LEGAL BASES AND ACTIVITIES OF THE IACHR DURING 2004
A. Legal bases, functions and powers
1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “IACHR” or the “Commission”) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its mandate is prescribed in the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights (the “American Convention”), and the Statute of the Commission (the “Commission’s Statute). The IACHR is one of two bodies in the inter-American system responsible for protecting human rights, the other being the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in San José, Costa Rica.
2. The IACHR is composed of seven members who act independently, without representing any particular country. The members of the IACHR are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS for a four-year period and can be re-elected only once. The IACHR meets in ordinary and special sessions several times a year. The Executive Secretariat of the IACHR carries out the tasks delegated to it by the IACHR and provides legal and administrative support to the IACHR as it carries out its work.
3. In April of 1948 the OAS approved the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (the “American Declaration”) in Bogotá, Colombia, the first international human rights instrument of a general nature. The IACHR was created in 1959 and held its first session in 1960.
4. By 1961, the IACHR had begun to carry out on-site visits to observe the human rights situations in various countries. Since that time, the IACHR has carried out 87 visits to 23 member states. Based in part on its on-site investigations the IACHR has published 62 country and thematic reports.
5. In 1965, the IACHR was expressly authorized to examine complaints or petitions regarding specific cases of human rights violations. By 2004, the IACHR had examined more than1329 complaints, resulting in the publication of over 59 individual case reports, which are included in the Annual Reports of the Commission.
6. In 1969, the American Convention on Human Rights was adopted, and subsequently entered into force in 1978. As of December 2004, 24 member states were parties to the Convention: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. The Convention defines the human rights that the ratifying States have agreed to respect and ensure. The Convention also created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and defines the functions and procedures of both the Commission and the Court. In addition to considering complaints of violations of the American Convention by states that are parties to that instrument, the IACHR is competent under the OAS Charter and the Commission’s Statute to entertain alleged violations of the American Declaration by OAS Member States that are not yet parties to the American Convention.
7. The IACHR has the principal function of promoting the observance and the defense of human rights in the Americas. In carrying out its mandate, the Commission:
a) Receives, analyzes and investigates individual petitions that allege human rights violations, pursuant to Articles 44 to 51 of the Convention, Articles 19 and 20 of the Commission’s Statute, and Articles 22 to 50 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
b) Observes the general human rights situation in the Member States and publishes special reports regarding the situation in a specific Member State, when it considers it appropriate.
c) Carries out on-site visits to countries to engage in more in-depth analysis of the general situation and/or to investigate a specific situation. These visits usually result in the preparation of a report regarding the human rights situation observed, which is published and presented to the Permanent Council and General Assembly of the OAS.
d) Stimulates public consciousness regarding human rights in the Americas. To that end, the Commission carries out and publishes studies on specific subjects, some of which are the subject of special rapporteurships, such as: the right to freedom of expression; the human rights situation of children and women; the human rights of indigenous peoples; and the protection of human rights in the struggle against terrorism.
e) Organizes and carries out conferences, seminars and meetings with representatives of governments, academic institutions, non-governmental groups and others in order to disseminate information and to increase knowledge regarding issues relating to the inter-American human rights system.
f) Recommends to the Member States of the OAS the adoption of measures that would contribute to human rights protection.
g) Requests Member States to adopt "precautionary measures" pursuant to Article 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure to prevent irreparable harm to persons in serious and urgent cases. The Commission may also request that the Inter-American Court order "provisional measures" in cases of extreme gravity and urgency to avoid irreparable damage to persons, even where a case has not yet been submitted to the Court.
h) Submits cases to the Inter-American Court and appears before the Court in the litigation of cases.
i) Requests advisory opinions from the Inter-American Court in accordance with Article 64 of the American Convention.
