ANNEX TO PRESS RELEASE 13/09
ON THE 134TH REGULAR PERIOD OF SESSIONS OF THE IACHR
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 134th regular period of sessions from March 16 to 27, 2009. The IACHR is composed of Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair; Víctor Abramovich, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Clare K. Roberts, Florentín Meléndez, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary of the IACHR is Santiago A. Canton. The IACHR is the principal body under the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for ensuring respect for human rights in all States of the Americas.
The IACHR would like to express its satisfaction with Decree Number 1595, approved on February 26, 2009, in Paraguay, which creates and constitutes an “Inter-Institutional Commission Responsible for Taking the Necessary Actions to Comply with the International Judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”
On another matter, the IACHR expresses its satisfaction over the positive disposition and goodwill demonstrated by the parties in various working meetings on cases that are in the process of friendly settlement. In particular, the Commission would like to underscore and recognize the progress achieved in the friendly settlement process in Case 12.642, José Iván Correa Arévalo and Juan Ignacio Correa López, of Mexico. In the working meeting held on March 21, the IACHR was informed that the State had published a “Statement of recognition of State responsibility for the events in which the young man José Iván Correa Arévalo lost his life in 1991 in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.” In this statement, the State publicly apologized to the family members for the damage caused as a result of “the lack of a conclusive investigation, for the negligent treatment on the part of the authorities responsible for investigating the facts, and for the violations to due process, all of which has translated into impunity.” Moreover, on March 5, 2009, a public ceremony was held, with the victim’s family members present, in which the Governor of the state of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero, publicly apologized to the relatives. A note sent by Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico, was read at the event. The IACHR hopes that the investigations will clarify the facts and that those responsible will be punished.
The IACHR would like to draw attention to and commend the advances made in recent months in compliance with the decisions of the inter-American human rights system.
On January 15, 2009, the State of Guatemala recognized its responsibility in the disappearance of journalist Irma Flaquer and her son Mario Fernando Valle, which occurred in 1980. The State apologized to the family, in compliance with one aspect of the friendly settlement agreement reached as part of a case before the IACHR.
On February 6, 2009, the State of Panama held a ceremony of acknowledgement of responsibility for the human rights violations committed to the detriment of Heliodoro Portugal and his next of kin. The ceremony was held in compliance with a judgment issued by the Inter-American Court on August 12, 2008, in a case involving forced disappearance and the failure to investigate and punish those responsible.
In November 2008, the State of Mexico signed a friendly settlement agreement with the petitioners in a case submitted to the IACHR involving the torture and disappearance of Cruz Avila Mondragón in 1999. The State of Mexico has complied with its commitment to pay compensation to the victim’s family and to provide health coverage for the next of kin through membership in the People’s Insurance System.
In December 2008, the State of Nicaragua presented the Awas Tingni Community with ownership title to its ancestral lands on the Atlantic Coast, thus moving forward in the resolution of a case the IACHR took to the Court in 1998.
That same month, the State of Paraguay made a public acknowledgment of responsibility for the killing of the soldier Gerardo Vargas Areco in 1989, and apologized to the family of the soldier, who was 15 years old when he was illegally recruited for mandatory military service in the Armed Forces. The State’s action was a step forward in its compliance with the judgment handed down by the Inter-American Court. In October 2008, the State of Paraguay reported on the modification of the law so that the minimum age to serve in the military is 18, in compliance with recommendations issued by the IACHR.
Also in December 2008, in compliance with IACHR recommendations, the State of Bolivia made a public acknowledgment of responsibility for the forced disappearance of Rainer Ibsen Cárdenas and José Luis Ibsen Peña in the early 1970s.
Likewise, the State of Ecuador publicly apologized to victims and next of kin in various cases of human rights violations processed by the IACHR. The Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Gustavo Jalkh, publicly apologized for the disappearance, torture, and death of Consuelo Benavides Ceballes; for the fact that the justice system had let the death of Laura Susana Albán Cornejo due to medical malpractice go unpunished; for the extrajudicial execution by the Armed Forces of Wilmer Zambrano Vélez, Segundo Olmedo Caicedo Cobeña, and José Miguel Caicedo; for the privation of liberty and prosecution of Daniel Tibi for a crime he did not commit; for the privation of liberty in subhuman conditions, solitary confinement, and prosecution without due process guarantees of Rafael Iván Suárez Rosero; for the detention, solitary confinement, and prosecution of Juan Carlos Chaparro and Freddy Lapo Iñiguez for crimes that were not proven; and for the violation of the due process rights of Rigoberto Acosta Calderón on the part of the judicial institutions of Ecuador—all cases the IACHR had taken to the Inter-American Court. The apologies also included the victims in another 27 cases that had come before the Commission and on which friendly settlement agreements had been signed.
