LEGAL BASES AND ACTIVITIES OF THE IACHR DURING 2007
A. Legal bases, functions and powers
1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR” or “the Commission”) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its mandate is prescribed in the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Commission’s Statute. The IACHR is one of the two bodies in the inter-American system responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights. The other is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose seat is in San Jose, Costa Rica.
2. The IACHR consists of seven members who carry out their functions independently, without representing any particular country. Its members are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS for a period of four years and may be re-elected only once. The IACHR meets in regular and special sessions several times a year. The Executive Secretariat carries out the tasks delegated to it by the IACHR and provides legal and administrative support to IACHR in carrying out its functions.
3. In April 1948, the OAS adopted in Bogotá, Colombia, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (“American Declaration”), the first international instrument on human rights of a general nature. The IACHR was created in 1959 and held its first sessions in 1960.
4. In 1961, the IACHR began a series of visits to several countries to observe on-site the human rights situation. Since then, the Commission has made more than 100 visits to member states. Based in part on these on-site investigations, the Commission has, to date, published 71 country reports and special subject reports.
5. In 1965, the IACHR was expressly authorized to examine complaints or petitions related to specific cases of human rights violations. In 2007, thousands of complaints were received which brought the total number of cases and petitions to over 13,000. The final reports published by the IACHR on these individual cases can be found in the Commission’s Annual Reports.
6. The American Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1969 and it entered into force in 1978. As of December 2007, 24 member states were parties to the Convention: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. The Convention defined the human rights that the ratifying states had agreed to respect and guarantee. The Convention also created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and established the functions and procedures of the Court and of the Commission. In addition to examining complaints of violations of the American Convention committed by states parties to this instrument, IACHR has competence, in accordance with the OAS Charter and with the Commission’s Statute, to consider alleged violations of the American Convention by OAS member states that are not yet parties to the American Convention.
7. The principal responsibility of IACHR is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas. In fulfillment of its mandate, the Commission:
a) Receives, analyzes and investigates individual petitions alleging human rights violations pursuant to articles 44 to 51 of the Convention, articles 19 and 20 of its statute and articles 22 to 50 of its regulations.
b) Observes the general human rights situation in member states and, when it deems it appropriate, produces special reports on the existing situation on any member state.
c) Conducts on-site visits to member States to carry out in-depth analyses of the general situation and /or to investigate a specific situation. In general, these visits lead to the preparation of a report on the human rights situation encountered which is then published and submitted to the Permanent Council and to the General Assembly of the OAS.
d) Promotes public consciousness with regard to human rights in the Americas. To that end, the Commission prepares and publishes studies on specific subjects such as, the measures that must be adopted to guarantee greater access to justice; the effect of internal armed conflicts on certain groups of citizens; the human rights situation of children, women, migrant workers and their families; the human rights situation of those persons deprived of liberty; the situation of human rights defenders; freedom of speech and the human rights of indigenous peoples, afro-descendants and racial discrimination.
e) Organizes and carries out visits, conferences, seminars and meetings with representatives from governments, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and others, to disseminate information and to foster broader understanding of the work carried out by the inter-American system on human rights.
f) Makes recommendations to OAS member States to adopt measures that contribute to the protection of human rights in the countries of the Hemisphere.
g) Requests that member States adopt “precautionary measures” in accordance with the provisions of article 25 of its regulations, to prevent irreparable harm to human rights in grave and urgent cases. It can also request that the Inter-American Court order the adoption of “provisional measures” in cases of extreme gravity and urgency to prevent irreparable harm to persons, even if the case has not yet been considered by the Court.
h) Submits cases to the inter-American Court of Human Rights and appears in court during litigation.
i) Requests advisory opinions of the Inter-American Court in accordance with the provisions of article 64 of the American Convention.
person, group of persons, or non-governmental entities, legally
recognized in one or more of the OAS member States, may petition the
Commission with regard to the violation of any right protected by the
American Convention, by the American Declaration or by any pertinent
instrument in accordance with its provisions, its statute and its
regulations. Also, under the provisions of Article 45 of the American
Convention, the IACHR may consider communications from a State alleging
rights violations by another State. The petitions may be filed in any of
the four official languages of the OAS (Spanish, French, English or
Portuguese), by the alleged victim of the rights violation or by a third
party, and in the case of interstate petitions, by a government.
B. The Commission’s Sessions in 2007
9. During the period covered by this report, the Commission met on four occasions: from February 26 to March 9, 2007, in the 127th Regular Session; from July 16 to July 27, 2007, in the 128th Regular Session; from September 5 to September 7, 2007, in the 129th Special Session which took place in Paraguay and from October 8 to October 19, 2007, in the 130th Regular Session. During 2007 the Commission approved a total of 51 admissibility reports, 14 inadmissibility reports, and 5 friendly settlements, published four merits reports, and held 94 hearings and 80 working meetings.
