IACHR CONCLUDES ITS 137TH PERIOD OF SESSIONS
Washington, D.C., November 13, 2009 − As it concludes the last period of sessions of its 50th anniversary year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) observes that the region continues to face grave obstacles to the effective enjoyment of the political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights of the people of the Americas.
Throughout these 50 years of work, the IACHR has established that inequality and discrimination are serious structural problems in the hemisphere that pose major obstacles to the respect for the human rights of all the region's inhabitants. Discrimination against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, women, the poor, immigrants, and various groups based on sexual orientation, among others, is a serious problem in all countries of the region. The Commission calls on the States to adopt urgent measures in order to advance resolutely in preventing and combating all forms of discrimination and in eliminating poverty, especially extreme poverty.
In the course of these five decades, the IACHR has observed significant advances in political and civil rights, in that many countries that once suffered dictatorships and armed conflicts live today in democracy. However, the current challenge is to improve the quality of that democracy, including all political and civil rights. The situation is particularly grave in Honduras, where a coup d'état perpetrated on June 28 is having a direct impact on the human rights of that country's people. The IACHR believes it is essential to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya and reestablish the constitutional order as a guarantee of the effective exercise of civil and political rights.
With regard to its 137th period of sessions, the IACHR received a high-level delegation from the government of Colombia, headed by Vice President Francisco Santos. Without prejudice to the information it received, the IACHR views as extremely serious the intelligence activities carried out by Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS) as respects judiciary officials, political leaders, human rights defenders, and an IACHR Commissioner. The Inter-American Commission hopes that concrete actions will be taken so that this situation is not repeated and so that those responsible are identified and punished.
Notwithstanding the seriousness of the pending challenges, in its five decades of existence the IACHR has witnessed significant progress in the respect for and guarantee of human rights. The 137th period of sessions was the scene of progress in various areas.
Along these lines, the IACHR views very positively the fact that the State of El Salvador has recognized its international responsibility in the case of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and in four cases involving children who disappeared during the armed conflict, and that it has explicitly accepted the binding nature of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' decisions.
The IACHR also expresses its satisfaction over the progress made, in working meetings held during this period of sessions, in the friendly settlement process in cases related to Argentina and Paraguay. During these sessions, 52 hearings and 28 working meetings were held, and reports were approved on individual cases and petitions.
The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly and who act in a personal capacity, without representing their country of origin or residence. The members of the Commission are Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair; Víctor Abramovich, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Sir Clare K. Roberts, Florentín Meléndez, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.
On December 31, 2009, Commissioners Víctor Abramovich, Paolo Carozza, and Clare K. Roberts finish the terms to which they were elected. That same day Commissioner Florentín Meléndez's resignation will also take effect. In July 2009, Commissioner Meléndez took office as Vice President of the Constitutional Court of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice. The IACHR expresses its appreciation for and recognition of the work, dedication, and valuable contributions to the inter-American human rights system that Commissioners Abramovich, Carozza, Roberts, and Meléndez leave as a legacy.
For 50 years, the IACHR has been a principal and autonomous OAS body that derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area.
ANNEX TO PRESS RELEASE 78/09
ON THE 137TH REGULAR PERIOD OF SESSIONS OF THE IACHR
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 137th regular period of sessions from October 28 to November 13, 2009. The IACHR is made up of Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair; Víctor Abramovich, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Sir Clare K. Roberts, Florentín Meléndez, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton. The IACHR is the principal body of the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for safeguarding the observance of human rights in all States of the Americas.
During the 137th period of sessions, 52 hearings and 28 working meetings were held, and reports were approved on individual cases and petitions. These reports reflect some of the structural human rights problems that persist in the region. They refer to the respect for the right to life and humane treatment, guarantees of due process and judicial protection, and the exercise of economic, social, and cultural rights as well as the rights of children, indigenous peoples, women, persons deprived of liberty, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, among other matters.
The participation in hearings and working meetings of representatives of the OAS Member States, as well as those who participated as victims or petitioners, contributes significantly to 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 this regard, 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.”
Advances in Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission views very positively the fact that the State of El Salvador has recognized its international responsibility in the case of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and in four cases involving children who disappeared during the armed conflict, and that it has explicitly accepted the binding nature of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' decisions.
The Inter-American Commission also makes special note of its satisfaction over the positive disposition and goodwill shown by the parties in the working meetings on cases in process of friendly settlement, which made it possible to make significant progress. The IACHR would especially like to underscore the progress made during the 137th period of sessions in cases having to do with Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay.
On November 4, 2009, a working meeting was held by the petitioners and the State in Case 12.330, Marcelino Gómez Paredes and Cristián Ariel Núñez, Paraguay, in which the parties signed a friendly settlement agreement. In the agreement the State of Paraguay recognized its international responsibility in the case, which refers to the forced disappearance, in early 1998, of Marcelino Gómez Paredes and Cristián Ariel Núñez, child soldiers who were recruited illegally for military service and who disappeared while they were under the Army's responsibility. Among other things, the State made a commitment to continue investigating the facts and punish those responsible, and to present draft legislation that brings domestic laws in line with standards of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons. The parties thanked the Commission for the ongoing collaboration and follow-up it has given to the case and requested approval of the friendly settlement solution that was reached, through the adoption of the report provided for in Article 49 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The process of dialogue for a friendly settlement had resumed during the IACHR's 129th period of sessions, following an interruption in 2003, the year in which Admissibility Report No. 82/03 was approved.
On November 4, 2009, the petitioners and the State held a working meeting on Case 12.306, Juan Carlos de la Torre, Argentina, in which the parties signed a friendly settlement agreement. Through the agreement that was reached, the State of Argentina made a commitment to adopt the measures necessary to guarantee respect for international standards on migration issues, based on a work plan agreed to by the parties. The plan includes establishing regulations for the new Migration Law and conducting a detailed analysis of laws in effect on this issue (national and provincial), in order to move forward to adapt any laws that may contain measures that could produce illegitimate discrimination based on a person's foreign citizenship or migration status and bring them in line with international and constitutional standards in this area. In this regard, the parties underscored the approval of the "National Anti-Discrimination Plan," which includes a chapter specifically devoted to migrants and refugees. This friendly settlement process was begun in the context of the IACHR's 118th period of sessions and contributed decisively to the repeal of the migration law in effect at that time, known as the "Videla Law," and to its substitution by Law 25.871, approved on January 20, 2004. It also contributed to the implementation of a consultation mechanism with different organizations on the drafting of the new law's regulations; the adoption of the measures necessary for the approval and subsequent ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the suspension of migration inspections and their aftermath of arrests, detentions, and expulsions; the adoption of Decree 836/04, which regulates the normalization of documents for anyone native to MERCOSUR, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru; and the provisions of Decree 1169/04, which serves the same purpose for those native to any other State. The parties expressed their satisfaction over the results of this friendly settlement process, which once again confirms the high value and potential of the inter-American human rights system and particularly of the institution of friendly settlement as a legitimate early-warning mechanism for the effective implementation of measures that can lead to the institutional improvement of the State.
