2. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
73. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women is currently headed by Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero. Since the beginning of 2008, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women has been engaged in activities to address problems of discrimination and violence against women as primary barriers for the enjoyment and effective exercise of their human rights. The activities are focused on preparing specialized recommendations for the OAS Member States on discrimination against women in the exercise of their civil, political, economic, and social rights; following up on the recommendations in its thematic report entitled Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas (2007); and preparing and publishing reports on the situation of women in countries of the region. The Rapporteurship has also continued to offer technical support to the attorneys of the Executive Secretariat in processing individual petitions and precautionary measures.
74. More specifically, with the support of the governments of Finland and Spain, the Rapporteurship has begun two initiatives to compile qualitative and quantitative information with a view to identifying the major advances made and the challenges women face to be able to exercise their rights, free of discrimination, in the spheres of political participation and reproductive rights. The aim is to publish thematic reports on these issues.
75. As part of this effort, on February 28, 2008 the Rapporteurship held a first working meeting on the issue of “Protection of Women’s Reproductive Rights,” at the Commission’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to develop an initial approach to this issue. The meeting included the participation of representatives of civil society and international agencies who work on the protection of reproductive rights for women in the Americas. In addition, on July 15 of this year, the Rapporteurship organized a second working meeting with experts, at the Commission’s headquarters as well, under the theme of “Discrimination against Women in the Exercise of their Reproductive Rights.” This meeting was intended to identify, through a participatory process, the principal advances made and the challenges women face in the exercise of their reproductive rights, encompassing issues such as the discrimination women may face in access to reproductive health services and access to information and to the education required to make informed decisions in this area.
76. In addition, on July 2, 2008, the Rapporteurship organized a working meeting with fifteen experts from different sectors in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the purpose of compiling information on the situation of women in the sphere of political participation in Argentina, within the general framework of protecting the rights of women in that country. The plan is to incorporate this information in the regional report the Rapporteurship is preparing on this issue. Likewise, on Thursday, September 25, 2008, the Rapporteurship organized a meeting of experts in Caracas, Venezuela, on “Discrimination against Women in the Sphere of Political Participation from a Human Rights Perspective.” The meeting included the participation of 21 national and international experts from the government, international agencies, civil society, and the academic sector. The participants discussed and reflected on the principal achievements and challenges in the area of women’s political participation at the hemispheric level, from a perspective of human rights and discrimination. They also identified recommendations the Commission can issue with a view to improving States’ compliance with their human rights obligations.
77. The Rapporteurship also participated in various promotional activities, including a national symposium on “Sexual Violence: A Problem of Public Health and Social Justice,” which took place on March 31 of this year in La Paz, Bolivia. The symposium was organized by the National Committee to Combat Sexual Violence—made up of various State and non-State entities—in order to arrive at intersectoral commitments to follow up on the recommendations regarding the problem of sexual violence that the IACHR made in its last report on the human rights situation in Bolivia. The Rapporteurship also participated in the conference entitled “Equality for All: Access, Discrimination, Violence, and Corruption,” organized by the International Association of Women Judges on March 27 in Panama City, Panama, and in a training workshop on the human rights of women in the sphere of health, organized by the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund in Lima, Peru, on June 30 of this year.
78. Likewise, the Rapporteurship on Women produced two thematic reports on the situation of discrimination and violence against women in Haiti and Chile, and the obstacles that victims and their family members face to access effective judicial protection when they denounce such acts. These two reports were prepared based on the Rapporteurship’s on-site visits to those countries in 2006 and 2007, and were adopted by the Commission in October and December 2008, respectively.
3. Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child
79. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child, under the direction of Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, has been engaged in the activities described below, through which it was possible to carry out in full the cooperation agreement between the IACHR and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
80. The Rapporteurship analyzed and evaluated petitions, cases, requests for precautionary measures, and requests to States for information to do with childhood matters. In particular, the Rapporteurship provided specialized assistance in connection with alleged violations of rights of children and adolescents in conflict with the law with regard to the imposition of life imprisonment without parole, conditions of detention and alleged violations of the right not to be separated from parents, the right to humane treatment, the right to health, the right to identity, child exploitation, protection of the right to have one’s reputation respected, and other matters.
81. As regards preparation of specialized studies in accordance with the agreement with the IDB, the Rapporteurship has been addressing the following issues: the mara gangs phenomenon in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; and the right of children to an identity.
82. The Rapporteurship believes it worth noting that promotion of non-violence against children is the core theme of the agreement signed with the IDB. In that connection, the Rapporteur elected to center its efforts on the development of specific standards by which to bring about the elimination of corporal punishment as a method to discipline children, which constitutes a form of violence that is tacitly accepted and ignored in the Americas. Accordingly, a draft request for an advisory opinion on protection of children against the use of corporal punishment in the Americas was prepared and approved by the IACHR, in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was asked to interpret Articles 1(1), 2, 5(1), 5(2), and 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article VII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in concordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in order to establish that the use of corporal punishment as a method to discipline children is incompatible with the standards contained in the aforesaid international instruments. Further to the provisions of the agreement signed with the IDB, the Rapporteurship is presently engaged in the preparation of a study with the aim of promoting measures to turn the Americas into a region free from corporal punishment against persons under 18 years old.
