N° 40/07





             Washington, D.C., August 1, 2007—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 128th period of sessions from July 16 to 27. During the sessions, the IACHR held 25 public hearings in which it received valuable information from the States, civil society organizations and petitioners. It also held 15 working meetings on pending petitions and cases, had a productive meeting with the Ambassadors from the Andean region, and discussed and approved 44 reports. The IACHR values and appreciates the active participation of the States and civil society in the sessions, which strengthens the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.


            Similarly, the IACHR would like to underscore and express appreciation for the important financial support provided by the governments of the following OAS member countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela. It also thanks the observer countries that support the Commission’s activities: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Spain and Sweden. The Commission additionally values and appreciates contributions received from the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Open Society Foundation and the Commonwealth Secretariat. These contributions make possible in a concrete way the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system in the Americas.


            Following the conclusion of its 128th period of sessions, whose activities are detailed in an annex to this press release, the IACHR would like to make the following comments:


            In several of the public hearings, the IACHR once again received troubling information about the critical problems of citizen insecurity that affect a majority of the countries of the hemisphere and about the responses by the States, which are characterized by the lack of prevention policies and by the implementation of largely repressive measures. The IACHR would like to call particular attention to the vulnerable situation faced by numerous victims of human rights violations, who tend not to receive the State protection to which they are entitled and who, furthermore, lack access to justice. These problems are some of the principal obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights in the hemisphere, and they represent some of the central challenges faced by the majority of States in the region.


            The IACHR additionally received information, in the hearing on Peru’s National Human Rights Plan, to the effect that despite the plan’s having been approved nearly two years ago, its implementation is in the early stages. The Inter-American Commission urges the State to undertake the necessary efforts to ensure its effective implementation. The IACHR also reiterates its willingness to assist the State in the measures it has adopted or may adopt in the future with a view toward the plan’s progressive implementation, in accordance with the agreement signed in 2005.


            On another matter, based on information received in the hearing on the implementation of precautionary measures in Honduras, the Commission urges State officials and governmental authorities to abstain from making statements or public comments that could jeopardize the security of the beneficiaries of precautionary measures.


            In the hearing on the general human rights situation in Guatemala, the representatives of the State informed the IACHR that the plan to establish the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is pending approval in Congress and that obstacles have arisen in moving forward with a vote on this issue. The Inter-American Commission echoes the call made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations last July 3 and urges the Congress of Guatemala to approve the creation of the CICIG as soon as possible, as an important step in the struggle against impunity in the country.


            During the sessions, a hearing was also held on the precautionary measures in place for persons detained in Guantánamo. The IACHR President formally petitioned the U.S. Department of State requesting consent for the IACHR to visit the installations at that detention center. Additionally, during the hearing the Commission President reiterated the call made in Resolution No. 1/06 of July 2006, in which the IACHR urged the government of the United States to close that detention center without delay.


            The IACHR also held a hearing on the situation of freedom of expression in Mexico. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission wishes to recognize the recent progress in laws and jurisprudence on freedom of expression in Mexico. Nevertheless, it expresses its concern regarding the critical situation of insecurity experienced by journalists and the communications media in the country and regarding the alarming and growing number of murders, acts of aggression and threats against them registered in recent years. The IACHR urges the State to investigate and punish those responsible for these crimes and to urgently adopt measures to guarantee journalists’ security.


            The IACHR will hold its 129th special period of sessions in Paraguay, from September 5 to 7, 2007, and its 130th regular period of sessions at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., from October 8 to 19, 2007. The deadline for presenting requests for hearings and working meetings for the 130th regular sessions is August 19, 2007, in keeping with Article 62.2 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.




            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 128th regular period of sessions from July 16 to 27. The IACHR is made up of Florentín Meléndez, President; Paolo Carozza, First Vice President; Victor Abramovich, Second Vice President; and Commissioners Clare K. Roberts, Freddy Gutiérrez, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro and Evelio Fernández Arévalos. The Executive Secretary of the IACHR is Dr. Santiago A. Canton. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro excused himself from participating in these sessions.


            During this period of sessions, the IACHR approved 44 reports on individual cases and petitions. On July 18 and 20, it held 25 hearings related to individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations. Fifteen working meetings were also held in which representatives of both parties participated in the context of petitions and cases pending before the Commission. The Commission decided as well to reassign some functions, as a result of which the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families became the responsibility of President Florentín Meléndez, and the Rapporteurships on El Salvador, Panama and Uruguay became the responsibility of Commissioners Victor Abramovich, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro and Paolo Carozza, respectively.


            The participation in hearings and working meetings of representatives of the Member States, as well as those who took part as victims or petitioners, constitutes an important contribution that helps to strengthen the work of protecting the human rights of the people of the hemisphere. The Inter-American Commission values and appreciates this attendance and participation. In that respect, the participation of high-level governmental authorities from several countries is worth noting, as a sign of their respective States’ willingness to engage in dialogue with the IACHR and with civil society.


            Continuing with its tradition of meeting during each period of sessions with State representatives from one region of the hemisphere, the Inter-American Commission held a productive meeting during these sessions with the Ambassadors from the Andean Region. Progress was made in discussing ways to improve mechanisms for human rights protection in the hemisphere and on the strengthening of relations between the IACHR and the States.


            The IACHR will hold its 129th special period of sessions in Paraguay from September 5 to 7, 2007, and its 130th regular period of sessions at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., from October 8 to 19, 2007. The deadline for presenting requests for hearings and working meetings for the 130th regular sessions is August 19, 2007, in keeping with Article 62.2 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.




