BY DR. HÉLIO BICUDO
Mr. President, heads of delegations, Mr. Secretary General, Mr. Assistant
Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation for the support
expressly given to our Report on the Situation in Peru presented to this General
Assembly, by the representative of Argentina and the United States.
I have the honor to address you in the company of Dean Claudio Grossman,
First Vice-Chairman of the Commission; Dr. Juan Méndez, Second Vice-Chairman;
and Ambassador Jorge Taiana, Executive Secretary.
April 13, 2000, the IACHR submitted the Annual Report of the Commission for 1999
to the Permanent Council’s Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs,
together with the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican
Republic and the Report on the Situation of Human Rights of Asylum Seekers
within the Canadian Refugee Determination System.
The reports mentioned were presented for consideration by this General
In this report, the Inter-American Commission provided an assessment of
the human rights situation in the Hemisphere and the main challenges to the
exercise of these rights. In my
view, this forum offers an excellent opportunity to give thought to this
situation which is of interest to us all.
First, the Commission should note its concern over the actions
attributable to states that result in violation of the fundamental human rights
that affect life, freedom, and personal integrity.
The IACHR has been monitoring progress in the area of democracy in the
Hemisphere; for this reason, it should express its concern over the obstacles
that continue to thwart the full establishment of democracy.
In that regard, only a few weeks ago, the Republic of Paraguay faced an
armed attempt to disrupt the constitutional order and representative democracy.
While the timely reaction of the political organs of the Organization on
that occasion, as on others, is noteworthy, it cannot be denied that there is an
urgent need to continue to strengthen democracy in that country and in all the
member states of the Hemisphere. During
his recent visit to Paraguay, the OAS Secretary General stressed the importance
of strengthening the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary.
I agree wholeheartedly with these views, and believe that democratic
institutions must defend themselves without resorting to the abuses and excesses
of the past.
The international community has witnessed recent electoral processes in
the Hemisphere. In the particular
case of the general elections in the Republic of Peru, the widespread questions
raised by the different electoral missions, including the mission of the
Organization of American States, brought to the fore serious deficiencies and
irregularities, which were not, however, addressed by the appropriate
authorities of that member state. The
Commission points out that obstacles and restrictions to the free enjoyment and
exercise of political rights violate Article 23 of the American Convention on
Human Rights, and in many instances have heralded the onset of situations of
rampant violation of other fundamental rights of the people of the Hemisphere.
adoption of measures to improve the administration of justice in the states of
the Hemisphere is very important. In
particular, the Commission expresses its concern over the impunity surrounding
human rights violations involving State agents, as well as the use of military
courts in such cases. Among the
serious problems that affect justice, the IACHR report mentions budgetary
shortfalls, lack of training of judicial personnel, as well as a proliferation
of threats against judges, persons in the Office of the Public Prosecutor, and
employees of the judicial system.
Because of its impact on the protection of all other rights, the
Commission is closely monitoring reports on hostage-taking and all kinds of
attacks on human rights ombudsmen. In
that regard, the Commission has had to avail itself of the different mechanisms
of protection set forth in the guidelines governing the mandate to protect
persons affected by that situation, and has also addressed this matter in its
general reports on the human rights situation in several states of the
The Commission also continues to receive reports and information
regarding attacks and acts of aggression against journalists.
As it has done on several occasions, the IACHR reiterates its concern
over the climate of intimidation created by the failure to investigate attacks
on journalists or other acts that curb freedom of expression.
It is always useful to point out that the complete exercise of this right
is very important to the strengthening of democracy in the region.
The problems of social, racial, and ethnic marginalization are not being
adequately addressed in the states of the Hemisphere, as the Commission has been
noting in its reports. In this
regard, it is noted that the principle of non-discrimination is one of the main
pillars of the inter-American system. Also serious are the many threats facing
the children of the Americas as a result of poverty, violence, and sexual
exploitation and their use as fighters in situations of armed conflict.
The Commission is also evaluating the current status of the rights of
indigenous populations, as well as the rights of migrant workers and their
families in the Hemisphere.
I should mention the importance of strengthening the inter-American
system of human rights by increasing the material and human resources of the
organs that provide protection. These
measures should be accompanied by faithful fulfillment of the international
obligations assumed by OAS member states in the area of human rights.
In that regard, the Commission reiterates its willingness and desire to
continue to work cooperatively with the states and civil society representatives
with a view to the full exercise of human rights in the Americas.
On behalf of the Commission, I would like to state my belief that any
progress made in the inter-American human rights system is tied to the faithful
fulfillment by member states of their international obligations assumed in a
sovereign manner. To that end,
states should live up to these commitments by implementing fully the decisions
and directives of the oversight organs of the system in a timely manner.
One area of significant progress that I must emphasize is the acceptance
by Barbados of the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, which was confirmed on June 4, 2000. The Commission is pleased with this event, which sends a
clear signal that the authorities of that state wish to expand and strengthen
their commitment to the inter-American human rights system, to the benefit of
In conclusion, I would like to express my appreciation for the vital and unwavering support given by the OAS Secretary General, César Gaviria Trujillo, to the work of the Commission and strengthening of the inter-American system of human rights. It is the hope of the Commission that collaboration with member states will be enhanced, so that we can face challenges jointly and strive for observance of the human rights of all inhabitants of the Hemisphere.