83. It should be mentioned that as part of the agreement signed with the IDB, in 2008, a variety of children's rights education activities were carried out and a series of working visits were organized to the following countries: Jamaica, Guatemala, Haiti, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Brazil.
84. In addition, in 2008 the IACHR signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to create a cooperation framework for the preparation of a special study on juvenile criminal justice. To that end, the IACHR has already sent a questionnaire on juvenile criminal justice to member States and civil society organizations and is currently awaiting the various replies. In November 2008, the first subregional consultation for Southern-Cone countries was held in Asunción, Paraguay. The consultations for the countries of Central America and Mexico; the Andean countries; and the Caribbean countries, Canada, and the United States will be held in the course of 2009.
85. Furthermore, under the cooperation agreement signed between the IACHR and the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rapporteur Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro conducted three working visits for the purpose of gathering information and identifying contacts for the thematic report that the two organizations are preparing on juvenile criminal justice in the Americas.
86. The first visit took place on August 19, when Rapporteur Pinheiro visited Montevideo, Uruguay, where he met with representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, UNICEF, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child–Uruguay. The Rapporteur then visited Buenos Aires, Argentina, from August 20 to 22, where he met with government authorities and civil society representatives. In the course of the visit, the Rapporteur made a presentation on the issue of “Challenges for the Full and Effective Compliance in the Hemisphere of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography”; this was part of the “Preparatory Meeting for the World Congress III on Sexual Exploitation” which was held in Buenos Aires from August 19 to 22.
87. From September 15 to 19, the Rapporteur visited Bogotá to meet with authorities in charge of childhood issues and with representatives of civil society, and to participate in a seminar on “City, Conflict, and the Public Sphere: The Latin American Perspective,” organized by UNICEF from September 17 to 19. The Rapporteur also held meetings with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic, the Ombudsman, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Alliance for Early Childhood, among other organizations.
88. The principal educational and promotional activities carried out in 2008 include the following: the presentation of the Rapporteur, Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro to the Parliament of Jamaica in February; the participation of Rapporteurship staff in a national workshop on “Promoting the Protection and Integral Development of Children and Adolescents” through planning and programs with a focus on human rights, organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Guatemala City; an educational workshop on “Protection of Children's Rights in the Inter-American System” co-organized with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in May; attendance at the Preparatory Meeting for the World Congress III on Sexual Exploitation,” which was held in Buenos Aires, in August, and participation in the World Congress III itself, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November; and participation in the seminar on “City, Conflict, and the Public Sphere: The Latin American Perspective,” held in Bogotá, Colombia, in September.
4. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
89. In 2008, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at the request of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, adopted, by resolution 1/08 of March 13, 2008, the Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas (OEA/Ser/L/V/II.131 doc. 26). The Rapporteurship had spent the previous three years preparing the aforesaid document in keeping with the mandate given to the IACHR by the OAS General Assembly in resolutions AG/RES. 2283 (XXXVII-O/07) of 2007, AG/RES. 2233 (XXXVI-O/06) of 2006, AG/RES. 2125 (XXXV-O/05) of 2005, and AG/RES. 2037 (XXXIV-O/04) of 2004, and also in response to the situation in prisons noted in several of the region's countries.
90. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty also conducted an observation visit to Chile, from August 21 to 25, 2008. During the visit, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, visited two juvenile detention centers (the San Joaquín Center for Provisional Internment of Minors, in Santiago, and “Tiempo Joven,” in San Bernardo); three prisons operated under concession (the Santiago I Preventive Detention Center, the Rancago Prison Complex, and the Valdivia Prison Complex); two State-run centers (the South Santiago Prison Center and the Valparaíso Prison Complex); and women’s detention centers (the Santiago Women’s Prison Center and the women’s sections of the Rancagua and Valparaíso prisons). The Rapporteur also met with high-level State authorities and representatives of civil society.
91. Following the observation visit, the Rapporteurship delegation participated in the Second Meeting of Officials Responsible for Penitentiary and Prison Policies of the OAS Member States, which took place from August 26 to 28 in Valdivia, Chile. Both Rapporteur Florentín Meléndez and the Specialist from the Executive Secretariat made presentations at the meeting.
92. Finally, Commissioner Meléndez, as Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty conducted an observation visit to the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital of Asunción, Paraguay, on September 11, 2008, to verify compliance with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on July 29, 2008 (PM 277/07). The Rapporteur also held meetings on September 11 and 12 with authorities from Paraguay’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Public Health and Social Well-Being.
Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against
93. The Commission established the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination early in 2005. Since then, the duties of the Special Rapporteur have been carried out by Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts, member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Rapporteurship was charged with stimulating, systematizing, reinforcing and consolidating the actions of the Inter-American Commission in support of the rights of people of African descent and against racial discrimination. The core objectives of the Special Rapporteurship include working with OAS member States to generate awareness of the States’ duty to respect the human rights of Afro-descendants and on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; to analyze current challenges that confront countries of the region in this area; to formulate recommendations designed to overcome those obstacles; to identify and share best practices in the region with respect to this matter, and to provide the technical assistance requested by member States in the implementation of the recommendations in national law and practice.
