The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continues its practice of including, in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, a chapter on the situation of human rights in member countries of the Organization, based on the competence assigned to it by the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Commission's Statute and Regulations.  This practice has served the purpose of providing the OAS updated information on the human rights situation in those countries that had been the subject of the Commission's special attention; and in some cases, to report on a particular event that had taken place or was emerging or developing at the close of its reporting cycle. 


          In this chapter, the Commission reiterates its interest in receiving the cooperation of the member states to identify the measures taken by their governments that display a commitment to improving the observance of human rights.  Without prejudice to this, the IACHR reflects, in various chapters of this report, the positive advances achieved by many states of the hemisphere in the area of human rights.




          The Annual Report of the IACHR for 1997 set forth five criteria pre-established by the Commission to identify the member states of the OAS whose human rights practices merited special attention, and which consequently should be included in its Chapter V.  In addition, as anticipated in that Annual Report, the Commission has developed an additional criterion for inclusion in this chapter, which is added to the previous ones. 


1.       The first criterion encompasses those states ruled by governments that have not come to power through popular elections, by secret, genuine, periodic, and free suffrage, according to internationally accepted standards and principles.  The Commission has repeatedly pointed out that representative democracy and its mechanisms are essential for achieving the rule of law and respect for human rights.  As for those states that do not observe the political rights enshrined in the American Declaration and the American Convention, the Commission fulfills its duty to inform the other OAS members states as to the human rights situation of the population.


2.       The second criterion concerns states where the free exercise of the rights set forth in the American Convention or American Declaration have been, in effect, suspended totally or in part, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures, such as state of emergency, state of siege, suspension of guarantees, or exceptional security measures, and the like. 


3.       The third criterion to justify the inclusion in this chapter of a particular state is when there is clear and convincing evidence that a state commits massive and grave violations of the human rights guaranteed in the American Convention, the American Declaration, and all other applicable human rights instruments.  In so doing, the Commission highlights the fundamental rights that cannot be suspended; thus it is especially concerned about violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture, and forced disappearances.  Thus, when the Commission receives credible communications denouncing such violations by a particular state which are attested to or corroborated by the reports or findings of other governmental or intergovernmental bodies and/or of respected national and international human rights organizations, the Commission believes that it has a duty to bring such situations to the attention of the Organization and its member states.


4.       The fourth criterion concerns those states that are in a process of transition from any of the above three situations.


5.       The fifth criterion regards temporary or structural situations that may appear in member states confronted, for various reasons, with situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention or the American Declaration.  This criterion includes, for example:  grave situations of violations that prevent the proper application of the rule of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change which have negative consequences for human rights; or grave omissions in the adoption of the provisions necessary for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.




          6.       In compliance with the second guideline given above and using information received from different sources, the Commission will now describe the measures taken by Bolivia and Ecuador to suspend full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in Article 27 of the American Convention on Human Rights.


7.      The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed that the State of Bolivia decreed a stage of siege on April 8, 2000, following a week of demonstrations (some of which were violent) in several cities around the country, particularly Cochabamba. These demonstrations flared up in protest against a project that would lead to increased drinking-water rates in Cochabamba. The reports available to the Commission indicated that in the course of events, five people lost their lives, including both civilians and members of the armed forces, and one minor child. The Commission was also told that the clashes left some 40 people wounded and that numerous arrests were made.


          8.       Article 111(1) of the Bolivian Constitution rules that a state of siege is an exceptional measure that can be invoked by the executive branch of government to preserve law and order at times of grave danger or internal unrest. In the case at hand, the rules stipulate that the state of siege must be lifted within 90 days or it will expire automatically. In turn, Article 112(3) describes the effect of declaring a state of siege: “The guarantees and rights enshrined in this Constitution shall not be suspended on a de facto or general basis simply with a state of siege being declared; however, they may be thus suspended with respect to specific individuals duly suspected of plotting against law and order.” Article 112(4) provides that “the legitimate authority [may] issue summonses or warrants against the accused, but within a period not exceeding 48 hours must bring them before a competent judge, along with the documents upon which the arrest was grounded.”


9.      Article 27(3) of the American Convention on Human Rights reads as follows: “Any State Party availing itself of the right of suspension [of constitutional guarantees] shall immediately inform the other States Parties, through the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, of the provisions the application of which it has suspended, the reasons that gave rise to the suspension, and the date set for the termination of such suspension.” According to information submitted by the OAS’s Department of International Law on March 6, 2001, the Bolivian State did not notify the General Secretariat of its declaration of a state of siege or of the constitutional guarantees that were suspended on April 8, 2000.


10.     In late January 2001, a year after the events that shook the Republic of Ecuador and culminated with the removal from office of President Jamil Mahuad and the investiture of Vice-President Gustavo Noboa in his stead, a number of indigenous and grassroots organizations began to coordinate efforts and demonstrations in order to bring about the repeal of a series of recently-introduced economic measures. The mobilization and protest activities of the demonstrators, who had come together from across the country, threatened to paralyze Quito. In light of the situation of “grave internal turmoil,” the government issued Executive Decree Nº 1214 on February 2, 2001, under which:


Art. 1.   A state of national emergency is declared, and a security zone is established in the entire territory of the Republic.


Art. 2.   Orders are given for total national mobilization in accordance with the terms of Articles 54 and 55 of the National Security Law, for the requisitions deemed necessary under that Law and its regulations, and for the use of public force to restore the conditions required by the citizenry for the normal pursuit of their business.


Art. 3.   As long as the declared emergency lasts, the rights enshrined in paragraphs 12, 14, and 19 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic are suspended. 

Art. 4.   Enforcement of this Decree, which shall come into force on this date and irrespective of its publication in the Official Register, shall fall to the Minister of Government and Police and the Minister of National Defense.


11.     According to different sources, the acts of violence carried out between January 21 and February 6, 2001, left a total of five people dead and almost a dozen wounded. On February 6, 2001, the Commission asked the Government for information about the situation. To resolve the crisis, the government and the country’s indigenous, campesino, and social organizations signed an agreement in which the government undertook to reduce the price of gasoline and to freeze fuel prices for a period of one year. On February 12, 2001, the government informed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it had succeeded in “reestablishing order, security, and peace throughout the nation’s territory.” Its letter also reported on the violence that had led to the state of emergency being declared, and on the agreement reached with the different organizations; a copy of the agreement was attached. The government also informed the Secretary General of the Organization of American States about the declaration of the state of emergency, in compliance with Article 27(3) of the American Convention on Human Rights.


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* The IACHR does not include in this chapter States with respect to which the Commission is preparing general reports on the human rights situation pursuant to Article 62 of its Regulations, or has approved such reports during the period considered.