C. On-site visits
34. As part of its promotional activities, the Commission participated in a seminar in Haiti in May on the inter-American human rights system and the United Nations system for the protection of human rights. Approximately 50 people attended: members of human rights groups, journalists, and members of the Haitian National Police. The seminar was a joint effort, organized by the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva, and coordinated by the Réseau National de Defense des Droits des Humains in Port-au-Prince. The objective was to explain to participants how to access the inter-American human rights system, and the explanation was illustrated with practical exercises.
35. An observation visit to Haiti was conducted on December 11th. The purpose was to gather information on the different forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls, the system of justice’s response to such acts, and the problem of impunity. The delegation met with national authorities and civil society organizations.
36. On February 8, 2006 a delegation of the Executive Secretariat went to Bogotá to follow-up on the process of demobilization in Colombia, pursuant to the mandate given in Resolution 859 (1397/04) of the Permanent Council of the OAS, which invited the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to provide advisory services to the MAPP/OEA. During the visit, the delegation met with Claudia Pérez de Vargas, Deputy Chief of Mission of the MAPP/OEA, and other staff performing verification functions on site, so as to exchange information on issues related to the advisory services mandate. This visit was conducted with financial backing from the Government of Sweden.
37. Another monitoring visit was conducted on March 2. A delegation from the Executive Secretariat went to the city of Valledupar to observe the circuit court session held prior to the formal demobilization of the irregular force Bloque Norte de las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.
38. From April 24 to 27, a Commission delegation headed by the Rapporteur for Colombia, Commission member Victor Abramovich, visited the city of Apartadó, Colombia. During his stay, the Rapporteur observed the second phase of the demobilization of the Bloque Élmer Cárdenas, an illegal armed group that operated in the Urabá area. The Rapporteur met with authorities involved in identifying demobilized individuals and dispensing benefits to them. He also met with staff of the MAPP/OEA Mission involved in verification tasks. Additionally, he met with residents of the area affected by the armed conflict, as well as authorities from the mayor’s office of Apartadó.
39. On May 8 Rapporteur Abramovich made an observation visit to Colombia. He met with authorities of the national government in Bogotá, with the staff running the office of the MAPP/OEA Mission in Colombia, and with members of the international community, civil society organizations, and inter-governmental organizations.
40. At the invitation of the government of Bolivia, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Bolivia from November 12 to 17, 2006, in order to observe the general situation of human rights in that country. During the visit, the Commission met with high ranking authorities in the government and with various civil society organizations. The Commission also visited the Chonchocorro, San Pedro, and Orientación Femenina Obrajes penitentiaries. The IACHR delegation consisted of Commission members Evelio Fernández Arévalos, President; Florentín Meléndez, Second Vice President and Rapporteur for Bolivia; and Victor Abramovich. They were joined by Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary; and staff members of the Executive Secretariat.
41. Regarding the system of individual cases, working meetings were held on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures being processed before the Commission, with the participation of representatives of the State, petitioners, and victims. The Commission expressed its satisfaction over the willingness expressed by the parties in some of these matters to begin the process of friendly settlement, as well as the State’s expressed commitment to comply with the precautionary measures discussed. The Commission announced that it will follow up on these matters, and will continue to pay close attention to developments in the human rights situation of Bolivia. Upon concluding its visit, the Commission offered a conference on the inter-American system of human rights.
42. From August 7 to 13 a visit was made to the Dominican Republic, led by Commission member Florentín Meléndez, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty.
visit was made in response to an invitation by the Government of the
Dominican Republic to verify the situation of persons deprived of their
liberty in various jails in the country. Meetings were held with
authorities of the Dominican State and civil society organizations
related to the issue. Promotional activities on the Inter-American
human rights system were also held.
44. During his visit to Brazil from September 20 to 22, 2006, which was limited to the state of São Paulo, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty verified the situation of persons deprived of their liberty that benefit from the provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
45. From December 1 to 9 a working visit was made to Argentina, led by Commission member Florentín Meléndez, who was joined by Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary; and staff members of the Executive Secretariat. During the visit, the Rapporteur met with senior officials in the Federal and Provincial Penitentiary Services. He also met with members of civil society organizations that have been working on the issue at detention centers in the Province of Buenos Aires.
46. Meetings were also held with authorities at the Foreign Ministry of Argentina to discuss various topics of interest to that country.
47. Commission member Paolo Carozza, Rapporteur for Peru, along with Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary, and staff members of the Executive Secretariat, made a working visit to Lima from December 11 to 14, 2006. He met with the President of the Republic, Alan García, and other high ranking officials in the Peruvian government, as well as a broad array of civil society organizations, organizations of Afro-descendents, and organizations of indigenous communities. Finally, he met with academics and former members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
48. Finally, it bears mention that as part of the celebration of International Human Rights Day, Rapporteur Carozza presented a report on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas.