94. During 2008, the Rapporteurship continued its advisory role and maintained its activities in the area of promotion and protection of rights of Afro-descendants.
95. On April 9, 2008, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination met with members of the United States Congress, specifically the Inter-American Dialogue’s Congressional Members Working Group, to discuss the challenges facing Afro-descendants in the region. The Rapporteur noted areas of concern and proposed recommendations with respect to improving the protection of persons of African descent in the region through legislative, policy and other means. The briefing was organized by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Inter-American Foundation. In this connection, on April 10, 2008 the Rapporteur participated in a Roundtable on the Situation of Afro-descendants in Latin America organized by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Inter-American Foundation in Washington, D.C. Sir Roberts made remarks with respect to the advances and challenges regarding the protection of the rights of Afro-descendants in the region, especially noting the lack of recognition of racism and racial discrimination by many countries in the region and the need for States to adopt special measures to prevent and eliminate racial discrimination.
96. The Rapporteurship continued to provide technical support to the Working Group of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council of the OAS that is charged with the drafting of a new regional instrument, the Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination. Member States continue to communicate their observations on the second draft of the text. On this point, the Rapporteurship is preparing comments to be presented to the Working Group on the content of the draft. On November 20, 2008, Secretariat staff made presentations during a Special Session of the Working Group charged with the drafting of a new regional instrument. The presentations related to the identification of contemporary forms of racism and the role of regional human rights protection mechanisms in monitoring States’ parties adherence to international instruments.
97. On June 17-19, 2008, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination participated in the U.N. Preparatory Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in Brasilia, Brazil in connection with the review process of the Durban Plan of Action adopted at the conclusion of the U.N. World Conference Against Racism held in 2001 in South Africa (Durban Review Process). The Rapporteur made remarks with respect to the role of the regional mechanism, in particular, the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and provided observations on the advances and challenges to protection of the rights of Afro-descendants with respect to the Durban Plan of Action goals, their implementation and observations on the impact of such measures. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur discussed the importance of the process to develop a regional instrument for the protection of racism and racial discrimination and encouraged all members to participate in the process.
98. On October 6-10, 2008, the Rapporteurship participated in the U.N. Preparatory Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in connection with the review process of the Durban Plan of Action adopted at the conclusion of the U.N. World Conference Against Racism held in 2001 in South Africa (Durban Review Process). The conference is intended to prepare a final draft document for consideration at the Durban Review Conference scheduled for April 2009. Participation in this conference falls within the Rapporteurship’s activities of protection and promotion of the rights of Persons of African descent in the region, by providing observations on the situation of Afro-descendants in the region and the challenges faced by this population due to racism and racial discrimination.
99. During the general and thematic hearings and working group sessions of the Commission’s regular period of sessions, the Rapporteurship was informed about various aspects of racial discrimination in the region and in particular countries. Thematic hearings included: (1) The Situation of Discrimination of Afro-descendants in Labor, Education and Access to Justice in the Americas; (2) The Right to Education for Afro-descendants and Indigenous Peoples; (3) The Situation of Displaced Afro-Colombians; (4) Racial Discrimination and Access to Justice for Afro-Colombians; and (5) Case 12.569, Quilombos Communities of Alcantara in Brazil. The Rapporteurship continues to monitor the issues raised in these hearings.
100. In December 2008, the Rapporteurship approved a report entitled, “Observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Rights of Afro-descendants and Racial Discrimination in Colombia.” This report is the first thematic report prepared by the Rapporteurship on the problem of racial discrimination with respect to the Afro-descendant population in Colombia and is based largely on the Rapporteur’s visit to Colombia in May 2007.
101. Specialists within the Rapporteurship continued to collaborate in the evaluation of individual petitions and requests for precautionary measures on matters involving racial discrimination and/or the situation of Afro-descendants in the Americas, as well as to collaborate in the preparation of individual case reports addressing these issues.
102. Finally, the Rapporteurship would like to thank the governments of Brazil, Colombia and the European Commission for their financial contributions which have allowed the Rapporteurship to carry out its functions during 2008.
6. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families
103. During 2008, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families continued with its promotional and advisory activities. Commissioner Florentín Meléndez performed the duties of Rapporteur in this area in January and February and, since March 2008, Commissioner Felipe González has been in charge of this Rapporteurship.
104. During its 130th period of sessions, the Commission received concerning testimony regarding immigration detention of undocumented families, unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable groups and the due process rights afforded them under U.S. immigration law. Based on this testimony, the Commission resolved to investigate and publish a report on the circumstances of immigration detention and due process right in the United States.
105. In March 2008, the Rapporteurship entered into negotiations with the United States to conduct on-site visits to four immigration detention facilities, which are representative of the types found across the country. In June 2008, the Rapporteurship hired lawyer Mark Fleming to facilitate the Commission’s fact-finding missions to the U.S. immigration detention centers, along with providing consultative support to petitions and cases that focus on migration issues brought before the Commission.
