1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("the Commission" or "the IACHR") is a principal organ of the Organization of American States ("the OAS") charged with protecting and promoting human rights in the Hemisphere. The IACHR comprises seven independent experts who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. The Commission analyzes individual petitions and cases under the American Convention on Human Rights ("the American Convention") from the countries that have ratified that instrument, and under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man ("the American Declaration") from the other member states of the OAS. The Commission also studies the human rights situation in the countries of the Hemisphere, examines specific issues within its sphere of competence, and draws up and publishes the corresponding reports.
2. On March 10, 2000, the Commissions 106th regular session came to a close. This event was attended by Commission Chairman Dr. Hélio Bicudo, First Vice-Chairman Dean Claudio Grossman, Second Vice-Chairman Dr. Juan E. Méndez, and Commissioners Marta Altolaguirre, Robert K. Goldman, Dr. Peter Laurie, and Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo. The meetings were prepared and coordinated by Executive Secretary Amb. Jorge E. Taiana, with help from Assistant Executive Secretaries Dr. David J. Padilla and Dr. Hernando Valencia-Villa.
II. ANNUAL REPORT
3. The Commission spent a considerable portion of its time considering its 1999 Annual Report, which it will present to the OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Canada, in June 2000. It approved the structure and content of the various different chapters.
III. INDIVIDUAL PETITIONS AND CASES
4. The Commission continued with its study of numerous individual communications alleging violations of human rights protected by the American Convention and/or the American Declaration, and it adopted a total of 52 reports regarding the corresponding individual petitions and cases. The 34 reports on cases and petitions in which the IACHRs decision has been made public are listed below.
iii. Friendly Settlement
B. Cases closed
5. Pursuant to Article 48 (1) (b) of the American Convention and Article 35 (c) of the Commissions Regulations, the IACHR examined several files and decided to declare the following cases closed:
C. Hearings and Friendly Settlements
6. The Commission held 41 hearings on individual cases, the general human rights situation in different nations around the Hemisphere, precautionary measures, recommendation follow-up, and other issues over which it has competence. The follow-up hearings served to assess compliance with the recommendations issued by the Commission in its reports on individual cases.
7. The Commission has continued to promote and emphasize the friendly settlement of cases through the mechanism established by Article 48 (1) (f) of the American Convention. Thus, the Commission held a series of hearings and working meetings with petitioners and representatives from different OAS member states.
8. In connection with this, the IACHR notes the attitude assumed by the representatives of Guatemala who, during this session, indicated their interest in "working in conjunction with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the protection and promotion of those rights and attempting, through the friendly settlement mechanism, promptly to resolve as many cases as possible." The Guatemalan State remarked that, in general terms, those agreements would involve admitting its responsibility, initiating criminal and administrative proceedings, and compensating victims and their relatives.
9. The Guatemalan State acknowledged its responsibility in three reports adopted under Article 51 of the American Convention and it indicated its intent to sign an agreement promising compliance with the recommendations made by the IACHR in those reports. Said reports refer to 44 cases of extrajudicial killings and six cases of forced disappearances in Guatemala. In addition, the Guatemalan State accepted its responsibility in the Dos Erres village massacre (Case 11.420) and in the events leading to the violation of the right to life of the minor Marcos Fidel Quisquinay (Case 12.199); it also stated that it wanted to reach a friendly settlement in these two cases as soon as possible. The State also agreed to reopen the investigation and encourage the domestic legal proceedings aimed at clearing up the extrajudicial killing of anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang (Case 10.636), who worked with internal refugees in the country. The Commission appreciates the willingness shown by the Guatemalan State to resolve cases that are still pending before the Commission through the friendly settlement mechanism. This attitude on the part of the new government should serve as an example to the entire Hemisphere.