On November 4, 2009, a working meeting took place between the petitioners and the State in Case 11.670, Menéndez Caride et al, Argentina—also known as the ANSES case or the "case of the retirees"—in which the parties signed an agreement. The case was brought to the IACHR on behalf of retirees and pensioners in Argentina, by virtue of the fact that domestic lawsuits they had filed seeking readjustment of benefits had encountered delays in the substantiation of claims and/or in compliance with judgments. The main purpose of the agreement is to ensure that administrative practices are brought in line with social security legislation that was adopted in the context of this case. On January 19, 2001, the Commission issued an admissibility report (Report No. 03/01) with respect to this case. In October 2003, during the IACHR's 118th regular period of sessions, a process of dialogue was begun among the parties. The friendly settlement process before the IACHR contributed significantly to the reform of Law 24.463 on Social Security, in September 2006. It also played a role in the decision by Argentina's newly configured Supreme Court of Justice to reestablish constitutional doctrine in the area of social security and to interpret that doctrine in a way that is compatible with international human rights treaties. The parties expressed their appreciation for the Commission's ongoing collaboration and follow-up of the case and requested approval of their friendly settlement solution through the adoption of the report provided for in Article 49 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
On November 4, 2009, a working meeting was held with regard to Case No. 9.168 − Jorge Alberto Rosal Paz y Paz, Guatemala. During the meeting, the representatives of the State expressed their willingness to comply with reparation measures established in the friendly settlement agreement and made reference to limitations in the original agreement. Along these lines, with respect to the education-related reparation measures, the parties agreed that the State of Guatemala, through its National Scholarship and Credit Fund (FONABECE), will grant María Luisa Rosal Vargas a scholarship so she can pursue master's degree studies at McGill University in Québec, Canada, beginning in January 2010. On November 6, 2009, the parties signed a document in which the State of Guatemala made a commitment to grant her the scholarship, which will cover the cost of tuition and study materials, as well as expenses related to housing, food, and health insurance. The beneficiary also made a commitment to inform the State with respect to her academic progress and any other circumstance relevant to the use of the scholarship. Finally, the parties agreed to continue a dialogue so as to come to similar agreements on the educational obligation with respect to Jorge Alberto Rosal Vargas. The parties also advanced in negotiations and exchanged information in order to comply with obligations regarding the provision of housing and justice measures in the case, areas in which compliance is still pending.
On November 4, 2009, a working meeting was held between the petitioners and the State in Case 12.623 − Luis Rey Villagrán García, Mexico. At that time, the parties informed the Commission about the signing of a conciliatory agreement on November 3, 2009, with the intention of advancing toward a friendly settlement in the case. Based on that agreement, the State assumed such responsibilities as arranging for the transfer of the alleged victim—who is currently deprived of liberty—to a social reintegration center closer to his family's place of residence. The State will also submit the case file to a Reconciliation Board of the Chiapas state government so that it can study and review the criminal procedure that was followed and bring it in line with guarantees of legal and judicial security. With respect to the reparation measures to be adopted, it was indicated that these will be discussed and agreed on by both parties and subsequently reported to the IACHR. Finally, the parties requested that the proposed agreement be approved by the IACHR through a friendly settlement report and that, once it has been complied with in its entirety, the case be considered closed; without prejudice to this, they stated that if the agreement were not respected, they would continue with the substantiation of the case. The IACHR ruled in its Report 49/07 on the admissibility of the petition that was presented based on the alleged violations of Articles 5, 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention, in relation to that instrument's Article 1.1, as well as Articles 8 and 10 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, based on allegations involving illegal detention, detention conditions, and acts of torture to which the alleged victim had purportedly been submitted, among others.
Human Rights Challenges in the Region
The IACHR observes that that inequality and discrimination are serious structural problems in the hemisphere that pose major obstacles to the respect for the human rights of all the region's inhabitants. Discrimination against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, women, the poor, immigrants, and various groups based on sexual orientation, among others, is a serious problem in all countries of the region. The Commission calls on the States to adopt urgent measures in order to advance resolutely in preventing and combating all forms of discrimination and in eliminating poverty, especially extreme poverty.
The IACHR continues to observe with concern 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 generally arise because the States do not properly guarantee the protection of indigenous territories, nor do they guarantee indigenous peoples the right to participate in the decisions regarding activities that affect their rights.
In Chile, serious conflicts related to indigenous peoples' territorial rights have been confirmed. The IACHR notes with particular concern the complaints about abuses by police agents against members of the Mapuche people, including women and children. The United Nations Committee Against Torture spoke out about this situation in May of 2009 and asked the State to conduct investigations of abuses committed against members of indigenous peoples and to prosecute and punish police officials who commit this type of act.
On another point, the Commission has observed with concern developments in Ecuador in connection with a series of legislative bills and presidential decrees adopted in such areas as mining, water resources, and religious matters involving evangelization, which affect the rights of indigenous peoples without them having been properly consulted. In this context, a series of protests took place in the country, in which several indigenous persons were injured and a member of the Shuar people died.
The Commission also expresses its concern regarding the situation of indigenous communities affected by the Initiative Project for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) and the situation of the Ngobe community and other indigenous communities in Panama. In this regard, the IACHR expresses its concern over information received in which it is observed that States in the hemisphere are failing in their duty to protect the lands and territories of indigenous peoples.
The Commission reiterates that the American Convention on Human Rights requires the States to carry out free and informed prior consultation designed to obtain the consent of indigenous peoples and communities that could potentially be affected by development programs, investment projects implemented in their territories, and legislative or administrative measures that could affect them directly. The Commission reiterates as well that the right to consultation of indigenous peoples includes the positive duty of the State to have suitable, effective mechanisms in place to be able to obtain free and informed prior consent, in accordance with the indigenous peoples' customs and traditions, before undertaking activities that could impact their interests or affect their rights over their lands, territory, or natural resources, as well as any legislative measures that could affect them directly.
On another matter, during these sessions the IACHR received a high-level delegation from the government of Colombia, headed by Vice President Francisco Santos. Without prejudice to the information it received, the IACHR views as extremely serious the intelligence activities carried out by Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS) with respect to judiciary officials, political leaders, human rights defenders, and an IACHR Commissioner. The Inter-American Commission hopes that concrete actions will be taken so that this situation is not repeated and so that those responsible are identified and punished.
During this period of sessions, hearings were also held on judicial processes related to serious human rights violations perpetrated in the past. In that respect, the IACHR emphasizes that the bodies of the inter-American system have ruled on the inadmissibility of statutes of limitations in criminal matters in cases involving egregious human rights violations. In particular, the Commission reaffirms the Inter-American Court's jurisprudence by which amnesty provisions are considered inadmissible, as well as measures to establish statutes of limitations or exclusions of responsibility that seek to obstruct the investigation and punishment of those responsible for egregious human rights violations such as torture; summary, extralegal, or arbitrary executions; and forced disappearances. All of these are prohibited because they contravene irrevocable rights recognized under international human rights law.