106. Despite extensive preparations, the Rapporteurship was unable to conduct its visits to immigration detention centers due to an impasse with the State regarding preconditions to speaking with the migrant detainees. The Rapporteurship, however, has continued its investigation into detention conditions and due process rights of migrants in the United States. The Rapporteurship spent the summer interviewing former detainees and meeting with immigration advocates from different regions of the United States. In July, a delegation from the Rapporteurship had a series of meetings with U.S. congressional staffers to better understand current developments in immigration reform.
107. In September, the Rapporteurship completed a fact-finding mission to Texas. The Rapporteurship’s delegation met with various civil society advocates from throughout the state of Texas. The civil society organizations placed the delegation in contact with numerous former immigrant detainees and their families. The Rapporteurship plans to conduct interviews with pertinent government officials to gain the State’s perspectives on detention and due process issues for migrants in the United States.
108. The Rapporteurship intends to release a report of its findings on U.S. immigration detention and due process in early 2009.
109. In addition to its investigation into immigration detention, the Rapporteurship has been working diligently with the regional coordinators within the Secretariat to identify petitions related to migrant workers. The Rapporteurship has lent its expertise on a number of cases that are still in study. During the 132nd period of sessions, the Rapporteurship participated in developing the Commission’s resolution expressing its concerns for the E.U. Return Directive. During the 133rd period of sessions, the Commission held thematic hearings on the potential human rights impacts of the proposed border wall along the Texas-Mexico Border and due process concerns for migrants under U.S. immigration law and policy.
7. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
110. The defenders of human rights from different sectors of society, and sometimes from government institutions, make contributions that are essential to the viability and strengthening of democratic societies. That is why respect for human rights in a democratic State depends, to a great degree, on adequate and effective guarantees that allow human rights defenders to freely pursue their activities.
111. During 2008, the Unit for Human Rights Defenders continued its activities in support of human rights defenders in the American Hemisphere by giving impetus to individual petitions and cases before the IACHR as well as to precautionary measures.
112. In the course of the year the Unit received information on the situation of defenders in the region. Among the troubling situations to note: unannounced searches of various organizations and patterns of harassment and threats to their members; a growing campaign to discredit the work that human rights defenders carry out; the enactment and implementation of new laws and regulations that restrict or penalize the financing of non-governmental organizations for the sole reason that they receive international cooperation funding to carry out their activities, and the increased number of laws that restrict or penalize social protest.
113. The Inter-American Commission has received information about the particular vulnerability that certain defenders face owing to the rights that they defend, including those of women, children, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, gays, lesbians, and transgender persons.
114. The Unit also participated in an “inter-mechanisms” meeting at the invitation of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, which was held in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of the meeting was to examine the six existing international protection mechanisms for human rights defenders around the world, and to consider how these mechanisms complement one another in terms of treatment, follow-up, and response to individual cases to do with human rights defenders, organization of possible joint visits, and promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).
115. Furthermore, as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Unit organized a meeting that was attended by human rights defenders and Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. The Unit also organized a meeting with OAS member States during the 133rd Regular Session of the IACHR. On December 9, 2008, five UN agencies, regional agencies, and representatives, issued a joint press release stating the main concerns in this area and calling on States to take proactive and firm steps to promote the work of human rights defenders.
116. In follow-up to the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, adopted on March 7, 2006, the OAS General Assembly, in June 2007, invited “member States to inform the IACHR of measures adopted to follow up on the recommendations contained in the ‘Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas,’ prepared in 2006 by the Unit for Human Rights Defenders of the IACHR.” This invitation was reiterated in resolution 2412 at the OAS General Assembly held in Medellín, Colombia, in June 2008.
117. In keeping with this resolution and in view of the multitude of requests both from member States and from civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the region, the IACHR has decided to prepare a study to assess compliance with the recommendations contained in its report. In order to gather information for the study, inter alia, the Unit for Human Rights Defenders sent a questionnaire to member States and civil society organizations.
118. Finally, the Commission selected attorney Alexandra Santos, a Brazilian national, for the scholarship to work for one year in the IACHR Unit for Human Rights Defenders.
E. Other events and activities
Inter-American Treaties on Human Rights
119. Regarding the seven inter-American human rights instruments, two ratifications were made in 2008. Thus, on September 5, 2008, Argentina deposited its instrument of ratification of the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty. Chile, for its part, deposited its instrument of ratification of the same instrument on October 16, 2008, with the following reservation: “The State of Chile makes the reservation authorized under Article 2.1 of the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty and may, therefore, apply the death penalty in wartime in accordance with international law, for extremely serious crimes of a military nature.”
