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Windsor, Canada, June 6, 2000


          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. 

On 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 Assembly. 

          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. 

The 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 Hemisphere. 

          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 its people. 

          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.