PRESENTATION OF THE 2006 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS BY IACHR PRESIDENT FLORENTÍN MELÉNDEZ
Thursday, March 29, 2007
President of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, Distinguished Representatives of the Member States, and Observers of the Organization, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I am honored to present the Commission’s 2006 Annual Report to the Permanent Council’s Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. I am accompanied on this occasion by the Executive Secretary and the professional staff of the Secretariat.
The report I present to you today was approved by the Inter-American Commission during its 127th ordinary period of sessions that took place between February 26 and March 9 of this year. The report was prepared in accordance with the guidelines of Resolution AG/RES. 331 (VIII-0/78) of the General Assembly, pursuant to Article 57 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. The report reflects the general activities of the IACHR under the presidency of Commissioner Evelio Fernández Arévalos.
Structure of the 2006 Annual Report
As in previous years, the Annual Report is divided into three volumes: the first two refer to the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the third contains the report from the Commission’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
In addition, following the practice initiated in 1999, Chapter I of the 2006 Annual Report is dedicated to assessing the human rights situation in the Hemisphere as well as the obstacles to the enjoyment of these rights.
Chapter II provides a brief introduction to the origins and legal bases of the Commission and describes the primary activities carried out during 2006, including those carried out during its three periods of sessions. Chapter II also describes visits as well as other activities developed by the Commission during the year and activities of the Commission related to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The longest chapter in the report, Chapter III, contains the decisions of the Commission with respect to petitions and individual cases concerning human rights violations in the Organization’s Member States. This chapter also includes statistics on the work of the Commission, summaries of precautionary measures adopted or expanded during 2006, and a general overview of the follow-up on the recommendations on decisions published since 2001.
Chapter IV of the 2006 Annual Report contains the analysis of the human rights situation in those OAS Member States whose practices in the area of human rights call for special attention. Accordingly, this report analyzes the human rights situation in Colombia, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
General Human Rights Situation in 2006
Since its last annual report, the IACHR has seen significant progress in the area of human rights, attesting to the political will of the Member States to ensure the full effect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Hemisphere. In particular, the Commission applauds the statements made by the President of Chile to the effect that Chile will comply with the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the inapplicability of the Amnesty Law in cases of human rights violations committed under the military dictatorship. Similarly, the Commission underscores the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina on compliance with the provisional measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based on recognition of a critical situation in a provincial penitentiary system critical.
It should be emphasized that when making their decisions national judicial authorities increasingly take into account the recommendations and standards emerging from the human rights bodies of the inter-American system. An example of this is the resolution of the Constitutional Court of Ecuador that, following a recommendation from the IACHR, declared unconstitutional the practice known as “detención en firme” used to extend pre-trial detention beyond the limit allowed by the Ecuadorian Constitution and international standards in this area. At the same time, the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court recommended that the National Congress urgently modify the Criminal Procedures Code in keeping with the finding of the Constitutional Court. Another example is Brazil’s efforts to bring its domestic legislation in line with international human rights standards by enacting the Law on Domestic and Family Violence against Women, known as the “Maria da Penha Law.” This law was adopted pursuant to recommendations made by the IACHR in the case with the same name and substantially improves the mechanisms providing protection for women who are the victims of violence in Brazil.
The Inter-American Commission also commends Bolivia for its ratification of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The commission also notes significant improvement in the situation of prisoners in the Dominican Republic with the installation of new prisons employing civilian personnel supported by a penitentiary school.
Unfortunately, various challenges remain to be faced. The weakness of the rule of law in various countries in the region continues to affect the full observance of human rights. The insecurity of citizens, social inequity, the lack of access to justice, and the slow process of democratic consolidation and the rule of law are only some of the areas that require major attention from the States in the area of human rights. In particular, the weakness of the judicial branch in most countries in the region and in some cases attacks on the independence and impartiality of judges represent significant problems States in the Americas face in ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights. This fragility is reflected in impediments to equal access to justice, in slow judicial proceedings, and basically in impunity in cases of serious human rights violations.