Scholarships and Internships
120. In 2008, the Commission continued its Rómulo Gallegos Scholarship Program. The program offers training on the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights to young lawyers from the Hemisphere, who are selected annually on the basis of competition, at which time they must demonstrate their commitment to human rights as well as a solid academic record. During the course of 2008, 18 scholarship recipients worked with the Commission: 12 during the first semester of 2008, corresponding to the scholarship period 2007-2008, who included four Rómulo Gallegos scholarships; four thematic scholarships (two to work in the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one for the Unit for Human Rights Defenders, and one to work in the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women); two scholarships arranged with the University of Notre Dame, and two scholarships for young professionals from member States in Central America and the Andean Region. In the second semester, corresponding to the 2008-2009 scholarship period, six scholarship recipients took up their activities. The scholarships granted in the 2008-2009 period included three Rómulo Gallegos scholarships; two thematic scholarships (one to work in the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the other for the Unit for Human Rights Defenders), and one scholarship for a young professional from a member State in Central America.
121. In addition to its scholarship program, the Commission continued and expanded its internship program. These internships, which are administered in cooperation with the OAS Student Intern Program, are targeted at university students and graduates, as well as at young professionals, to allow them to gain practical experience in the inter-American system in connection with their field of study. The goal of the internships is to offer law students and recent law school graduates or graduates of other related disciplines, the opportunity to learn about the work of the Commission. It also offers professionals an opportunity to acquire practical training in the human rights area and to work with the attorneys in the Executive Secretariat in the different activities carried out by the IACHR. It is worth noting that during its visit to Jamaica in December 2008, the Commission signed an agreement with The Norman Manley Law School to deepen and strengthen their institutional cooperation ties in order to promote awareness of the inter-American human rights system in the Caribbean. Under the agreement, law students at that institution will be offered internships at the IACHR to learn how to use the system for the benefit of people in the Caribbean, to which end, furthermore, seminars and workshops will be organized. In 2008, the Commission received a total of 35 interns. Additional information on scholarships and internship programs is available on the Commission’s website at www.cidh.org
122. Throughout 2008, the members of the Commission and of the Secretariat took part in international conferences, seminars and workshops on international protection of human rights and related topics.
123. On September 17 and 18, 2008 Chairman Paolo Carozza, Executive Secretary Santiago Canton, and Coordinator of the IACHR Registry Unit Víctor Madrigal, visited the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and met with the President of the European Court and some of its judges as well as the Secretary and other officials of the Secretariat of the Court, to strengthen dialogue between the two regional bodies and to establish new mutual cooperation mechanisms. On September 19 and 20 the Commission’s Executive Secretary and the Chairman participated in an international conference at Utrecht, The Netherlands, on the inter-American system and the European system. And, on September 22, 2008, the Executive Secretary met with officials of the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, United Kingdom, to exchange information on the activities of the IACHR and to discuss continued cooperation between the two agencies.
124. At the invitation of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights of Brazil, the Inter-American Commission participated in the Fourteenth Meeting of Senior Human Rights Officials of MERCOSUR and Associate States, held in Brasilia from November 10 to 12, 2008. During that visit, the IACHR conducted a seminar on jurisprudence in the inter-American system, at the University of Brasilia.
125. Commissioner Víctor E. Abramovich and IACHR lawyers took part in the week-long on-site phase of the Postgraduate Diploma on Human Rights and Fair Trial organized by the Inter-American Training Network in Governance and Human Rights of the College of the Americas (COLAM) of Canada in association with the Human Rights Center of the Universidad de Chile Law School, which was held at the Office of the Ombudsman of Argentina in November 2008. This postgraduate diploma is designed to provide training to professionals involved in justice administration in Latin America (judges, public defenders, and government prosecutors) in the use of inter-American human rights standards, particularly where fair trial guarantees and discrimination are concerned. The course was attended by 28 students, who included lawyers, judges, ministers, government attorneys, defenders and prosecutors from 19 institutions in the domestic judicial systems of 10 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
126. In May 2008, the Executive Secretary and Commission attorneys also took part in the Thirteenth Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition organized by the Washington School of Law of the American University. The competition has been held annually since 1996, and more than 1,300 students and faculty representing more than 140 universities in, at least, 25 countries in the Hemisphere have taken part.
F. Financial Situation
127. Throughout 2008, the Commission repeated its request to the various organs of the Organization of American States, to continue to search for ways to obtain an effective increase of the economic resources allocated to the IACHR, with the purpose of having adequate financing for this organ in the Organization’s program-budget. Likewise, the Commission suggested to donors that, to the extent that it was possible, they assign part of their voluntary contributions that have no specific goals to provide the IACHR with flexibility in the allocation of resources among its various activities and programs.
128. The IACHR is especially grateful for the significant financial support from countries inside and outside the region, as well as from foundations and other entities. These donations make it possible for the IACHR to carry out a great many of its activities related to the mandates issued by the OAS political bodies.
129. In particular, the IACHR would like to thank the governments of the following OAS member countries for the contributions made this year: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. It would also like to thank the observer countries that support the Commission’s activities: Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Spain, and Sweden. The Commission also welcomes and appreciates the contributions received from the European Commission and the University of Notre Dame. These donations contribute in a concrete way to the strengthening of the inter-American human rights system in the Americas.