8. At present the Commission is processing over 900 individual cases. Any person, group of persons or nongovernmental entity legally recognized in one or more of the Member States of the OAS may submit petitions to the Commission concerning violations of a right recognized in the American Convention, the American Declaration or other pertinent instrument in accordance with their respective provisions and the Commission’s Statute and Rules. The denunciation may be presented in any of the four official languages of the OAS (English, French, Portuguese or Spanish) and may be presented by the alleged victim of the violation or by a third party.
B. The Commission's sessions in 2004
9. During this reporting period, the Commission met on four occasions: during a meeting from January 14 to 16, 2004; during its 119th regular period of sessions from February 23 to March 12, 2004; during its 120th special period of sessions from July 19 to 23, 2004; and during its 121st regular period of sessions from October 11 to 29, 2004.
1. Meeting in January 2004
10. From January 14 to 16, 2004, the Commission met for the first time with its four new members, Commissioners Evelio Fernández Arévalos, Freddy Gutiérrez, Florentín Meléndez and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, who were elected during the regular session of the OAS General Assembly in June 2003 and commenced their terms on January 1, 2004. This was an informative meeting and provided the Commissioners with an opportunity to dialogue with one another and with the Executive Secretariat.
2. 119th regular period of sessions
11. During its 119th regular session, the Commission elected its new board of officers, which was comprised of José Zalaquett, President; Clare K. Roberts, First Vice-President; and Susana Villarán, Second Vice-President. The Commission also assigned responsibilities for its various rapporteurships.
12. In addition, the Commission took up numerous individual petitions on human rights violations alleging the international responsibility of OAS Member States. It adopted a total of 38 reports on individual petitions and cases and held 59 hearings on individual cases, the general human rights situation in different nations in the Hemisphere, precautionary measures, follow up on recommendations, and other issues over which it has competence. In addition, the Commission held a series of hearings and working meetings with petitioners and representatives of numerous OAS Member States, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, to promote the friendly settlement of complaints. During its week of audiences, the Commission also convened hearings on the situation of human rights in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela.
13. During its session, the Commission continued to express its concern regarding the weakening of the rule of law in some of the region’s countries, which is an essential prerequisite to the protection of human rights, and in this respect received information about the status of the rule of law in several countries of the region, including in particular Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
14. The general and thematic issues on which the Commission received information during the session included the situation of internally displaced persons and racial discrimination. In this regard, continued to exchange information and work in conjunction with United Nations bodies on human rights issues. It met with Dr. Francis Deng, the UN Secretary General’s Representative on Internally Displaced persons, Dr. Edna Roland Santos, the UN Secretary General’s appointee for monitoring the Plan of Action of the World Conference against Racism, and Dr. Doudou Diene, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism and xenophobia.
15. Further, the Commission held hearings on numerous national and regional topics and situations. Representatives from Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and human rights organizations submitted information on the implementation of the recommendations in the CVR’s report. With regard to the rights of children, hearings were held on the problems relating to Mara street gangs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, on the conditions faced by adolescent prison inmates in Nicaragua, and on investigations into the deaths of minor-aged children in Honduras. The Commission also received information concerning freedom of expression in Colombia, Cuba and Haiti as well as the situation faced by community radio stations and free expression in Mexico, the situation of indigenous peoples in the mining region in the south of Venezuela, and the status of trade union freedoms in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and the Central American region.
16. During the period of sessions, the Commission undertook a variety of other activities relating to its mandate. With a view to the continued strengthening of its dialogue with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States, the IACHR held a plenary meeting with the Permanent Representatives to the OAS of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, during which opinions and information were exchanged about the human rights situation in the region and possible initiatives for cooperation. In addition, the Commission reflected on the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights and made progress in analyzing several areas in which the Commission could better perform its functions.
3. 120th special period of sessions
17. From July 16 to 23, 2004 the Commission held its 120th special period of sessions in Mexico at the invitation of the government of that State. During the first three days of the session, the Commission held a meeting with government and nongovernmental experts, the Commission and representatives of the Inter-American Court to reflect on the inter-American system. This process of reflection has continued to the present time and has included the participation of other actors in the Hemisphere.