There is no doubt that all of us here are aware that marginalization and social exclusion continue to be characteristic of the region and not only obstruct the effective exercise of economic, social and cultural rights by the large majority of the Hemisphere’s population but also impede the strengthening of democratic institutions. The Commission notes in its report close links between exclusion and institutional degradation as expressed in acts of torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; violent deaths; the collapse of prison systems; illegal and arbitrary detentions; beatings and executions by police of young men in working class neighborhoods; excessive and disproportionate use of police power; the abuse of imprisonment without trial as a mechanism for controlling excluded sectors; the violent repression of indigenous peoples who resist being evicted from their lands; and ethnic and racial discrimination practiced by authorities of the State.
Although inequality continues to be a key factor in the diagnostic assessment of the observance of human rights in the region, it is not given priority in the public policies of governments. The situation prevailing in the Hemisphere is one of de facto and de jure inequality that affects women and street children as well as groups traditionally targeted by discrimination such as indigenous peoples, rural farmers, Afro-descendant people, migrants, the disabled, and homosexuals. To this we must add that millions of people in the Hemisphere are excluded due to problems of structural unemployment, social marginalization and lack of access to basic social services.
The Commission continues to be particularly concerned by the growing insecurity of citizens in the region and the lack of an inter-institutional response by government that is compatible with the principles of a democratic society and respect for human rights and the rule of law. In this respect, the Commission again underscores the urgent need for public discussion regarding the undeniable obligation of States to ensure the security of their citizens in the face of any type of violence, crime, and aggression, in the context of full respect for fundamental human freedoms and guarantees. On this subject, the Commission has started to prepare a hemispheric study on the relationship between citizen security and human rights to help the Member States effectively confront the challenge of preventing and eradicating criminal violence while fully respecting human rights.
I wish to emphasize here the continued growth in the acceptance and legitimacy of the inter-American human rights system, evidenced by the consistent increase in the number of people presenting petitions, the diversity of issues presented and of the organizations attending the hearings, the high level of state and civil society representation at these hearings, the increased use of the system’s jurisprudence by many courts in our region, and significant results achieved in defense of human rights thanks to appropriate use of the system. Particular emphasis should be placed on the good faith and political will of some States in the region as manifest in friendly settlement agreements reached, the recognition of international responsibility in cases before the Commission and the Court, compliance with recommendations, as well as open invitations extended by countries for the Commission to conduct visits to observe the human rights situation therein. In this way, the Commission represents a particularly important regional forum for discussing the challenges OAS Member States face in meeting their obligation to ensure the observance of human rights in their territories. This shows that progress has been made in understanding that the bodies of the system and the proceedings conducted therein are only contributions to the primary function of States as guarantors of human rights and fundamental freedoms, so that fulfilling the mandates entrusted to the IACHR requires that we work with governments rather than against them. For this reason, I am honored to be here as the Commission’s representative and to engage in dialogue with the OAS Member States.
Activities of the Inter-American Commission during 2006
During 2006, the Inter-American Commission held three periods of sessions: the 124th ordinary period of sessions that took place between February 27 and March 17 of 2006; the 125th special period of sessions that was held July 17-20, 2006 in Guatemala City at the invitation of the Government of Guatemala; and the 126th ordinary period of sessions that was held October 16-27, 2006.
In internal working sessions held during 2006, the Commission gave special attention to studying and reviewing petitions and cases involving different States in the Hemisphere, as well as to analyzing priority situations in the area of human rights. During these sessions, the Commission approved a total of 144 reports and held 120 hearings relating to individual cases and petitions, preventive measures, and general human rights situations in the various States and subregions of the Americas.
In 2006, the Commission also continued with litigation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and filed 14 new cases.