G. Activities of the Inter-American Commission in connection with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
130. In 2008, the Commission continued litigation in a series of cases brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
131. In 2008, the Commission submitted nine (9) new cases to the Court: Blanca Jeannette Kawas Fernández (Honduras); Rosendo Radilla Pacheco (Mexico); Members of the Association of Former Employees and Retirees of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (Peru), Kenneth Ney Anzualdo (Peru); Francisco Usón Ramírez (Venezuela); Massacre of the Two “R’s” (Guatemala); Oscar Barreto Leiva (Venezuela); Tyrone da Costa Cadogan (Barbados); and Manuel Cepeda Vargas (Colombia).
132. In 2008, the IACHR took part in hearings convened in connection with the LXXVIII, LXXIX, and LXXX regular sessions of the Inter-American Court, held at its headquarters, and with the XXXIII, XXXV, and XXXVII special sessions, held in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Montevideo (Uruguay), and Mexico City (Mexico).
133. During those sessions there were public hearings regarding the following cases Heliodoro Portugal (Panama); Yvon Neptune (Haiti); Apitz Barbera et al. (Venezuela); Valle Jaramillo et al. (Colombia); Castañeda Gutman (Mexico); Bayarri (Argentina); Tiu Tojín (Guatemala); Gabriela Perozo et al. “GLOBOVISIÓN” (Venezuela); Luisiana Ríos et al. “RCTV” (Venezuela); Tristán Donoso (Panama); Ticona Estrada (Bolivia); Kawas Fernández (Honduras); and Escher et al. (Brazil).
134. Likewise, there were public hearings regarding provisional measures in the following cases: Caballero Delgado and Santana (Colombia); Álvarez et al. (Colombia); San José de Aparatadó Peace Community (Colombia); Pilar Noriega et al. (Mexico); Communities of the Community Council of the Jiguamiandó and Families of Curvaradó (Colombia); the Araraquara Penitentiary (Brasil); Children Deprived of Liberty in the Tatuapé complex of the CASA Foundation (Brazil); the Kankuamo indigenous people (Colombia); and the Mendoza Penitentiaries (Argentina).
135. At the same time, there were private hearings to oversee compliance with judgments relating to the following cases: Cantoral Benavides (Peru); Loayza Tamayo (Peru); Caballero Delgado and Santana (Colombia); Ricardo Canese (Paraguay); Juvenile Reeducation Institute (Paraguay); the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community (Paraguay); the Yakye Axa Indigenous Community (Paraguay); Raxcacó Reyes (Guatemala), Fermín Ramírez (Guatemala); as well as a private hearing regarding provisional measures in the Raxcacó Reyes et al. case (Guatemala).
136. In the period covered by this report, the Commission also took note of several judgments handed down by the Court in cases submitted for its consideration. These are rulings on preliminary exceptions, merits, reparation, and costs in the following cases: Kimel (Argentina); Salvador Chiriboga (Ecuador); Yvon Neptune (Haiti); Apitz Barbera et al. (Venezuela); Castañeda Gutman (Mexico; Heliodoro Portugal (Panama), Bayarri (Argentina), Tiu Tojín (Guatemala), Ticona Estrada (Bolivia); and Valle Jaramillo et al. (Colombia); and the interpretative rulings in the following cases: Rochela Massacre (Colombia); Cantoral Huamaní and García Santacruz (Peru); Escué Zapata (Colombia); Miguel Castro Castro Prison (Peru); Albán Cornejo et al. (Ecuador); Saramaka People (Suriname); García Prieto et al. (El Salvador); and Chaparro Álvarez and Lapo Íñiguez (Ecuador).
137. On December 29, 2008, the Commission submitted to the Inter-American Court an advisory opinion request on whether the use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary method against children, including adolescents, is incompatible with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
138. In 2008, the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights also continued their process of dialogue on amendments to their respective rules of procedure aimed at strengthening the inter-American human rights system. To that end, the IACHR delegates, Commissioners Paolo Carozza and Victor Abramovich, held the following meetings with delegates of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: in Medellín, May 31, 2008; in Washington, June 16 and 17, 2008; in Montevideo, August 15, 2008; and in Mexico City, November 29, 2008. It should be noted that the current process to amend the rules of procedure is being undertaken through regular collaboration between the two agencies, and that the pertinent amendments will be embarked upon in 2009.
H. Thirty-Eighth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS
139. During the thirty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, held in Medellín, Colombia, from June 1 to 3, 2008, the Commission was represented by its President, Paolo Carozza and by its Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton. The President of the Commission addressed the General Assembly with regard to the human rights situation in the OAS member States and officially submitted the Commission’s Annual Report for 2007.
140. The General Assembly adopted various resolutions with regard to human rights. These resolutions can be found at the Commission’s website at the following address: www.cidh.org. Given their importance for the observance and protection of human rights in the Americas and the strengthening of the inter-American system, they are listed below:
1. AG/RES. 2361 (XXXVIII-O/08). 60th Anniversary of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
2. AG/RES. 2362 (XXXVIII-O/08). Inter-American program for Universal Civil Registry and the “Right to Identity”.
3. AG/RES. 2364 (XXXVIII-O/08). Promotion of the International Criminal Court.
4. AG/RES. 2365 (XXXVIII-O/08). Program of Action for the Decade of the Americas for the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (2006-2016) and support for its Technical Secretariat (SEDISCAP).