In December 2008, the State of Brazil presented information on compliance with the friendly settlement agreement in the Case of Emasculated Children of Maranhão. Those responsible for the torture and murder of 28 boys have been tried and punished, and symbolic reparations were carried out through the unveiling of a plaque that identified the victims and stated, “The pain of having lost them imposes on us the commitment to guarantee absolute priority and complete protection for all children and adolescents.” Material reparations were also made to 27 families of the victims, and the State complied with the recommendations related to measures for non-recurrence by implementing programs to prevent sexual violence against children and adolescents and by building, expanding and outfitting schools in Maranhão.
The IACHR notes that on March 24, 2009—the 33rd anniversary of the coup that launched the military dictatorship in Argentina—a hearing was held on “Judicial Processes for Crimes against Humanity of the Military Dictatorship in Argentina.” The petitioners indicated that, 26 years after the end of the military dictatorship, only one case has resulted in a final judgment. The IACHR has been following this matter since October 2, 1992, the date on which its Report on the Merits No. 28/92 was approved. That report concluded that the “Full Stop” and “Due Obedience” laws were incompatible with the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights. During this session, another hearing was held on the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the province of Buenos Aires, in which the petitioners stated that the number of individuals deprived of liberty has been on the rise since 2008, as a result of policies designed to address the security problem through a tougher judicial response that restricts the use of alternatives to preventive custody. The IACHR expresses its concern regarding the information received in this hearing on the reversal of the trend seen from 2006 to 2008, in terms of the number of individuals detained, and regarding the detention conditions described by the organizations that requested the hearing.
The IACHR also voices its concern regarding information received during the sessions indicating that the “Draft Legislation on International Cooperation” is once again on the agenda of the Legislative Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. According to the information received, this draft legislation still contains some provisions about which the Commission had expressed its concern in 2006, because if these were to be approved, they could generate obstacles to the formation, independence, and functioning of nongovernmental organizations. As was indicated in Press Release 26/06, the Commission reiterates its concern that the vague language of certain provisions of the draft and the broad discretion given to the authorities charged with issuing enacting regulations pose the risk that this law could be interpreted in a restrictive manner in order to limit, among other things, the exercise of the rights of association, freedom of expression, political participation, and equality, and could seriously impair the functioning of nongovernmental organizations.
During this period of sessions, the IACHR approved reports on individual cases and petitions, which were added to the six reports on cases and petitions that the Commission had approved via electronic communication between October 2008 and March 2009. Working plans for 2009 were also discussed, a new board of officers was elected, and the distribution of Rapporteurships was reviewed. The IACHR decided to place under Commissioner Paolo Carozza’s responsibility the Rapporteurship for Panama and the Unit for Human Rights Defenders. In this latter role, Commissioner Carozza will supervise the preparation of a report following up on the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. The IACHR continues to receive troubling information regarding the situation of human rights defenders in the region who are subject to murders, assaults, harassment, and threats. The Commission reiterates its call to the States to respect the work of defenders and guarantee their rights.
The Commission also discussed the visits planned for this year. Along these lines, the Commission and the State of Brazil have agreed that an on-site visit to that country will be conducted at the beginning of the second half of this year. On another matter, the IACHR and the State of Chile agreed that Commissioner Paolo Carozza will conduct a working visit to that country in June, in his capacity as Rapporteur for Chile. Commissioner Carozza will hold meetings related to petitions and cases before the IACHR, meet with high-level State authorities, and hold an activity for the promotion of human rights. In addition, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, in his capacity as Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, will visit the Mendoza Penitentiary on April 24, 2009, to verify the new prison conditions announced by the Argentine government.
The Inter-American Commission continues to strengthen its ties of cooperation with the universal human rights system. In this context, the IACHR met on March 20 with Jeremy Sarkin, a member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The meeting included a dialogue on work methodologies used both by the UN Working Group and the IACHR and the exploration of possible forms of mutual cooperation and exchange of information on the prevention of forced disappearances.
