N° 23/04


1.       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported on the activities carried out during its 121st regular sessions. The Members of the IACHR are José Zalaquett, President; Clare K. Roberts, First Vice President; Susana Villarán, Second Vice President; and Commissioners Evelio Fernández Arévalos, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Freddy Gutiérrez and Florentín Meléndez.  The Executive Secretary of the IACHR is Santiago A. Canton. 


2.       In view of the weakening of the rule of law, the lack of effective enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and the vulnerability of human rights defenders in the Americas, it is necessary --among other measures-- to strengthen the IACHR and guarantee its autonomy.  This position was set forth by IACHR President, Commissioner José Zalaquett, at a session of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) of the OAS Permanent Council.  In that session, there was also a discussion of the serious financial situation, the reflection process on the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights, and other matters.  The Inter-American Commission reaffirmed the importance of its independence and autonomy as a principal human rights organ of the Organization of American States, a position that received firm and generalized support from Member States.


3.       When addressing the situation of human rights in the Americas, the Inter-American Commission made particular reference to the situation in Haiti, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela.


4.       The Commission carried out a visit to Haiti this past September, and during the present sessions received additional information concerning the situation of human rights there.  Among other points, this information refers to serious incidents of violence perpetrated by illegal armed gangs that have lead to the death of a number of civilians and members of the police.  Additionally, information was received concerning the arbitrary detention of various individuals, including individuals associated with the former Government of Haiti, as well as threats and other acts of violence against human rights defenders, journalists and the population in general.  The Inter-American Commission is gravely concerned by the volatile situation in Haiti, and deplores the threats and violence that have occurred there in these last weeks.  The Commission again urges that the Government of Haiti take the urgent measures necessary to guarantee the security of the population by disarming illegal groups.  The IACHR emphasizes the urgent need for enhanced international assistance in bringing security to the country and calls upon the international community to strengthen its efforts in this regard.  Further, it reiterates the obligation of the State to investigate and punish, in accordance with due process, those responsible for killings, threats and other human rights violations.  On this date, the IACHR issued a special press release on the situation in Haiti.


5.       The Inter-American Commission received information on the situation in Colombia, especially regarding the impact of violence due to the armed conflict on the population.  In July of 2004, a delegation of the Inter-American Commission traveled to Colombia in order to gather direct information regarding initiatives for the demobilization of illegal armed groups, as well as the applicable legal standards, and the mechanisms to ensure that the process is carried out in accordance with that State’s international obligations.  On the basis of information received through cooperation with the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OEA), as well as contacts with other organs of the international community, civil society, the Colombian Government, and its on-site observation, the IACHR is preparing a report on the demobilization process, which shall be issued soon.  In this respect, the Inter-American Commission reiterates the importance of guarantees of justice and reparations for the victims, as well as its concern with the lack of an adequate and clear legal framework for this process.


6.       In Cuba there is a persistent situation of generalized violation of public liberties, specifically the right to political participation and freedom of expression, as well as systematic repression against dissidents, human rights defenders and independent journalists.  During the present sessions, the IACHR approved three admissibility reports with respect to emblematic cases including allegations of: summary trials followed by the imposition of the death penalty and execution; the trial and conviction absent due process guarantees of more than 70 dissidents and opposition members between March and April 2003; and the illegal detention of opposition leaders for exercising their right to freedom of expression.  


          7.       With respect to Venezuela, the IACHR emphasized in positive terms the massive participation of the population, in a way that was generally peaceful, in the referendum on revocation held on August 15, 2004.  During the present session, the Commission received information concerning this situation.  Additionally, the Commission accepted the recent invitation from the Government of Venezuela to carry out an on-site visit in that country, and hopes to carry it out in the next months.   The Inter-American Commission reiterates its concern with respect to the Draft Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television currently under discussion by the National Assembly of Venezuela.  Various articles of this draft do not reflect the international parameters for the protection of human rights, the jurisprudence of the system in this area, or the recommendations of the IACHR.  Finally, the Commission received with concern information according to which certain nongovernmental organizations are being subjected to judicial investigations for "conspiracy to destroy the Republican political form," a crime set forth in the Criminal Code, or have been publicly labeled by government authorities as conspirators and traitors against the country.  The supposed basis for such accusations consists of having received economic financing from foreign entities to carry out educational, civic and human rights promotion programs. 