With regard to Haiti, on November 4, 2009, a working meeting was held on the situation of those detained at the Toussaint Louverture Police Station in Gonaїves. The IACHR was informed by the Gonaїves Alliance for Development and for the Respect of Human Rights (AGREDAH) that despite the fact that the Commission granted precautionary measures in June 2008 (PM 144-08), detention conditions continue to be difficult, with small cells and inadequate infrastructure. In this regard, the Commission welcomes the fact that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has built separate cells for minors in detention. However, it is concerned that more than 300 individuals are currently detained at the Toussaint Louverture Police Station, which was originally designed for 75 persons; this results in inhuman detention conditions. The cells have no natural light, electricity or ventilation, access to food and water is scarce, and there is no medical care. The Inter-American Commission urges the State of Haiti to adopt the necessary measures to protect the security and integrity of all those detained at Toussaint Louverture, and to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR.
With regard to Peru, the IACHR expresses its concern regarding the information it received in a working meeting with the parties in Case 12.191, María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, which includes more than 200 women who were victims of forced sterilization, a practice that allegedly has affected 2,074 women in Peru. According to the information received, the Office of the Public Prosecutor in charge of investigating the case determined on May 26 that the statute of limitations had expired and closed the investigation. The decision can be appealed to the higher-level Public Prosecutor. In the working meeting, the Peruvian State said that the deadlines for beginning disciplinary proceedings against the doctors and other public officials responsible for the sterilizations and for the lack of a timely investigation have also expired. The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the possibility that this matter could remain in a state of impunity, and hopes that the necessary measures can be adopted so that this can be investigated and those responsible punished.
In a hearing held during this period of sessions, Commissioner Carlos Castresana Fernández of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) talked about activities that had been carried out to strengthen the rule of law and provide Guatemala with a more efficient system that allows Guatemalans to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution and in international instruments, all in a context of the Guatemalan State's compliance with the obligation to guarantee human rights, enshrined in Article 1 of the American Convention. Commissioner Catresana asked the IACHR to accompany and follow up on efforts carried out by the CICIG, which was created as a human rights instrument, in the struggle against impunity and especially in the strengthening of justice institutions in Guatemala.
He also talked about the CICIG's main areas of work: technical assistance; legislative proposals; the initiation of disciplinary actions; and the exercise of criminal actions with the Public Ministry. Commissioner Castresana made reference to the preparation and training provided to police forces and the design of best practices that aim to dismantle illegal units and clandestine operations in Guatemala. In particular, he informed the Commission that one of the basic difficulties is the lack of independence and impartiality of the judicial body and the problems in implementation presented by the Law of Proposal Commissions, which regulates the selection of slates of candidates for key public offices. The judicial body's deficiencies are also verified in the periodic renewal of judicial posts, the election of candidates through a flawed selection process, deficiencies in the standards of selection, and the lack of clarity in identifying objective criteria for suitable candidates, among other things.
The Inter-American Commission has monitored the human rights situation in Guatemala on an ongoing basis and on numerous occasions has expressed its concern over the Guatemalan State's lack of capacity to provide an adequate, efficient system for the administration of justice, one that can guarantee the existence of an independent and impartial judiciary. It did so in its Report on Guatemala in 2003 and in the working visit that took place in June of 2009. More recently, the IACHR reiterated its earlier recommendations in October 2009, in the context of elections to the Court of Appeals. It called for adequate implementation of the mechanism established by the Law of Proposal Commissions so as to guarantee that candidates’ backgrounds and the steps for selection are made public in a process that is broad and inclusive and that civil society has effective participation and oversight throughout the process. The IACHR urges the Guatemalan authorities and civil society to be especially careful in the selection process for the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Constitutional Court that will take place in the near future, and allow for the election of suitable candidates who can carry out their duties independently and impartially and can actively contribute to the elimination of the structures of impunity in Guatemala.
The impunity index, which reaches 98% in Guatemala, affects not only the egregious crimes against humanity committed during the internal armed conflict, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, rapes, and genocide, but also crimes committed since the end of the internal armed conflict. In this context, the IACHR appreciates the work of the CICIG and reiterates its support of the organization's efforts to bring about the strengthening of institutions in the justice sector.
With regard to Honduras, the IACHR considers that it is essential to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya and to reestablish the constitutional order that was ruptured with the coup d'état of June 28, 2009, as a guarantee of the effective exercise of civil and political rights. The IACHR received updated information during these sessions indicating that the situation of human rights defenders in that country is deteriorating by the day, in the context of other violations since the coup d'état. It was indicated that human rights defenders who persist in denouncing human rights violations committed by the de facto authorities are threatened, harassed, defamed, and accused publicly. They added that attacks have been made against their homes and those of their relatives, as well as against the headquarters of human rights organizations. In particular, the IACHR learned that unknown individuals maintain surveillance at the headquarters of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) and that COFADEH officials and their relatives have received intimidating phone calls and have been tailed. It was also learned that teargas bombs were tossed inside the headquarters when 127 individuals were there, at a time in which testimonies were being taken. In addition, the President of COFADEH reportedly has been accused publicly of the crime of treason against the fatherland, as a consequence of information she presented in the thematic hearing on the human rights situation in Honduras, held during this period of sessions. Under these circumstances, the IACHR urges the authorities of the de facto government to guarantee the security, life, and humane treatment of human rights defenders, in particular the staff of COFADEH and their family members, and to implement the measures necessary to guarantee the inviolability of that organization's offices. The IACHR also recalls that, based on Article 61 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure, the 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."
On another matter, on October 7, 2009, the de facto government of Honduras published Executive Agreement No. 124-2009 in the Official Gazette. It instructs "CONATEL and other competent State bodies" to proceed, "in order to protect national security on the basis of the overriding interests of the nation, the rights, and the physical and moral integrity of the human person," to "revoke or cancel the use of operating licenses" granted by CONATEL to radio and television operators that "broadcast messages that advocate national hatred, affect protected legal rights, and generate a regime of social anarchy against the democratic State, managing to commit an assault on social peace and human rights." The IACHR views with concern the fact that this decree continues in effect and that, as a consequence of its application, at least three radio programs have reportedly been canceled, affecting the right to freedom of expression of the people of Honduras.
The IACHR reiterates to the de facto government that it must guarantee the human rights of all the inhabitants of Honduras, especially in the context of the upcoming electoral process, and refrain from implementing the practices, which the IACHR confirmed and condemned during its visit and since then, that violate the rights to life, humane treatment, personal freedom, freedom of expression, and the right of assembly, among others.
Finally, the IACHR reiterates the importance that the inter-American system advance toward the universal acceptance and application of its norms through the ratification of its various regional human rights treaties, 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, so as to achieve their universal application.
On another point, the IACHR decided on the dates of its 2010 periods of sessions. The 138th sessions will take place on January 28-29; the 139th on March 15-26; the 140th on July 12-16; and the 141st from October 20 to November 5. Hearings and working meetings will be held during the 139th and 141st periods of sessions. In addition to the current sessions, in 2009 the IACHR held its 134th period of sessions on March 16-27, the 135th sessions on August 3-8; and the 136th on September 7-8 in Argentina.
