1. On March 12, 1999, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission" or the "IACHR") concluded its 102nd regular session. At its first meeting, the Commission elected its new officers, as follows: Prof. Robert K. Goldman, Chairman; Dr. Hélio Bicudo, First Vice-Chairman; and Dean Claudio Grossman, Second Vice-Chairman Commissioners Prof. Carlos Ayala Corao, Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé, and Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía also participated in the meetings.
2. During the session, the Commission approved its Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, based on its mandate under the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 41), its Statute (Article 8) and its Regulations (Article 62). The Report was elaborated on the bases of the information and documents received before, during and after the in loco visit conducted by the IACHR in the Republic of Colombia from December 1 to 8, 1997, at the invitation of the Government. The complete text of the Report, as well as its executive summary, are available in the Commissions homepage on the World Wide Web: http://www.iachr.org (see Press Release No. 6/99 of the IACHR, issued on March 12, 1999).
3. The Commission discussed and approved the general outline of its Annual Report for 1998. In accordance with Article 44(1)(g) of the American Convention, as well as Article 63 of the IACHRs Regulations, that Report shall be presented to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.
4. The Commission continued to examine numerous individual petitions concerning alleged violations of the American Convention and/or the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. During the sessions, the Commission issued a total of 60 reports of various kinds on cases and individual petitions. Listed below are the reports on those cases and petitions in which the decisions of the IACHR are public.
- Víctor Saldaño (Report No. 38/99, petition),
- César Chaparro and V. Hincapié (Report No.
30/99, Case 11.026), Colombia;
- Detained minors (Report No. 41/99, Case 11.491),
- Roison Mora Rubiano (Report No.45/99, Case
5. Pursuant to Articles 48(1)(b) of the American Convention and 35(c) of its Regulations, and on the basis of its examination of various files, the Commission decided to suspend the processing of the following cases:
6. Since its previous session, the Commission has carried out various activities in contentious cases and proceedings involving provisional measures which are currently pending before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
7. On March 10, 1999, the Commission presented a case against the Argentine Republic for alleged violations of the rights of Mr. José María Cantos enshrined in Articles 8 (fair trial), 25 (judicial protection), and 21 (property), in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the American Convention, as well as Articles XVIII (fair trial) and XXIV (petition) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The Commission also requested that the Court find, pursuant to Article 2 of the American Convention and the principle of pacta sunt servanda, that Article 50(3) of the Convention had been violated and that it order the Argentine State, pursuant to Article 63(1) of the Convention, to remedy the consequences of the violations claimed and to pay fair compensation.
8. On January 15, 1999, the IACHR sent Case 11.803 (Olmedo Bustos et al. against the State of Chile) to the Court, alleging violations of the American Convention arising from the censorship of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" by judicial authorities of that State. This act of censorship was confirmed by Chiles Supreme Court of Justice on June 17, 1997.
9. On January 20, the Court handed down a judgment on reparations in the Suárez Rosero case (Ecuador), in which it held the State responsible for the unlawful imprisonment of Rafael Iván Suárez Rosero and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment he suffered at the hands of State agents. The judgment includes payment of fair compensation to the victims and indemnification for expenses incurred in proceedings before the Ecuadorian authorities. Further, on January 22, 1999, the Court assessed reparations in the Blake case (Guatemala), consisting of compensation awarded to the relatives of Mr. Nicholas Chapman Blake for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and extrajudicial expenses.
10. In addition, on January 26, the Court issued a ruling in the Cesti Hurtado case (Peru), in which it rejected as groundless the preliminary objections presented by the State and decided to continue to hear the case.
11. On January 27, 1999, at the headquarters of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, the Inter-American Court held a hearing on preliminary objections in the case of Baena Ricardo et al. (Panama). The Court heard arguments from the Commission, the State of Panama, and a witness brought by that State. The Court also found the judge ad-hoc proposed by the State in this case to be disqualified.
12. On January 28 and 29, the Commission and its assistants appeared before the Court to present evidence and final oral arguments in the case of Anstraum Villagrán Morales et al. "Bosques de San Nicolás" (Guatemala). With its assistants participating, the Commission questioned 11 witnesses during the hearing on the merits. It will present its final written arguments in due course.
13. Finally, it should be mentioned that, in the case of Paniagua Morales et al. (Guatemala), the President of the Court decided to set a deadline of March 27, 1999, by which the victims should present pleadings relating to the determination of compensation and costs, which are to be submitted subsequently to the IACHR. That resolution also sets a period of one month from the Commission's receipt of those documents for its presentation of any additional observations that may be in order, and a period of two months for the Guatemalan State to present any observations it considers relevant.
14. The IACHR and Guatemala continued to report to the Court on the status of the provisional measures ordered for the protection of Professor Justo Martínez and his family (Professor Martínez is a witness in Case 11.219, Nicholas Chapman Blake). These measures remained in force until the end of February 1999.