1. 127th Regular Period of Sessions
10. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 127th Regular Session from February 26 to March 9, 2007. During this session, the Commission elected its board of officers which is composed as follows: Florentín Meléndez, President; Paolo Carozza, First Vice-President; and Víctor Abramovich, Second Vice-President. Commissioners Sir Clare K. Roberts, Evelio Fernandez Arévalos, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro and Freddy Gutiérrez are also members of the IACHR. Dr. Santiago A. Canton has been the Executive Secretary of IACHR since August 2001.
11. During this regular session, the Commission approved reports on individual cases and petitions and held 30 working sessions and 48 hearings, some relating to individual cases, petitions or to precautionary measures, and others relating to general or specific human rights situations.
12. Also in this session, the Commission approved its 2006 Annual Report which provides an analysis of the progress made in the area of human rights in the region during the year, as well as an analysis of the challenges ahead. Among the advances, the report highlighted the political will to ensure the full exercise of fundamental freedoms in the Hemisphere. However, the report also pointed out that the region still faced important challenges, among them, public safety, social inequality, access to justice and the consolidation of democracies. The report was submitted to the 37th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which was held in Panama, from June 3 to June 5, 2007.
13. The Commission pointed out that the election of new presidents in 12 countries in the Hemisphere in the past two years, was an indication of the consolidation of electoral systems, but, it added, democratic institutions were still weak and profound socio-economic differences persisted. The social marginalization and exclusion that continued to characterize the region, the Commission said, prevented the effective exercise of social, economic and cultural rights by large segments of the population, and prevented the strengthening of democratic institutions. The Commission noted that although inequality continued to be a central element in the analysis of the human rights situation in the region, it was not a subject of primary importance in the public policies of the States.
14. The Commission indicated that it saw a relationship between social exclusion and institutional degradation. Evidence of that relationship could be found in the fact that the majority of the victims of torture came from disadvantaged segments of society, and so did the majority of persons who were subjected to arbitrary detention, beatings and police executions. The alarming collapse of correctional systems and the violent attacks on indigenous peoples, who resisted being pushed out of their lands, were also indicative of that relationship. Furthermore, the Commission added, the actions of police officers, prosecutors and other public servants were often guided by ethnic, racial or gender discrimination.
15. The Commission also said that public insecurity and the fragility of the judicial power in the majority of the countries in the region, combined with attacks against the independence and impartiality of that power in certain countries, represented one of the most difficult barriers OAS member states faced in guaranteeing the full expression of human rights. This translated into unequal access to justice, slow legal procedures, impunity in serious cases of violation of fundamental rights and of violation of due process.
16. The Commission also said that OAS member States must collectively expand good governance in the region and improve the quality of public administration as essential prerequisites to effectively promoting and protecting human rights. The Commission reiterated that the structural weakness of many basic democratic institutions, in addition to crises brought about by special situations that generate political instability, prevented achieving broad and lasting agreements on inclusive public policies that are essential to the respect for and exercise of human rights. The Commission added that in order to make strides toward that goal, it was necessary to expand and strengthen freedom in the Americas; to build societies with the full participation of all its citizens, with independent, impartial and expeditious justice systems, with more transparency in public administration, with full freedom of expression and association, with complete respect for gender equality, and with guarantees for the rights of indigenous peoples, of afro-descendent communities and of other vulnerable groups.
17. During this session, the Commission received a delegation from the African Commission on Human Rights and the People, composed of Commissioner Angela Melo, Rapporteur for the Rights of Women, and Commissioner Sanji Monageng, who were also joined by high-ranking officials of the Executive Secretary’s office. On February 6, 2007, the delegation participated in hearings on cases, petitions and the general human rights situation and then met with commissioners and staff from the Commission’s Executive Secretariat for the purpose of exchanging information relating to the functioning of the inter-American and of the African human rights systems. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stressed the importance of having the commissioners present and expressed its wish to continue the exchange through possible future mechanisms of institutional cooperation.
18. The Commission called on the international community to show solidarity with Bolivia, which was buffeted by natural disasters spawned by the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño at the beginning of 2007. The Commission appealed to the international community to take urgent humanitarian measures to provide assistance to the affected population.
19. The Commission expressed its gratitude to the governments of the following OAS member States for their important financial contributions: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The Commission also thanked the Observers which also support the Commission’s activities: Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden. The Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Open Society Foundation and the Commonwealth Secretariat have also contributed special funds to the Commission. These contributions, the Commission said, helped strengthen the inter-American system and the respect for human rights in the American hemisphere.