A.       Report on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


            During this period of sessions, the Commission analyzed a document on indicators related to economic, social and cultural rights, prepared in compliance with a mandate issued by the General Assembly in a resolution adopted on June 7, 2005. With the preparation of this document, the IACHR seeks to provide a tool which will serve as a basis for the presentation of reports on the Protocol of San Salvador and which will also be useful for the design of a permanent internal evaluation mechanism for each State Party. As an addendum to the document on indicators, the Commission received for its consideration another document on access to justice in the area of economic, social and cultural rights.




            The IACHR continued to study numerous individual petitions and cases involving allegations of human rights protected by the American Convention, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and other inter-American instruments.


            The reports approved by the IACHR reflect some of the structural human rights problems that persist in the region. They refer to the respect for the right to life and personal integrity, guarantees of due process and judicial protection, the exercise of economic, social and cultural rights, and the rights of children, indigenous peoples, women and persons deprived of liberty, among other matters.


            The reports approved include 23 on admissibility, 7 on inadmissibility, 4 on the merits, 2 on friendly settlements and 8 cases that were ordered closed. Once the parties have been notified, the Inter-American Commission will publish the list of cases in which the decision is of a public nature, and will post them on its Web page.




            On July 18 and 20, the Commission held 25 hearings related to individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations. The hearings on individual cases and petitions had to do with issues of admissibility, merits, friendly settlements and follow-up. Several of the hearings were transmitted live via the Internet. Videos of these hearings and audio recordings of all the public hearings held during these sessions are available to anyone who is interested, on the IACHR Web page.


            Individuals who present themselves to offer testimony or information during the hearings should enjoy all necessary guarantees. In a June 8, 1990, resolution the OAS General Assembly recommends to governments “that they grant the necessary guarantees and facilities to enable nongovernmental human rights organizations to continue contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights, and that they respect the freedom and safety of the members of such organizations.” Furthermore, Article 61 of the IACHR Rules of Procedures indicates: “The State in question shall grant the necessary guarantees to all the persons who attend a hearing or who in the course of a hearing provide information, testimony or evidence of any type to the Commission. That State may not prosecute the witnesses or experts, or carry out reprisals against them or their family members because of their statements or expert opinions given before the Commission.”


A.         General Situation in OAS Member States


The IACHR held hearings on the general human rights situation in Colombia, Guatemala and Haiti.


With respect to Colombia, during the 128th regular period of sessions the Commission received information from civil society organizations concerning the general human rights situation in the country and the situation of children and youth who have ties to the internal armed conflict. It also received information on the activities of Colombia’s National Commission on Reparations and Reconciliation, during a hearing sought by the government in which information was presented by the president of that commission, Dr. Eduardo Pizarro.


            In regard to Haiti, the Commission received information concerning the general human rights situation in the country, as well as specific information on acts of violence in the town of Gonaives and on the role of security forces and the judiciary to prevent acts of violence and ensure accountability of the perpetrators. The petitioners indicated that the security situation in Gonaives deteriorated significantly during the first five months of 2007, during which armed gangs committed frequent acts of violence, such as murder and rape. In particular, the petitioners denounced the murder of Gonaives radio journalist Alix Joseph and the failure to conduct a prompt and effective investigation in this case. Further, the petitioners indicated concern with the lack of sufficient police presence in Gonaives during this period and the mounting frustration of civilians, leading to popular demonstrations demanding justice and accountability of perpetrators for criminal acts. While the petitioners acknowledged that the police forces adopted proactive steps since May 2007 to apprehend suspected criminals, which has contributed to a reduction of violent crime, the petitioners expressed concern with serious deficiencies, such as excessively slow and faulty procedures in the courts system in Gonaives. They also noted numerous irregularities and violations of judicial guarantees and protection during court hearings and trials, emphasizing specifically the obligation to respect the right to a remedy and reparations of the victim. Moreover, the lack of resources allocated for the courts in Gonaives was noted as a significant challenge to function adequately, while the lack of a functional prison facility in Gonaives was reiterated and stressed as a principal human rights concern with respect to the rights of persons deprived of liberty in Gonaives and related security threats for the population. Finally, the petitioners requested that the Commission remain vigilant in its human rights observation of the situation in Haiti and to specifically make efforts to monitor the judicial process with respect to apprehended and charged criminal suspects. In response, while noting weaknesses in the police force, the State representative indicated that public security measures were recently adopted by the police in Gonaives to curb the level of violent crime, and due to these efforts, several suspected criminals were arrested there. Further, the strengthening and reform of the justice system was noted as a key priority for the government and is expected to be the focus of a commission established recently by the Ministry of Justice. Finally, the State emphasized the importance of the international community’s role in supporting the State to meet its national objectives.


            Regarding Guatemala, the IACHR received information related to public human rights policies, during a hearing requested by the State and attended by the head of the Presidential Coordinating Committee of Executive Branch Human Rights Policies (COPREDEH) and the Attorney General of the Republic. The State representatives reported on the preparation of the “National Plan of Action on Human Rights,” to be implemented during the next ten years, and announced that they plan to present it to the IACHR in the coming months. They also delivered a public policy proposal for the prevention and protection of human rights defenders, all those involved in judicial procedures (such as witnesses, experts, consultants and complainants, among others), journalists and the communications media, and specifically asked that the IACHR, through its Unit for Human Rights Defenders, review it and contribute suggestions or comments. According to the State representatives, the implementation of this policy will seek to overcome the serious escalation of violence against human rights defenders taking place in Guatemala. The State also reported that the establishment of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is pending approval by the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala. The State representatives referred to the obstacles that have arisen in terms of being able to move ahead with a vote on this issue, despite the fact that a majority of the political parties represented in Congress have publicly expressed their support for the establishment of the CICIG.