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 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. These refer to respect for the right to life and humane treatment; 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 is of a public nature.
During the week of November 2-6, 52 hearings were held on individual cases and petitions, on precautionary measures, and on general and specific human rights situations. The hearings that took place in the Padilha Vidal Room were transmitted live via the Internet. The videos of these hearings, as well as the audio recordings of all the public hearings, are available on the IACHR's public hearings page, which also contains links to high-definition photographs taken at the hearings. Links to these audio recordings and videos are authorized for external Web sites, as long as appropriate 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:
· Situation of Indigenous Communities Affected by the Initiative Project for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA)
· Right to Freedom of Expression, Participation, Assembly and Protest in Nicaragua
· Human Rights of Women in the Context of the Coup d’Etat in Honduras
· Human Rights Situation in Bolivia
· Follow-up to the Recommendations of the IACHR Report “Access to Justice and Social Inclusion in Bolivia”
· Human Rights in Venezuela
· Criminalization of Social Protest in Venezuela
· State of the Processing of Violations of Human Rights Perpetrated During the Military Dictatorship in Chile
· Situation of Persons Affected by “Mega Dams” in the Americas
· Situation of Children in Juvenile Detention Centers in Jamaica
· Human Rights in Haiti
· Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Cité Soleil, Haiti
· Situation of Violence against Children and Women in the Haitian-Dominican Frontier Region
· Human Rights in the Context of the Coup d’Etat in Honduras
· Due Process and Anti-terrorist Legislation in Peru
· Human Rights in the Peruvian Amazon
· Follow-up of the Recommendations of the Report of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
· Right to Consultation of the Indigenous Peoples of Peru
· Right to Freedom of Expression in Peru
· Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador
· Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Ecuador
· Human Rights in Brazil
· Human Rights of Migrant Indigenous Agricultural Laborers in Guerrero, Mexico
· Institutional Violence against Women in Mexico
· Public Security and Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico
· Situation of Political Rights in Mexico
· Forced Displacement in Colombia
· Situation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender Persons in Colombia
· Situation of Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and Campesino Communities of Northern Cauca, Colombia
· Guarantees for the Exercise of the Rights of members of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, Colombia
· International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)
· Impunity for Violations of Women’s Human Rights in Guatemala
· Torture, Extrajudicial Executions and Violations to the Right of Freedom of Expression in Cuba
· Freedom of Movement in Cuba
· Situation of Independent Union Leaders in Cuba
· Freedom of Expression and Broadcasting Regulation in the Americas
· Right to Education of Persons with Disabilities in the Americas
· Maternal Mortality in the Americas
· Human Rights of Orphan Children and International Adoption Policies in the Americas
· Absence of Regulation for Homosexual Civil Unions
· Follow-Up of Recommendations to the IACHR Report “Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas”
Labor Rights in Central America
In addition, two private hearings were held, at the request of the organizations and individuals that asked for the hearings: Right to Freedom of Expression and Information in Venezuela, and Democratic Institutions, Parapolice Groups and Jails in Venezuela.
B. Hearings on Precautionary Measures and Individual Petitions and Cases
During this period of sessions, the following hearings were held on precautionary measures, petitions, and cases:
III. WORKING MEETINGS
During the 137th period of sessions, 28 working meetings were held on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The meetings were on the following:
· Case 12.204 − Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), Argentina
· Case 11.670 − Menéndez, Caride et al., Argentina
· Case 12.306 − Juan Carlos de la Torre, Argentina
· Case 12.532 − Inmates from the Mendoza Penitentiary, Argentina
· Case 12.674 − Marcio Lapoente da Silveira, Brazil
· PM 269/07, 93/08, and 119/09 − Supreme Court Magistrates, Colombia
· PM 509/03 − Victoria Fallon, Colombia
· Colombian Prisons (PM 792/04, Palo Gordo; PM 129/00, Modelo de Bogotá), Colombia
· PM 555/03 − Gloria Flórez et al., Colombia
· PM 01/00 − Hollman Morris and Family, Colombia
· PM 113/07 − CORPADES, Colombia
· Case 12.542 − FERTICA Workers, Costa Rica
· Case 12.683 − Melba Suárez Peralta, Ecuador
· Case 12.631 − Karina Montenegro et al., Ecuador
· Tageri and Taromenani Indigenous Peoples, Ecuador
· PM 144/08 − Detention Conditions in the Toussaint L'Ouverture Police Station, Haiti
· Case 9.168 − Jorge Alberto Rosal Paz, Guatemala
· Protection Measures for Human Rights Defenders, Guatemala
· Case 12.130 − Miguel Orlando Muñoz Guzmán, Mexico
· Case 12.623 − Luis Rey Villagrán García, Mexico
· Case 12.116 − María Estela García Ramírez and Celerino Jiménez Almaraz, Mexico
· PM 56/07 − Santiago Rafael Cruz and Members of FLOC, Mexico
· PM 54/08 − Josefa López Gutiérrez et al., Mexico
· PM 277/08 − Patients of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Paraguay
· Case 12.359 − Cristina Aguayo et al., Paraguay
· Case 12.330 − Marcelino Gómez and Ariel Núñez, Paraguay
· Case 12.191 − María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, Peru
· VIASA Retirees, Venezuela
IV. RAPPORTEURSHIPS AND THEMATIC AREAS
This section contains a brief summary of some of the main activities carried out by the IACHR, through its special rapporteurships and thematic areas, since its 134th period of sessions, which took place in March 2009.
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 this period, the Rapporteurship continued to advise the Executive Secretariat in the evaluation of petitions and requests for precautionary measures related to racial discrimination issues and/or the situation of Afro-descendants in the Americas.
On September 16, 2009, the Rapporteurship's specialist attorney gave a presentation at the training workshop on Increasing the Participation and Advocacy of Afro-Descendants at the Organization of American States and the Summit of the Americas Process. The seminar was organized by the organization Global Rights and the OAS Department of International Affairs, and included the participation of 17 Afro-descendant activists from around the hemisphere.
The Rapporteurship continued to provide technical assistance to the Working Group of the OAS Permanent Council's Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs that is in charge of drafting a new regional instrument, the Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
During the 137th period of sessions, a hearing was held on the situation of Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and campesino communities of Northern Cauca, as a follow-up to the Preliminary Observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after the Visit of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination to the Republic of Colombia.
B. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
The Rapporteurship on Women, under the direction of Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía, continues to implement three initiatives to compile qualitative and quantitative information with a view to identifying the main advances and challenges that women face to be able to exercise their rights, free of discrimination, in the spheres of political participation, reproductive rights, and women's economic and social rights. These three projects, which receive support from the governments of Finland and Spain, will culminate with the publication of thematic reports. The Rapporteurship also continued its activities in support of the system of individual petitions and the study and processing of precautionary measures, cases, and communications that refer to women's rights.
