ANNUAL REPORT OF THE IACHR
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented its Annual Report
yesterday to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) of
the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States.
Marta Altolaguirre, President of the IACHR, presented a statement
to member states of the Organization, summarizing the Commission's
activities during 2002 and expressing certain considerations with respect
to the human rights situation in the hemisphere.
the session of the CAJP, permanent representatives of member states of the
OAS addressed many comments, questions and considerations to Mrs.
Altolaguirre relating to the Annual Report and the work of the
Inter-American Commission. The
President of the IACHR responded to the questions that had been put to her
and thanked representatives for their constructive and cooperative spirit.
other questions, the President declared the Commission's concern over the
gradual deterioration of democratic institutions.
In particular, she noted that, despite regular elections in
countries of the hemisphere, many democracies betray institutional
weaknesses and have even been exposed to coups and attempts to overthrow
the established constitutional order.
Fortunately, said Mrs. Altolaguirre, member states of the OAS are
today unanimous in rejecting such attempts, by invoking instruments such
as the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Nevertheless, she said, the Commission is also concerned by the
fact that domestically imposed legal limits on the use of government force
are in some cases dismissed or ignored, thereby undermining the rule of
her presentation, Mrs. Altolaguirre also alluded to the problems of
corruption, poverty and exclusion, and social, economic, ethnic and gender
divides that contribute to legal insecurity, and therefore to instability.
This situation, she noted, is made worse by the lack of effective
access to justice, and it “not only serves to perpetuate the
ineffectiveness and impunity that characterize the functioning of the
hemisphere's judicial systems, but also tends to exclude citizens from
participation in the administration of justice, whether as operators or as
active subjects”. When the
justice system fails to afford protection for victims, the IACHR President
pointed out, people lose confidence in it, and this is particularly true
for the most vulnerable groups, when they suffer discrimination and have
no ineffective remedy for determining their rights.
These factors, she said, coincide with people's growing feeling of
insecurity in the face of rising violence and crime and the tendency of
some to take justice into their own hands.
Altolaguirre stressed how important it was for member states to guarantee
the freedom of action and the personal safety of human rights defenders
and others working for justice in the hemisphere.
On this point, she noted that numerous petitions and requests for
precautionary measures were received during 2002 in reference to acts of
harassment and attacks against human rights workers.
The IACHR, in accordance with its mandate, is continuing to devote
special attention to this situation, through the work of the Unit for
Human Rights Defenders.
respect to the activities reflected in the Annual Report, the President
highlighted ongoing work with especially vulnerable groups, through the
special rapporteurships for the rights of children, women, indigenous
people, and migrant workers. She
also noted that the IACHR has paid particular attention to the situation
of people of African descent, through its promotional efforts as well as
through its studies of the general human rights situation in member
countries, and in individual cases and precautionary measures.
She mentioned as well the work performed during the year by the
Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, whose report
for 2002 is included as an annex to the IACHR Annual Report.
referred as well to Chapter IV of the Annual Report, which contains
updated information on the human rights situation in countries that have
been the object of special attention by the Inter-American Commission.
That chapter contains analyses, together with observations,
conclusions and recommendations, relating to the situation in Colombia,
Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
Annual Report of the IACHR and the statement of its President are
available at the Commission's web page, www.cidh.org.
D.C., April 3, 2003