In addition, exercising its authority to prepare studies and reports and to make recommendations to the States to foster due respect for human rights, the Inter-American Commission discussed and approved the "Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas,” which emphasizes the legitimacy of the human rights promotion and protection activities carried out by human rights defenders that, coinciding with an essential obligation of the States, generates in those States a special obligation to protect those who are dedicated to promoting and protecting those rights. In March 2006, the Commission also published a study on the administration of justice in Haiti that analyzed systematic failures to protect the fundamental rights of the Haitian people. The study is called “Haiti: Failed Justice or the Rule of Law? Challenges Ahead for Haiti and the International Community.” The IACHR also published a thematic report on the impact of the armed conflict on Colombian women, addressing the main manifestations of violence against women that are aggravated by the armed conflict, such as: physical, psychological and sexual violence; forced displacement; forced and voluntary recruitment; the imposition of social control measures by illegal armed groups on the populations or territories under their control; and the particularly critical situation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian women. The report is called “Violence and Discrimination against Women in the Armed Conflict in Colombia.”
Throughout 2006, the Commission and its various Rapporteurs conducted various working visits to the region. Thus, the Commission visited Haiti in May to carry out promotional activities and in December to collect information on the various forms of violence against women and children, the justice system’s response to these acts, and the problem of impunity.
The Commission also made various visits to Colombia. In February, a delegation from the IACHR traveled to Bogota to follow up the demobilization process in Colombia. In March, there was another monitoring visit to Valledupar to observe the judicial circuit session held prior to the formal demobilization of the Bloque Norte de las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. In April, a delegation from the Commission visited the city of Apartadó to observe the second phase in the demobilization of the Bloque Élmer Cárdenas. Finally, there was another observation visit to Colombia in May during which meetings were held with national government authorities, with the staff running the office of the MAPP/OAS in Colombia, and with members of the international community, civil society organizations, and inter-governmental organizations.
In April 2006, the Rapporteur on Children visited Paraguay in response to an invitation from that country to gather information on the situation of street children in Ciudad del Este. During his visit, the Rapporteur met with street children, with human rights organizations working on issues related to the rights of children and adolescents, as well as with local and national senior authorities.
At the invitation of the Government of Bolivia, the IACHR conducted a visit from November 12 to 17, 2006 to observe the general human rights situation in that country. During the visit, the Commission held meetings with senior government officials and various civil society organizations. In addition, in my capacity as country Rapporteur and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, I participated in several working meetings and friendly settlements regarding individual cases submitted to the Commission and visited various penitentiaries in La Paz and El Alto, including a women’s prison.
Again as country Rapporteur and thematic Rapporteur, I also visited the Dominican Republic at the invitation of that government from August 7 to 13, 2006. The purpose of the visit was to verify the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the country’s nine prisons, including youth centers and women’s centers, to carry out promotional activities on the inter-American human rights system and to hold meetings with government officials and non-governmental organizations.
In my capacity as thematic Rapporteur, I also visited Brazil from September 20 to 22 to verify the situation of persons deprived of liberty in the State of São Paulo who are the beneficiaries of provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
From December 1 to 9, I led a working visit to Argentina as country Rapporteur and thematic Rapporteur, during which I visited various detention centers, including police precincts, a women’s detention center, and a psychiatric hospital. I had working meetings with officials from the federal and provincial penitentiary services, as well as with members of civil society organizations working on the issue of detention centers in Buenos Aires Province. I was also able to conduct promotional activities on the inter-American system at universities in that country. In addition, I met with senior officials in the Argentine Chancellery, the Ministry of Justice and the National Ombudsman Office to coordinate efforts regarding a 2007 regional conference on good penitentiary practices, which we plan to hold in November 2007 in Buenos Aires, with the participation of governments in the region.
Finally, from December 11 to 14, the Rapporteur on matters relating to Peru conducted a working visit to Lima accompanied by staff from the Executive Secretariat, during which they had interviews with President Alan García and other senior officials of the Peruvian government as well as with a number of civil society organizations, organizations of Afro-descendants, and indigenous organizations and communities.
The Commission wishes to express its appreciation to the various Member States that invited the IACHR to visit them, since such visits allow the Commission to fulfill its mandate to monitor human rights in the Hemisphere. On this subject, the Commission is concerned about the difficulties it faces with the government of Venezuela when carrying out the mandate entrusted to it by the Member States. In this respect, one of the aspects to which the Commission dedicated a portion of its work during the year 2006 was the attempt to conduct a visit to that country, an effort that was seriously frustrated given the Venezuelan government’s failure to respond by proposing a specific date for the visit of the country Rapporteur. The Commission feels that the inability to visit a Member State due to the absence of government consent or invitation contradicts the very spirit that led the States to create the bodies of the human rights protection system. Accordingly, in its 2006 Annual Report, the Commission reiterates its interest in conducting an official visit to the country in the near future in order to contribute to the development and strengthening of human rights in Venezuela, as it does regularly with many Member States.