15. The Commission also continued to report to the Court on the provisional measures granted in the following cases pertaining to Colombia: Caballero Delgado and Santana; José Daniel Alvarez et al.; Giraldo Cardona et al.; and Clemente Teherán et al. (Zenú Community).
16. The IACHR's Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago Cantón, has carried out numerous promotional and informational activities in recent months. He has participated in seminars in countries of the region, meeting with the various sectors involved in matters of freedom of expression. He has undertaken an extensive investigation of violations of freedom of expression and is now preparing his annual report. Dr. Cantón has stated that one of his basic objectives as Rapporteur is to coordinate with nongovernmental organizations the creation of a hemispheric network that would respond quickly to possible violations of freedom of expression, and to visit various countries in the Americas and observe each situation directly.
17. From February 10 to 12, 1999, the Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor Carlos Ayala Corao, chaired the Commission's delegation to the Meeting of Government Experts on the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was the first such meeting attended by indigenous groups from various countries in the Hemisphere together with official delegations. It should also be mentioned that on February 16, 1999, the IACHR Rapporteur on the matter presented his work in the context of the second OAS/World Bank working meeting on partnership in matters of cultural heritage. Professor Ayala Corao reported on the activities of the Rapporteur for the coming period, with special emphasis on the negotiation and adoption of the proposed Declaration.
18. Commissioner Hélio Bicudo, Rapporteur for Children's Rights, placed his work program for this year before the Commission for its consideration. The IACHR will evaluate progress in this area during its next regular session.
19. The Commission studied the progress report submitted by Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Rapporteur for the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families. It also reviewed the replies to the questionnaires on this subject sent out by the IACHR in 1998 received from the member States and nongovernmental organizations.
20. On the basis of the proposal of the Rapporteur for Women's Rights, Dean Claudio Grossman, the IACHR published the Report on the Status of Women's Rights in the Americas as a separate document. This is the first installment in a new special series published by the Commission to call the attention of the international human rights community to certain specific topics such as this. The Commission, in the context of the recent celebration of International Women's Day, again urges the OAS member States to immediately adopt the necessary steps to fulfill their commitment to eliminate all measures that discriminate against women in the Americas, in keeping with their freely assumed international obligations. Such measures should be removed in the year 2000 at the latest, so that the full capability of women in all walks of life will be recognized and the Hemisphere may begin the 21st Century "Without Discrimination against Women."
21. At the 98th regular session, the Commission established voluntary funds for the work of its special rapporteurs, which remain open to contributions from the member States, observers, multilateral organizations, cooperation agencies, foundations, and private institutions. The Commission trusts that the voluntary funds will receive the necessary support to enable those rapporteurships to fulfill their role of fostering progress toward the full protection of the persons and rights on which the rapporteurs focus their efforts.
22. The Commission notes the pledges by the Argentine State and by the Kingdom of Sweden to contribute to the voluntary fund of the IACHR Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. These contributions shall be added to the one received from the Government of the United States of America.
23. Also, the IACHR was very pleased to learn that the Kingdom of Spain will make a contribution for the project to strengthen the IACHR documentation center and for partial funding of the Commission's publications. The contribution is connected with the activities of Spain's Secretariat of State for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America.
24. During this session, the Commission held 44 hearings on individual petitions and cases and on general and particular human rights situations in various member States of the Organization. At those hearings, the Commission heard from representatives of the States, from alleged victims of violations, and from representatives of the latter.
25. The IACHR also held a meeting with Mr. Dennis McNamara, Director of International Protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and a delegation from that agency. During the meeting, questions of mutual interest and concern to the IACHR and the UNHCR regarding the situation of refugees in the Hemisphere were addressed.
26. On January 19, 1999, the Permanent Representative of Venezuela deposited its instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, bringing to six the number of OAS member States that have completed this procedure. Also on that date, the Permanent Representative of Colombia deposited that States instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, bringing to 14 the number of ratifications of that treaty.
27. In addition, the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic announced at the inauguration of the IACHRs session, held on February 22, 1999, his Government's decision to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission is gratified to receive this important news, in view of its significance for the ongoing enhancement of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights.
28. During its session, the IACHR studied matters related to preparations for various on-site visits planned for this year. The Commission met with the representative of the Republic of Haiti in connection with his Government's invitation to the Commission to conduct an on-site visit to Haiti. The IACHR proposed dates for the visit. In addition, the Commission will continue its special on-site visits to various locations in the United States of America in connection with immigration questions and migrant workers. The Commission thanks the officials of those States for their cooperation in making the visits successful.
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29. The Commission will hold its next special session from April 29 to May 7, 1999.
Washington, D.C., March 16, 1999