On April 28-29, 2009, the Rapporteurship participated in the public hearing in Chile on the case of Claudia Ivette González et al. (Campo Algodonero) v. Mexico. This is the first case before the Inter-American Court that deals comprehensively with issues related to the rights of women. The petitioners in the case alleged that the Mexican State committed a series of human rights violations due to irregularities and inconsistencies in the investigation into the disappearances and deaths of three women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. During this visit to Chile, the Rapporteurship gave a conference on advances in case law on the rights of women. This took place April 30 at the Diego Portales University Law School, with the participation of representatives of that institution's faculty and students from various disciplines.
As part of the project on reproductive rights funded by Spain, on May 6, 2009, the Rapporteurship organized a third subregional workshop to address the issue of access to information in the reproductive field from a human rights perspective. The workshop brought together recognized experts on the issue in the region, as well as participants from the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
The Rapporteurship also conducted a visit to Bolivia from June 22 to 26 to gather specific information at the national level on the principal advances and challenges women face to be able to exercise their economic and social rights free of discrimination. During the visit, the Rapporteurship met with high-level government authorities and representatives of union and civil society organizations, as well as international agencies. During the visit to Bolivia, on Wednesday, June 24, the Rapporteurship also held a regional meeting of experts to identify the principal advances and challenges women face to be able to obtain, under conditions of equality, access to and control of resources; educational opportunities and employment conditions; and adequate protection of their economic and social rights.
As part of the visit to Bolivia, the Rapporteurship participated in a workshop on Friday, June 26, to follow up on the friendly settlement agreement in the case of MZ v. Bolivia. The case has to do with the lack of due diligence in the administration of justice in punishing the petitioner’s sexual aggressor, based on gender-related discriminatory prejudices. In the friendly settlement report, the State recognized its international responsibility for violating MZ's rights protected in the American Convention and the Belem do Pará Convention, particularly with respect to the right of all women to live free of violence and the obligation of the State to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, and punish these acts. The State also made a commitment in the agreement to implement measures to prevent the repetition of these acts and to train officials in the administration of justice. The purpose of the June 26 workshop was to train judiciary officials at all levels on issues related to violence and discrimination against women. The event included the participation of approximately 250 representatives from government, the justice system, civil society, and international agencies.
In addition, the Rapporteurship has closely followed hearings convened by the IACHR, as part of its 137th period of sessions, on such issues as maternal mortality in the Americas; the follow-up to recommendations in the IACHR report on Access to Justice for Women in the Americas; the human rights of women in the context of the coup d'état in Honduras; institutional violence against women in Mexico; the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons in Colombia; and the lack of regulation of homosexual civil unions, among other hearings and working meetings on individual cases.
C. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, under the direction of Commissioner Víctor Abramovich, continued its activities in support of the system of individual petitions and the study and processing of precautionary measures, cases, and communications that refer to the rights of indigenous peoples or their members. It also continued to advise in public and private hearings on cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that have to do with the rights of indigenous peoples.
From June 7 to 12, 2009, Commissioner Abramovich, in his capacity as Rapporteur for Guatemala and Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, headed an IACHR delegation that conducted a working visit to the Republic of Guatemala. The purpose of the visit was to observe and gather information on the human rights situation, particularly the status of investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the grave human rights violations committed during the armed conflict; the situation of the rights of indigenous peoples; and the situation of human rights defenders. In addition, the visit included working meetings on the implementation of precautionary measures and on the cases of Maurilia Coc Max et al. (Xaman Massacre), Angélica Jerónimo Juárez, Massacre in the Village of Los Josefinos, Edgar Fernando García, and Oscar David Hernández Quiroa. Finally, on June 10, Commissioner Abramovich made a presentation in Guatemala City of the report entitled Access to Justice as a Guarantee of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: A Review of the Standards Adopted by the Inter-American System of Human Rights.
On June 11-12, 2009, during the working visit to the Republic of Guatemala, Commissioner Abramovich and an IACHR delegation visited the indigenous community of Río Negro and traveled to Pcoxom, Pacux, and Rabinal to talk to relatives and survivors of the massacres suffered by the inhabitants of Río Negro. He also met with several organizations of victims of that area’s internal armed conflict.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is preparing a regional study on “the duty of the States to protect the property rights of indigenous peoples, with emphasis on the right of consultation and prior consent.” In order to share experiences and receive input for the report, on June 7 in Guatemala City the Rapporteurship held a regional meeting for Central America and Mexico, which included the participation of noted experts from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador, as well as international organizations. The Rapporteurship also prepared a questionnaire for the purpose of collecting information for the report on best practices, including legislation, jurisprudence, and public policies, as well as obstacles to property rights for indigenous peoples. This questionnaire was sent to the States on August 7, 2009, and was widely distributed by e-mail to indigenous peoples, indigenous organizations, and civil society, and posted on the IACHR Web site. This process has produced important contributions that will enrich the report. The study is being prepared by attorney Luis Rodríguez-Piñero.
On July 15, 2009, the Rapporteurship participated in the hearing held before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on monitoring compliance with the judgment in the Case of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay. During the hearing, the IACHR presented its observations with respect to compliance with the Judgment on Merits, Reparations and Costs in this case.
On October 5-6, the Rapporteur participated in a seminar on challenges related to the implementation in Chile of Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labor Organization), in which he gave a presentation on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Inter-American Human Rights System. The seminar was organized by the Center for Human Rights at Diego Portales University; the Council of the Atacameño Peoples; the Lafkenche Territorial Identity; the Mapuche Working Group on Collective Rights; the Citizen Observatory; and the Regional Education Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNESCO, in Santiago. That same day the Rapporteur gave a talk on the subject at the University of Chile.
In addition, attorney Juan Pablo Albán participated on behalf of the Rapporteurship in a conference September 25 in Lima, Peru, given by the Association of Lima Attorneys on The Inter-American Human Rights System and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also participated, from September 26 to 28, in a workshop organized by the Office of Social Action of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEAS), in which he offered talks on the following topics: the right of indigenous peoples to consultation; jurisprudence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning the rights of indigenous peoples; and jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Rapporteurship also continued to advise the Chair of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Attorney Isabel Madariaga, a specialist with the Rapporteurship, participated in several meetings with the Chair, the Ambassador of Bolivia to the OAS, José Enrique Pinelo, as well as with representatives of the Member State delegations, to prepare for negotiation meetings that will take place in December 2009 with the participation of indigenous representatives of the Americas.
Joining the Rapporteurship's team on September 18, 2009, were recipients of the Indigenous Peoples Fellowship: attorneys Maurilio Santiago of the Mixtec people of Mexico, Elga Tizicap of the Maya people of Guatemala, and Miriam Liz of the Naso people of Colombia, who were chosen through a competition and selection process. In addition, on September 10, 2009, the IACHR published the announcement of a competition to contract a specialist in human rights and indigenous rights to work at the Rapporteurship.
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 continued its promotional work and the publication of reports designed to address the various forms of violence faced by children and adolescents in the Americas. To this end, as provided under the cooperation agreement signed by the OAS and the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), working visits and subregional consultations were held to gather information on juvenile justice in the Americas for a report the IACHR is preparing on the subject.