The IACHR reiterates the importance that the inter-American system move toward universal acceptance and application of its norms through the ratification of the various regional human rights instruments, especially the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR encourages the States to move forward with the ratification of the seven inter-American human rights instruments, to bring about their universal acceptance.
Finally, the IACHR calls attention to the January 27, 2009, order of the Inter-American Court, which indicated that the Court’s jurisprudence and other international instruments ratified by the States of the region contain the answer to the consultation the Commission made to the Court on December 29, 2008, on whether the use of corporal punishment as a method for disciplining children and adolescents is compatible with the American Convention and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. In this regard, the Court’s order holds that the Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the obligation to consider the best interests of the child as a basic principle in the child’s upbringing and development, and to ensure that no child is submitted to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or to any form of physical or mental injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, whether in the care of parents, legal guardians, or any person who has responsibility for the child.
I. REPORTS ON INDIVIDUAL CASES AND PETITIONS
The IACHR studied numerous individual petitions and cases alleging violations of human rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration on 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 respect for the right to life and personal integrity; guarantees to 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 their liberty, among other matters. Once the parties have been notified, the Inter-American Commission will publish on its Web site the reports on cases in which the decision if of a public nature.
The admissibility reports approved via electronic communication in the period between the 133rd and 134th periods of sessions were:
• Petition 664-06/Case 12.686 – Aldo Zucolillo, Paraguay
• Petition 1491-05/Case 12.687 – Benito Antonio Barrios et al., Venezuela
• Petition 1351-05/Case 12.688 – Guayubin Massacre, Dominican Republic
• Petition 302-04 – JSCH, Mexico, and Petition 386-04 – MGS, Mexico (Case 12.689)
• Petition 4408-02/Case 12.690—V.R.P. and V.P.C., Nicaragua
• Petition 914-98—Members of the Single Labor Union of ECASA, Peru
From March 20 to 24, the Commission held 37 hearings on individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations. Sixteen working meetings also took place, with the participation of representatives of both parties, in the context of petitions and cases in process before the Commission. The participation in hearings and working meetings by representatives of the OAS Member States, as well as by those who appeared as victims or petitioners, constitutes an important contribution toward strengthening the work of protecting the human rights of the people of the hemisphere. The Inter-American Commission values and appreciates such assistance and participation. In that respect, the participation of high-level government authorities of several countries is worth noting as a sign of their respective States’ willingness to engage in dialogue with the IACHR and with civil society.
Individuals who offer testimony or information during the hearings should enjoy all necessary guarantees. In a June 8, 1990, resolution, the OAS General Assembly recommended that governments “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.”
The hearings held in the Padilha Vidal Room were transmitted live on the Internet. Videos of these hearings, as well as audio recordings of all public hearings, are available on the IACHR Web site, under Public Hearings; this Web page also includes links to high-resolution photographs taken during the hearings. External Web sites are authorized to include links to these audio and video recordings as long as credit is given to the OAS. The IACHR thanks Primestream Corporation and its president, Claudio Lisman, for providing the bandwidth needed for high-quality transmission to a wide audience. His generous contribution has made it possible to increase the number of computers that can connect to the transmission at any given time, thus responding to the increased interest in following the hearings from all countries of the region.
A. General and Thematic Hearings
During this period of sessions, hearings were held on the general human rights situation in OAS Member States and on other issues at the national and regional level.
Three of the hearings were private, at the request of the organizations and individuals who requested that they be held: “Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Venezuela”; “Situation of Institutional Strength and Human Rights Guarantees in Venezuela”; and “Right to Freedom of Expression and Information in Venezuela.” The remaining hearings were public and are presented below, along with links to the available audio and video recordings, which are in the original languages spoken by the participants.