D. Activities of the Special Rapporteurships
1. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
49. During 2006 the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continued its activities, supported by the individual case system, promotion efforts, and the assistance of the member states of the Organization. In particular, the Rapporteurship cooperated in the processing of petitions on the rights of indigenous peoples, and it participated in the special session of the Commission held in Guatemala, as well as in seminars held in Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and Chile.
50. The Rapporteurship also continues to advise the chairman of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this regard, it reiterated its recognition of the efforts made by member states of the OAS and the representatives of the indigenous peoples of the hemisphere in the process of negotiating the draft. In that vein, the Commission reiterated that the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved on June 29, 2006 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, should enrich the debate within the OAS Working Group, as it constitutes a minimum standard for the Group’s work.
51. The bodies of the system for the protection of human rights have developed progressive jurisprudence, which recognizes the collective rights of indigenous peoples. The Commission reiterated its concern over problems in compliance with its recommendations, and with the judgments and provisional measures of the Inter-American Court in cases in which the victim is an indigenous group. In this regard, the Commission urged the States to make a special effort to comply with decisions that affect indigenous peoples, as this not only acknowledges, protects, and offers reparations to a group of people, but also shows respect for a special way of life.
52. The Rapporteur also issued a special plea to the member states of the OAS to recognize and respect the right of indigenous peoples to their cultural identity, which is closely tied to their ancestral lands and the resources found therein, not only because it is their main means of subsistence, but also because it is an integral component of their worldview. In this vein, the Rapporteur expressed appreciation for the actions that several States have taken to give legal recognition to indigenous peoples’ claims to their traditional lands. However, concern was expressed over the weak protections afforded to the indigenous groups, which leaves them permanently vulnerable to outsiders interested in the natural resources found on indigenous peoples’ land.
53. During 2006 the Commission issued precautionary measures to protect indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, and to protect the ancestral lands and sacred sites of indigenous peoples whose rights are threatened. Several reports were approved during the session regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, and various hearings were held which examined such issues as the effects of displacement and economic and agrarian policies on the indigenous peoples of the hemisphere. The Commission also had the opportunity to receive information through a hearing on the situation of indigenous women in the Americas, which analyzed the effects of dual discrimination or dual violations of the rights of indigenous women.
54. Finally, the Commission announced the implementation for a third time of the fellowship for indigenous attorneys conducting professional practice in the IACHR for one year. In 2006 the attorney selected was Ana Manuela Ochoa, a member of the Kankuamo indigenous group in Colombia.
2. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
55. Over the past two years, the rapporteurship’s work program has focused on a priority area for women’s rights in the Americas: how to ensure women have effective access to the system of justice, particularly when they have suffered acts of violence or discrimination. The importance of this work has been well proven in the thematic work of the rapporteurship, and in the Commission’s case system and country reports. The rapporteurship’s starting point has been expeditious access to effective judicial protections and guarantees, as the first line of defense for the protection of basic rights. A problem is also seen in that the victims of violence and gender discrimination often do not obtain access to that protection, and their rights are thus vulnerable.
Results of work in the area of women’s access to justice
a. Access to Justice: the situation of women who are victims of violence
56. With the support of the government of Finland, in 2006 the Rapporteurship prepared a thematic report which offers a diagnosis of the main obstacles women face when they try to access resources, guarantees, and judicial protections to remedy acts of violence, including the problem of impunity. It offers some conclusions and recommendations so that States can act with due diligence to offer an effective and timely judicial response to such incidents.
57. The report’s analysis includes the results of a process of gathering information from various sectors, including the system of justice, government officials and representatives, civil society, the academic sector, and women of different races, ethnic groups, and socio-economic standings. This information gathering was conducted by the Rapporteurship with financial support from the government of Finland, and was complemented by information on the work done by the IACHR in this area, including jurisprudence, thematic hearings held at headquarters, thematic reports, chapters on women within country reports, and on-site visits organized by both the Commission and the Rapporteurship.
58. The report concludes that despite States’ formal and legal recognition that violence against women is a priority issue, there is a major gap between the prevalence and gravity of the problem, and the quality of judicial response offered. The Commission acknowledges the efforts made by States to adopt a legal and political framework to address violence against women. However, it observed that much still needs to be done to go from formal availability of certain resources to their effective application. This situation not only creates a feeling of insecurity, vulnerability, and mistrust of the system of justice on the part of the victims, but the context of impunity perpetuates violence against women as something to be accepted in the societies of the Americas, to the detriment of human rights. The report will be published in the first half of 2007.
b. Women and violence and discrimination stemming from the armed
59. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women published a thematic report on the impact of the armed conflict on Colombian women. The report covers the main manifestations of violence against women that are aggravated by the armed conflict, such as: physical, psychological, and sexual violence; forced displacement; forced and voluntary recruitment; the imposition of social control measures by illegal armed groups on the populations and territories under their control; and the particularly critical situation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian women.