During 2006, the various IACHR Rapporteurships continued their support activities in the system of individual cases and have also continued their promotion and advisory activities for the OAS Member States.
The Rapporteurship for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continued to advise the Chairman of the working group charged with preparing the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Through this advisory work, the IACHR has been witness to the efforts of the OAS Member States and the representatives of the continent’s indigenous peoples in the process of negotiating the draft.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women continued to give priority in 2006 to the issue of how to ensure women’s effective access to justice, particularly when they have been the victims of violence and discrimination. The results of these efforts have been reflected, for example, in the issuance of the report on “Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas,” presented during the IACHR’s last period of sessions, thanks to support from the government of Finland.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Children also continued its activities on behalf of the rights of children in the Hemisphere. It should be noted that the IACHR has signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank to strengthen the activities of this Rapporteurship, which will continue to be executed during 2007 and will allow the Rapporteurship to engage in activities in addition to those it has been carrying out to date.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty, under my leadership, participated in numerous promotional activities and on-site observation and advisory visits to the Member States, as described above. The Rapporteurship has closely followed repeated incidents affecting the life, dignity and integrity of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas. Finally, I should mention that the Rapporteurship over which I presided made significant progress in preparing the Draft Declaration of Principles on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty in the Americas, through which the IACHR seeks to promote the use of principles recognized in the various international instruments to protect the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, as well as principles on the subject emerging from the jurisprudence of the inter-American system of human rights. The IACHR opened up a broad process of regional consultation involving various governments, NGOs, universities and experts on the subject, whose participation and contributions have helped to enhance the text of the Declaration of Principles, which is expected to be approved by the Commission in 2007 and also represents a contribution from the IACHR to the preparation of the Inter-American Declaration on the subject already initiated by the States at the urging of the General Assembly.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afrodescendants and against Racial Discrimination continued carrying out various activities to increase popular awareness that racism and discrimination are tools used to exclude political minorities and impede their access to the full exercise of citizenship in the Americas. The Rapporteur attended the International Conference of African and Diaspora Intellectuals in Salvador, Bahía, Brazil. In addition, the Rapporteurship participated in the Regional Conference of the Americas held in Brasilia on the accomplishments and challenges of the program of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance. Both meetings represented important opportunities for discussion on ways to combat racism and develop strategies to help implement public policies to reduce the social inequities that result from racism.
During 2006, the Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families continued its promotional and advisory activities. It is noteworthy that from August 2005 to the end of 2006 this Rapporteurship did not have any additional funds for developing its activities and thus its work dwindled. In November 2006, a sizeable donation was received from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whose support is highly valuable to the Commission. At the same time, the Commission hopes that the interest expressed by other States and organizations will result in other financial contributions that will allow the Rapporteurship to continue fulfilling its mandate.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression prepared his 2005 report on the subject; it is Volume III of the IACHR Annual Report. As mandated by the Commission, the report covers the subjects and activities that were given priority by the Rapporteurship during the year, including the evaluation of the status of freedom of expression in the Hemisphere. The report also includes a section on the jurisprudence and doctrine of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Finally, the Human Rights Defenders Unit of the IACHR Executive Secretariat dedicated its work to publishing the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas as well as on distributing it in various States in the Americas. The unit also continued to monitor the situation of human rights defenders in the Hemisphere and the Member States’ compliance with the recommendations contained in the report.
In conclusion, it should be said that the Commission has fulfilled the mandates established in the American Convention on Human Rights as well as the mandates given to it by the General Assembly and the Summit of the Americas. However, several of these activities were carried out by the Commission through voluntary contributions and external funding sources due to shortfalls in the regular budget of the Commission. In this regard, I must again emphasize the need for Member States to meet their commitment to increase the Commission’s regular budget so that it can continue to effectively fulfill its growing responsibilities and mandates.