B.         Other General and Thematic Hearings


Situation of Freedom of the Press in Mexico


In the hearing on the situation of freedom of the press in Mexico, a number of organizations—Article 19, the National Center for Social Communication (Cencos), the Manuel Buendía Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters in Mexico (AMARC), the National Union of Press Reporters, the Network for Protecting Journalists and Communications Media, and the Transparency Collective—laid out their concerns about murders of journalists, an increase in acts of aggression and threats against them, and an increase in attacks against the media. They also expressed their uneasiness regarding judicial actions against the communications media, and outlined the need for transparent criteria for the concession of radio and television licenses and for the distribution of official advertising. They asked for an on-site visit to Mexico by the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, effective sanctions against those who committed crimes against the media, and the extension to the local level of the decriminalization of crimes of defamation and slander, among other points.


            The representatives of the Mexican government recognized that there are enormous challenges in the area of freedom of expression. They noted that the risk involved in doing the work of journalism is related to public insecurity and organized crime, and maintained that the State does not shy away from investigating these acts. They indicated as a sign of progress the creation of a Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists. They also noted as a positive element the elimination at the federal level of the crimes of defamation and slander, and underscored the effect of the decision by the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico that declared unconstitutional the articles of the Radio and Television Law that granted concessions for 20-year periods with automatic renewal, without prior bidding. The State reported that a legislative committee has been created to reform this law, and the petitioners asked for participation in this discussion process. The President of the IACHR and Rapporteur for Mexico, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, recognized the Mexican State’s efforts to improve its laws in this area. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Ignacio Alvarez, reported that the Special Rapporteurship will conduct a working visit to Mexico in the coming months, and offered the institution’s technical assistance to the legislative committee working on reforming the Radio and Television Law.


Situation of Murders of Women in Chihuahua, Mexico


            The IACHR held a thematic hearing on the situation of women in the city of Chihuahua. The petitioners noted that various national and international organizations have spoken out about the gravity of the problem of violence against women in the city of Chihuahua. The petitioners allege the existence of a pattern of impunity, since to date those responsible for the disappearances and murders of women have not been identified nor punished. The petitioners assert that the State has not diligently addressed the situation in the city of Chihuahua, given that many of the policies adopted to respond to the violence were limited to Ciudad Juárez, ignoring the situation in Chihuahua and thus allowing the violence and impunity related to these crimes to continue. The petitioners added that serious deficiencies exist in the investigation of the disappearances and homicides, including the lack of investigation into possible patterns of these crimes and the lack of training of some officials. At the conclusion of the hearing, they requested that the IACHR visit the city of Chihuahua. The Commissioners reported that a visit is being planned for the beginning of the coming year which will include the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women.


Clarification of the Forced Disappearances of Persons in Bolivia


            Representatives of the State of Bolivia as well as of civil society (the Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared of Bolivia, ASOFAMD, and the Center for Justice and International Law, CEJIL) presented information on the progress and challenges in the clarification and reparation of the forced disappearances that occurred during the military dictatorships in Bolivia between 1964 and 1982. Civil society emphasized that the measures adopted by the State are isolated and do not fully help to arrive at truth, justice and reparations. Specifically, they noted deficiencies in the budgets required for the respective entities to function adequately, the lack of progress in investigations, the absence of coordinated efforts with family members of the victims and with civil society, and the low level of the state authorities working in this area. For its part, the Bolivian State reported on initiatives planned for September of this year that have to do with the exhumation and forensic medical examination of some bodies in order to move forward with the identification and return of remains. The State indicated that with the recent designation of four magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice, it expects greater coordination with the judiciary in the conduct of the investigations. It indicated as well that under Law 2640, guidelines were established to bring about the reparation of victims of political violence, and noted that this law anticipates that 80% of the funds for this effort will come from international cooperation.


Situation of the Rights of Maquila Workers in Central America


            The Coalition for Dignified Maquila Employment (CEDM), the Independent Monitoring Group of El Salvador (GMIES), the Center for Women’s Rights (CDM), the Company of Jesus Team for Reflection and Investigation (ERIC), of Honduras, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights (CALDH) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) asked for a hearing without the presence of the States to present a regional report denouncing human rights violations of women who work as seamstresses in the clothing manufacturing plants funded by foreign capital, known as maquilas. The organizations alleged that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua commit human rights violations by failing to conduct adequate oversight to ensure that the employers and owners of the maquilas respect national standards for contracting and work conditions, the rights of assembly, of access to justice and to health and education, and the rights of nondiscrimination based on the gender and age of the workers. Many workers were described as their families’ sole breadwinners, a situation that makes them particularly vulnerable. At the close of the hearing, they asked the IACHR that the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women study and follow up on this issue, that the governments of Nicaragua and Honduras be urged to ratify the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—the “Protocol of San Salvador”—and that visits to the region be conducted in the near future to verify the situation that was described.


Situation of Afro-Brazilian Women


            The IACHR held a thematic hearing on the discrimination experienced by black women in Brazil. Participants included representatives of the two organizations that requested the hearing—the Institute for Black Women of Brazil, GELEDES, and the Criola Women’s Organization—and representatives of the Brazilian government. The petitioners stated that black women have historically suffered double discrimination: for being women and because of their race. The petitioners further referred to the impact of racism and sexism in Brazilian society, which particularly affects black women in a context of extreme violence and vulnerability. The petitioners indicated that black Brazilian women—43 million people—are affected by high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, domestic labor, poverty and indigence, and reported serious difficulties in access to health care. On this last point, they emphasized the increase in the number of Afro-Brazilian women with HIV/AIDS. They also described various discriminatory situations that Afro-Brazilian women face in the areas of education, health, work and political participation, among others. The petitioners further stressed that existing public policies do not effectively address the particular needs of this group of women. The Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the OAS noted the importance that the government assigns to dialogue with civil society organizations regarding the situation of black women in Brazil. He also stated that the current government recognizes these difficulties and as a result has adopted measures to correct the racial biases that particularly affect Afro-Brazilian women. In this regard, he underscored the creation of the Special Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality and the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women, which share, at the federal level, the responsibility of designing policies for women—including black women—and following up on the implementation of such policies.

