IACHR PRESENTS ANNUAL REPORT TO OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Medellín, Colombia, June 3, 2008 – The Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Dr. Paolo G. Carozza, presented the Commission’s 2007 Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) today. The four-chapter report describes the Commission’s 2007 activities and offers information on the petitions and cases processed and the precautionary measures granted throughout the year. Chapter IV also includes special sections on the human rights situation in Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela, countries that the IACHR considered called for special attention in 2007.
With respect to Colombia, the IACHR report highlights, among other things, its concern regarding certain aspects of the demobilization of paramilitary groups underway and the threats faced by human rights defenders and social leaders. In terms of Cuba, the report describes a persistent violation of fundamental rights. The report discusses deficiencies in the administration of justice in Haiti and the serious lack of access to basic social services for the population. With regard to Venezuela, the report analyzes aspects related to the hostile environment for political dissent and the criminalization of social protest, among other issues.
The report also covers activities carried out by the Commission last year and points to two record numbers. The Commission received 1,456 complaints in 2007—the highest number for one year since its creation in 1959—and as of the end of 2007, it had 1,251 individual petitions and cases being processed, also a record. By comparison, in 1997 the IACHR received 435 complaints, and at the close of that year there were 976 cases and petitions being processed. The cases litigated before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have also increased dramatically; of the 114 cases the Commission has taken to the Court in the last two decades, more than half (65) have been presented since 2003.
These numbers reflect the growing legitimacy and credibility of the inter-American human rights system, which has led to an increase in the mandates received from the General Assembly, as well as in the petitions and requests for precautionary measures, requests for hearings on the part of civil society and the States, and requests to conduct visits to the countries. Nevertheless, the regular budget assigned to the Commission by the Member States has remained constant and has even decreased in real terms since at least 1999.
In his address to the OAS General Assembly, the IACHR Chairman indicated that “there is now a very large and expanding gap between the resources necessary to maintain a healthy human rights system and the reality of the Commission’s activities.” He added, “The Commission simply cannot continue to respond to the growing demands placed upon it without decisive action by the Member States to address the critical shortage of resources.”
Dr. Carozza noted that in 2007, more than half of the Commission’s operating budget came from external donations. The Commission is grateful for such support, which has proved critical, but the IACHR Chairman warned that this situation “places the Commission’s work in a precarious and uncertain state, because there is no stability or long-term assurance of the availability of those funds.” In this regard, he urged the Member States gathered for the annual OAS General Assembly to adopt urgent measures to address the Commission’s grave financial situation.
In his remarks, the IACHR Chairman also referred to the reform process being contemplated in order to strengthen and improve the efficiency of the inter-American human rights system. Dr. Carozza said the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights had met in the context of this General Assembly to discuss the importance of this process and the need to move forward with reforms to the rules of procedure of both institutions to maximize the efficiency of the inter-American system. “We have agreed upon a concrete timetable for the elaboration of the details of such reforms, that includes ample opportunity for a full and transparent consultation with the Member States as well as civil society,” he said, adding that the process of procedural reform could come to a successful conclusion by the end of this year.
Finally, the IACHR Chairman thanked OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza for his active support of the Commission and of its central role as one of the constitutive bodies of the OAS. “In collaboration with the community of nations, the other organs of the OAS, and civil society, the Commission will continue to work tirelessly to protect and promote human rights in our hemisphere in 2008 and beyond,” Dr. Carozza said.
Press contact: María Isabel
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