18. During its session in Mexico, the Commission also met with the President of the Republic, Vicente Fox, and other high government officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defense and the Attorney General of the Republic. In addition, the Commission held meetings with a broad representation of civil society organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights.
4. 121st regular period of sessions
19. During its 121st regular period of sessions, the Commission continued with its study of numerous individual communications alleging violations of human rights protected by the American Convention and the American Declaration and adopted a total of 41 reports on individual cases and petitions. The Commission also convened 44 hearings between October 21 and 27, 2004 concerning individual petitions and cases, precautionary measures, and general and specific situations relating to human rights. The subject matter of these hearings included the situation of human rights in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica as well as three hearings on various issues in Colombia, a hearing on the situation of the victims of the domestic armed conflict in Guatemala, the human rights situation in Chiapas, Mexico, and the situations of impunity and of economic, social and cultural rights in Venezuela. With respect to Peru, the Commission examined complaints of torture as well as measures in follow up to the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in that country. The Commission also held a hearing on police violence and public security in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the situation of prisoners and prison conditions in El Salvador.
20. Thematic issues upon which the Commission received information during its session included the status of women’s rights and the administration of justice in the Americas, child labor and the sexual exploitation of minors in Central America, the rights of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere, and the rights of persons of African descent in the Americas, including specific instances of discrimination in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. In addition, the Commission held three hearings on the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, including the presentation of a report by a delegation of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) on the severity of the situation of HIV/AIDS in the region and cooperation between PAHO and the Commission. Further, the Commission convened hearings on the situation of human rights defenders in Latin America as well as the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the struggle against terrorism. During the session, the Commission also received information concerning the activities of its various rapporteurships, including those on women’s rights, indigenous peoples, migrant workers and their families, prisoners and freedom of expression, and considered the creation of a rapporteurship on the rights of persons of African descent and on racial discrimination.
21. As part of the session program, the Commission held a hearing with Dr. Roberto Cuéllar, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, who provided a report on the Institute’s study on the status of human rights education in 19 countries in the region. In addition, the Commission signed a cooperation agreement with the Human Rights Committee of the Latin American Parliament and received information no human rights and economic integration in the Hemisphere.
22. Also during its 121st session, the Commission received the President of the Inter-American Court, Dr. Sergio Garcia Ramirez, and its Secretary, Dr. Pablo Saavedra Alessandri and exchanged information on procedural issues and measures to strengthen the inter-American human rights system, and the President of the Court and the President of the Commission participated in a working session with the Permanent Council of the OAS.
C. Visits and country and thematic reports
23. From February 16 to 20, 2004, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Santiago A. Canton, visited the Republic of Bolivia at the invitation of the government of that country and in response to a resolution of the Honorable National Congress of Bolivia, which recommended that “the Executive request that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States be present to assist with the investigation” of the events of October 2003. During the trip, the Executive Secretary met with high government officials and representatives of civil society, and undertook preparatory initiatives for a visit by the Commission scheduled to take place at the end of January 2005.
24. From July 11 to 17, 2004, Commissioner and Second Vice-President Susana Villarán, Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, and Secretariat staff traveled to Colombia to gather information concerning the initiatives for the demobilization of illegal armed groups in that country and the applicable legal regime and mechanisms aimed at ensuring that the process unfolded in keeping with Colombia’s international obligations. The visit was undertaken pursuant to the invitation by the OAS Permanent Council in its Resolution CP/Res. 859 (1397/04) for the Commission to provide advisory services to the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS Mission).