Decisions of the Inter-American Commission with Respect to Petitions, Cases, and Precautionary Measures
During the period under review, the Commission decided on a total of 148 reports, including 56 reports on the admissibility of petitions, 14 reports on the inadmissibility of petitions, 10 reports on friendly settlement, 27 reports to be archived, 8 reports on publications, and 33 reports on the merits. During the same period, the Commission granted a total of 37 precautionary measures in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure in order to prevent irreparable harm to persons.
In addition, during 2006 the Commission received a total of 1,325 individual petitions and initiated the processing of 147 petitions, for a total of 1,237 individual cases and petitions processed before the Commission during 2006.
All of this was achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of the small group of Executive Secretariat staff and the members of the Commission. These circumstances put considerable pressure on the Executive Secretariat in its attempt to handle this increasing case load and increased mandates from the Commission in other areas, with a budget that remains unchanged or even subject to cuts in real terms.
Finally, I want to emphasize that the strength of the inter-American human rights protection system depends on compliance with recommendations made by the Commission, the decisions of the Court, and emergency protective measures. As seen in the table on the Status of Compliance with the Recommendations of the IACHR (page 1,145 of the report), several States have carried out the recommendations totally or partially. In contrast, there are many cases in which the States involved have yet to implement the recommendations made. In this regard, it is important to reiterate the obligation of the Members States to do everything possible to carry out the Commission’s recommendations in good faith.
Development of Human Rights in the Region: The Situation in Colombia, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela
The Inter-American Commission continues its practice of including a chapter in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States on the human rights situation in those states that have received special attention from the Commission. Based on the criteria pre-established by the Commission (included in its 1997 Annual Report), the Commission decided to include four Member States in this report: Colombia, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
Regarding Colombia, the Commission is keenly aware of the complex situation in Colombia, of the impact on the civilian population of the violence perpetrated by participants in the conflict, and of the State’s pacification efforts. In this context, the efforts of the Colombian government in promoting measures intended to uphold human rights should be applauded. In particular, the IACHR would like to note the “Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Trade-Unionists, Journalists and Social Leaders,” which protects numerous beneficiaries of precautionary and provisional measures granted by the Commission and the Inter-American Court, respectively. In addition, the IACHR reiterates the need to continue strengthening the protective mechanisms created by those programs.
However, despite initiatives to promote human rights undertaken by the Colombian Government and the decline in the figures for some human rights violations, the effects of the armed conflict continue to be felt by the most vulnerable sectors of the civilian population. Manifestations of violence continue alongside efforts being made to demobilize the outlawed armed groups and to administer justice, which have yet to produce results in terms of effectiveness, comprehensive reparation and the removal of violent actors.
During 2006, the Commission noted various obstacles to the process of demobilizing armed participants and developing and enforcing the applicable legal framework, persistent patterns of violation of the right to life and personal safety, the situation of vulnerable groups, and continued threats against human rights defenders and social leaders. In addition, the IACHR continues to be concerned about the lack of judicial clarification regarding most massacres, targeted killings and forced disappearances committed by parties to the internal armed conflict as strategies against the civilian population.
The Commission continued to receive information on the violent situation that plagues vulnerable groups in Colombia, particularly indigenous peoples and Afro-descendent community councils and communities, particularly in some regions of the country where members of these groups are individually and collectively targeted, threatening their autonomy and their territorial and cultural rights.
The Inter-American Commission has closely followed the process of demobilization of paramilitary groups in Colombia, particularly those aspects of the process related to the State’s observance of its human rights obligations. During 2006, the IACHR received with concern information about the continued commission of crimes against the civilian population by fighters who had regrouped or continued to operate after the demobilization, in violation of the commitments assumed. These crimes translate into violations of the rights to life, humane treatment, and freedom, and lead to the continued existence of the internal displacement phenomenon. The year 2006 marks the culmination of the demobilization phase of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and Colombia now faces the challenge of showing concrete results in undoing the armed structures of paramilitarism and implementing the legal framework adopted for adjudicating the crimes committed by the AUC.
