129TH SPECIAL IACHR SESSIONS COME TO A CLOSE
Asunción, Paraguay, September 7, 2007 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today completed its 129th special period of sessions, which took place in Asunción from September 5 to 7 at the invitation of the government of Paraguay. Participants included IACHR President Florentín Meléndez, First Vice President Paolo Carozza, Second Vice President Víctor Abramovich, and Commissioners Evelio Fernández Arévalos, Clare K. Roberts and Freddy Gutiérrez, as well as IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton and Deputy Executive Secretary Elizabeth Abi-Mershed.
The IACHR was received by the President of Paraguay, Nicanor Duarte Frutos; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rubén Ramírez Lezcano; the President of the National Congress, Miguel Abdón Saguier; and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Alicia Pucheta de Correa, among other government authorities. The Commission also held meetings with civil society organizations and representatives of indigenous peoples.
During its sessions, the IACHR held four public hearings. The Inter-American Control Observatory of Migrations presented information during a hearing on the human rights of migrant workers, refugees and displaced persons in the Americas, reporting that one immigrant dies every three minutes in the Americas from causes related to xenophobia and discrimination. For its part, the Observatory of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights presented information during a hearing on the right to water and the indigenous peoples of the Andean region. The petitioners noted that the sale of water rights to companies, mainly mining concerns, has dried up some river beds and contaminated others—a situation that, according to the information presented, is said to be leaving various indigenous groups without access to water for irrigation and for human and animal consumption. A hearing was also held on the follow-up to recommendations made in IACHR Report 29/92, which established the incompatibility of Uruguay’s Law of Expiration of the Punitive Power of the State with the American Convention on Human Rights. Uruguay’s Institute for Legal and Social Studies, the petitioner in the case, requested that the State provide information on the criteria used by the executive branch to determine which cases related to human rights violations perpetrated during the military dictatorship (1973-1985) are opened for investigation and which are ordered closed—under the decision-making power accorded by the law’s Article IV—and whether the government has plans to repeal the law. Finally, a hearing was held in which Diego Portales University of Chile presented a report on the situation of human rights in that country. The IACHR also held working meetings to discuss pending cases from Argentina and Uruguay.
The IACHR delegation visited the Documentation Center and Archive for the Defense of Human Rights—known as the “Terror Files”—which holds documents, photographs, recordings and other records related to human rights violations perpetrated during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) as well as operations conducted by the Southern Cone governments as part of coordinated repressive activities known as “Operation Condor.” The work of compiling and organizing this one-of-a-kind repository of evidence has immeasurable value in terms of bringing to light the truth; provides access to elements needed to assign criminal responsibility; and serves to instill a historical conscience in present and future generations. The Commission encourages the State to continue its efforts to endow this archive with the infrastructure and technical conditions needed to correctly preserve its contents.
The IACHR also held activities designed to promote the inter-American human rights system in the academic and judicial arenas. The President of the Commission, Florentín Meléndez, was the keynote speaker at a conference on the inter-American system at the National University of Asunción School of Law, while the Second Vice President, Víctor Abramovich, gave an address on the same topic at the Catholic University School of Law. The Commission also gave a conference at the Supreme Court of Justice, designed for judges, prosecutors and defense counsel.
Before the opening of the sessions, the Rapporteur for Paraguay and Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Commissioner Paolo Carozza, conducted a two-day visit during which he met with government authorities, civil society organizations and indigenous communities, and held working meetings on pending petitions and cases.
The Commission thanks the government of Paraguay for the invitation to hold its special sessions in Asunción and for its cooperation in planning and carrying out its agenda of activities, as well as for making it possible for the Commission to hold all the meetings it had expressed interest in organizing. The Commission also expresses its gratitude to civil society organizations and the Paraguayan people for their cooperation and hospitality.
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