2. 128th Regular Period of Sessions
20. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 128th regular session from July 16 to July 27, 2007. During this session, the Commission held 25 public hearings, receiving valuable information from States, from civil society organizations and from petitioners. The Commission also held 15 working sessions on cases and petitions being processed; had a fruitful meeting with the ambassadors of the Andean region and discussed and approved 44 reports. The Commission expressed its gratitude to the States and to civil society representatives for their active and valuable participation during the session, which, it said, helped strengthen the inter-American system of protection of human rights.
21. In the same vein, the Commission expressed its gratitude to the governments of the following member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) for their important financial contributions: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The Commission also thanked the Permanent Observers who provide support for the Commission’s activities: Korea, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden. At the same time, the Commission expressed its gratitude to the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, the Open Society Foundation and to the Commonwealth Secretariat for their valuable contributions. Those contributions, the Commission noted, directly support the strengthening of the inter-American system on human rights in the American continent.
22. Turning to a different subject, during several of the public hearings the IACHR continued to receive alarming information regarding the serious problems brought about by the lack of public safety in most of the countries in the American continent, as well as on the states’ responses to them, which were characterized by the absence of prevention policies and by the implementation of, primarily, repressive measures. Specifically, the Commission pointed out the vulnerability of numerous victims of human rights violations who, usually, do not receive the state’s protection to which they are entitled to, in addition to lacking access to justice. These problems constitute some of the main obstacles to the full exercise of human rights in the Hemisphere and they also represent some of the most difficult challenges facing the majority of the States in the region.
23. During the hearing on Peru’s National Plan on Human Rights, the Commission also received information to the effect that, although it has been almost two years since the plan was adopted, its implementation appeared to be on the preliminary stages. The Commission urged the Peruvian government to take the necessary action to ensure the effective implementation of the plan. The Commission also reiterated its willingness to support the state in whatever measures it adopts now, or will adopt in the future, with regard to the progressive implementation of the plan in accordance with the terms established in the agreement signed in 2005.
24. On another matter, due to information received during the hearing on the implementation of precautionary measures in Honduras, the Commission called on public servants and government officials to refrain from making public statements or comments that could put at risk the safety of the beneficiaries of the precautionary measures.
25. During the hearing on the general human rights situation in Guatemala, representatives of the state informed the Commission that the bill to create the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was awaiting passage by the congress, and that there were obstacles to bringing the bill to a vote. The Commission joined in the call made by the United Nations General Secretariat to the Congress of Guatemala on July 3, 2007, urging the Guatemalan congress to adopt the creation of the CICIG as soon as possible, as an important step in the effort to combat impunity in the country.
26. A hearing on the precautionary measures in place for the detainees at Guantánamo was also held during this session. The President of the Commission sent to the United States Department of State a formal consent request to allow the IACHR to visit the facilities at that detention center. Also during the hearing, the President of the Commission reiterated the call made to the government of the United States in Resolution No. 1/06 issued in July, 2006, whereby the Commission urged the United States government to close that detention center without delay.
27. The IACHR also held a meeting regarding freedom of expression in Mexico. In that regard, the Commission acknowledged the recent advances made with respect to laws and regulations governing freedom of expression in Mexico. However, the Commission expressed deep concern with the lack of security experienced by journalists and communicators in the country and with the alarming increase in murders, attacks and threats against them in the last few years. The Commission urged the State to investigate and punish those responsible for the crimes and to urgently adopt measures to guarantee the safety of journalists.
3. 129th Extraordinary Period of Sessions
28. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 129th Special Session in Asuncion, from September 5 to September 7, 2007, at the invitation of the government of Paraguay. Present during the session were: the President of IACHR, Florentín Melendez, First Vice-President Paolo Carozza, Second Vice-President, Victor Abramovich and Commissioners Evelio Fernandez Arevalos, Sir Clarke K. Roberts and Freddy Gutierrez, as well as Executive Secretary Santiago Canton and Assistant Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Abi-Mershed.
29. The Commission was received by the President of the Republic, Nicanor Duarte Frutos; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rubén Ramírez Lezcano; the President of the National Congress, Miguel Abdón Saguier; and by the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Alicia Pucheta de Correa, among other government authorities. The Commission also held meetings with civil society organizations and with representatives of indigenous peoples.