Immigrant Detention and Deportation Policies in the United States
Accountability for Violations of Human Rights in the United States
Freedom of Expression in Jamaica
Criminal Processes against Defenders of Indigenous Peoples in Countries in the Region
Military Justice and Human Rights in Mexico
Diagnostic and Human Rights Program of the Federal District of Mexico
Human Rights Situation in Chile
Human Rights Situation in Bolivia
National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation in Colombia
Rule of Law and Independence of the Judiciary in Colombia
Allegations on Alliances between Politicians and Paramilitaries in Colombia
Right to Freedom of Expression in Colombia
Labor Freedom and Fundamental Rights of Workers in Colombia
Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia
Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Freedom of Expression and Private Broadcasting in the Americas
Democratic Institutions in Nicaragua
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Maquila Workers in Honduras
Judiciary Processes in Cases of Human Rights Violations during the Internal Armed Conflict in Peru 1980-2000
Military Police Justice in Peru
Judicial Processes for Crimes against Humanity of the Military Dictatorship in Argentina
Situation of the Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Criminal Due Process in Costa Rica
Human Rights Situation in Venezuela
Situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Venezuela
Situation of the Judiciary in Venezuela
B. Hearings on Precautionary Measures, and Individual Petitions and Cases
During this period of sessions, hearings were held on precautionary measures, petitions, and cases. Following are links to the audio recordings of all the public hearings and to the videos of those that were filmed. All the videos and audio recordings are in the original languages spoken by the participants.
Case 12.578 – María Isabel Véliz Franco, Guatemala
Case 12.520 – Espejo Gómez et al., Chile / Case 12.521 – Barraza Codoceo et al., Chile
Case 12.573 – Marino López et al. (Operation Genesis), Colombia
Case 12.616 – Lazinho Brambilla da Silva, Brazil
Petition 592/07 and Precautionary Measures 110/07 – Hul´qumi´num Treaty Group, Canada
Case 12.651 – Minors Convicted to Life Sentences, Argentina
Case 12.609 – Elena Téllez Blanco, Costa Rica
Case 12.668 – Leopoldo López Mendoza, Venezuela
III. WORKING MEETINGS
During the 134th period of sessions, 16 working meetings were held on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru. The Commission underscores the willingness shown by the parties in several of the cases to continue working toward a friendly settlement agreement.
The IACHR especially expresses its satisfaction over the progress made in Case 12.642, José Iván Correa Arévalo and Juan Ignacio Correa López, of Mexico. The State published a “Statement of recognition of State responsibility for the events in which the young man José Iván Correa Arévalo lost his life in 1991 in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.” In this statement, the State publicly apologized to the relatives for the damage caused as a result of “the lack of a conclusive investigation, for the negligent treatment on the part of the authorities in charge of investigating the facts, and for the violations to due process, all of which has translated into impunity.” Moreover, on March 5, 2009, a public ceremony was held, with the victim’s family members present, in which the Governor of the state of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero, publicly apologized to the relatives. A note sent by Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico, was read at this event. The IACHR hopes that the investigations will clarify the facts and that those responsible will be punished.
The following working meetings were held during the 134th period of sessions:
• Precautionary Measures 265/02 – Embera Chamí Indigenous People in Caldas and Risaralda, Colombia
• Precautionary Measures 269/07 – Iván Velásquez Gómez, and 93/08 – María del Rosario González de Lemos, Colombia
• Precautionary Measures 331/08 – Mónica Gutiérrez Berni, Colombia
• Precautionary Measures 252/08 – Jorge Ceballos, Colombia
• Precautionary Measures 705/03 – Colombian Committee of Jurists, Colombia
• Case 12.642 – José Iván Correa Arévalo and Juan Ignacio Correa López, Mexico
• Case 12.287 – Cruz Ávila Mondragón, Mexico
• Case 11.565 – González Pérez Sisters, Mexico
• Case 11.733 – Víctor Pineda, Mexico
• Case 11.734 – Modesto Patolzin, Mexico
• Precautionary Measures 9/02 – Afro-Descendant Communities of Bajo Naya, Colombia
• Case 12.649 – Community of Río Negro, Guatemala
• Case 12.492 – Carlos Escaleras, Honduras
• Case 12.041 – MM, Peru
• General Aspects of Non-ratified Cases and Petitions on Magistrates and Prosecutors, Peru
• Precautionary Measures 271/05 – La Oroya, Peru
• Obstacles and Challenges for Compliance with the Decisions of the Bodies of the Inter-American System, Argentina
IV. RAPPORTEURSHIPS AND THEMATIC AREAS
This section contains a brief summary of some of the main activities the IACHR has carried out through its Special Rapporteurships and thematic areas since its 133th period of sessions, which took place in October 2008.
A. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination, under the direction of Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts, continued its efforts to promote the recognition of and respect for the rights of persons of African descent in the region.