Concessions for Access and Usage of Radioelectric Frequencies in the Americas


            The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and the organization Article 19 underscored the importance of improving laws and practices on concessions for access and usage of radioelectric frequencies in the region, in order to guarantee the exercise of freedom of expression. The petitioners proposed the need for an independent government body to administer these concessions, as well as the existence of a transparent process for awarding them. They said the region is faced with a system of radioelectric frequency concessions that silences large portions of the population through legal frameworks that limit access to the frequencies, such as granting concessions to the highest bidder through auctions that take into account only economic criteria in awarding the licenses. They indicated that some of the legal frameworks in place for granting licenses to community radio broadcasters impose limits on their power, content or the number of radio stations. They also cited examples of countries where legislation is in place that allows this type of license to be granted but in practice, no such license has been issued. The petitioners at the hearing also said they believe it is crucial that the IACHR participate in the debate, considering that the region is going through a historic moment of transition from analog to digital technology and that the governments are beginning to legislate in this area. In this regard, they asked the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression to emphasize this issue in its annual report, to undertake a study of comparative legislation on the issue and to draft standard guidelines.


Situation of Freedom of Expression in Venezuela


            The Commission received information regarding the situation of freedom of expression in Venezuela, in a hearing requested by the State. The representative of the State affirmed that Venezuela is the country with the greatest degree of freedom of expression in the world. He indicated that there are 90 newspapers in the country, some 70 television stations, most of them privately owned, and around 700 private radio broadcasters. He said the vast majority of all these media outlets have an opposition editorial stance, notwithstanding which the government had not confiscated editions, nor closed newspapers nor closed radio or television stations. He emphasized that Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) had not been shut down, but rather that it was a question of not renewing the concession for usage of the channel’s frequency after it had expired. The State representative also devoted part of his presentation to arguing that the private communications media in Venezuela acted against the country’s constitutional and legal order. He alleged that the private media had called for civil war, instigated ethnic and racial discrimination and practiced censorship, the fabrication of news and war propaganda. He also questioned the role of the private media during the coup d’etat of April 11, 2002, indicating that the radio and television stations blocked the State channel’s signal, that they aired false reports about an alleged resignation by the constitutional president and that they called for the destruction of the democratic system. The representative of the State asserted that any restrictions to freedom of expression in Venezuela come from the privately owned media.


Situation of the Union Members Deprived of Liberty in Cuba


In the hearing on the situation of the union members deprived of liberty in Cuba, requested by  the Latin American Commission for Human Rights and the Freedoms of Workers and Peoples (CLADEHLT) presentations were made regarding the serious limitations that hamper the exercise of union freedom in Cuba and regarding the arbitrary trial of the independent union members who have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 20 to 25 years for expressing their opinion against the government. Presentations were also made regarding the critical prison conditions affecting seven of the nine union members convicted in 2003 for their participation in organizations belonging to the independent movement of Cuban workers—conditions which in some cases threaten their personal integrity. Emphasis was made, in that regard, on the serious and grave health conditions of the union members deprived of liberty, without the State offering the medical attention they require, and in particular, on the delicate health condition of Pedro Pablo Alvarez. Information was also presented regarding the restrictions on labor rights that are applied to individuals released on parole. Finally, it was noted positively that the Commission on Constitutional and Juridical Matters of the National Assembly of People’s Power has advocated establishing a more coherent criminal justice system, in line with the trends demanded by the country’s political and social development.


Situation of Persons in Jail in Cuba


            The IACHR received information about the general situation of prisons in Cuba, in a hearing requested by Cuban Democratic Directorate. The petitioners described the critical conditions experienced by individuals deprived of liberty in Cuba and warned about the obstacles that family members of prisoners face in visiting them. These include the distance between the place of incarceration and the family home, and the impossibility of being able to count on sufficient resources to cover the cost of travel. Special reference was made as well to the disproportionate percentage of the prison population that is Afro-Cuban, which could reflect discriminatory policies and actions on the part of governmental authorities. The hearing included testimony given by the daughter of the prisoner of conscience Francisco Pastor Chaviano, who since 1994 has been deprived of liberty and whose current health condition is critical, without the state providing the specialized medical attention he needs.


National Human Rights Plan 2006-2010, Peru


            In a hearing on the National Human Rights Plan, the Center for Labor Assistance of Peru (CEDAL)—which requested the hearing—and representatives of the Peruvian State presented information with regard to its implementation. The Commission has closely followed the National Plan since its adoption on December 11, 2005, and has signed a technical cooperation agreement with the government of Peru. The petitioners indicated that the State of Peru had undertaken very few actions toward the implementation of the National Plan. Specifically, they noted that the State had not adopted measures to publicize it. They further indicated that the process of training State officials in focusing on human rights in public policies had not moved forward and that the budgetary measures needed to guarantee compliance with the National Plan’s objectives had not been adopted. On the other hand, the petitioners expressed their satisfaction over the recognition the State had given the National Plan, and in that regard they insisted on the need to reach a formula for cooperation that would allow its implementation in a manner that is more technical, systematic and organic. For their part, the representatives of the State reiterated their express recognition of the National Plan as a useful and valid instrument. In that respect, they stated that they would be adopting a series of actions they said would serve as convincing evidence of its implementation on the part of the State. They added that there had been a lack of adequate communication with the petitioners, given that a series of consultative meetings were being held to which the petitioners had been invited but which they declined to attend. Finally, they indicated that the measures adopted to date for the implementation of the National Plan seek to promote the inclusion and participation of regional and municipal governments, as well as organizations and individuals that had not participated in the plan’s design.