30. During this session, the Commission held four public hearings. In the course of a hearing on the human rights of migrant workers, refugees and displaced persons in the Americas, the Inter-American Control Observatory on Migrations (OCIM) reported that a migrant dies every three minutes in the Americas due to xenophobia or discrimination. For its part, the Observatory of Indigenous People’s Rights submitted information during a hearing on water rights and indigenous peoples in the Andean region. The petitioners indicated that the sale of water rights to primarily mining companies has caused some river beds to dry up and has contaminated others which, according to the information received, leave several indigenous groups with no access to water for irrigation or for human and animal consumption. There was also a hearing held on the follow-up to recommendations made in IACHR Report 29/92, which established the incompatibility of Uruguay’s Law of Expiration of the Punitive Power of the State with the American Convention on Human Rights. Uruguay’s Institute on Legal and Social Studies (IELSUR), the petitioner in the case, requested that the State provide information on the criteria used to select which cases of human rights violations perpetrated during the military dictatorship (1973-1985) the State opened to investigation and which cases it ordered closed, under the decision-making power accorded to it by article IV of this law, as well as information on whether the State has plans to repeal the law. Lastly, a hearing was held where the Diego Portales University of Chile presented a report on the human rights situation in that country. The IACHR also held working meetings on pending cases from Argentina and Uruguay.
31. The delegation visited the Center for Documentation and Archives for the Defense of Human Rights, also known as the “Terror Files”, which holds documents, photographs, recordings and other documentation of human rights violations perpetrated during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), and of operations carried out under a plan of repressive actions coordinated by the governments of the Southern Cone known as “Operation Condor.” The compilation and organization of this one-of-a-kind repository of evidence, has immeasurable value in helping to shed light on the truth; it provides elements necessary to assign criminal responsibility and engenders historical awareness in present and future generations. The Commission encourages the State to continue its efforts to provide the archive with the infrastructure and the technical expertise needed to properly conserve its contents.
32. The IACHR also carried out activities designed to promote the inter-American system on human rights in academic and judicial circles. The President of the IACHR, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, was the keynote speaker at a conference on the inter-American system at the National University of Asuncion School of Law, while Second Vice-President, Commissioner Victor Abramovich, spoke at a conference on the same topic at the Catholic University School of Law. The Commission also organized a conference for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys at the Supreme Court of Justice.
33. Before the opening of the special session, the Rapporteur for Paraguay and Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Commissioner Paolo Carozza, met for two days with government officials, civil society organizations and indigenous communities and held working meetings on petitions and cases pending.
34. The Commission expressed its gratitude to the government of Paraguay for the invitation to hold the special session in Asuncion and for its cooperation in planning and carrying out the agenda of activities, as well as for making it possible for the Commission to hold every session it expressed an interest in organizing. The Commission also expressed its gratitude to civil society organizations and to the Paraguayan people for their collaboration and hospitality.
4. 130th Regular Period of Sessions
35. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 130th Regular Session from October 8 to October 19, 2007. During the sessions, the IACHR held hearings and working meetings, it participated in a special session of the OAS Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, held a working luncheon with the Central American Council of Human Rights (CCPDH) and met with magistrates and public prosecutors organized by the College of the Americas (COLAM), among other activities. The Commission values and appreciates the active participation of the States and of civil society in the sessions which strengthen the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.
36. Twenty-seven hearings were held during this session. The President of IACHR, Dr. Florentín Meléndez, wished to acknowledge as a positive step that representatives of the government of the United States had said that they hoped to continue talks with the IACHR on possible visits by the Commission to immigration detention centers, and that they were awaiting further details on which specific centers the Commission wished to visit. This statement was made during the hearing on the human rights situation of migrant workers, refugee children and other vulnerable groups in the United States. The Commission wishes to make special mention of the hearing held on the situation of descendants of fugitive slaves during the colonial period (“Quilombolas”) in Brazil, an example of the focus and close follow-up by the IACHR of the situation of afro-descendents in the region.
37. There were also 28 working meetings held during this session. The President of the IACHR expressed his satisfaction with the information provided by the state government of Oaxaca, Mexico, during a working meeting, regarding the implementation of the recommendations he made during his visit to the state of Oaxaca last August. The President also noted with satisfaction the willingness of the parties to move forward on friendly settlements in all the working meetings held dealing with cases in Mexico: Reyes Penagos Martínez; Cruza Ávila Mondragón; Modesto Patolzin Moicen and Víctor Pineda Henestrosa. On another matter, a working meeting was held on the AMIA case, regarding the investigation into the 1994 attack perpetrated on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association). In view of the fact that the State could not report on any concrete measures adopted in the last few months or on any progress made in the investigation, the President of IACHR expressed his disappointment with the lack of progress in the process of seeking a friendly settlement in the case, and encouraged the State to redouble its efforts, specially regarding the investigation and explanation of the facts about the attack.