8.       During these sessions, the greater part of the Commission’s work program was dedicated to the consideration of draft reports on individual petitions and cases, precautionary and provisional measures, and work before the Inter-American Court.  During the week dedicated to hearings and working meetings, there was participation by high-ranking authorities, including several Cabinet Ministers and Vice Ministers, as well as Attorneys-General and public prosecutors from several countries, who expressed on behalf of their respective States the willingness to maintain dialogue with the IACHR and civil society.  The IACHR expresses its satisfaction with the significant advances made in various friendly settlement procedures aimed at remedying human rights violations denounced.  Also, among the numerous thematic issues addressed, the Commission highlights the hearings on the situation of women who have been subjected to violence in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico, the sexual exploitation of minors in Central America, the rights of persons of African descent in the Americas, and the situation of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the hemisphere, as well as the situation of human rights defenders. 


* * * *  * * * * *


9.                 The next regular sessions of the IACHR shall be held from February 21 to March 11, 2005.  The complete report concerning the 121st period of sessions can be found at the web page


Washington, D.C., October 28, 2004







1.       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presents herewith the report of activities during its 121st regular session. The IACHR consists of José Zalaquett, President; Clare K. Roberts, First Vice President; Susana Villarán, Second Vice President; and Commissioners Evelio Fernández Arévalos, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Freddy Gutiérrez and Florentín Meléndez. The Executive Secretary of the IACHR is Dr. Santiago A. Canton.


2.       During this session, the IACHR adopted 41 reports on individual cases and petitions. Between October 21 and 27, it held 44 hearings on individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific situations with respect to human rights. The Inter-American Commission is grateful to all those representatives of OAS member states who participated, and to the individuals who attended the hearings in their personal capacity or as petitioners.  By their presence they contributed to strengthening efforts to protect human rights for the citizens of the hemisphere. Particular note should be made of the participation of senior government authorities, including ministers and undersecretaries of state, and prosecutors and attorneys general from several countries, who demonstrated the willingness of their respective states to engage in dialogue with the IACHR and with civil society.




3.       The IACHR continued its examination of various individual petitions and cases involving alleged violations of the human rights protected by the American Convention, the American Declaration, and other inter-American instruments.


4.       The reports approved by the IACHR reflect some of the structural problems relating to human rights that still persist in the region. They refer among other matters to respect for the right to life and to personal integrity, guarantees of due process and judicial protection, the rights of the child, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of women, and economic, social and cultural rights.


5.       During its sessions, the IACHR approved 12 reports on the merits of cases. Those reports were transmitted to the respective member states, pursuant to article 50 of the American Convention or article 43 of the IACHR's rules of procedure.  Following is a list of the cases where the IACHR has made public its decision:


A.      MERITS






Mayan communities of the District of Toledo



Whitley Myrie






Yamileth Rojas Piedra

Costa Rica


María Teresa Bulnes Acosta



Laura Tena Colunga and others



Luis Guillermo Bedoya de Vivanco



Luis Prado Alava



Pablo José Gonçalvez



Félix Esparragoza González and Neiro Molina Peñaloza






Gabriel Oscar Jenkins



Robson William Da Silva Cassiano and others



Alfredo Díaz Bustos



Rumaldo Juan Pacheco Osco and others



Nelson Carbajal Carbajal



María del Consuelo Ibarguen Rengifo and others



Vladimiro Roca Antunez and others


P771/03  P841/03

Oscar Elías Biscet and others



Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo and others



Margarita Cecilia Barbería Miranda



Marcela Irene Rodríguez Valdivieso



Ricardo Israel Zipper



Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku



John Elliot

United States


Carlos Antonio Luna López



Dudley Stokes



Fabián Moses



Alejandro Junco de la Vega and Eugenio Herrera T.



Comunidad San Mateo de Huanchor and its members



Jesús Naranjo Cárdenas and others (retired workers of VIASA)






María Rosa de los Ángeles Pacheco de Balmaceda



Jorgina Maria de Freitas



Ximena Laura Villareal López



Members of the Abenaki indigenous nation of Vermont

United States


Persons of the “Golden Venture Smuggling Vessel”

United States


Ángel Suárez and Osiris Cuesta Viera

United States


Mónica Leggett

United States


Harry Lord and family, Inupiat people and indigenous natives of Alaska

United States


Roberto Cedeño Borgen



Jesús Hernández González



Francisco Luis Cano Chavarria



Porfirio Rayo González and others



Luis Fleitas Cardozo





          6.       Between October 21 and 27, 2004, the IACHR held 44 hearings on individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific situations relating to human rights in various states and regions.  The hearings on individual petitions dealt with questions of admissibility, merits, friendly settlement, and follow-up.  The IACHR also received information on the implementation of precautionary measures, and the continuance of conditions of severity and urgency.