25. During its visit, the delegation of the IACHR held meetings with high-level government authorities, including the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolina Barco; the Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe Echavarría; the High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo Ramírez; and the Attorney General of the Nation, Luis Camilo Osorio. The delegation also visited the offices of the MAPP/OAS Mission in Bogotá, where it was received by Sergio Caramagna and his staff. In addition, it traveled to the city of Medellín, where it met with Mayor Sergio Fajardo Valderrama and the staff in charge of the program for demobilization of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara, and with officials of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (Fiscalía Especializada) of Medellín. The delegation of the IACHR also met with representatives of various civil society organizations, including peace organizations, human rights organizations, and members of the Church. During its stay in the city of Medellín, the IACHR had the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of persons who have benefited from the collective demobilization of members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara and received complaints of human rights violations in the neighborhoods and districts in which that AUC unit operates.
26. As described further below, this visit to Colombia was followed by the release on December 29, 2004 of the Commission’s Report on the Demobilization Process in Colombia.
27. The Inter-American Commission conducted a visit to the Republic of Haiti at the invitation of the government of that country between September 1 and 3, 2004. The delegation was composed of Commissioner Clare K. Roberts, First Vice-President and Rapporteur for Haiti as well as staff and consultants from the Executive Secretariat. This visit was the Commission’s first since the armed violence in Haiti in early 2004 which led to the departure of former President Aristide and the installation of a transitional government in that State. Accordingly, in the course of its visit, the Commission attempted to obtain information concerning the status of human rights protections in Haiti in the aftermath of these events.
28. During the visit, the Commission met with representatives of the Haitian transitional government and members of civil society as well as international organizations. The Commission met with the President of the Republic, Mr. Boniface Alexander; the Prime Minister, Mr. Gérard Latortue; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Mr. Yvon Siméon; the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Bernard Gousse; the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Hérard Abraham; the Minister of Women´s Affairs, Mrs. Adeline Magloire Chancy; the Director General of the National Police in Haiti, Mr. Leon Charles; and the Ombudsman of Haiti, Mr. Necker Dessables. The Commission also held discussions with representatives of different sectors of civil society, including a significant number of nongovernmental organizations with diverse views and associations of judges, lawyers and magistrates. In addition, the Commission met with the Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes, and other officials of MINUSTAH and the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Further, the Commission conducted a training seminar on the inter-American human rights system with officials and functionaries from various government ministries and agencies.
29. In the course of its investigations, the Commission was particularly concerned about the security situation in Haiti, where armed groups appeared to control security in significant areas of the country and where the State was not providing effective protection to the people living in those regions. The Commission also expressed its concerns respecting weaknesses in the administration of justice, including a severe shortage of resources for judges, magistrates, courts and the police, prevalent due process violations such as the prolonged detention of individuals without being brought before a judge, and the information and reports alleging acts of violence against individuals based upon their affiliation, or perceived affiliation, with the former President and his political party. Further, the Commission voiced its grave concern regarding reports of human rights violations perpetrated against members of particular groups, including women, children and human rights defenders.
30. The Commission once again took note that fundamental problems such as extreme poverty, high illiteracy and malnutrition continued to deprive Haitians of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights and at the same time exacerbate the consequences resulting from denials of basic civil and political rights. Accordingly, the Commission urged the government, in cooperation with all sectors of society and with the support of the international community, to design and implement a plan for development that would address the fundamental economic and social needs of each Haitian citizen. In addition, the Commission emphasized the importance of the elections to be held in Haiti, planned for 2005, which it considered would provide an opportunity to establish greater stability for the future of the country. Further, the Commission called upon the international community to provide Haiti with the support and assistance necessary to overcome the significant challenges that it faced in fully realizing respect for the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
31. From September 12-18, 2004, the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Women, Commissioner and Second Vice-President Susana Villarán, visited Guatemala at the invitation of the government of President Oscar Berger and at the request of representatives of civil society concerned at the number of murders and prevalence of other forms of violence against Guatemalan women. The Rapporteur held meetings with the highest authorities of the Guatemalan State, as well as with victims, family members of victims, academics, and organizations of civil society dedicated to the defense and promotion of the human rights of women, in Guatemala City, Escuintla, Villanueva, Palín, and Santa Cruz del Quiché. In addition, in collaboration with the Office for the Protection of Indigenous Women (Defensoría de la Mujer Indígena), the Rapporteurships for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for the Rights of Women of the IACHR held a workshop on the inter-American human rights system of with the participation of 40 indigenous women.