During the 134th period of sessions, the IACHR approved publication of Preliminary Observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after the Visit of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination to the Republic of Colombia. The work compiles the information gathered during the Rapporteur’s May 14-18, 2007, visit to Colombia and during hearings held at the Commission’s headquarters over several periods of sessions, among other sources. The document, which includes observations made by the State, constitutes the first step in compliance with the Rapporteurship’s mandate to generate awareness of the State’s duty to respect the rights of Afro-descendants and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination; to analyze the challenges that Colombia faces in this area; and to prepare recommendations designed to overcome the obstacles identified.
The Rapporteurship also continued to provide technical assistance to the Working Group of the OAS Permanent Council’s Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs charged with drafting a new regional instrument, the Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination. The Rapporteurship is preparing comments to present to the Working Group before the meeting of experts expected to take place toward the end of this year.
B. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women, under the direction of Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía, has carried out activities to address the problems of gender-based discrimination and violence as major barriers women face in the effective enjoyment and exercise of their human rights. These activities are focused on the preparation of specialized recommendations for the OAS Member States on discrimination against women in the exercise of their civil, political, economic, and social rights. The Rapporteurship is also working on the follow-up to recommendations it made in its thematic report entitled Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas (2007). In addition, the Rapporteurship is in the process of preparing and publishing reports on the situation of women in specific countries of the region. The Rapporteurship has continued to offer technical support to the attorneys of the Executive Secretariat in the processing of individual petitions and precautionary measures.
With the support of the governments of Finland and Spain, the Rapporteurship continues its work on two initiatives to compile qualitative and quantitative information with a view to identifying the principal advances and challenges women face to be able to exercise their rights free of discrimination in the spheres of political participation and reproductive rights. The aim is to publish thematic reports on these issues.
Further, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women has been working on two thematic reports on the situation of discrimination and violence against women in Haiti and Chile, and the obstacles victims and their families face in gaining access to effective judicial protection when they report such acts. These reports are being prepared as a result of the Rapporteurship’s participation in IACHR visits to Haiti and Chile in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The IACHR had previously approved the report on Haiti via electronic communication, and it approved the report on Chile during the current period of sessions.
C. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, under the direction of Commissioner Víctor Abramovich, conducted a working visit to the Republic of Colombia from November 17 to 21, 2008. He had the opportunity to meet there with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and to receive information on the continued threats, deaths, and forced displacements that have affected indigenous peoples, as well as on the precarious nutritional and health situation that affects indigenous peoples’ right to survival.
On December 4, 2008, the Rapporteurship participated in the hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—held in Mexico’s Federal District—on provisional measures in the Case of the Kankuamo Indigenous People, with respect to Colombia. During the hearing, the IACHR argued before the Court that the provisional measures should remain in effect.
The IACHR reiterates its concern over difficulties involving compliance with its recommendations and with the judgments and provisional measures of the Inter-American Court in cases in which the victims are indigenous peoples. In that regard, the Commission urges the States to redouble their efforts to comply with the decisions by inter-American institutions that affect indigenous peoples. The IACHR urges the OAS Member States to recognize and respect the right of indigenous peoples to their cultural identity, established as part of their close relationship with their ancestral lands and the resources found on those lands. In that regard, the IACHR welcomes the recent titling of lands belonging to the Awas Tingni Community in Nicaragua, in compliance with the judgment handed down on August 31, 2001, by the Inter-American Court in the Case of the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua.
During its 134th period of sessions, the Commission held public hearings in which it received information on the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil; the criminalization of the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples in several countries of the region; and the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples of Colombia. A hearing was also held on Petition 592/07 and Precautionary Measures 110/07 – Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, Canada. Working meetings were also held with petitioners and the State with respect to Case 12.649 – Community of Río Negro, Guatemala, and Precautionary Measure 265/02 – Embera Chamí Indigenous People in Caldas and Risalda, with respect to Colombia.
The IACHR condemns the murders of indigenous people carried out by private and State agents, and reiterates its concern over the frequency of social conflicts and acts of violence associated with disputes over the lands, territories, and natural resources of indigenous peoples. These situations of conflict normally arise because the States do not adequately guarantee the protection of indigenous territories; nor do they guarantee indigenous peoples the right to participate in decisions concerning the activities that affect their rights.