A.      General and thematic hearings


          7.       The IACHR held hearings on the general human rights situation in several countries of the region.  During those hearings, general information was received on the situation in Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.


          8.       With respect to Colombia, three hearings were held, one of which focused on maintenance of the social and democratic state, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary.  Another hearing addressed the situation in the departments of Tolima, Arauca, Antioquia and Cauca.  Information was also received on the process of demobilizing paramilitary units and the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS).


          9.       The Commission also examined the situation of victims of the domestic armed conflict in Guatemala, and the National Compensation Program in that country.  The Commission recognizes the efforts made and the progress achieved, and considers that this program should be given a legislative framework and budget consistent with its importance.


          10.     The Commission also received information on the human rights situation in Chiapas, Mexico, and on the situation of impunity in Venezuela. With respect to Peru, it examined complaints of torture, and in another hearing it considered measures in follow-up to the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in that country.  During the session, the IACHR also held a hearing on police violence and public security in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


          11.     As it has done in previous sessions, the Commission convened a number of hearings on specific issues within its mandate, or to consider the rights of persons belonging to specific groups.  The IACHR held a hearing with representatives of organizations that submitted information on the status of women's rights and the administration of justice in the Americas. It also received reports of the situation of human rights for women in Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua, Mexico.


          12.     With respect to the rights of the child, the Commission held a hearing to address the issue of child labor and the sexual exploitation of minors in Central America.  It also held a hearing on the rights of migrant workers and their families in the hemisphere, and another on the rights of persons of African descent in the Americas, dealing in particular with instances of discrimination in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.


          13.     The Commission held three hearings on the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS. In the first hearing, it considered the situation of such persons in Venezuela, who are covered by precautionary measures ordered by the Commission.  It also examined the human rights context of persons living with HIV/AIDS and public financing. Finally, a delegation from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) presented a report on the severity of the situation in the region, and on cooperation between PAHO and the IACHR.


          14.     The situation of human rights defenders in Latin America was examined during a hearing that attracted broad representation from civil society organizations in the Americas. That hearing addressed various problems that hinder or prevent efforts to defend human rights in the hemisphere, ranging from threats and assassinations to undue restrictions and other forms of harassment.


          15.     The schedule of hearings also included an examination of economic, social and cultural rights in Venezuela, and a report on the impact of impunity for human rights violations in that country.  The situation of prisoners in El Salvador was also the subject of a hearing, during which petitioners submitted information on the alarming prison conditions in that country, and the government outlined some of the initiatives that it is taking to deal with that situation.


          16.     Information was also received on follow-up to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) in Peru, at a hearing attended by a delegation of the Peruvian State and representatives of the National Coordination Office for Human Rights. The IACHR recognizes the efforts that the Peruvian State has made to implement those recommendations, in particular as they relate to health and education.  It also notes that prosecution has begun against persons accused of violating human rights, as documented in the final report of the CVR.   Finally, the Commission urges the Peruvian State to continue this process through the Commission for Monitoring and Implementation of the Recommendations of the CVR.  To this end, it should amend the mandate of that commission and provide it with an adequate budget.


          17.     A hearing was held with Dr. Roberto Cuéllar, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights (IIHR).  The Commission was given a report on the IIHR study on the status of human rights education in 19 countries of the region.   With respect to interinstitutional cooperation, the IACHR signed a cooperation agreement with the Human Rights Committee of the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO).

          18.     On other issues included within its mandate to protect and promote human rights, the Commission received information on human rights and economic integration in the hemisphere.  It also held a hearing on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the struggle against terrorism, an issue that was the subject of a special report by the Inter-American Commission, published in December 2002.


B.       Hearings on cases and petitions


  • Case 12.440 - Wallace de Almeida, Brazil

  • Case 12.448 - Sergio Emilio Cadena Antolinez, Colombia

  • Case 12.281 – Gilda Pizarro and others, Chile

  • P 844/03 – Lorenzo Enrique Copello and others, Cuba

  • Cases of forced disappearance during the 1980s, Honduras  

  • Case 11.802 – Ramón A. Hernández and others, Honduras

  • P 777/01 - Rosendo Radilla Pacheco, Mexico

  • P4614/02 – Wilmer González Rojas, Nicaragua

  • Case 12.408 - Heliodoro Portugal, Panama

  • Petitions and Cases of dismissed magistrates and prosecutors, Peru

  • Case 12.338 – Twelve Saramaka clans, Suriname


C.      Hearings on precautionary measures


  • Precautionary measures for social leaders of Arauca, Colombia

  • Precautionary measures at La Balsita, Dabeiba, Colombia

  • Precautionary measures Embera Chamí indigenous community, Colombia

  • Precautionary measures for Jorge Isaac Aramburó and requests for information on the Afro-Colombian communities of the Rio Yurumangi Valley, Colombia

  • Precautionary measures for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Guatemala.