60. The report is based on observations made during an on-site visit which the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women made from June 20 to 25, 2005 to the Republic of Colombia. The main objective of the visit was to evaluate the impact of the armed conflict on Colombian women, and to receive information on legislative, political, institutional, and judicial measures adopted by the State to protect women’s rights within this socio-political context. The delegation visited the cities of Bogotá, Valledupar, and Quibdó, where it met with government authorities, as well as several victims and relatives of victims, civil society organizations—including indigenous and Afro-Colombian organizations—and with inter-governmental agencies tied to the defense and promotion of women’s rights. The report is also based on information gathered by other official entities and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.
61. The report discusses how players in the armed conflict use various forms of physical, psychological, and sexual violence to “hurt the enemy.” They dehumanize the victim and harm the family unit and/or spread terror in the community, all for the purpose of gaining control over territory and resources. The report’s recommendations are geared toward designing a comprehensive government strategy which takes into account the manifestations of discrimination and violence that affect women, which are accentuated by the armed conflict. The hope is that this will promote progress in the diagnosis, prevention, and response to such problems, as well as place the specific needs of women on the public agenda.
62. The report also urges the State to implement measures to eradicate socio-cultural patterns that discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, and social class; and to take these differences into account when developing public policies to mitigate the pernicious effects of the armed conflict on Colombian women throughout the national territory. There are two kinds of recommendations: general recommendations and recommendations by category of care and response. The latter includes aspects regarding legislation, public policies, state programs and institutions, diagnosis and prevention, public services for displaced women, the administration of justice, civic and political participation, and truth, justice, and reparations.
c. The situation of women in Guatemala and Haiti
63. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women is currently preparing two thematic reports based on its on-site visits to Guatemala and Haiti. Two visits were made to Guatemala, the first in 2004 and a second follow-up visit in 2006. The purpose was to investigate and obtain accurate information on the situation of discrimination and violence against women, assess the effectiveness of prevention policies and institutions, and determine the obstacles that victims and their families face in accessing the system of justice. Additionally, members of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women participated in the Commission’s observation visit to Haiti in December of 2006. The group gathered information on the various forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls, how the system of justice responds to such acts, and the problem of impunity. Two reports analyzing the results of the visits will be published in 2007.
64. Additionally, the Rapporteurship continued to provide technical support for the processing of individual petitions and precautionary measures. Also, on January 5, the Rapporteurship issued a press release celebrating Jamaica’s ratification of the Convention of Belém do Pará. On August 11 the Rapporteurship celebrated Brazil’s adoption of Law 11,340, which includes a set of government actions to prevent, investigate, and punish domestic and family violence against women and its different manifestations. It is call the Maria da Penha Law, after a decision by the IACHR.
65. The Rapporteurship also participated in several promotional activities, such as the “International Seminar on Feminicide Violence: Bridge to the Future;” the 4th Meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary International Dialogue from July 13 to 14, 2006 in the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico, organized by the Special Committee to Examine and Follow-Up on the Investigations regarding Feminicides; and the inter-agency dialogue organized by the World Bank titled: Poverty as a Framework for Women’s Rights, held October 31, 2006.
3. Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Children
66. In 2006 the Rapporteurship on Children continued its activities to promote the rights of the children of the hemisphere.
67. The activities of the Rapporteurship on Children included visits to the member countries of the OAS, analysis of cases and precautionary measures, and participation in thematic hearings and in conferences and seminars related to the rights of children and adolescents. The Special Rapporteur on Children, Commission member Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, visited the Republic of Paraguay in April of 2006 at the invitation of the Government of that country. During the visit the Rapporteur gathered information on the situation of street children in Ciudad del Este (a town in the interior of the country, near the border with Argentina and Brazil). Additionally, the Rapporteur met with street children, with human rights organizations that work on issues related to the rights of children and adolescents, and also with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court, and various local and national authorities.
68. Additionally, the Rapporteur on Children actively participated in various hearings related to the rights of children and adolescents. The Commission listened carefully to information regarding indices of violence, murder, and lack of judicial protection for children and adolescents in various countries of the region. Cognizance was also taken of the situation of children and child labor in the Central American countries. The organizations that appeared in the various hearings expressed concern over the multiple violations of the human rights of children and adolescents in the Americas. Furthermore, hearings were held on the situation of juvenile offenders in various countries of the hemisphere.
69. In October of 2006 Commission member Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro in his capacity of United Nations independent Expert, presented to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the OAS the study on Violence against Children “Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children and youth – What can the Americas do?.” He also presented several recommendations to the member states for handling this problem. During his presentation, the Rapporteur was accompanied by the Assistant Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio. In November of that year the Rapporteur also participated in the regional launching of the worldwide Study of Violence against Children in Panama.
70. Furthermore, the Rapporteur participated in two events organized by the National Juvenile Defender Center at Georgetown University Law Center which were related to the inter-American system for the protection of the human rights regarding juvenile offenders.
71. Finally, it bears mention that the Commission signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank to strengthen the activities of the Rapporteurship on Children. This will continue to be implemented in 2007, which allows the Rapporteurship to expand its activities.