On another matter, the Rapporteurship has continued to advise the President of the Working Group charged with preparing the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it participated in the Working Group’s sixth special session, held December 9-12, 2008. In that regard, the Commission reiterates the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved on September 13, 2007, by the United Nations General Assembly. In this context, the Commission urged the OAS Member States to maximize their efforts to approve the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and invited the States to consider the UN instrument as a minimum standard in their discussions and consideration of the inter-American draft document.
The Rapporteurship also continued to carry out promotional activities and to advise the OAS Member States, and it held a series of meetings with petitioners, indigenous peoples, nongovernmental organizations, and financial entities to discuss the inter-American system and the cases and precautionary measures related to the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition, it announced the implementation of fellowships for indigenous attorneys being offered for the sixth consecutive period of sessions, and on this occasion it offered two fellowships designed to carry out a one-year professional practicum at the IACHR.
D. Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child, under the direction of Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, has been in the process of developing, through a thematic report, specific standards to guide the States in eliminating the use of corporal punishment as a method for disciplining children and adolescents, a practice that continues to be a hidden and accepted form of violence in the Americas. On December 29, 2008, the Commission submitted a request for an advisory opinion to the Court for the purpose of having the Court determine whether the use of corporal punishment as a method for disciplining children and adolescents is incompatible with Articles 1.1, 2, 5.1, 5.2, and 19 of the American Convention, and Article VII of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. On January 27, 2009, the Inter-American Court issued an order in which it decided not to respond to the request for an advisory opinion, “because…the criteria related to the points laid out in the consultation… can be extracted from a complete analysis and interpretation of the Court’s body of jurisprudence on the rights of the child in relation to other criteria the Court has established, as well as from the obligations that arise from other international instruments ratified by the States of the region….” In the “considering” section, the Court indicated:
In terms of activities to promote the human rights of children and adolescents, the Rapporteurship finished creating its Web site, a brochure, and the second edition of the book entitled Children and their Rights within the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights. This publication includes the Rapporteurship’s mandates and functions; the mechanisms available through the inter-American system to protect the human rights of children and adolescents; and the system’s jurisprudence in the area of children’s rights. The Web site, the brochure, and the second edition of the aforementioned book were done with the financial support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
On another matter, in 2008 the IACHR signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to establish a cooperation framework for the preparation of a study on juvenile criminal justice and human rights in the Americas. To that end, the Commission contracted Javier Palummo, an attorney of Uruguayan nationality, as a consultant to implement the planned activities, after selecting him in accordance with the criteria established by the IACHR for the selection of experts. In addition, in March 2009, with the help of funds from Save the Children Sweden, the Commission contracted Canadian attorney Diya Nijhowne to conduct a study on juvenile criminal justice and human rights in the Caribbean.
In the context of its studies on juvenile criminal justice in the Americas, the Commission held three regional consultations in order to gather information on the situation of children and adolescents in conflict with the law from the perspective of the States and various human rights organizations involved in studying this issue. In November 2008, a subregional consultation was held in Asunción, Paraguay, for the countries of the Southern Cone. On March 3, 2009, a subregional consultation was held in Costa Rica for the countries of Central America and Mexico, and on March 6 a similar event was held in Colombia for the countries of the Andean region. Consultations with respect to the countries of the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States will be held in the course of 2009.
E. Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families, under the direction of Commissioner Felipe González, has continued its investigation into detention conditions and due process rights for migrants in the United States. In January 2009, a delegation of the Rapporteurship met with immigration advocates and former detainees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss a variety of their concerns, including the treatment of migrant detainees with mental disorders, the policy of transferring migrant detainees to remote facilities, and the treatment and due process rights of unaccompanied minors. The Rapporteurship is completing a draft report for the Commissioners’ consideration. With the change of U.S. administration, the United States has demonstrated a renewed interest in participating in the Rapporteurship’s study. The Rapporteurship welcomes this development.
F. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty is under the direction of Commissioner Florentín Meléndez.
On December 4, 2008, the Rapporteur participated in a hearing of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, held in Mexico City, to examine compliance with provisional measures related to prisons in Mendoza, Argentina. The Rapporteur made a commitment to the Court at that time to carry out a visit to the Mendoza Penitentiary to verify the new prison conditions announced by the Argentine government and subsequently to inform the Inter-American Court, in order to contribute to the decision the Court has to make on the legal basis for lifting or maintaining the provisional measures in effect. The visit will take place on April 24, 2009, with the support and at the invitation of the federal government and the provincial government of Mendoza.
