IACHR CONCLUDES ITS 138TH PERIOD OF SESSIONS
Washington, D.C., March 26, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 138th regular period of sessions on March 15-26, 2010. The IACHR is composed of Felipe González, Chair; Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, First Vice-Chair; Dinah Shelton, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Luz Patricia Mejía, María Silvia Guillén, José de Jesús Orozco, and Rodrigo Escobar. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.
With respect to Honduras, the Commission has continued to receive information about cases of murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, unlawful searches of homes, and threats, all against individuals active in the resistance to the June 2009 coup d'état and their relatives, as well as against journalists who report on activities of the resistance movement, including beneficiaries of precautionary measures. The Commission expresses its deep concern about these allegations, reiterates that Honduras must adopt urgent measures to guarantee human rights, and urges the State to implement the precautionary measures in effect. The IACHR asked the Honduran authorities to consent to a visit by the Commission to follow up on its report Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d'État, published on January 20, 2010.
During its 138th period of sessions, the Commission also analyzed the impact of the publication of its report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela and sent a letter to the OAS Permanent Council. In the letter, the Inter-American Commission rejects the personal, degrading, and baseless attacks, as well as the remarks intended to discredit and weaken the IACHR, made by representatives of the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Moreover, the Commission's new composition, which includes four members who began their terms on January 1, 2010, expressed support for the report on Venezuela, which was approved on December 30, 2009, by the IACHR in its previous composition. In the letter, the Commission also renewed its vote of confidence in the work of the Rapporteur for Venezuela, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro; the Executive Secretary, Santiago Canton; and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero.
The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the problems that some petitioners and alleged victims have encountered in obtaining visas to enter the United States, a situation that kept them from participating as planned in hearings. This situation has presented itself on various occasions since 2002. Although the Commission has talked about this problem publicly and has asked the government of the United States to take steps to prevent a recurrence, the problem arose again during this period of sessions. It is absolutely unacceptable not to grant visas to those persons who wish to come before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to present complaints, offer testimony, serve as expert witnesses, or defend their cases. This situation has a very serious negative impact on the fulfillment of the Commission's mandate to monitor the human rights situation in the Americas.
In one hearing held during this period of sessions, the Commission received very serious information regarding the large number of kidnappings of migrants in transit through Mexico, a figure reportedly as high as 18,000 in 2009. It was noted that most of the victims in these cases are children and women, who are often subject to torture, and that they are kidnapped for ransom. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families expressed interest in conducting an on-site visit to investigate this situation and to observe the conditions of migrants in transit through Mexican territory.
With respect to the situation in Haiti, the Commission received troubling information on the situation of children, women, and persons with disabilities, as well as on the limited access to housing, food, and medical care for the Haitian people, especially since the January 2010 earthquake. The Inter-American Commission expresses its profound concern about the difficulties encountered by the Haitian government to meet the basic needs and guarantee the economic and social rights of the people of Haiti. It stresses the need for every actor involved in the management of financial assistance to promote mechanisms for coordination, oversight, and transparency, without which the State's capacity to meet its human rights obligations is seriously hindered.
During this period of sessions, the IACHR also received information of great concern regarding the forced displacement of thousands of persons, in particular indigenous peoples, due to the construction of large infrastructure projects and the exploitation of natural resources. It is particularly alarming that in many cases these projects are implemented with no prior consultation of the indigenous peoples affected and with insufficient measures to protect their ancestral territories. The IACHR reiterates that the American Convention obligates the States to undertake free and informed prior consultation in order to obtain the consent of indigenous peoples and communities potentially affected by the development programs and investment projects carried out in their territories.
The Commission reiterates its deep concern over the attacks and harassment suffered by human rights defenders in the region. During this period of sessions in particular, the IACHR received information on the seriousness of this situation in Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela. On a related matter, the Commission welcomes the announcement made by Mexico's Secretariat of the Interior that it plans to create a mechanism for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.
During its 138th regular period of sessions, the IACHR also reiterated to the State of Nicaragua its request for the Commission to conduct an on-site visit to the country to evaluate the human rights situation.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States, 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.
This press release is accompanied by an annex.
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