32. The objective of the visit by the Rapporteurship was to investigate and obtain reliable information on the situation of discrimination and violence against women, to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and institutions whose role it is to prevent discrimination and violence, and the obstacles that may prevent victims and their family members from accessing justice. In addition, because Guatemala is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state, another objective was to investigate the situation of the rights of indigenous women.
33. The Rapporteur for the Rights of Women dealt with several issues during the visit, including the causes and forms of violence and discrimination against women and the obligations of the State and regulatory, legal and institutional advances on the matter, as well as impunity and the cycle of violence and the related problems of lack of effective means of protection, stigmatization of victims, anachronistic legislation and the need for education to change patterns and stereotypes.
34. In analyzing these issues, the Commission emphasized in particular that the issue of the killing of women is not simply a question of numbers but has other significant dimensions such as the ages and demographic characteristics of the victims and the manner in which the murders have been perpetrated, and that the search for solutions to the murder of women must take fully into account the inter-relation between the different forms of violence perpetrated against women. The Commission also emphasized that Guatemala must urgently intensify its efforts to combat the violence and discrimination against women by measures including applying due diligence to investigating and solving crimes of violence against women, by bringing those responsible to justice and punishing them, as well as by providing access to protection measures and support systems for victims. Further, according to the Commission, it was essential that the state not only concern itself with the problem of violence against women, but also provide effective solutions to the problem.
El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras
35. On December 4, 2004, the Commission and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) undertook a joint visit to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The IACHR delegation was comprised of the Rapporteur on Children, Commission member Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Detained Persons, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, assisted by staff of the Commission’s Secretariat. UNICEF was represented by Dr. María Jesús Conde, Child Protection Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. The main objectives of the visit were to gather information on the situation of boys, girls, and adolescents involved with groups known as maras or pandillas (gangs), and to study the living conditions of persons deprived of freedom.
36. At the conclusion of the visit, the IACHR and UNICEF expressed concern over the human rights situation of thousands of boys, girls, and adolescents who belong to the maras or pandillas, or did so in the past. While indicating that they were aware of the violence and insecurity caused by the gangs and offering their solidarity to the victims of such actions, the Commission and UNICEF also emphasized that the right and the obligation of states to ensure public safety are not incompatible with respect for human rights, including in particular the special protections to which children are entitled under international law and international norms and principles governing the treatment of detainees and prisoners.
37. At the invitation of the government of the Republic of Argentina, Commissioner and Rapporteur for Argentina, Florentín Meléndez, Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, and Secretariat staff visited Argentina from December 12 to 18, 2004. The purpose of the visit was to undertake follow up procedures on cases pending before the Commission and, in particular, to observe the situation of persons detained in the Province of Mendoza.
Country and thematic reports
38. In connection with certain visits conducted prior to and during 2004, the Commission published several reports concerning the situation of human rights in particular member states. On March 18, 2004, the Commission released its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela. The report, which examined such issues as the administration of justice, the role of the armed forces and police, the state of freedom of expression and the consequences of political polarization in Venezuela, was based upon on information collected by the Commission before, during and after a visit to Venezuela in May 2002, following the coup d’etat of April 11, 2002 and the reinstatement of President Hugo Chávez on April 14, 2002.