Sexual Violence against Women in the Context of the Internal Armed Conflict in Peru (1980-2000)


            The IACHR held a thematic hearing on sexual violence against women in the context of the internal armed conflict in Peru (1980-2000), which was requested by the Pro Human Rights Association (APRODEH), the Office for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS), the Legal Defense Institute (IDL) and the Network for the Integral Development of the Child and Family (REDINFA). Representatives of the Peruvian State also participated. The petitioners reported on the principal obstacles currently faced by women who experienced sexual violence during the period of internal armed conflict in Peru, especially in relation to the investigations and the prosecution of cases. On this last point they indicated that one of the barriers they have encountered is that the Public Ministry has been treating these cases as common crimes without considering their context, in the sense that the rape of women during the internal armed conflict constituted a strategy of war. They also reported on the unwillingness of the State to bring criminal charges and on the Defense Ministry’s failure to provide the necessary information for the identification of those presumed responsible. Finally, in terms of reparation policies, the petitioners expressed their concern with regard to the assumptions included in the definition of sexual violence for the purpose of identifying victims. The State, for its part, indicated that the investigation and trial of those presumed responsible in cases of rape constitutes an essential element of its judicial policies; thus it called on the petitioners to submit concrete information on the cases in which it is alleged that the investigations have not been showing progress. It also expressed to the IACHR that sexual violation constitutes an act of torture, and that indigenous women constituted a higher-risk group with regard to rapes committed during the armed conflict.


Obstacles for the Implementation of Precautionary Measures in Honduras


            The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), the Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO), the Company of Jesus Team for Reflection and Investigation (ERIC), of Honduras, and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) asserted that there are serious problems in terms of compliance with the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR in Honduras. They emphasized that effective mechanisms do not exist to protect the lives and integrity of the beneficiaries of these measures, that the authorities do not sufficiently investigate the causes that led to such measures being sought, and that the beneficiaries tend to receive new threats that force them to move to a different part of the country or leave the country altogether. The organizations asked the government of Honduras to allocate all necessary resources for the implementation of the precautionary measures; create an entity that specializes in the issue and that can work in cooperation with the beneficiaries; and designate a public prosecutor specialized in the issue. They also called for producing progress reports on each measure in effect, publicizing measures issued by the IACHR and issuing beneficiaries a document that identifies them to Honduran authorities, among other measures. They further asked the IACHR to play a more effective role in following up on compliance with the precautionary measures. For its part, the Honduran State offered assurances that it is complying with the precautionary measures, that there have been multiple meetings with the beneficiaries and the organizations that represent them, that security personnel have been assigned for the beneficiaries’ protection, and that the investigations have identified those responsible for some threats. It stated that the results of the precautionary measures issued in favor of several indigenous communities in Honduras have been positive.


Independence of the Judiciary in Honduras


            The Association of Judges for Democracy and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) presented to the IACHR their concerns related to what they characterized as a weakening of judicial independence in Honduras and the resulting deterioration of the rule of law. They stated that influences of a partisan political nature would lead to a manipulation of the actions of judiciary officials, which in turn would create a loss of credibility and confidence on the part of citizens in the administration of justice. The organizations proposed a series of concrete actions with a view to generating better conditions for the independent functioning of the judiciary in Honduras, and asked the IACHR to prepare a regional report on judicial independence in order to gather the principal concerns on the issue and establish guidelines and recommendations so the States can eliminate practices and norms that undermine this judicial principle. The representatives of the State, who included four magistrates from the Supreme Court of Justice, said this is an issue of common concern and presented information about actions that have already been undertaken to address these problems.


Institutional Threats to the Independence of the Judiciary in El Salvador


            The Forum of Democratic, Independent Judges, the Association of Judges for the Democratization of Justice in El Salvador, the Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame, the Institute of Human Rights of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University (IDHUCA) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)—all petitioners in the hearing—made a presentation on different threats allegedly received by some members of the judiciary in El Salvador, in relation to their decision not to enforce certain security laws they considered unconstitutional. They stated that these threats would affect the independence of the judiciary in El Salvador and asked the IACHR for a regional report on judicial independence. They also requested that the Commission conduct a visit to the country, giving special emphasis to this issue, and requested that the IACHR issue an appeal to the State of El Salvador to respect due process. 


C.         Hearings on Cases and Petitions


            In this period of sessions, there were hearings on the following cases and petitions:


        Petition 1121-04 – Rogelio Jiménez López et al. v. Mexico. The “Fray Bartolomé de las Casas” Center for Human Rights and the State presented arguments on the admissibility of the petition regarding the disappearances of Minerva Guadalupe Pérez Torres, Nicolás Mayo Gutiérrez Peñate and Mateo Arco Guzmán, and the executions of Rogelio Jiménez López, Domingo Vásquez Avedaño, Sebastián Pérez López and Héctor Pérez Torres, between 1995 and 1997.


        Petition 828-01 – Oscar Gorigoitia et al. v. Argentina. Arguments were presented on the admissibility of the petition, which consolidates several complaints on the compatibility of Argentina’s appeals process with Article 8.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights.


        Cases 12.561 and 12.562 – Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendáriz v. United States. The Center for Global Justice, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Gibbs Houston Pauw law firm presented arguments on the merits in this case involving the deportation of foreigners that led to the separation of families. 


        Case 12.582 – Mohamad Capote, Andrés Trujillo et al. v. Venezuela. At the request of the State of Venezuela, a public hearing was held in the case, which was attended by representatives of the State and representatives of the alleged victims. The subject of the case is both the occurrence and the alleged lack of diligent investigation into the death of seven individuals (Jesús Mohamad Capote, Jhonny Palencia, Jesús Orlando Arellano, Juan David Querales, José Antonio Gamillo, Orlando Rojas and Víctor Reinoso), and the injuries caused to another five (Andrés Trujillo, Jean Carlos Serrano, Fernando Joel Sánchez, Elías Belmonte Torres and José Antonio Dávila Uzcátegui) during the marches and demonstrations that took place on April 11, 2002, and that preceded the coup d’etat that occurred on that same date. During the hearing, the Commissioners heard the positions of the parties, closed consideration of the friendly settlement phase and prepared to proceed to the merits stage of the case.