Specifically, two subregional consultations were held: one for the Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, held in San José, Costa Rica, on March 2-3, 2009; and one for countries of the Andean region and Brazil, held in Bogotá, Colombia, on March 5-6, 2009. Both consultations covered the issue of citizen security as well as juvenile criminal justice and human rights.
The Office of the Rapporteur conducted visits to the Caribbean and met with government officials and nongovernmental organizations from the following countries: Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Haiti. Visits were also made to juvenile detention centers in each of those countries. These visits had the purpose of gathering information to prepare the thematic report on juvenile justice in the Americas. Meanwhile, a subregional consultation on juvenile justice in the Eastern Caribbean and the Bahamas was held in May, with the collaboration of the UNICEF subregional office. This consultation included the participation of Rapporteur Pinheiro, as well as representatives of the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
From August through October 2009, the Rapporteurship continued its regional consultations and consultations of experts designed to provide input for the report on juvenile criminal justice and human rights. On August 31 it held the last regional consultation, in Washington, D.C., with 50 participants from the United States and Canada. In addition, on September 29 in Montevideo, Uruguay, and October 23 in Washington, D.C., two meetings were held with experts in juvenile criminal justice in the Americas and the Caribbean. The index of the report was presented at these meetings, along with the introductory chapter and the conclusions related to each chapter.
The Rapporteurship also presented a paper at the Seminar on Justice for Adolescents, held in Mexico on April 1, 2009, and organized by the Federal District Human Rights Commission, the Federal District Government, the Superior Court of Justice of the Federal District, and UNICEF.
In August 2009, the Report on Corporal Punishment and Human Rights of Children and Adolescents was published in Spanish and English. It is in the process of being translated into Portuguese.
On September 14, the Rapporteurship gave a presentation on The Right to Food of Children Under Two within the Inter-American Human Rights System, as part of a technical consultation organized by the United Nations World Food Programme and other agencies of the UN system. The consultation, which was held in Panama, was on the impact of the international crisis on the right to food among the most vulnerable groups, specifically children under two years of age, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
During the visit to Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September to participate in the events commemorating the Commission's 50th anniversary, Rapporteur Pinheiro met with children’s rights organizations to discuss priority issues facing children in both countries. From September 22 to 25, the Rapporteur was a keynote speaker in the 20th Pan American Congress on Children in Lima, Peru. He also conducted visits to projects and held a series of meetings with the Regional Office of Save the Children, Sweden, Plan International, and UNICEF, as well as with networks of organizations working with children. In addition, the Rapporteur participated in a conference on corporal punishment and a roundtable discussion on children’s rights. He held meetings with Peru’s Prime Minister, the President of the Congress, and the Minister responsible for family and children’s rights issues. He also met with the United Nations’ Special Representative for Violence against Children and the Director of UNICEF TACRO to exchange information and study possible cooperation mechanisms to develop joint strategies in a biannual plan for addressing violence against children in the region, as well as follow-up on the recommendations of the reports of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child.
E. Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, under the direction of Commissioner Felipe González, continued its activities in support of the system of individual petitions and the study and processing of precautionary measures, cases, and communications that refer to the rights of migrants and members of their families.
The Rapporteurship has also continued its investigation into detention conditions and due process rights for immigrants in the United States. During the week of July 20-24, 2009, a delegation of the Rapporteurship visited two unaccompanied minor shelters, a family detention facility, and three adult detention facilities, and met with various representatives from civil society organizations focused on U.S. immigration issues. The delegation, headed by the Rapporteur, visited the Southwest Key Unaccompanied Minor Shelter (Phoenix, Arizona), the Florence Service Processing Center (Florence, Arizona), Pinal County Jail (Florence, Arizona), the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center (Taylor, Texas), the Willacy Detention Center (Raymondville, Texas), and the International Education Services (IES) Unaccompanied Minor Shelter (Los Fresnos, Texas). The Rapporteurship’s delegation also met with representatives of civil society organizations focused on immigration issues in Arizona and Texas. The Rapporteurship released its preliminary observations regarding the visits on July 28, 2009. The press release may be viewed at the following link: http://www.cidh.oas.org/Comunicados/English/2009/53-09eng.htm.
On October 2, 2009, a delegation of the Rapporteurship met with representatives of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to present its observations from the Rapporteurship’s visits to immigration detention facilities in July. ICE, likewise, provided the delegation with a briefing on the new administration’s plans to reform U.S. immigration detention for adults and families. On October 22, 2009, the Rapporteurship met with ICE officials again to receive a briefing on the reforms to the 287(g) local immigration enforcement program.
On September 16-10, 2009, the Rapporteurship participated in the 3rd Hemispheric Conference on Migration Policy in Quito, Ecuador. On the second day of the conference, staff attorney Mark Fleming presented a keynote speech on the concept of inter-American citizenship and highlighted developments in inter-American jurisprudence. The Rapporteurship plans to participate in the upcoming UNHCR regional conference on Refugee Protections scheduled for November 19-20, 2009, in San José, Costa Rica.
F. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, under the direction of Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, continued its activities in support of the system of individual petitions and in the study and processing of precautionary measures, cases, and communications related to the rights of persons deprived of liberty. The Rapporteurship also continued its efforts to promote recognition and respect for the rights of those deprived of liberty in the region.
On April 24, 2009, Rapporteur Meléndez and the specialist attorney Juan Pablo Albán of the Executive Secretariat visited the Provincial Penitentiary of Mendoza and the Gustavo André Prison Farm, in the province of Mendoza, Argentina, to verify the current state of these centers and the degree of compliance with the provisional measures handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2004. During this visit it was observed that despite some progress made since the order for provisional measures, the situation that gave rise to the measures continues to be essentially the same.
The visit included working meetings with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the government of the province of Mendoza, among them: the Governor, the Deputy Secretary of Justice, the Director of the Provincial Prison System, the Provincial Government Human Rights Director, sentencing judges, and officials, professional staff, and security agents from the two centers that were visited. A working meeting was also held with those who had petitioned for the provisional measures. In conducting the visit, the Rapporteur had the support and cooperation of the national government, the provincial government of Mendoza, and the petitioners of the provisional measures.
The Rapporteur also was a speaker at a seminar on human rights for criminal sentencing judges in Argentina, held at the National University of Mendoza. The government of Mendoza on that occasion published a pocket edition of the IACHR's Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, which was given to the sentencing judges and prison officials from Mendoza. The IACHR appreciates this valuable contribution from the government of Mendoza, as this was the first time these principles were published in the hemisphere.
The Rapporteur conducted another visit to Uruguay on May 6-8, in which he participated in the IV Congress of Public Defenders of MERCOSUR and gave a lecture on the Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas. In Montevideo, the Rapporteur visited the National Rehabilitation Center, the Santiago Vásquez Prison Complex, and the Medio Camino group home for women. During the visit, the Rapporteur held working meetings with the Foreign Minister of the Republic, the Minister of the Interior, the National Director of the Prison System, the Congressional Commissioner for Prisoners, the National Director of Public Defense, as well as officials, prison agents, and technical and professional staff.