38. The Commission drew attention to the signing, during this session, of an agreement between the IACHR and the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada, to establish the Brian Tittemore Scholarship to enable a graduate of that university to perform legal support tasks in the IACHR Executive Secretariat, with external funding. Brian Tittemore, a Canadian attorney, played an important role as a principal specialist at IACHR, from February 1999 until his death in December 2006. The signing of the agreement coincided with the arrival of the first recipient of the Brian Tittemore Scholarship at the IACHR Executive Secretariat.
39. On December 31, 2007, the terms of office for Commissioners Evelio Fernández Arévalos and Freddy Gutiérrez Trejo come to an end. The President of IACHR thanked Commissioners Fernández Arévalos y Gutiérrez Trejo for their service during the period 2004-2007. The Commission gave special thanks to Commissioner Fernández Arévalos, who served as president of IACHR in 2006.
40. As for the power to conduct on-site observations in the OAS member States, enshrined in Article 18(g) of the Statute and Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR, on various occasions in 2007, its President, Commission member Florentín Meléndez, called upon the States in the region to extend a “permanent and open invitation” to the Commission to visit the countries of the region. Since such invitations are understood as an expression of willingness on the part of the States to cooperate with the Commission in the fulfillment of its function of promoting the observance and defense of human rights in the region, a function entrusted to it by those same States in the OAS Charter, the President made his initial appeal upon presenting the 2006 Annual Report of the Commission to the OAS General Assembly, that was held in Panama from June 3 to 5, 2007. In response, four States extended permanent and open invitations to the Commission: Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. The President of the Commission points to, and appreciates, the decision and political will of these four OAS member states. The President of the IACHR also recognized that, in recent years, five other States–Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico–have given open approval to the visits for which the IACHR requested permission; and he urged them to formalize this practice in writing. Later, in December 2007, the President of the Commission renewed his appeal in written correspondence to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the remaining member States.
41. Recounted below are the visits conducted by IACHR members in the performance of their functions.
42. In the context of preparing a special report on juvenile justice in the Americas, intended to identify obstacles and strengths encountered in the national specialized juvenile justice systems, the Rapporteur for Children’s Rights, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, organized two working meetings to evaluate the content of a proposed questionnaire for use in preparing that report. These meetings were held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 21 and 22, 2007. On the first day, a meeting was held with regional experts and officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the topic of juvenile justice; and on the second day, Commissioner Pinheiro and the Secretariat’s delegation met with representatives from civil society organizations working in this area.
43. From September 11 to September 13, 2007, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Víctor Abramovich, made a working visit to Chile for the purpose of gathering information on the various forms of discrimination against women in that country. During the visit, the rapporteurship gained deeper understanding of existing discrimination against women in the family, in political activities and in the workplace. The rapporteurship also gathered information on possible links between discrimination in private and public life.
44. The IACHR Rapporteur for Colombia, Víctor Abramovich, the Executive Secretary Santiago Canton and Secretariat staff visited Colombia from January 16 to January 20, 2007. The purpose of the visit was to monitor the process of demobilization of illegal armed groups. During the visit, the IACHR delegation went to the cities of Bogotá and Medellín, holding meetings with government officials in Bogotá, with managers in charge of the MAPP/OAS Mission in Colombia, with members of the international community, and with civil society and inter-governmental organizations working in Colombia. In Medellín, the IACHR delegation also met with prosecutors from the Justice and Peace Unit, with staff from the Medellín Office of the Public Defender (Personería de Medellín), and with human rights organizations.
45. Commissioner Víctor Abramovich as Rapporteur for Colombia and Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the IACHR with a delegation from the Executive Secretariat visited Bogotá from April 10 to April 13, 2007, with the purpose of introducing consultant Luís Augusto Sepúlveda, to monitor the demobilization process in Colombia, and to disseminate the IACHR report titled “Women Confront Violence and Discrimination Stemming from Colombia’s Armed Conflict.” Also, within the framework of the IACHR follow-up to the demobilization process in Colombia, Commissioner Abramovich met government authorities, the MAPP/OAS Mission in Colombia, the civil society and intergovernmental organizations in order to introduce the consultant who gives technical support to the IACHR in certain legal aspects related to the application of the Peace and Justice Law to the demobilized persons from the AUC.
46. Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts, IACHR Rapporteur for Afro-Descendents visited Colombia with a delegation form the Executive Secretariat from May 14 to May 18, 2007. This was the first visit by the Special Rapporteurship on Afro-Descendents and Racial Discrimination, and the purpose was to perform a primary analysis of the socio-economic situation of Afro-Colombians, that would also reflect the implementation of Colombia’s Law 70, the registration and protection of communal lands, as well as the situation of displaced Afro-Colombian persons and communities, their rights to education and culture. At the same time, the rapporteur also evaluated the impact the demobilization process and the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law are having on afro-descendent communities.