         Case 12.518 – José Rubén Rivera v. El Salvador. The organizations Pro Búsqueda and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), as well as the State, presented arguments on the merits in this case involving the 1983 disappearance of José Rubén Rivera, then three years of age, during a military operation in the Department of San Vicente.


D.         Hearings on Precautionary Measures


Precautionary Measures for Persons Detained in Guantánamo


            During the hearing convened to follow up on the situation of detainees in Guantánamo, in accordance with the precautionary measures issued by the Commission in 2002, the petitioners (Center for Constitutional Rights and CEJIL) indicated that detention conditions continue to involve situations of prolonged confinement, sensory isolation, forced feeding, intimidation, religious harassment and other poor treatment. They also alleged that standards under the 2006 Military Commissions Act prohibited the due exercise of the habeas corpus remedy before federal courts on the part of individuals who do not enjoy United States citizenship and who have been classified as “illegal enemy combatants.” The standards also reestablish military commissions for putting these individuals on trial, similar to the military commissions originally ordered by the executive branch and vacated by the decision adopted by the Supreme Court on June 29, 2006, in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. They also alleged that the new Military Commissions Act would grant retroactive immunity for state officials who might have practiced abusive interrogation tactics. The State representatives present at the hearing limited their intervention to reiterating the United States’ general support of the IACHR’s work, as well as the objections — also raised in the past — about the alleged lack of IACHR jurisdiction to issue precautionary measures in situations of imminent, irreparable harm for individuals under the jurisdiction of the United States. Despite information and arguments provided by the petitioners and questions put forward by the IACHR on the situation of detainees in general, detainees who remain in custody despite having had their release authorized and those detainees who have committed suicide while in custody of the State, the State abstained from providing substantive information on the issues discussed during the hearing.




            During the 128th period of sessions, 15 working meetings were held on petitions, cases and precautionary measures from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. In several of the meetings, progress was made in the friendly settlement phase. The Commission values the willingness demonstrated by the parties in several of the cases to continue moving toward a friendly settlement agreement, and urged continued efforts to bring positions closer together and reach consensus.


            It is worth noting that on July 19, 2007, the Commission held a working meeting with the State of Bolivia and CEJIL on the M/Z case, related to the alleged lack of diligence in the investigations and consequent impunity regarding a complaint of sexual violence. The Commission expresses its satisfaction and will follow up on the parties’ initial meeting. It especially underscores the declaration by the State of Bolivia that it intends to reach a friendly settlement agreement, adopt measures that will satisfy the majority of the points raised by the petitioners and continue to negotiate on other aspects.




            This section contains a brief summary of some of the principal activities carried out by the IACHR since its regular sessions in March, through its Special Rapporteurships and thematic areas.

A.         Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and against Racial


            Between May 14 and 18 of this year, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and against Racial Discrimination made its first visit to Colombia, with a delegation headed by the Rapporteur, Commissioner Clare K. Roberts. The purpose of the visit was to prepare an initial analysis of the human rights situation of Afro-Colombians. The issues it examined in its meetings with government authorities and Afro-Colombian representatives included the application of Law 70 on recognition of collective property rights over territories and the ethnic and cultural identity of black communities; the titling and protection of communal lands; the situation of displaced Afro-Colombian individuals and communities; and the extent to which the armed conflict has repercussions on the Afro-Colombian population. The visit also sought to evaluate the impact of the demobilization process and the application of the Justice and Peace Law on Afro-descendent communities. The Rapporteurship also continues to advise the OAS Working Group charged with preparing an Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.


B.         Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women


            Since the last period of sessions, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women has organized and participated in activities to promote compliance with the recommendations issued by the IACHR in two thematic reports: “Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas,” published this year, and “Violence and Discrimination Against Women in the Armed Conflict in Colombia,” published last year. From April 14 to16, Rapporteur and Commissioner Victor Abramovich participated in activities in Lima, Peru, planned by the Office for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS) and the Pro Human Rights Association (APRODEH), in order to present the report on access to justice. From June 12 to 15, he also participated in an international event—“Challenges and Answers to Violence against Women: The Role of the State and Civil Society” —organized by CEPIA (Citizenship, Study, Research, Information and Action) and the Ford Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On March 30, 2007, the Rapporteurship and the International Association of Women Judges organized a technical meeting in Washington, D.C., with women judges from Central America, to discuss the implications that the conclusions of the report on women’s access to justice have on their work, as well as to identify strategies to pursue in seeking due compliance with the recommendations.


            On April 12 of this year, in Bogotá, the Rapporteurship on Women presented the report entitled “Violence and Discrimination Against Women in the Armed Conflict in Colombia.” During the visit to Colombia, Rapporteur Abramovich met with civil society organizations that work to defend the rights of women as well as with legislators from a wide spectrum of Colombian political society, to discuss the report’s conclusions and recommendations. Additionally, a panel was organized to discuss and reflect on the report’s recommendations; this included the participation of representatives of the government, the administration of justice and civil society.


            Currently, the Rapporteurship on Women is also working on two thematic reports as a result of its participation in on-site visits to Guatemala (2004 and 2006) and Haiti (2006 and 2007). These will examine the situation of discrimination and violence against women in those countries and the obstacles that victims and their families face to be able to have access to effective judicial protection when they report these acts. The Rapporteurship has continued offering technical support to lawyers of the Executive Secretariat in processing petitions and precautionary measures.


