MARTA ALTOLAGUIRRE, PRESIDENT OF THE IACHR
MESSAGE TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE OAS
Commissioner Marta Altolaguirre, President of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, today presented a message to the General
Assembly of the OAS regarding the IACHRís 2002 Annual Report.
The delegation that accompanied her was made up of First
Vice-President of the Commission, Josť Zalaquett; Executive Secretary,
Santiago Canton; Special Rapporteur of the IACHR for Freedom of
Expression, Eduardo Bertoni; and professional staff of the Executive
In her message, the President expressed the IACHRís concern over
the progressive deterioration of the democratic institutional framework in
the hemisphere, with many governments displaying serious institutional
weaknesses; some have even been exposed to coup attempts or alterations in
the constitutional order. She also made appealed for a collective analysis
to be undertaken of the lawful means that can or should be used to
prevent, determine the facts of, and adjudicate liability for terrorist
acts, and on the contours of the strategies devised to prevent them.
She emphasized that the legitimacy of such efforts at adjudication
and prevention is necessarily tied to the very purposes of democratic
The President of the IACHR explained that the Commission continued
its work in relation to the situation of especially vulnerable groups
through the work of its special rapporteurships on the rights of children,
indigenous peoples, and migrant workers. It has also paid special
attention to the situation of Afro-descendants through its promotion work,
its studies of the general human rights situation in the member States,
the individual case system, and its precautionary measures.
The Rapporteurship on Womenís Rights, entrusted to Commissioner
Altolaguirre, continued observing the status of the rights of women,
particularly those aspects related to the violence that affects millions
of women in the hemisphere. She
also referred to the important work done by the Special Rapporteurship for
Freedom of Expression, whose annual report is presented in an attachment
to the overall Annual Report of the IACHR.
The IACHR included in its 2002 Annual Report in a special analysis
of Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela, countries which, due to their
grave human rights situation, required special attention.
With respect to Colombia, she stated that the Commission is
seriously concerned about the violence by the actors in the internal armed
conflict, in violation of the fundamental rights of the civilian
population, and in particular of the most vulnerable sectors, i.e. the
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, the displaced, human rights
defenders and social leaders, and women and children.
The President reiterated her appeal to the parties to the armed
conflict to respect and enforce, through their command and control
structures, the rules governing hostilities enshrined in international
humanitarian law, with special emphasis on the norms that offer protection
With respect to
Cuba, the President indicated that the Cuban State persists in its pattern
of repressing civil and political rights.
She indicated that, in the view of the IACHR, the Cuban authorities
have not displayed te political will to carry out changes aimed at
building a democracy with full respect for human rights; and she expressed
the serious concern of the Commission over the systematic persecution of
political dissidents in recent months, the serious penalties imposed on
many of them, and the execution of three persons after proceedings that
did not include the guarantees of due process and which therefore were
Altolaguirre offered her best wishes for the decisions of the General
Assembly to impact on the preparation of a hemispheric strategy aimed at
ensuring recognition and enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the
inhabitants of Cuba.
Commissioner Altolaguirre also alluded to Haiti and expressed her
consternation at the profound structural weakness of the administration of
justice there. She
highlighted that emblematic cases of human rights violations have met with
impunity, despite some state initiatives to investigate them.
She also expressed concern over the limited success of efforts to
disarm the population, and indicated that the widespread illegal
possession and use of firearms and the repeated violent actions of certain
armed groups and popular organizations is a constant threat to the
security of all Haitians.
President Altolaguirre also expressed profound concern over the
budgetary situation affecting the Commission.
Although the IACHR values the increase in funds approved by the OAS
in 2002, the budget for 2003 is not sufficient to fully carry out its
conventional and statutory mandates and those stemming from the Summits of
the Americas. The IACHR
understands the financial problems that affect the OAS, but must emphasize
that the budget cuts affect the essential tasks of protecting and
promoting human rights in the hemisphere.
Finally, Commissioner Altolaguirre renewed the commitment of the
IACHR to working with the member States to carry out its mandate to defend
human rights by exercising its mandate to protect and promote human
rights. In the name of the Commission she expressed gratitude to the
member States for their support, which enables the Commission to continue
honoring the common commitment to ensure the effective observance of the
fundamental rights of all the inhabitants of the hemisphere.
June 10, 2003