47. During 2007 and within the framework of the advise that the IACHR provides to the Support Mission to the Peace Process (MAPP/OAS) and follow-up to the demobilization process in Colombia, a delegation from the Executive Secretariat visited the departments of Cundinamarca, Santander, Norte de Santander, Córdoba, Magdalena, Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia. Since April 2007, the IACHR also followed up on the “free versions” rendered before the National Unit of Prosecutors Offices for Peace and Justice, in its different locations. In this context, the consultant who gives technical support to the IACHR has observed 40 “free versions” and 39 instances of the non-ratification of appointees in Bogota, Medellín, Barranquilla and Cucuta. The consultant also observed six public hearings within the peace and justice process in Barranquilla and Bogota. He also held meetings with different authorities and civil society organizations that are involved in this process. Lastly, from September 16 to September 22, 2007 the consultant observed a “victims’ special attention day” in La Gabarra for the victims who take part in this peace and justice process.
48. Commissioner Victor Abramovich and a delegation from the Executive Secretariat visited Bogota and Villavicencio between November 26 to November 30, 2007, within the framework of the IACHR follow-up to the demobilization process in Colombia. Commissioner Abramovich met with government authorities, Prosecutors from the Peace and Justice Unit, the MAPP/OAS Mission in Colombia, the civil society and the representative in Colombia for the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
49. In his role as Rapporteur for Haiti, Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts visited the country from April 18 to 22, 2007, focusing on the areas of administration of justice and women’s rights.
50. As President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez visited Haiti from June 17 to June 20, 2007. The purpose of the visit was to receive information and to observe the situation of persons deprived of liberty in certain detention centers in Port-au-Prince. The rapporteur visited the National Penitentiary, the Delmas Police Station, the Delmas Juvenile Detention Center and the Women’s Prison at Pétion-Ville.
51. From September 26 to September 28, 2007, the Executive Secretariat joined the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in his visit to Haiti. During the visit, the delegation observed the situation regarding the right to freedom of expression and took measure of the progress made with respect to the recommendations of the report published in 2003.
52. At the invitation of the Mexican government, and in his role as President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on Mexico, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, visited Mexico City from April 9 to April 13, 2007, with the purpose of observing and receiving information on the human rights situation in that country and to meet with the new authorities and with Mexican civil society organizations. In conjunction with that visit, the President of the Commission gave an academic lecture on the inter-American human rights system to members of the Military Justice Service and of the National Defense Staff. He also visited the Military Prison attached to Military Region I.
53. Between August 6 and 11, 2007, Florentín Meléndez, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, visited Mexico with the purpose of monitoring the human rights situation in the state of Oaxaca and to verify the situation of persons deprived of liberty in certain jails in Mexico. The IACHR delegation visited the Federal District from August 6 to August 8 and Oaxaca from August 9 to August 11. During the visit, the delegation met with high level officials in the federal government and in the state government of Oaxaca, including Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón and the Governor of Oaxaca, as well as with civil society representatives.
Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Paolo Carozza, paid a
visit to Paraguay prior to the opening of the 129th session.
Among other activities, on September 3, 2007, the Rapporteur visited
Yamok Kasek’s and Yakye Axa’s community in the Paraguayan Chaco. On
Tuesday, September 4, the rapporteur held working meetings with
government officials in the morning, and in the afternoon, he held
working meetings on 5 cases pending before the Commission.
1. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
55. For the entities of the inter-American system, the respect and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples is a matter of special importance. In 1972, the Commission maintained that for historical reasons, and for moral and humanitarian principles, states had a sacred compromise to provide special protection for indigenous peoples. In 1990, the Commission established the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with the purpose of focusing special attention on indigenous peoples in America who are particularly exposed to human rights violations because of their vulnerability, and to strengthen, give impetus and organize the Commission’s activities in the area.
56. Since the 1980s, the Commission has systematically spoken on the rights of indigenous peoples in special reports and through the case system, in admissibility reports, in-depth reports, reports on friendly settlements, the mechanism of precautionary measures, as well as through orders and requests for provisional measures filed with the Inter-American Court.
57. In that sense, the Commission has expressed the need to demand special protection of the right of indigenous peoples to their lands, because the full exercise of that right not only implies the protection of an economic unit, but also the protection of the human rights of a community whose economic, social and cultural development is based on its relationship to the land. In the 1993 Report on the Human Rights Situation in Guatemala, the Commission stated:
From the standpoint of human rights, a small corn field deserves the same respect as the private property of a person that a bank account or a modern factory receives.