5. AG/RES. 2366 (XXXVIII-O/08). Support for the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.
6. AG/RES. 2367 (XXXVIII-O/08). Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
7. AG/RES. 2368 (XXXVIII-O/08). Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
8. AG/RES. 2369 (XXXVIII-O/08). Meeting of Ministers of Justice or other Ministers, Attorneys or Prosecutors General of the Americas (REMJA).
9. AG/RES. 2370 (XXXVIII-O/08). Future of the Inter-American Indian Institute.
10. AG/RES. 2371 (XXXVIII-O/08). Mechanism to Follow Up on Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará”.
11. AG/RES. 2402 (XXXVIII-O/08). Protection of asylum-seekers and refugees in the Americas.
12. AG/RES. 2403 (XXXVIII-O/08). Study of the rights and the care of persons under any form of detention or imprisonment.
13. AG/RES. 2404 (XXXVIII-O/08). Education on human rights in formal education in the Americas.
14. AG/RES. 2406 (XXXVIII-O/08). Right to the truth.
15. AG/RES. 2407 (XXXVIII-O/08). Strengthening of human rights systems pursuant to the mandates arising from the Summits of the Americas.
16. AG/RES. 2408 (XXXVIII-O/08). Observations and recommendations on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
17. AG/RES. 2409 (XXXVIII-O/08). Observations and recommendations on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
18. AG/RES. 2411 (XXXVIII-O/08). Strengthening of the National Human Rights Systems of the member States and Support for the Work of Defenders of the People, Defenders of the Population, and Human Rights Attorneys or Commissioners (Ombudsmen).
19. AG/RES. 2412 (XXXVIII-O/08). Human rights Defenders: Support for the Work of Individuals, groups, and organizations of civil society to promote and protect human rights in the Americas.
20. AG/RES. 2415 (XXXVIII-O/08). Protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
21. AG/RES. 2416 (XXXVIII-O/08). Persons who have disappeared and assistance to members of their families.
22. AG/RES. 2417 (XXXVIII-O/08). Internally displaced persons.
23. AG/RES. 2418 (XXXVIII-O/08). Access to public information: Strengthening democracy.
24. AG/RES. 2419 (XXXVIII-O/08). Support for enhanced inter-regional cooperation with the African Union (AU).
25. AG/RES. 2420 (XXXVIII-O/08). Voluntary contributions for the operations of the Oliver Jackman fund to finance the Inter-American Human Rights System.
26. AG/RES. 2421 (XXXVIII-O/08). Strengthening the role of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Organization of American States.
27. AG/RES. 2426 (XXXVIII-O/08). Establishment of the “Legal Assistance Fund of the Inter-American Human Rights System”.
28. AG/RES. 2429(XXXVIII-O/08). Human rights and climate change in the Americas.
29. AG/RES. 2430 (XXXVIII-O/08). Protocol of San Salvador: Composition and functioning of the working group to examine the periodic reports of the States Parties.
30. AG/RES. 2433 (XXXVIII-O/08). Promotion of and respect for International Humanitarian Law.
31. AG/RES. 2434 (XXXVIII-O/08). Right to freedom of thought and expression and the importance of the media.
32. AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08). Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
I. Reorganization of the Executive Secretariat
141. For a number of years the Commission has been contending with a shortage of resources that hampers its ability to process the petitions it receives in a timely manner. This has come about as a result of a growing number of petitions that are increasingly complex, as well as a large quantity of cases referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, coupled with a rise in mandates and recommendations received by the Commission from the General Assembly.
142. Over the last seven years the Executive Secretariat has been adopting a series of measures to tackle the challenges generated by the growing caseload as well as by the need to perform the Commission's other functions. Many reforms were successfully implemented; others, however, either because of a lack of resources or the complexity of the Organization's structure, have proved more difficult to accomplish. At present, although the budget situation remains less than satisfactory, it has been possible to continue the restructuring that was initiated several years ago and which is designed to make the Commission's work more efficient. It is important to keep in mind that all these reforms, their implementation, and the accomplishment of their ultimate objective, are rendered fragile by their dependence on an ongoing influx of funds from external sources.
143. In the opening phase of this strategy priority was given to ensuring the consistency and standardization of legal work, to which end, as a first step, the activities of the legal department were consolidated. In the same vein, beginning in 2001, changes were made to working models through the creation of advisory groups within the Secretariat, which have brought an added measure of efficiency and consistency both in the initial review of petitions and in the evaluation of requests for precautionary measures. Subsequently, specialized activity groups were created: the first such group, set up in 2004, was tasked exclusively with providing support for litigation of cases referred to the Court; in 2007, the registry group was set up with the exclusive task of evaluating the petitions backlog; the protection group, which was created at the same time, was put in charge of evaluation, processing, and follow-up on precautionary measures. A database was set up in 2003 as a technological platform for this initiative, which contains all the cases and petitions being processed. This made it possible, for the first time, to have rapid access to information and to keep track of all ongoing cases and precautionary measures. At present, work is underway on the development of a second phase for the database, as well as digitalization of all IACHR records and documents.