          A.      Women's rights


          19.     The Special Rapporteur for Women's Rights is Commissioner Susana Villarán. The Rapporteur pursued various activities between March and October 2004, relating in particular to women's access to justice and their right to live free of violence and discrimination.   A visit to Guatemala was conducted between September 12 and 18, 2004, to examine the situation of killings and other forms of violence against women in that country.  The Rapporteur welcomed the openness of the representatives of the Guatemalan State with whom she spoke, and the transparency and promptness with which the information requested by the IACHR delegation was delivered.  She also mentioned the key role that Guatemalan women are playing in strategies and efforts to promote and protect their fundamental rights, and the dignity and confidence with which victims and their families presented their troubling testimony.   The initial conclusions and recommendations from the visit can be found at the web page of the Inter-American Commission (  The Special Rapporteur is preparing a report with specific recommendations, which will be submitted very shortly to the IACHR. In the course of its hearings during the session, the IACHR also received information from the Mexican State and from representatives of civil society on the status of women in Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua, Mexico.  The report by the Special Rapporteur on that situation served as the framework for the hearing, which was attended by an important and representative delegation of the Mexican State and by organizations of civil society.


B.       The rights of indigenous peoples


          20.     The Special Rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples is Commissioner José Zalaquett.  Through the Rapporteurship, the IACHR has continued to assist the working group that is preparing the Draft American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Commission welcomes the efforts that member states are making in preparing this draft, and the progress that has been achieved, with respect both to substantive points of the text and to strengthening the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples.   The Special Rapporteurship has cooperated constantly in processing petitions relating to indigenous rights, in which an increasing number of collective complaints have been noted, relating to alleged violations of the right to life, to personal integrity, to community property, and to cultural identity for indigenous peoples. In September 2004, the Special Rapporteur ship participated in the visit to Guatemala, during which a series of reports were received from indigenous women's organizations on the discrimination that they face because of their ethnic origin, and that is reflected in various spheres of national life.  In terms of promotional activities, the Rapporteurship participated in the human rights workshop for persons with disabilities in the region of Gracias a Dios, Honduras, held jointly with the Pan American Health Organization.


C.      Rights of the child


          21.     The Special Rapporteur for Children is Commissioner Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.  A program to strengthen this rapporteurship was recently completed, under a cooperation agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank.  Pursuant to that agreement, the Rapporteur conducted various promotional activities, including 11 workshops in several countries. The office also published a book on children and their rights in English, Spanish and Portuguese.  The main issue dealt with by the Special Rapporteur during this session was the situation of children and teenagers in conflict with the law.  On this point, the Rapporteur expressed particular concern at certain proposed policies and legal amendments that would seem to ignore international standards by placing too much emphasis on punishment and suppression in the treatment of such cases.  In this respect, the Rapporteur is preparing a visit to several Central American countries to investigate the situation.


D.      The rights of migrant workers and their families


          22.     On April 16, 2004,the Special Rapporteur for this issue, Commissioner Freddy Gutierrez, participated in a special session of the Working Group of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs to prepare an inter-American program for the protection and promotion of the human rights of migrant workers and their families.  Subsequently, on September 30, 2004, he represented the IACHR at a working session to identify proposals, best practices and concrete activities for preparing this program.  The Special Rapporteur also attended the sessions of the 92nd International Labor Conference in June 2004 in Geneva.


E.       The rights of prisoners


          23.     Commissioner Florentin Melendez is the Rapporteur for the rights of persons deprived of their liberty.  Prison conditions continue to be a serious problem affecting human rights in the region. The Rapporteur prepared and submitted to the IACHR a work plan covering the next three years, and including activities to promote legal development in the inter-American system through the adoption of an inter-American declaration on principles, guarantees and minimum rules of protection for persons deprived of their liberty.  It also includes the preparation of a report on prison conditions in the Americas, with a program of visits to various countries in the hemisphere and the collection of relevant information on this issue.  Finally, the plan calls for a series of promotional activities.