58. During 2007, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continued to carry out its activities in support of the system of individual petitions and of the study and processing of precautionary measures, cases and communications regarding the rights of indigenous peoples and/or its members. The Rapporteurship also continued to promote and advise OAS member States and participated in the IACHR special session held in Paraguay.
59. The entities of the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights have developed progressive laws that recognize the collective rights of indigenous peoples. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reiterates its concern with the difficulties in the implementation of its recommendations, as well as with compliance with judgment and provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in cases where the victims are indigenous peoples. To that end, the Commission encourages the states to redouble their efforts to comply with the decisions of inter-American institutions concerning indigenous peoples. In that way, not only are specific groups of people, recognized, protected and made whole but also a special way of life and the human diversity inherent in societies in the American continent are respected.
60. Likewise, the Rapporteurship specially calls on OAS member States to recognize and respect the right of indigenous peoples to their cultural identity, based on their close relationship to their ancestral lands and to the resources found there, not only because they are their primary means of subsistence but because they also play an integral role in their vision of the cosmos. In that regard, the Rapporteurship acknowledges and appreciates the actions implemented by several States that have legally recognized the traditional lands of indigenous peoples. However, there are still significant weaknesses in the protective measures taken leaving indigenous peoples in vulnerable positions, especially when confronted with the interests of third parties intent on extracting and exploiting the natural resources found in indigenous lands.
61. During 2007, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to protect indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and to protect ancestral lands and sacred places of indigenous peoples who see their rights threatened. Meanwhile, during the IACHR sessions held in 2007, several reports regarding the rights of indigenous peoples were approved and various hearings were held dealing with subjects such as malnutrition of indigenous children in the Americas. The IACHR continues to receive information regarding the situation of indigenous peoples being affected by the interest of third parties in their ancestral lands. In the context of its visit to Paraguay on September 3 and 4, 2007, the Rapporteurship visited the indigenous communities of Yamok Kasek and Yakye Axa in the Paraguayan Chaco. On September 7, 2007, the Rapporteurship met with several government officials in charge of policies concerning indigenous peoples and held working meetings on petitions and cases where the alleged victims were indigenous communities. The IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Paolo Carozza and the President of the IACHR, Florentín Meléndez, held a meeting with more than 300 indigenous communities from the Oriental and Occidental Regions of Paraguay. In the meeting, representatives from 14 indigenous groups described the grave and urgent situation confronting their communities and called the meeting historic because it was the first time they were able to talk directly to the IACHR without intermediaries.
62. The Rapporteurship also continued to advise the president of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In that regard, the Rapporteurship acknowledges the efforts made by OAS member States and by the representatives of indigenous peoples of the continent during negotiations on the project. To that end, the Commission emphasizes the importance of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007. In that context, the Commission encouraged OAS member States to maximize their efforts to adopt this American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and urged OAS member States to consider the instrument approved by the UN as the baseline standard in their discussions and reflections on the inter-American draft.
63. Finally, with the goal of strengthening the promotion and defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, the Commission hired attorney Anexa Alfred, a specialist working in the Rapporteurship, for the position of specialist on human rights and indigenous rights law. Likewise, the commission announced the fourth period scholarships for indigenous lawyers, aimed at providing practical experience at IACHR for a year. This time, there were two scholarships offered instead of one as was the case in previous years. In 2007, the two attorneys selected were: Ana Manuela Ochoa, a member of the Kankuamo indigenous people of Colombia, and Tedi Limachi, a member of the Aymara indigenous people of Bolivia.
2. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
64. During he last three years, the agenda of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women has focused on a priority area for the rights of women in the continent; how to ensure full access to justice for women, especially when they have been the victims of violence and discrimination. The importance of this task has been broadly reflected by the Rapporteurship’s work on the subject, and by the Commission’s case system and country reports. The Rapporteurship’s agenda has made prompt access to protection and to effective legal guarantees the starting point in devising a first line of defense for the protection of basic rights. Even so, the Rapporteurship faces the problem that the victims of gender-based violence and discrimination often do not have access to that protection so their rights are left unprotected.
Report: Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas
65. On March 7, 2007, the Commission issued its report, Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas, which was prepared by the Rapporteurship to provide an analysis of the main obstacles women face when trying to access legal resources, guarantees and protection to seek reparation for acts of violence, including the problem of impunity, and issues conclusions and recommendations for States to act with due diligence to provide timely and effective legal responses to these incidents. This analysis consists of a compilation of information from a variety of sectors, including the judicial system, public servants and representatives from the government, civil society, academic institutions, and women of different races, ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds, carried out by the rapporteurship with financial support from the government of Finland.
