IACHR CONCLUDES ITS 134TH PERIOD OF SESSIONS
Washington, D.C., March 27, 2009 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 134th regular period of sessions from March 16 to 27, 2009. During the sessions, the Commission elected its board of officers, which now consists of Luz Patricia Mejía as Chair, Víctor Abramovich as Vice-Chair, and Felipe González as Second Vice-Chair. Also on the IACHR are Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Clare K. Roberts, Florentín Meléndez, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.
During its 134th period of sessions, the Commission continued its ongoing dialogue with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on regulatory reforms and on ways to make the inter-American human rights system more efficient and effective. In addition, on March 20 the IACHR and the Inter-American Court held a dialogue with the OAS Member States, as has been the practice every year. This important space for dialogue between the States and the bodies of the inter-American human rights system allows for an exchange of perspectives on the operation and aims of the system and on the achievements and challenges that both the States and the Commission and Court face in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region.
The Commission also approved reports on individual cases and petitions. These reports 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.
The sessions also included 37 hearings and 16 working meetings. Seven hearings were held on Venezuela, during which the IACHR received input that will serve to complement other sources and material to be used in the preparation of a report on the human rights situation in that country. Likewise, a hearing was held on immigrant detention and deportation policies in the United States, in which information was received that complements research the IACHR has been doing for the preparation of a report on the human rights situation in immigration detention centers in the United States. The IACHR also approved the Report on the Rights of Women in Chile: Equality in the Family, Labor and Political Spheres.
In the hearing on military justice and human rights in Mexico, held on March 20, the Commission received information on how the use of military courts affects the ability to obtain justice in cases of human rights violations, particularly with respect to civilians. The IACHR expresses its concern over the fact that in some countries of the region the military justice system continues to be used to investigate and prosecute common crimes committed by members of the armed forces or the police. The IACHR reiterates that military jurisdiction is exceptional by nature and should be used solely for crimes committed in the line of duty, that is, conduct by members of the military in active service that attempts against legally protected interests of military order. States have the obligation to provide effective judicial remedies for victims of human rights violations; these are, in all cases, penal remedies available through the regular justice system, independently of whether the violations to be judged were committed by members of the military or not.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The IACHR will commemorate the occasion with various activities during the year. Among these, a commemorative ceremony will be held in early September in Chile, where on August 18, 1959, the decision was made to create the Commission. The IACHR will also travel to Argentina this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the historic visit the Commission made to that country during the military dictatorship. The IACHR will also conduct an on-site visit to Brazil at the beginning of the second half of this year.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.
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