inherited from authoritarian experiences, anachronistic institutions, and a lack of resources.
20. In its report, the IACHR makes recommendations to the Dominican Republic for the purpose of fully complying out its international obligations with regard to human rights. The Commission is thankful for the facilities and cooperation provided by the Government of the Dominican Republic during the on-site visit and for the documentation provided. In addition, the IACHR would like to thank the private individuals and non-governmental organizations for the information they provided.
21. The Commission will hold its next special session in San José, Costa Rica, beginning November 19, 1999.
Washington, D.C., October 8, 1999