The IACHR once again emphasizes the need to employ effective negotiation mechanisms in order to eliminate the violence that has been affecting Colombia’s inhabitants for four decades and reiterates that respect for the right to truth, justice and comprehensive reparation for victims of the armed conflict is crucial for achieving a lasting peace and strengthening the administration of justice in Colombia, ensuring that serious human rights violations are not repeated.
With respect to Cuba, the Commission continued to observe and evaluate the human rights situation of Cuba’s inhabitants. During the period covered by this report, the Commission received information on violations of freedom of expression; the precarious detention conditions of persons deprived of liberty because they are political dissidents; the systematic practice of actions to repudiate political opponents; and the violation of labor and labor union rights, situations that are particularly exacerbated by the judicial branch’s lack of independence. The Commission feels it must insist that the peaceful expression of opinions different from those of the Cuban government cannot be criminalized.
Restrictions on political rights and freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas have amounted for decades to a permanent and systematic violation of the fundamental rights of Cuban citizens, a situation that is also made particularly worse by the judicial branch’s lack of independence. Similarly, the Commission feels it necessary to reiterate that the absence of free and fair elections based on universal secret suffrage as the sovereign expression of the people violates the right to political participation established in Article XX of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.
In its 2006 Annual Report, the Commission once again points to the negative impact of economic sanctions on the fundamental rights of the Cuban population and reiterates the need to put an immediate end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba for more than 40 years.
With respect to Haiti, the Commission continues to be concerned about the lack of protection and guarantees against serious human rights violations that affect the population, particularly women, children, human rights defenders, and journalists. The Commission notes persistent high levels of violence in Port-au-Prince, which have claimed hundreds of lives and victims of kidnappings due to the marked deterioration of the security situation in Haiti. The Commission is alarmed by the persistence of such conditions in the absence of a strategy and effective measures to control and prevent these acts of violence and the fact that unstable conditions caused by confrontations of armed bands and the intimidation of civilians continue to take root in Haiti.
While the level of violence diminished during the electoral period in early 2006 and a new National Commission on Disarmament was created, since mid-2006 Haiti has seen a re-escalation of violence. To a large extent this situation reflects the proliferation of armed groups and the consolidation of the activities of organized crime exercising exclusive control over various parts of the country, in conjunction with the inability of the police to effectively and adequately respond to the situation. The Commission is concerned about the increase in systematic kidnapping, the use of children by armed groups, the physical and sexual exploitation of women in criminal activities, and the State’s failure to respond adequately to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. In this respect, while underscoring the importance of preventing crime and capturing dangerous criminals in order to provide greater safety for the population, the Commission again emphasizes the prohibition on arbitrary arrests and detentions established in Article 7 of the American Convention.
In its report, the Commission reiterates that achieving a durable peace in Haiti requires the State, in cooperation with the Haitian population and with support from the international community, to take decisive measures to effectively disarm all those who possess illegal weapons, to engage in constructive dialogue to bring about reconciliation among the various sectors in order to promote social and political consensus, to take firm steps to end impunity for human rights abuses, and to support the national economy so as to provide greater employment options and self-sustainability for Haitians.
Regarding Venezuela, the Commission continues to be concerned about the administration of justice, the impunity surrounding reports of extrajudicial executions at the hands of agents of the state, the precarious situation of persons deprived of liberty, and the climate of political pressure reportedly imposed on various sectors of civil society.
On the subject of the administration of justice, the Commission is concerned about the lack of guarantees of impartiality and independence on the part of those in the judicial branch and impunity for human rights violations, particularly the right to life. Citizen security in Venezuela is an aspect of particular concern to the Commission given the high level of impunity with regard to extrajudicial executions committed by agents of the state in the context of the phenomenon known as ajusticiamiento of alleged criminals, specifically within the framework of the supposed “protection of citizen security.” In addition, the Commission has learned of alarming figures on assassinations committed through sicariato [paid killings] and has received information on the slow pace of the investigations into these killings.
Another cause for the Commission’s concern are acts of violence committed against those deprived of liberty in Venezuela in 342006, leading to loss of life and serious physical injury for hundreds of persons held in penitentiaries.