F.       Right to freedom of expression


          24.     The Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression is Dr. Eduardo Bertoni.  He heads a permanent office, which was created by the IACHR and operates independently with its own budget within the IACHR legal framework.  The Special Rapporteur reported an increase in violent acts against persons who express themselves freely, and against journalists in various member states of the OAS.  His office also organized seminars in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, intended to publicize the legal parameters of the inter-American system as they relate to freedom of expression.  Mention should be made of various promotional materials that have been published, such as the book on access to public information on the Americas, and a CD with information on the inter-American system relating to freedom of expression, and inauguration of an updated Internet site.  Among the issues relating to freedom of expression in the hemisphere, special mention should be made of important recent decisions by the Inter-American Court in the cases of Herrera Ulloa (Costa Rica) and Ricardo Canese (Paraguay). There has been progress in legislative reforms to reflect the standards of the inter-American system, particularly with respect to access to public information and the repeal of desacato laws that criminalize libel and defamation.


G.      Rights of persons of African descent, and racial dissemination


25.     During its session, the Inter-American Commission considered the creation of a special rapporteurship on the rights of persons of African descent and on racial discrimination.  The mandate and work program of that special rapporteurship will be examined further by the IACHR has its next regular session.




          26.     The IACHR was invited to participate in a session of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the OAS Permanent Council, together with the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.  At that session, the President of the IACHR, Commissioner José Zalaquett discussed that body's position with respect to its independence and autonomy, its serious financial situation, and the consideration that it has been giving to the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights, among other matters.   The Inter-American Commission reaffirmed the importance of its independence and autonomy as a principal human rights organ of the Organization of American States, a position that received firm and generalized support from Member States.




A.      Contentious cases


          27.     Since the previous regular session of the Inter-American Commission, 12 new cases have been submitted to the contentious jurisdiction of the Court:


1.                 Pedro Huilca Tecse, Peru

2.                 José Del Carmen Álvarez Blanco and others (“Pueblo Bello”), Colombia

3.                 Wilson Gutiérrez Soler, Colombia

4.                 Humberto Palamara Iribarne, Chile

5.                 García Asto y Ramírez Rojas, Peru

6.                 Blanco Romero, Hernández Paz and Rivas Fernández, Venezuela

7.                 La Granja and El Aro, Colombia

8.                 Hugo Juárez and others “Centro Penal Miguel Castro Castro”, Peru

9.                 Fermín Ramírez, Guatemala

10.             Santiago Fortunato Gómez Palomino, Peru

11.             Ronald Raxcacó, Guatemala

12.             Damião Ximenes Lopes, Brazil


B.       Provisional measures


          28.     The Commission also submitted 10 applications for provisional measures: Pueblo Indígena Sarayaku (Ecuador), Pueblo Indígena Kankuamo (Colombia), Carlos Nieto Palma (Venezuela), El Nacional and Asi es la Noticia (Venezuela), 19 Merchants (Colombia), Globovisión (Venezuela), Raxcacó and others (Guatemala), Boyce and Joseph (Barbados), Eloisa Barrios and others (Venezuela) and Penitenciaría de Mendoza and Unidad Penitenciaria Gustavo André de Lavalle (Argentina).


C.      Advisory opinion


          29.     The IACHR also requested an advisory opinion from the Court on "Legislative or other measures that deny judicial appeal or other effective recourse for challenging the death penalty (Articles 1.1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 25, 29 and 44 of the American Convention on Human Rights)".


D.      Joint session


          30.     During the period between the regular sessions of the Inter-American Commission, a joint session was held with judges representing the Inter-American Court and with personnel of its Secretariat, in Mexico City, during its 120th special session.  On that occasion, a number of questions of interest to both bodies were addressed, referring in particular to consideration of ways to strengthen the inter-American system of human rights.


          31.     As part of its work program for the 121st regular session, the IACHR received the President of the Inter-American Court, Dr. Sergio Garcia Ramirez, and its Secretary, Dr. Pablo Saavedra Alessandri.  The timing was propitious for an exchange of information on procedural issues and on strengthening the Inter-American human rights system, particularly with respect to adjusting the regular OAS budget to the current workload of the two bodies. The President of the Inter-American Commission and the President of the Court participated in a working session with the Permanent Council of the OAS on October 26, 2004.




          32.     The IACHR must again draw attention to its severe financial situation. For the first time in its history, it found itself, only a few weeks before its regular session was scheduled, without the funds needed to hold that session. The scope of its financial crisis is a reflection of the substantial increase in the number of complaints received (up 170% in the last 7 years), and the reduction in professional and administrative staff financed from the regular OAS budget, as well as a 10% cut in the overall IACHR budget for 2005.


          33.     The Inter-American Commission again notes and welcomes the significant financial contributions made by the governments of Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States, as well as the funding provided by the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Ford Foundation and Notre Dame University. These contributions have contributed concretely to strengthening the inter-American human rights system.


          34.     The next regular session of the IACHR will be held from February 21 to March 11, 2005.


Washington D.C., October 28, 2004