The Rapporteur also participated in January 2009 in a Central American seminar on protection against torture, held in Guatemala City. Participants in the event included judges, prosecutors, and NGOs from the countries of the region, and the occasion served as an opportunity to disseminate the IACHR’s Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas.
During the month of February 2009, the Rapporteur participated as a presenter at an international conference held in Cartagena, Colombia, on the use of the inter-American system by the region’s ombudsmen, an event geared toward People’s Defenders Offices in Latin America. The event also provided an opportunity to disseminate the IACHR Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty.
In addition, the Rapporteurship continues its activities of advising the OAS Member States and disseminating the Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, which was adopted by the IACHR on March 13, 2008, through its Resolution 1/08. This document was prepared by the Rapporteurship over the last three years, in response to the mandate given to the IACHR by the OAS General Assembly in its Resolutions AG/RES. 2283 (XXXVII-O/07) in 2007, AG/RES. 2233 (XXXVI-O/06) in 2006, AG/RES. 2125 (XXXV-O/05) in 2005, and AG/RES. 2037 (XXXIV-O/04) in 2004, as well as in response to the prison situation observed in various countries of the region.
G. Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
On November 10 and 12, 2008, the Office of the Special Rapporteur, in collaboration with the Foundation for the Freedom of the Press (FLIP), the Autonomous University of the West, and the National Association of Colombian Dailies (Andiarios), organized two seminars in Colombia to train journalists, attorneys, and members of nongovernmental organizations in how the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights can be used to defend freedom of expression. The seminars were given in Bogotá and Cali, and trained close to 60 journalists, attorneys, and members of nongovernmental organizations who promote freedom of expression in the region. On November 11, 2008, the Special Rapporteur was a panelist in a debate on “Slander, Libel, and Prison,” convened by the University of the Andes’ Global Justice and the Colombian newspaper El Espectador.
On November 14, 2008, at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Botero Marino made a presentation at the International Conference on “Freedom of Expression, Pluralism and Diversity in Broadcasting,” along with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank LaRue. The following day, the Special Rapporteur participated in the international seminar entitled “Invisible Gag Rules: Old and New Barriers to Diversity in Broadcasting,” in which experts presented the results of research on “Democratic Governance and Standards for Regulating Access and Use of Radio and TV Frequencies.” This was conducted by the AMARC-ALC Program on Legislation and the Right to Communication, with support from the Ford Foundation.
The Special Rapporteur traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay, at the invitation of the Media and Society Group (GMS), an entity that promotes freedom of expression in that country; the AMARC-ALC Program on Legislation and the Right to Communication; and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s office in Uruguay. On November 17, 2008, she met with experts and representatives of Uruguayan organizations that work on issues related to freedom of expression and the right to information, in order to exchange information and opinions. She also made a presentation at the “Forum on Pluralism and Diversity in Broadcasting.” On November 18, 2008, she met with the board of the International Broadcasting Association to hear their points of view and exchange opinions on the problems and challenges involving broadcasting in the region. That same day, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s office in Uruguay (Fesur), the Media and Society Group, and the Uruguayan Press Association, the Special Rapporteur coordinated a seminar on the inter-American human rights system, in which 15 journalists and human rights activists in Montevideo participated.
On November 19 and 20, 2008, the Special Rapporteur, in collaboration with the Association of Civil Rights (ADC) and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), and with the support of the University of Buenos Aires, the National University of La Plata’s Human Rights Institute, and the same university’s School of Journalism and Social Communication, the Rapporteur offered two workshops in Argentina on the inter-American human rights system and the defense of freedom of expression. One of the seminars was held in Buenos Aires and the second in the city of La Plata. A total of 50 professionals were trained. In organizing both workshops, the Special Rapporteur had financial support from Asdi. On November 21, 2008, the Special Rapporteur attended the opening of the III National and International Congress of the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA) on “The Challenges of Journalism in the Digital Era.”
From December 7 to 10, 2008, the Special Rapporteur attended the World Conference of the Global Forum for Media Development, held in Athens, Greece, and gave a conference before more than 400 invitees on the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s functions in the effort to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression.