10. The Commission also reports that the Peruvian State and petitioners have signed that countrys first friendly settlement agreement: on March 6, 2000, the parties involved signed an agreement in Case No. 12.041, X.X. The agreement was signed by the petitionersthe Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Womens Rights (CLADEM), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP)and by the Peruvian State and the IACHR. The case deals with the rape of X.X., a worker in the informal sector who went to seek medical attention at a public hospital and was raped by her attending physician, an employee of the public health system. The Peruvian State acknowledged its responsibility in this case, promised to impose additional sanctions on the person responsible over and above those already in place, and agreed to make a series of amends to X.X. as determined by the two parties with the IACHRs approval. The Commission expressed its appreciation of the Peruvian State and the petitioners for their willingness to resolve this case, and of the victim for her acceptance of the terms of the settlement.
11. On Friday, March 3, 2000, a hearing was held to continue negotiations between the State of Honduras and the petitioners toward a friendly settlement of 19 cases of forced disappearance that occurred during the 1980s. This issue was one of the main items on the agenda of the visit to Honduras made by the Rapporteur for that member state on December 46, 1999. The hearing centered on the agreement that the parties had reached, in principle, regarding the friendly settlement of those cases. On the same day, friendly settlement hearings were held in connection with Cases 11.545 (Marta Zaire), 11.805 (Carlos Jaco), and 11.802 (Ramón Hernández et al.); an agreement was reached regarding friendly settlement terms for the first of these, which involves a young disabled woman. The Commission made itself available to the parties to help draw up the corresponding agreement.
IV. REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION OF ASYLUM SEEKERS WITHIN THE CANADIAN REFUGEE STATUS DETERMINATION SYSTEM
12. During this session, the IACHR adopted the final version of this report, which contains information received before, during, and after the Commissions on-site visit to Canada, conducted in October 1997 at the invitation of the Canadian government. The purpose of this visit was to examine the system used to determine refugee status, together with the corresponding domestic remedies available to individuals seeking asylum in Canada.
V. RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN PERU
13. During this session, the IACHRs Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago Canton, told the Commission that "effective exercise of free expression in Peru is seriously compromised due to the systematic use of intelligence services and security forces as instruments of harassment and persecution of investigative journalists and political opposition leaders." The Rapporteur also referred to "incidents that involved tailing journalists and politicians; intercepting phone calls; conducting smear campaigns against media and individuals who had expressed opinions critical of authorities in office; using judicial powers to silence radio and television programs with critical content; and pressuring media owners to avoid broadcasting unfavorable programming, as well as many cases involving threats to and attacks on journalists and politicians."
14. The Rapporteur also commented that the limitations on the full enjoyment of freedom of expression in Peru were "a serious obstacle for the normal course of the electoral process." The Commission received the information provided by the Rapporteur with concern and it adopted Press Release PR/21/2000 of March 8, 2000, which is attached hereto. The IACHR would like to stress the particular importance of the right of free expression during electoral processes and it will continue to observe how events unfold, within the bounds of its authority.
15. In this regard it should also be noted that the IACHR asked the Peruvian State to adopt precautionary measures to protect the rights of Mr. Genaro Delgado Parker, who claims that he was arbitrarily denied the right to manage the Red Global television channel and, additionally, forced to interrupt transmissions by a radio station belonging to him (Radio 1160) when his broadcasting equipment was embargoed.
16. The Commission also expresses its concern regarding the information it has received about attacks carried out on the Peoples Defender, Dr. Jorge Santistevan de Noriega, during the current electoral campaign. As it has done on other occasions, the IACHR reiterates its support for the work of the Peoples Defender in protecting and promoting human rights in Peru and it calls for an immediate halt to those attacks.
VI. RATIFICATION OF INTER-AMERICAN INSTRUMENTS AND ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE PROTOCOL OF SAN SALVADOR
17. On November 16, 1999, the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights ("the Protocol of San Salvador") came into force following Costa Ricas deposit of its corresponding instrument of ratification. The Commission celebrates this historic event, which represents a major step forward in protecting the human rights of the inhabitants of the Americas.
18. Among other advances made, on November 9, 1999, Nicaragua deposited its instrument ratifying the Additional Protocol to the American Convention to Abolish the Death Penalty. Similarly, instruments ratifying the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture were deposited by Ecuador on November 9, 1999, and by Costa Rica on February 8, 2000. On February 25, 2000, Guatemala filed its ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons.