39. In a public ceremony held in Guatemala on March 22, 2004, Commissioner and Rapporteur for that country, Susana Villarán, and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, presented the Commission’s report entitled Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges facing Democracy in Guatemala to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger. The IACHR report analyzed the current state of administration of justice and the rule of law in Guatemala and made recommendations to the Guatemalan State, examining such issues as access to justice, security for citizens, the current status of freedom of expression, and the status of human rights defenders, indigenous people, women and children. The Report was prepared based upon information gathered before, during, and after an on-site visit to Guatemala from March 24 to 29, 2003, carried out in response to an invitation from the government of that State.
40. On December 29, 2004, the Commission published its Report on the Process of Demobilization in Colombia. The report followed the visit to Colombia by the Commission’s Rapporteur for that country and the Commission’s Executive Secretary in July 2004, as described above, and was prepared as part of the IACHR’s role in providing advisory services to the MAPP/OAS Mission as proposed in OAS Permanent Council Resolution 859 (1397/04). The Commission analyzed the situation based on the input obtained, both through the channels of cooperation with the MAPP Mission in Colombia, and through contacts with other entities of the international community, civil society, the government, and its on-site observation. In light of this information, the report constituted an initial approach to the question of the negotiations between armed actors and the Government of Colombia with the participation of the MAPP Mission as verifier, and the challenges vis-à-vis the State’s international obligations in the area of human rights. It set forth the conclusions reached by the IACHR as a result of its observation of the situation, and included a series of recommendations for those who are participating actively in the process.
D. Other events and activities
Inter-American human rights treaties
41. During this reporting period, the Commission was pleased to note the ratification by certain OAS Member States of treaties pertinent to the protection of human rights in the Americas.
42. On February 11, 2004, the Republic of Colombia deposited its instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, and on March 18, 2004, the Republic of Ecuador delivered its instrument of ratification of the same treaty, bringing to 15 the number of state parties to that Convention.
Fellowships and Internships
43. The Commission continued in 2004 with its "Rómulo Gallegos Fellowships" program. The program provides training in the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights for young attorneys from countries in the Hemisphere, who are selected annually on a competitive basis. They must have demonstrated commitment to human rights and strong academic credentials. Over the year 2004, the Commission received 12 Rómulo Gallegos fellows, 7 in the second semester of the 2003-2004 period and 5 in the first semester of the 2004-2005 period. These fellowships included one for the Commission’s Special Rapporteurship on Indigenous Rights, one fellowship position dedicated to candidates from the English-speaking Caribbean, and a newly-create French-speaking fellowship focusing on the Commission’s work in Haiti.
44. In addition to its fellowship program, the Commission continued and expanded its internship program. The Commission internships, which are administrated in cooperation with the OAS Student Intern Program, are designed for junior, senior and graduate students at the university level as well as junior professionals to allow them to work within their field of study. The object of the internships is to provide students and recent graduates in law or other related disciplines with the opportunity to learn about the Commission’s work. It also provides professionals with an opportunity to acquire practical training in the area of human rights, and to work together with the lawyers of the Executive Secretariat in different activities that are carried out by the IACHR. During 2004, the Commission received a total of 18 interns, including one provided through an agreement with the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Montreal, Canada. Additional information concerning the Commission’s fellowship and internship programs can be found on its web site at www.cidh.org.
45. Throughout 2004, members of the Commission and Secretariat participated in numerous international conferences, workshops and training sessions on the international protection of human rights and related topics. Topics addressed at events in which the Commission took part included the functioning of the inter-American system, the application of the death penalty, the use of international humanitarian law in the inter-American system, the protection of labor rights in the inter-American system, international standards of juvenile justice, the jurisdiction of military courts, strategies to address racial discrimination, the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the inter-American system, the peace process and demobilization in Colombia, and the right to judicial protection in the inter-American system.
46. Also during 2004 the Commission continued its efforts to strengthen its work with the member states of the English-speaking Caribbean and Haiti. To this end, the Commission’s Rapporteur for Haiti visited and participated in seminars in St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, Caribbean governments invited the Commission to participate in a meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which was postponed to 2005, as well as a meeting of the region’s Council for Legal Education, also scheduled to take place in 2005.
