N° 42/10




Washington, D.C., April 15, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today presented its 2009 Annual Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS).


The report consists of four chapters that recount the activities carried out by the Commission and its Rapporteurships in 2009 and provide information on the processing of petitions and cases and the granting of precautionary measures throughout the year. In addition, Chapter IV contains special sections on the human rights situation in Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela, countries the IACHR believed warranted special attention in 2009.


With respect to Colombia, the IACHR specifically addresses the progress and challenges in the clarification of crimes perpetrated during the conflict. These include the participation of the paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States in the Colombian proceedings held under the Justice and Peace Law, a persistent pattern of violation of the rights to life and to humane treatment, the situation of ethnic groups, and intelligence activities against human rights defenders, community leaders, justice operators, and the IACHR itself.


Regarding Cuba, the Commission paid particular attention to the structural situations that seriously affect the full enjoyment of human rights, especially political rights, guarantees of due process and independence of the judiciary, deprivation of liberty of political dissidents, restrictions on the right to freedom of movement and residence, restrictions on freedom of expression, the situation of human rights defenders, and the freedom to associate in labor unions. The Commission also reiterates that the embargo against Cuba must end because of its impact on the human rights of the Cuban population. This, however, does not exempt the State from compliance with its international obligations, nor does it excuse the State for the violations to the American Declaration described in this report.


Regarding Haiti, the Commission analyses the structural situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of its inhabitants. It addresses the grave situations of violence that prevent the proper application of the rule of law, the serious institutional crises, the processes of institutional change that can have negative consequences for human rights, and the grave omissions in the adoption of the necessary norms for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.


With respect to Honduras, Chapter IV of the Annual Report is an executive summary of the report Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État, which addresses the human rights situation since the coup d'état of June 28, 2009. This report was largely based on information gathered during the Commission's on-site visit to Honduras on August 17-21, 2009. It can be inferred from the document that the reported human rights violations are a direct consequence of the breakdown of constitutional order. For this reason, the Commission considers that the return to democratic institutions in Honduras is necessary so that conditions may exist for the effective protection of and compliance with the human rights of all inhabitants of that country. The Commission confirmed during its visit to Honduras that, along with the institutional de-legitimization caused by the coup d’état, there have been grave human rights violations, including deaths, arbitrary declaration of a state of siege, repression of public demonstrations using disproportionate force, criminalization of social protest, arbitrary arrests of thousands of people, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and poor conditions of detention, militarization of the territory, an increase in instances of racial discrimination, violations of the rights of women, serious and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and grave violations of political rights. The IACHR also confirmed the ineffectiveness of judicial remedies to protect human rights.


Regarding Venezuela, Chapter IV of the Annual Report is an executive summary of the report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, in which the Commission examines the evolution of human rights in that country and, specifically, a series of conditions that evidence the lack of effective separation between and independence of the different branches of government in Venezuela. The Commission also notes that in Venezuela the full exercise of their rights has not been guaranteed to all people without regard to their stance towards government policies, and that the punitive power of the State is being used to intimidate or punish persons on the basis of their political opinions. The report establishes that conditions do not exist in Venezuela for human rights defenders and journalists to freely perform their occupations. The Commission’s report indicates that the numerous violent acts of intimidation carried out by private groups against journalists and media outlets, together with the discrediting statements made by high-level officials against the media and journalists on account of their editorial stance and the systematic opening of administrative proceedings based on legal provisions that allow a high level of discretion in their application and enable drastic sanctions to be imposed, along with other factors, make for a restrictive climate that hampers the free exercise of freedom of expression as a prerequisite for a vigorous democracy based on pluralism and public debate. The IACHR has also determined that a pattern of impunity exists regarding cases of violence, which particularly affects journalists, human rights defenders, union members, persons participating in public demonstrations, persons in prison, peasants [campesinos], indigenous peoples, and women. In the opinion of the Commission, all these elements have contributed to the weakening of the rule of law and democracy in Venezuela.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.


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