144. Although the above measures have brought significant strides, the task remained pending of overcoming a series of challenges that were obstructing an increase in the number of reports on the admissibility and merits being drafted. Such challenges included the fragmented nature of the work of the specialists; the myriad tasks that they must perform; the unevenness of their workload, caused chiefly by the system of division by countries, and difficulties in coordination, communication, and consultation among specialists, as well as between them and the leadership of the Executive Secretariat, due to the increased size of the legal staff, which has doubled in recent years.
145. The design of the second phase of this strategy, intended to boost productivity and efficiency, took into account, first, the need for a middle-management level to take charge of juridical, procedural, and administrative aspects of operations, which would, at the same time, facilitate communication both within the Secretariat and with the members of the Commission. In second place, the design took account of the importance of putting into operation a reporting system based on a steady output of reports throughout the year and not according the timetable of sessions of the IACHR. In third place, the design bore in mind the need to continue to reduce multi-tasking and augment specialization in both geographic and procedural terms and, finally, ensure a more even workload distribution.
146. Traditionally, the basic operating unit in the Secretariat was the country desk with the officers responsible who were in charge of case processing, attending to precautionary measures, correspondence, analysis of petitions, preparation of admissibility and merits reports, follow-up on the friendly settlement stage or on recommendations, and litigation of cases and provisional measures before the Inter-American Court. Moreover, the specialists in charge of country desks also had to deal with the tasks of promotion and observation in the respective countries, as well as preparation of and participation in on-site visits and drafting country reports.
147. The underlying premise in consolidating operating units is that specialization tends to increase productivity and that it is possible to maximize potential for production of admissibility and merits report by assigning these functions to work teams (Sections) organized on a geographic basis. Thus, each work team has approximately the same workload. Furthermore, coupled with the undeniable advantage of specializing in a particular country or region is the benefit that within each work team tasks would be divided according to the procedural stage –whether admissibility or merits- reached by each case.
148. This reorganization of tasks would make little sense unless accompanied by structural changes, something that has already begun in the case of the Registry Group, which is in charge of the initial analysis of all petitions received by the Secretariat. The initial analysis of petitions, which is a huge part of the Executive Secretariat's operation, has been entrusted to a new operating unit: the Commission Registry. The Registry will operate using the same practices and methods with which it has operated since it took up its tasks in June 2007.
149. These are two complementary processes, as it would be illogical to solve the delay at the initial stage without solving the delay that is passed on to stages that follow the processing of the petition.
150. The Protection Group will continue with the mandate of attending to precautionary measures.
151. The second objective is to ensure an equitable distribution of petitions in keeping with existing labor resources through implementation of a teamwork model with standardized methods and practices, and based on geographic and procedural organizational criteria. To that end, the Executive Secretariat was reorganized according to the procedural stages of the individual petitions and cases system, as well as by geographic regions, into the following sections:
- Registry - in charge of reception and initial appraisal of petitions;
- Regional Sections - in charge of petitions; cases at the admissibility and merits stages; and follow-up on recommendations and on friendly settlement procedures until the necessary funds are available to create a specialized group for that area. Each section will operate under the coordination of a principal specialist (level P-5 or P-4), and have a staff of one professional (level P-3) and two junior professionals (level P-2 or P-1);
- Court Group - in charge of litigation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights;
- Protection Group - in charge of precautionary measures.
152. Furthermore, the Rapporteurships with funds allocated for the coverage of their activities will continue to operate with the assistance of the Rapporteurship Officer, who will be able to rely on advisory services from a senior professional of the Executive Secretariat.
153. Planning of the process of transferring cases and implementation of the new organization scheme took from March to June 2008, and its execution began on July 1. In concrete terms, the most significant aspects of this process have been the reassignment of professionals to sections or groups, appointment of coordinators, execution of a process of transfer of duties, and the launch of a wholesale reorganization of the documents kept by the Executive Secretariat, a process that also entailed the organization of a general archive of petitions under analysis and of a general archive of petitions and cases being processed. For the first time in its history the Commission has a chronological uniform filing system which, although it has required a very substantial investment in terms of time and funds, facilitates access to information and optimizes the use of space.
154. Listed below are the subregional sections and the countries that comprise them. They have been transferred an equitable number of cases and petitions (ranging from 280 to 320 matters):
- Region of English-, Portuguese-, and French-speaking countries, which includes Canada, United States, Brazil, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago;
- Region comprising Mexico, Central America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, which, in addition to Mexico, includes Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Cuba;
- Andean Region I, which covers Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela;
- Andean Region II, which covers Peru and Bolivia; and
- Southern Cone Region, which encompasses Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
155. An important aspect of the ongoing reform process is the organization of the case law of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into a compendium. Based on this reassignment of duties the aim is to design and put into operation a tool for the legal staff to use in the preparation of reports that would enable the prompt and efficient location of case law classified by theme, protected right, and/or the relevant article in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
156. Also created was a section for administration, finance, and other administrative services, which is composed of the offices of administration; projects and funds; documents; database administration, and the library.