C.         Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


            During the first half of 2007, the Rapporteurship led by Commissioner Paolo Carozza continued to provide support, within the system of individual cases and friendly settlements, regarding the petitions and requests that refer to the rights of indigenous peoples. In this context, it has continued to receive information on indigenous peoples affected by the interests of third parties in their ancestral lands and on the high levels of chronic infant nutrition that affects indigenous children in some countries of the hemisphere.


            The Rapporteurship also continued to advise the President of the Working Group charged with preparing the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and participated in the Working Group’s Tenth Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus.


            Recently, attorney Anexa Alfred was hired for the position of specialist in human rights and indigenous law. She will work in the Rapporteurship, thus strengthening IACHR efforts in the area of promoting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples.


D.         Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child


            The Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child, headed by Commissioner Paolo Sérgio Pinheiro, is carrying out activities contemplated in the “Technical Cooperation Agreement on Protection of the Rights of the Child in Latin America: Prevention of Violence,” signed by the IACHR and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). To this end, the Rapporteurship contracted Cecilia Anicama Campos, an attorney of Peruvian nationality, as a consultant to implement the activities programmed under the Agreement. She was selected in accordance with the standards established for the selection of IACHR experts.


            The Rapporteurship has also issued opinions in the analysis of petitions and cases pending before the IACHR. In particular, this analysis has included petitions, cases and requests for precautionary measures related to alleged violations of liberty and personal integrity, the right to a life of dignity, the forced recruitment of children in the armed forces and the right to health, among other issues. Additionally, in terms of the preparation of studies and publications, the Rapporteurship is finalizing the second edition of the book entitled “The Rights of the Child in the Inter-American System of Human Rights.”


            One of the fundamental elements for fulfilling the mandate given to the Rapporteurship is the coordination of efforts with different actors. For that reason, during these months the Rapporteurship has begun initial outreach to the networks and coalitions that work to defend the human rights of children in Latin America and the Caribbean.


E.         Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and Members of their Families


            The Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was the responsibility of Commissioner Freddy Gutiérrez until the current period of sessions. By Resolution 03/07, approved by the Commission on July 17, the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, was named interim Rapporteur in substitution of Commissioner Gutiérrez.


            Since the previous period of sessions, the IACHR entrusted its Executive Secretary with representing the Commission during the special meeting held by the OAS Permanent Council on May 2, 2007, devoted to the issue of “Migrant Populations and Migratory Flows in the Americas.” The Inter-American Commission has also followed this issue closely through its system of individual petitions and cases.


F.         Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty


            Since the last IACHR sessions, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, conducted an observation visit to the Republic of Haiti from June 17 to 20, 2007, in order to receive information and observe the situation of persons deprived of liberty in certain detention centers in Port-au-Prince. The Rapporteur and personnel from the Executive Secretariat visited the National Penitentiary, the Delmas Police Headquarters, the Delmas Jail for Minors and the Women’s Prison of Pétion-Ville. During the visit, the Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty held a conference on the promotion of the inter-American human rights system and the protection of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas, geared toward governmental authorities and civil society.


            In response to the mandate entrusted to the Commission by the OAS General Assembly—in resolutions GA/ RES 2287 of 2007, GA/RES 223 of 2006, GA/RES 2125 of 2005 and GA/RES 2037 of 2004—as well as in response to the prison situation observed in various countries of the region, the Rapporteurship continues to work on compiling regional and universal parameters regarding detention and imprisonment policies in the Member States, through its project on “Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty.” These principles seek to promote the use of best practices observed during the Rapporteurship’s visits and to systemize the principles recognized in different international instruments designed for the protection of the rights of persons deprived of liberty. During these sessions, the draft “Principles and Best Practices” was submitted for the IACHR’s deliberation.


            Finally, the Rapporteurship will soon be sending a specialized questionnaire to the Member States for the purpose of gathering information on the situation of persons deprived of liberty under their jurisdiction, as well as on their respective prison systems, principal problems that have been identified and measures adopted. The information gathered through this effort, along with information obtained directly through the Rapporteurship’s observation visits and input from civil society organizations in the region, will be used in the preparation of the first report on the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas.


G.         Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression


            Since the last period of IACHR sessions, the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression worked to promote and defend this right through workshops for journalists and the media; public statements in cases where this right has been violated; participation in seminars and academic activities; and the daily monitoring of the status of freedom of expression in each country. It has also advised the IACHR in cases related to freedom of expression.


            The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Ignacio J. Alvarez, attended the XIX Session of the Peru Lecture Series organized by the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima on April 25, where he met with academics and journalists. On May 3 and 4, the Rapporteur was a speaker at a conference on “Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity,” organized by UNESCO in Medellín, Colombia. The Rapporteur traveled to Chile from May 9 to 15 to offer a presentation at a seminar organized by the Chile 21 Foundation, and to meet with representatives of the nongovernmental organization Proacceso and with representatives of the media. He also presented a paper entitled “The Situation of Freedom of Expression in the Region” at the Second Meeting of Government Spokespersons of the OAS Member States, held on June 14 and 15 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He also participated in the June 18-19 Seminar for Caribbean Journalists at OAS headquarters—organized thanks to the initiative of the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines—as well as in the seminar on “Mexico and the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,” held in Mexico City on June 28 and 29. This event was organized by the Ibero-American University and the Mexican Commission on the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, and sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. From June 10 to 12, the Rapporteur was a presenter at the Seminar on Democracy and Freedom of Expression, organized by FUNDAPPAC in La Paz and Sucre, Bolivia.


            With the goal of training journalists in how to use the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights, the Special Rapporteurship held workshops in Guatemala and Honduras between May 22 and 27. The workshops, sponsored by Sweden’s Agency for International Cooperation, were held in the capital and in the interior of both countries. The Special Rapporteurship will organize two other workshops in El Salvador during the second half of 2007.