The Office of the Rapporteur also worked on updating the information on its Web page and on publishing, in hard copy and on the IACHR Web site, the Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas in the four official languages of the OAS. This document was adopted by the IACHR through Resolution 1/08, on March 13, 2008.
In October 2009, the IACHR hired attorney Andrés Pizarro Sotomayor as a specialist in the Rapporteurship on Persons Deprived of Liberty.
G. Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, under the direction of Catalina Botero, participated in the official visit to Honduras on August 17-21, 2009. During the visit, the Office of the Special Rapporteur met with directors of media outlets, journalists, social communicators, representatives of organizations working to defend freedom of expression, representatives of the Association of Journalists, human rights defenders, and correspondents with international news agencies. The Rapporteur also participated in meetings that the IACHR held with officials of the de facto government, such as the minister of defense, the high command of the military and police, and the board of CONATEL (National Telecommunications Commission). She also participated in the meeting with a congressional delegation and the meeting with the human rights commissioner and members of the Prosecutor General's Office and the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor. At the end of the visit, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur produced a press release. The Office of the Special Rapporteur prepared a special report on the visit to Honduras with regard to the situation of freedom of expression in that country in the context of the coup d'état, which will be one of the chapters in the report the Commission is preparing on the human rights situation in Honduras.
From March 30 to April 3, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression attended the hearings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, along with Carlos Zelada, an attorney with the Office of the Special Rapporteur. A hearing was held at that time on the case of Francisco Usón v. Venezuela, which has to do with the criminalization of expression.
On April 13-15, 2009, the Special Rapporteur participated in the Forum on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Honor, organized by the Office of the People’s Defender, in Panama. On April 14, the Rapporteur held a major conference on Inter-American Standards in the Area of Freedom of Expression: Achievements and Challenges.
From April 16 to 22, the Special Rapporteur conducted an academic visit to Mexico, where she attended meetings with various actors connected to the exercise of freedom of expression and participated in seminars. On April 16, the Special Rapporteur participated in the forum on Freedom of Expression, Democratic Processes, and Human Rights, organized by Article 19, the Autonomous University of Mexico City, and the Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. During her visit, she held meetings in Mexico City with representatives of nongovernmental organizations, legislators, members of the judiciary and executive branch, and members of the media. On April 18, she gave a seminar for journalists—held at the Ibero-American University and organized by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression—on the inter-American system and freedom of expression, with an emphasis on access to information. On April 20, the Office of the Special Rapporteur organized a workshop for journalists in Oaxaca on the same topics, in coordination with the State Institute on Access to Public Information. The following day, staff attorney Alejandra Negrete represented the Office of the Special Rapporteur at the forum on The Right of Access to Information: The Inter-American System, International Standards, and an Overview, organized in conjunction with the State Institute on Access to Public Information and Article 19.
On April 23-24, 2009, the Office of the Special Rapporteur organized a special meeting on freedom of expression before the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. The meeting was opened by IACHR Chair Luz Patricia Mejía, and included the participation of Special Rapporteur Catalina Botero and specialists in the area of freedom of expression.
On April 29, the Special Rapporteur participated in a seminar in Bogotá on access to information, organized by the Embassy of Great Britain in Colombia.
On April 28-30, the Americas Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information was held in Lima, Peru. It was organized by the Carter Center, with help from the OAS and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Attorney Carlos Zelada of the Office of the Special Rapporteur attended the workshops held over those days. The Special Rapporteur participated in a panel at the close of the conference, along with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Vice President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Diego García-Sayán. The conference included discussion and consideration of the steps that should be taken to implement a regional plan of action.
On May 4, the Special Rapporteur attended the mid-year meeting of the International Association of Broadcasters, held in Washington, D.C., which OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza also attended.
On May 6, the Special Rapporteur gave a presentation to the Permanent Council to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
On May 7, the Special Rapporteur participated in the presentation to the Permanent Council of the 2008 Annual Report of the IACHR, which includes the Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
On May 27, the Special Rapporteur gave a presentation on freedom of expression issues at the organization Inter-American Dialogue, along with other experts on the subject.
On June 1-3, the Special Rapporteur attended the OAS General Assembly held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
On June 8, the Special Rapporteur participated on a panel on Freedom of Expression: A Key Issue on the Commission’s Agenda, as part of the annual Interdisciplinary Course on Human Rights at American University. The Special Rapporteur gave a presentation on international standards in the area of freedom of expression.
On June 12, 2009, the Rapporteur participated on a panel entitled Freedom of Expression: A Key Issue on the Agenda of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which took place as part of the IV Annual Meeting on Human Rights at the American University Law School.
On July 24, the Special Rapporteur gave a lecture on The Protection of Investigative Journalism in the Inter-American System of Human Rights at a seminar in La Jolla, California, geared toward investigative reporters. This activity was organized in coordination with the Institute of the Americas.
On August 6, the Special Rapporteur gave a training session on the Office of the Rapporteur's mandate and inter-American standards on freedom of expression to 13 Latin American journalists who visited Washington at the invitation of the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. At the request of the Washington Post, this training was offered to another group of 10 journalists on October 2. On September 29 the Rapporteur held another training session for another group of Latin American journalists invited by the International Visitor Leadership Program.
From August 30 to September 5, the Special Rapporteur conducted an academic visit to Chile which included meetings and presentations with members of civil society organizations such as the Chile Transparency Council, the Humanas Corporation, the Worldwide Association of Community Radio Stations in Chile, Chile's Institute for Communication and Image (IACEI), and academics from Diego Portales University and Adolfo Ibáñez University. In addition, on September 1 she gave a seminar on broadcasting principles, at Diego Portales University, and on September 2 a seminar on the protection and strengthening of freedom of expression, at the University of Chile, as well as a seminar on the inter-American human rights system, at Adolfo Ibáñez University. These academic seminars were offered for law students and professors.
On September 3-4, the Rapporteur was with the IACHR Commissioners in Santiago, Chile, where she participated in meetings with government authorities and in activities to commemorate the IACHR's 50th anniversary. One of these was a seminar on September 4 organized by the University of Chile's Human Rights Center, in which the Rapporteur gave a conference on the IACHR and the protection of fundamental rights, with particular emphasis on the right to freedom of expression.
From September 9 to 12, the Special Rapporteur was in Argentina, where she participated in the IACHR sessions held in that country at the government's invitation. She participated in protocolary activities with representatives of the State authorities and with members of civil society, as well as in the Commission's substantive sessions. During the visit, the Rapporteur participated in academic activities on the dissemination and scope of the inter-American human rights system, on the work of the IACHR, and in particular, on the mandate of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
From September 13 to 15, the Special Rapporteur conducted an academic visit to the Republic of Argentina, in which she carried out various events for dissemination of information and education, in addition to holding talks with key actors. The Rapporteur met with members of organizations that work in the defense of freedom of expression, such as the Association for Civil Rights (ADC), the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), and FOPEA. She also participated in the Regional Meeting on Official Advertising and Indirect Censorship: Toward a Definition of Regulation Standards, organized by ADC with support from the Open Society Initiative, which took place on September 14.