On December 9, 2008, also in Athens, a meeting was held to adopt the 2008 Joint Declaration of the Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression, an activity organized by Article 19 which brings together the rapporteurs for freedom of expression of the United Nations, Europe, the OAS/IACHR, and Africa.
On December 15, 2008, the Special Rapporteur made a presentation on the right of access to information, during a special meeting on the issue convened by the OAS Committee of Juridical and Political Affairs.
From January 25 to 29, 2009, the Special Rapporteur attended the Regional Meeting of Latin American Organizations on Freedom of Expression, organized by IFEX in Guatemala. There she gave various talks and conferences for the invited organizations and for journalists, the media, and local organizations.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur participated in the Inter-American Press Association’s Mid-Year Meeting, held March 13-16, 2009, in Asunción, Paraguay.
H. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
The Unit for Human Rights Defenders during this period has observed various situations of concern in relation to the work of human rights defenders in the region. Among these is the situation of defenders of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in Jamaica and Honduras. The IACHR also issued press releases condemning the murder of a human rights defender who had denounced the activities of death squads in northeastern Brazil. Likewise, the IACHR issued a statement on the murders of defenders and indigenous leaders in Mexico, and on the interception of the telephone calls of various entities, among them human rights organizations, by the Administrative Security Department in Colombia.
As a follow-up to the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, approved on March 7, 2006, the Unit prepared a questionnaire for the purpose of following up on compliance with the report’s recommendations, as well as to learn about new obstacles faced by human rights defenders in their work. The questionnaire was sent to the States parties and to civil society in October 2008 and January 2009. As of now, the Unit expects to receive responses from civil society organizations and the States, with the aim of preparing a follow-up report on the Report on Human Rights Defenders. The Unit has also conducted a special follow-up on the Colombian situation, with the aim of preparing a report on the problems faced by defenders in that country.
In addition, the Unit is currently updating its Web page for the purpose of providing information about IACHR decisions and resolutions involving the subject of human rights defenders. The site will also include a chart showing alerts and urgent actions taken, in order to systematize the information the Unit receives on a daily basis about the context and types of obstacles faced by human rights defenders in the region. Finally, the Unit has prepared a draft financial plan to cover its coming activities.
V. WORK RELATED TO THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT
During its sessions, the IACHR considered the general status of the cases and provisional measures it has taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and analyzed developments in the Court’s jurisprudence. The Inter-American Commission has submitted 123 contentious cases to be heard by the Court. Of those, 9 are awaiting a public hearing; 6 are awaiting judgment; 93 are in the stage of compliance with the judgment, and 15 are closed. There are also 38 active provisional measures.
Since the previous regular period of sessions, the IACHR has submitted the following cases to the Court’s contentious jurisdiction:
Subsequent to its 133rd regular period of sessions, the Commission participated in the Court’s XXXVIII special period of sessions, held in Mexico’s Federal District, and in the Court’s LXXXII regular period of sessions, held at its headquarters. During these sessions, the Commission participated in hearings convened by the Court on contentious cases, provisional measures, and compliance with judgment, as detailed below:
• Hearings on contentious cases: Blanca Jeanette Kawas v. Honduras; Arley José Escher et al. v. Brazil; Association of Former and Retired Employees of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic v. Peru; and María Cristina Reverón Trujillo v. Venezuela.
• Private hearings on supervision of compliance with judgments: Mapiripán Massacre v. Colombia; Five Pensioners v. Peru; Carpio Nicolle et al. v. Guatemala; Palamara Iribarne v. Chile; Gutiérrez Soler v. Colombia; Pueblo Bello Massacre v. Colombia; Bármaca Velásquez v. Guatemala; and Villagrán Morales v. Guatemala.
• Hearings on provisional measures: Kankuamo Indigenous People, with respect to Colombia; and Female Prisoners of Mendoza, with respect to Argentina.
VI. FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
The IACHR would especially like to express its appreciation for the significant financial contributions from countries within and outside the region, as well as from foundations and other entities. These donations have made it possible for the IACHR to carry out a great many of its activities stemming from the mandates of the OAS political bodies.
In particular, the IACHR appreciates the contributions made in 2008 by the governments of the following OAS Member States: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. It also wishes to thank the Observer Countries that support the work of the Commission: Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Spain, and Sweden. The Commission also values and appreciates the contributions received form the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, and the University of Notre Dame. These contributions contribute concretely to the strengthening of the human rights system in the Americas.
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