            In the coming months, the Special Rapporteurship plans to conduct a working visit to Mexico, where it will seek to view firsthand the conditions in place for the exercise of freedom of expression. It also plans to conduct a working visit to several countries in the Caribbean for the purpose of gathering information on the issue and expanding its network of contacts in that region in particular. Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteurship is working on a report on the situation of impunity in cases in which journalists were murdered for reasons linked to freedom of expression. To mark its ten years of existence, the Special Rapporteurship is working on a special report that seeks to reflect the trends, evolutions and changes in the area of freedom of expression that have been reflected in each country over the decade.


H.         Country Rapporteurships


            The President of the IACHR, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, visited Mexico in April in his capacity as Rapporteur for that country, in order to observe and receive information on the country’s human rights situation and to meet with the new authorities and with Mexican civil society organizations. Dr. Meléndez also traveled to Argentina in May, where he signed an Institutional Cooperation Agreement with the government establishing a cooperation framework to organize and implement an event on “Best Prison Practices.” This will be held in Buenos Aires in November.


            Additionally, Commissioner Clare K. Roberts visited Haiti in April in his capacity as Rapporteur for that country, in order to obtain general information on the human rights situation in Haiti and particularly to follow up on the issue of administration of justice in that country. This issue was addressed in the March 2006 report “Haiti: Failed Justice or the Rule of Law? Challenges Ahead for Haiti and the International Community.” During the visit, the evaluation of the situation of women and children in Haiti was also brought up to date.


            Likewise, in April the Second Vice President of the IACHR, Commissioner Víctor Abramovich, visited Colombia, where he met with the Foreign Minister, the Attorney General and other high-level government authorities, as well as with civil society organizations, in the context of following up on the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law. 


I.          Unit for Human Rights Defenders


            During this period of sessions, the Inter-American Commission met with representatives of different organizations in the Americas that provided information on the situation of human rights defenders. In that regard, the IACHR received with concern information regarding the increase in public speeches discrediting the work of human rights defenders; the threats and harassment to which they are subject; and the application of antiterrorism laws to human rights defenders. The Commission was also informed about the creation and implementation of new laws that restrict or penalize the financing of nongovernmental organizations for the simple fact of having received international cooperation funds to be able to carry out their work.


            The IACHR reiterates to the States the need to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that the punitive power of the State and the entities of justice are not used for the purpose of harassing those who are dedicated to legitimate activities. In this regard, the Commission calls on the States to implement in a timely manner the recommendations contained in the “Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.”


            During a visit to Mexico in April of this year, the Unit met with human rights defenders and received up-to-date information about their situation in that country. At that same time, the President of the IACHR—along with state authorities and human rights defenders—participated in the presentation in Mexico of the “Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.”


J.         Press and Outreach Office


            This year, the IACHR created a Press and Outreach Office and contracted the journalist as the person responsible for the press. The Press and Outreach Office will carry out its efforts with two principal objectives: to expand access to information generated by the Commission and to broaden the understanding, on the part of the press and the general public, of the inter-American system of human rights protection.


            In March of this year, the Press and Outreach Office put into place a plan to expand access to public hearings held during the periods of sessions. The audio recordings of all the public hearings are posted on the IACHR Web page. Additionally, in conjunction with the OAS Department of Press and Communications, various hearings are transmitted live via the Internet, and the videos continue to be available to the public to be viewed on demand. Through this plan, implemented for the second time during the 128th period of sessions, the Commission seeks to give everyone the opportunity to see or hear a public hearing without having to travel to OAS headquarters in Washington. The live Webcast of some hearings will continue to be implemented during future regular sessions of the Commission, as will the policy of making available to the public the audio recordings of all the public hearings.




            During its sessions, the IACHR took under consideration the general status of the cases it is litigating before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and analyzed developments and progress in jurisprudence. Currently, 19 cases are pending before the Inter-American Court and in another 76 cases, decisions have been issued and are in the phase of supervision of compliance. There are also 46 active precautionary measures.


            Since the last regular sessions, the IACHR has submitted four new cases to the Court’s contentious jurisdiction:  


         Castañeda Gutman v. Mexico. The application has to do with the nonexistence, at the internal level, of a simple and effective remedy for claiming the constitutionality of political rights, and the resulting impediment for Mr. Jorge Castañeda Gutman to register his independent candidacy to the presidency of Mexico.


        Eduardo Kimel v. Argentina. The application is related to the sentence of a suspended prison term of one year and the payment of an indemnification of twenty thousand pesos handed down against journalist and writer Eduardo Kimel, author of the book “The Massacre of San Patricio.” The sentence was imposed as part of a slander suit brought by a former judge who was criticized in the book for his actions in the investigation of a massacre committed during the time of the military dictatorship.


        Gabriela Perozo et al. v. Venezuela (Globovisión). The application relates to a series of acts of harassment, persecution and aggressions suffered, beginning in 2001, by 44 individuals linked to the Globovisión television station, including journalists, associated technical staff, employees and management; and the subsequent lack of due diligence in the investigation of such incidents.


        Luisiana Ríos et al. (RCTV) v. Venezuela. The application has to do with restrictions to freedom of expression through threats, acts of harassment, and verbal and physical aggressions against 20 journalists or members of the media that have or have had ties to the Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) channel between 2001 and 2004, as well as the omission of preventive actions and the subsequent lack of diligence on the part of the State in the investigation of such incidents.




            The IACHR notes and once again expresses its gratitude for the important financial support provided by the governments of the following OAS member countries: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, United States and Venezuela. It also wishes to thank the observer countries that support the activities of the Commission: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Spain and Sweden. The Commission additionally values and appreciates contributions received from the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Open Society Foundation and the Commonwealth Secretariat. These contributions make possible in a concrete way the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system in the Americas.