47. Throughout 2004, the Commission’s Rapporteurships have continued to participate in numerous promotional activities, in addition to their important role in advancing the Commission’s substantive work in thematic areas. The Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women undertook various activities between March and October 2004 particularly in relation to access by women to justice and the right of women to live free from violence and discrimination, including the visit to the Republic of Guatemala conducted between September 12 and 18, 2004 described above. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continued to advise the Working Group of the OAS Permanent Council charged with preparing a draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, participated in numerous conferences and seminars, including a “Training Workshop on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities Living in the Region of Gracias a Dios, Honduras” together with the Pan-American Health Organization, and issued a recompilation of the publication “Jurisprudence on the Rights of Indigenous People in the Inter-American System.” Also in 2004, the Special Rapporteurship on Children concluded its strengthening program developed through an agreement on cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank, pursuant to which the Commission undertook various promotional initiatives. These included eleven workshops in various countries in the Hemisphere and the publication of a text entitled “The Rights of the Child in the Inter-American System for Human Rights” in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
48. Concerning the Commission’s various other rapporteurships, the IACHR Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families continued to actively participate with the working group of the OAS Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs responsible for developing an inter-American program for the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants, which included a special session of the working group in April 2004 and a September 30, 2004 working session on identifying proposals, best practices and concrete activities for the migrant workers program. In addition, the Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers participated in the sessions of the 92nd International Labor Organization in June 2004 in Geneva, Switzerland, and representatives of the Rapporteurship took part in various seminars and conferences including a seminar and experts meeting organized by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica in July and August 2004 and the annual meeting of the Association of Latin American Studies in Las Vegas, United States in October 2004. Also in 2004, the Special Rapporteur on Detained Persons prepared and presented to the Commission a work plan to be executed over the next three years, including activities aimed at promoting the normative development of the inter-American system through the adoption of an inter-American declaration on principles, guarantees and minimum standards of protection for detained persons. In addition, the Rapporteur participated in numerous seminars and conferences including the Second World Congress against the Death Penalty in Montreal, Canada in September 2004.
49. Throughout 2004, the Commission also continued its work relating to the situation of human rights defenders in the region. In this connection, on December 10, 2004, on the occasion of Human Rights Day and during the 6th EU Human Rights Discussion Forum organized by the Dutch Presidency of the EU in The Hague, Ms. Hina Jilani, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Jainaba Johm, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and Mr. Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met under the auspices of the International Service for Human Rights and issued a statement commending the European Union for adopting its Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders as an “important protection tool for activists who are promoting human rights at great personal risk.” The statement also recognized that the main challenges to be resolved concerning the protection of defenders around the world include the killing of human rights defenders, the existence of hostile environments that forces defenders into exile, and the labeling and slandering of defenders by authorities to undermine their credibility which puts them at serious risk. In addition, the statement expressed alarm that in many countries, counter terrorist measures and legislation are being used to limit the activities of human rights defenders, noted with specific concern the risks and stigmatization suffered by women human rights defenders, and strongly supported the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders.
50. On the same occasion, the Executive Secretary of the Commission recognized the valuable financial support provided by the European Commission which contributed to numerous Commission activities during 2004, including the visit by the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Detained Persons to Honduras, the Commission’s visits to Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia and Haiti, and the Commission’s participation in proceedings before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
51. In addition to the support from the European Commission, the IACHR acknowledged and welcomed the significant financial contributions made during 2004 by the governments of Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States, as well as funding provided by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Ford Foundation and Notre Dame University.
52. The Executive Secretary and Commission staff attorneys also participated in the Ninth Annual Moot Court Competition on the inter-American system of human rights in May 2004, organized by the Washington College of Law of the American University. The competition has been convened every year since 1996 and has involved more than 1,000 students and faculty representing over 100 universities from more than 20 countries of the Hemisphere.