On September 16-17, 2009, the Special Rapporteur, in conjunction with the University of Palermo and the University of La Plata and with the support of the Swiss government, gave two seminars in Argentina having to do with the inter-American human rights system, with an emphasis on freedom of expression and access to public information. One of the seminars was held in Buenos Aires and the second in the city of La Plata. The seminars provided training for more than 50 law professionals, social communicators, journalists, members of social organizations, and State officials.
On September 18, she participated in the XXI Meeting of High-Level Authorities in Human Rights and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of MERCOSUR and affiliated States with a presentation on the inter-American human rights system, the mandate of the IACHR, and primarily that of the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
From September 23 to 25, the Office of the Special Rapporteur—with the collaboration of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), the National Association of Colombian Dailies (Anidarios), and the ICESI University of Colombia and with the support of the Swiss government—organized and gave two seminars in Colombia to train 80 journalists, lawyers, members of nongovernmental organizations, and State officials on the standards of the inter-American system concerning freedom of expression and particularly access to public information. The seminars were offered in the cities of Bogotá and Cali. In addition, during this period the Rapporteur met with members of the Supreme Court of Justice's Commission on International Relations; the President and various magistrates of the Constitutional Court; the Director of the Rodrigo Lara Bonilla Judicial School; and with journalists from opinion magazines.
From October 21 to 27, 2009, the Rapporteur conducted an academic visit to Mexico to carry out academic and dissemination activities for National Transparency Week. The Special Rapporteur helped organize these activities, along with the Office of the United Nations Rapporteur and the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information. In addition, the Office of the Rapporteur participated in a seminar on civil and political rights organized by the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Electoral Tribunal, and the UNAM Institute of Legal Studies. She also participated in a seminar on freedom of expression, at the Autonomous University of Guerrero. She also held meetings with various federal authorities and nongovernmental organizations to address various issues related to transparency and access to information, the protection of journalists, legislative reforms, community radio stations, and legal investigations. Lastly, the Special Rapporteur also participated in a special session of the subcommittee on legislative harmonization. The event was organized by the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, with the participation of various civil society organizations.
H. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
During this period, the Unit for Human Rights Defenders, under the direction of Commissioner Paolo Carozza, has observed various situations of concern with regard to the work of human rights defenders in the region. These include the assassinations of indigenous and union leaders, the various manifestations of the criminalization of social protest in some countries in the region, and the interception of telephone communications of various entities, including human rights organizations, by the Administrative Security Department in Colombia.
The Unit is currently in the process of preparing the follow-up report to its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, approved on March 7, 2006. For the follow-up, the Unit sent questionnaires to the Member States at the end of 2008 and to civil society in early 2009, seeking to gather information on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2006 report and on new obstacles that human rights defenders face in doing their work. Currently the Unit is analyzing the responses it received in order to incorporate the information in the follow-up report.
The Unit for Human Rights Defenders was also a co-organizer, along with the FIDH and OMCT, of the second meeting on protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, which took place October 21-22, 2009, at OAS headquarters. Those who participated for the IACHR included Commissioner Paolo Carozza, Executive Secretary Santiago Canton, and attorney Angelita Baeyens, the specialist who provides staff support to the Unit. Also present were the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya; the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders for the African system, Reine Alapini-Gansou; and representatives of various organizations from different regions of the world who are focused on the protection of human rights defenders.
Lastly, the Unit is in the process of updating its Web page to include and disseminate the decisions and resolutions the IACHR has made on the subject of human rights defenders, as well as to create an English version of the page.
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 132 contentious cases to be heard by the Court. Of those, 10 are awaiting a public hearing; 4 are awaiting judgment; 103 are in the stage of compliance with the judgment, and 16 are closed. There are also 39 active provisional measures.
Since the 134th period of sessions, held in March, the IACHR has submitted the following cases to the Court's contentious jurisdiction (the applications filed with the Court are available on the IACHR Web page):
· Case No. 11.552 − Julia Gomes Lund et al. (Guerrilha do Araguaia) v. Brazil
· Case 12.599 − Florencio Chitay Nech et al. v. Guatemala
· Case 12.580 − Inés Fernández Ortega v. Mexico
· Case 12.529 − Rainer Ibsen Cárdenas and José Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia
· Case 12.449 − Teodoro Cabrera García and Rodolfo Montiel Flores v. Mexico
· Case 12.420 − Xákmok Kásek Indigenous Community of the Enxet-Lengua People and their Members v. Paraguay
· Case 12.579 − Valentina Rosendo Cantú et al. v. Mexico
· Case 12.549 − Lysias Fleury and Family v. Haiti
· Case 12.581 − Jesús Tranquilino Vélez Loor v. Panama
From March through October 2009, the Commission participated in the Court’s LXXXIII and LXXXIV regular period of sessions, held at its headquarters, as well as in the XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XL special periods of sessions, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Santiago, Chile; and La Paz, Bolivia.
During these periods of sessions, public hearings were held in the following cases: Usón Ramírez (Venezuela); Anzualdo Castro (Peru); González, et al. “Campo Algodonero” (Mexico); Sétimo Garibaldi (Brazil); DaCosta Cadogan (Barbados); Barreto Leiva (Venezuela); Radilla Pacheco (Mexico); and Las Dos Erres Massacre (Guatemala). A public hearing was held on reparations and costs in the Salvador Chiriboga Case (Ecuador), and hearings were held on the implementation of provisional measures in the matter of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic (Dominican Republic) and the matter of Urso Branco (Brazil), as well as a joint hearing with respect to prisons in Venezuela. This last hearing included the following matters: Monagas Judicial Detention Center ("La Pica"), Yare I and Yare II Capital Region Penitentiary Center (Yare Prison), Penitentiary Center of the Central Western Region (Uribana Prison), and the El Rodeo I and El Rodeo II Capital Judicial Detention Center.
The Court also held a hearing on a request for an advisory opinion, presented by Argentina (OC-21), on the appropriateness of the institution of the ad hoc judge in contentious cases that are not between States, and the participation of national judges in cases against their countries of origin.
It is also worth noting that since the 134th period of sessions, private hearings on compliance with judgments have been held in the following cases: Ivcher Bronstein (Peru); Blanco Romero et al. (Venezuela); Suárez Rosero (Ecuador); Case of the Caracazo (Venezuela); Zambrano Vélez et al. (Ecuador); Case of the Yean and Bosico Girls (Dominican Republic), Dismissed Congressional Employees (Peru); and Herrera Ulloa (Costa Rica), Juvenile Reeducation Institute (Paraguay), Catia Prison (Venezuela), Mack Chang (Guatemala), Molina Theissen (Guatemala), Goiburú et al. (Paraguay), and Trujillo Oroza (Bolivia). In addition, during the special period of sessions held in Bolivia, the Inter-American Court convened a public hearing on compliance in the case of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community (Paraguay).
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 2009 by the governments of the following OAS Member States: Canada, Chile, and the United States. It also wishes to thank the Observer Countries that support the work of the Commission: Denmark, France, Great Britain, Korea, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Commission also values and appreciates the contributions received from the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 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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