The Commission’s Annual Report also includes some observations and recommendations regarding the Draft International Cooperation Law that could have implications with respect to the exercise of the right to freedom of association in general and in particular the work of organizations of human rights defenders that receive external financing for their activities.
During 2006, the Commission has also become aware of numerous situations affecting the normal exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela, including the murder of two journalists, acts of aggression and threats directed at other journalists, an increase in the number of criminal proceedings against social communicators, and acts that could constitute forms of indirect restriction on the exercise of this fundamental democratic freedom. In particular, the Commission received information that some government authorities reportedly announced a review of the licenses of some communications media for reasons that could include the reporting of those media. In this regard, the Commission recognizes the government’s power to manage the radio spectrum, to establish in advance the duration of licenses, and to decide whether to renew those licenses when they expire. However, the State should exercise that power while giving equal consideration to its international obligations, including its obligation to ensure the right to express ideas and thoughts of any kind without indirect restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression based on the editorial views of the communications media.
The annexes to the Annual Report include additional information on the current ratification status of human rights treaties in the inter-American system as well as press releases issued by the Commission during 2006 and speeches delivered on behalf of the Commission during the same period.
Regarding the current ratification status of human rights treaties, I wish to emphasize that, as shown in the following graphs, one of the great challenges remaining for the observance of the human rights of the inhabitants of the Americas is to achieve full universalization of the instruments of human rights in the Hemisphere.
Ratification Status of the Human Rights Treaties of the Inter-American System
Ratification status of the 7 human rights treaties by the 35 OAS Member States between 1969 and 2007
Mr. President, Representatives, Observers, Esteemed Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I do not wish to conclude without emphasizing that the support of the Member States and their collaboration in the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights are crucial to ensuring that the inter-American system for the protection of human rights is truly effective.
The Commission and the Court are, in accordance with the purpose of the Member States, means for aiding the development of “a regimen of individual freedoms and social justice” in the region, which is the final objective established in the preamble to the American Convention on Human Rights. Accordingly, the Commission renews its commitment to work with the Member States in complying with their mandate to defend human dignity above all by fully exercising their mandate to protect and promote human rights.
On behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I wish to express our appreciation for the cooperation that the Member States have given the Commission so that it can continue to honor that common commitment to safeguard respect for the human rights of all those living in our Hemisphere. I also wish to thank Secretary General José Miguel Insulza for his constant support of our work, for effectively recognizing the independence of the Commission within the Organization of American States, for urging the Member States to comply with the Commission’s recommendations, and for supporting measures to increase its budget, which is so important to the full performance of our mandate.
Despite these efforts, the amounts provided in the Organization’s annual program-budget do not reflect the real needs of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The IACHR has enthusiastically accepted the mandates entrusted to it by the General Assembly as well as by the Summits of the Americas, in that they demonstrate the increasing legitimacy of the system and the Member States’ recognition of its important role within the Organization. However, the capacity of the Inter-American Commission to fulfill its broad and diverse mandate requires an equivalent commitment in terms of the allocation of financial and human resources.
The total budget for the Commission provided for 2007 is US$3,677,700, which represents 4.5% of the overall budget of the Organization (US$81.500.000). In this regard, I wish to express my appreciation for the commitment and financial support provided by the governments of the following Member Countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, whose contributions made the Commission’s work possible during 2006. In addition, on behalf of the Commission, I wish to urge all the Member States to express their support by allocating greater resources for the appropriate and regular operations of the human rights bodies of the inter-American system.
The current budgetary situation requires the Commission to cover many of its expenses through specific funds. I must, therefore, take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the contributions received from Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Open Society Foundation, and the Commonwealth Secretariat, which made it possible to carry out many activities vital to the work of protecting and promoting human rights in the region.
Finally, I would like to express my particular appreciation and recognition for the sense of responsibility, professionalism, solidarity, and dedication demonstrated in the tireless efforts of the Executive Secretariat and its administrative and professional staff, which have a fundamental impact on the Commission’s efforts to protect and promote human rights in the Hemisphere.