19. The Commission congratulates these member states for their ratifications of different inter-American instruments, and it urges all OAS member states to continue progressing toward their full incorporation into the inter-American human rights system.
VII. STRENGTHENING THE INTER-AMERICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM
20. During this session, the IACHR studied the recent initiatives taken by the OAS Permanent Councils Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Human Rights that was created in San José, Costa Rica, in November 1999 by the foreign ministers of several states of the Hemisphere.
21. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission has on several occasions stressed the importance of strengthening the inter-American human rights system in order to improve the protection afforded to those rights. In particular, it has continued with its reform of the IACHRs Regulations and it expects to have a finalized text by the end of this year.
22. Similarly, during this session the Commission had the opportunity to meet Dr. Pedro Nikken, President of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIHR), accompanied by that institutions Assistant Executive Director, Dr. Charles Moyer. The occasion was used to analyze issues of mutual interest, such as cooperating on the promotion of human rights and the process of strengthening the inter-American system.
VIII. OTHER ACTIVITIES
23. The Commission received an invitation from the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil to hold its next special session in Brasilia, that countrys capital city. The offer was gratefully accepted by the IACHR, and efforts are underway to set the dates for this event.
24. During the session, the IACHR adopted a recommendation on "Eradicating the Recruitment and Participation of Children in Armed Conflicts." This document condemns practices that violate the human rights of children and that the Commission deems similar to forced servitude, such as the "drafting" of children and adolescents by the armed forces and armed dissident groups. It also stressed the grave repercussions that participation by children in armed conflicts can have on them and their families. This recommendation is not only aimed at states, but rather at all the parties involved and at children and adolescents themselves.
25. The Commission was pleased to receive Dr. Leo Valladares, the head of the National Human Rights Commission of Honduras and President of the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen. Their meeting addressed several issues of common interest related to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Hemisphere.
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26. The Commission will hold its next regular session on October 220, 2000.
Washington, D.C., March 13, 2000
OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
CONCERN OF THE INTER-AMERICAN HUMAN RIGHTS
At the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the Commission), during the current period of sessions, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Mr. Santiago A. Canton, informed the Commission about the serious situation regarding the freedom of expression in Peru.
The Rapporteur informed the Commission about a large number of claims regarding violations of the right of freedom of expression. The analysis of these claims leads the Rapporteur to conclude that the effective exercise of free expression in Peru is seriously compromised due to the systematic use of intelligence services and security forces as instruments of harassment and persecution of investigative journalists and political opposition leaders. In addition to the abusive activities of the intelligence services, the failure of political authorities to recognize the problem should be noted. "These actions and omissions by the Peruvian State represent the fundamental pillars that sustain the current scheme of harassment and persecution of freedom of expression in Peru," the Rapporteur stated.
The Rapporteur is particularly concerned about the effect these restrictions will have on the current electoral process. The importance of respect for freedom of expression and information becomes extremely critical in times when citizens need information to elect the individuals who will be responsible for governing them. The State must guarantee, without discrimination, the right to transmit and receive information in order to allow the full exercise of the political rights of all citizens to participate in the electoral process, either as candidates or voters.
The Rapporteur informed the Commission about incidents that involved tailing journalists and politicians; intercepting phone calls; conducting smear campaigns against media and individuals who had expressed opinions critical of authorities in office; using judicial powers to silence radio and television programs with critical content; and pressuring media owners to avoid broadcasting unfavorable programming, as well as many cases involving threats to and attacks on journalists and politicians.
According to the Rapporteur, "Peru lacks the necessary conditions to guarantee the complete exercise of the right to express political ideas that oppose or criticize the government through the mass media." The Rapporteur considers that the limitation to the right of freedom of expression in Peru "represents a serious obstacle for the normal development of the electoral process."
The Commission received the report and expressed its deep concern for the integrity of the current electoral process considering the limited nature of freedom of expression in Peru.
Washington, D.C. March 8, 2000