66. The report concludes that, despite the formal and legal recognition by the states that violence against women is a challenge that must be given priority, there’s a great gap between the incidence and seriousness of the problem and the quality of the legal remedy available. Although the Commission acknowledges the efforts made by the states in adopting legal and political frameworks to deal with the problem of violence against women, there is still an enormous gap between the formal availability of certain resources and their effective implementation. Not only does this situation instill in victims a sense of insecurity, vulnerability and mistrust toward the administration of justice, but this context of impunity perpetuates violence against women as an accepted practice in American societies to the detriment of women’s human rights. In this report, the Commission issues conclusions and recommendations in order that States may respond with due diligence in implementing timely and effective legal measures to combat violence against women.
67. Likewise, the Commission presented its report, Access to Justice, on March 7, 2007, in Washington, D.C., with the participation of José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS); Víctor Abramovich, Commissioner, Second Vice-President, and IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women; Teresa Genta-Fons, Senior Counsel for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Legal Division of the World Bank; and Marianne Mollmann, Advocacy Director, Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.
68. Throughout the year, the Rapporteurship organized and participated in additional activities to promote compliance with the recommendations issued by the IACHR in the report Access to Justice. Between April 14 and April 16, 2007, the Rapporteur and Commissioner, Víctor Abramovich, participated in activities planned by the organizations Study for the Defense of Women Rights (DEMUS) and the Association for Human Rights (APRODEH) in order to present the report on access to justice in Lima, Peru. From June 12 to June 15, the Rapporteur attended the international meeting “Challenges and Answers to Violence Against Women: The Role of the State and of Civil Society” organized by CEPIA (Citizenship, Study, Research, Information and Action) and by the Ford Foundation in Rio Janeiro, Brazil. On March 30, 2007, in Washington, D.C., the Rapporteurship and the International Association of Women Judges held a technical meeting with magistrates from Central America, to discuss the implications the conclusions of the report on access to justice could have on the way judges carry out their functions, and to identify strategies to pursue to ensure full compliance with the recommendations.
Report: Women and Violence and Discrimination Stemming from the Armed Conflict in Colombia
69. On April 12 of 2007, in Bogotá, the Rapporteurship presented the report “Women and Violence and Discrimination Stemming from the Armed Conflict in Colombia.” During his visit to Colombia, Rapporteur Víctor Abramovich, held meetings with civil society organizations advocating for the defense of women’s rights and with legislators from a broad spectrum of Colombia’s political sector, to discuss the report’s conclusions and recommendations. There was also a panel formed to discuss and reflect on the report’s recommendations which included representatives of the government, the justice system and from civil society.
Working Visit to Chile
70. From September 11 to September 14, 2007, the Rapporteurship conducted a working visit to Chile to gain a deeper understanding of the various forms of discrimination against women in that country. The delegation was led by Rapporteur Víctor Abramovich, and met with officials of the Chilean government, with representatives from civil society, from academic institutions and from international organizations. The Rapporteurship gathered information on discrimination against women, especially in the family, in political participation and in the workplace. It also received information on the possible links between discrimination in private life and discrimination in public life. Based on this visit, the Rapporteurship is preparing a report with recommendations for the Chilean state.
71. Likewise, in the context of this visit, on September 12, 2007, the Rapporteurship presented the report Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas, at the Diego Portales University. The event was organized by the Human Rights Center of the Diego Portales University School of Law and by the organization Corporación Humanas – Regional Center for Human Rights and Gender Justice. Rapporteur Abramovich led the discussion panel together with the Minister of the Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Lya Cabello Abdala. International organizations, civil society organizations and representatives from academia also took part in this event.
72. The Rapporteurship has continued to provide technical support to attorneys in the Executive Secretariat processing individual petitions and precautionary measures. At the present time, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women is also preparing two thematic reports as a result of their on-site visits to Guatemala (2004 and 2006) and to Haiti (2006 and 2007), on discrimination and violence against women in those countries and on the challenges that victims and their families face seeking access to effective legal protection when denouncing those actions.
3. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Children
73. During 2007, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Children, under the leadership of Commissioner Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, continued with the activities described as follows:
74. This Rapporteurship analyzed and evaluated cases, petitions and requests for precautionary measures pending before IACHR. In particular, the Rapporteurship analyzed alleged violations of rights of children and adolescents, especially those relating to personal liberty and integrity; the right to a dignified life; the forced recruiting of children into the armed forces, and the right to health, among others. In the framework of the 129th Special Session held in Paraguay, the Rapporteurship held working meetings regarding cases of child-soldiers in Paraguay.
75. During the hearings held in 2007, Rapporteur Pinheiro also received information on the situation of children deprived of liberty in Argentina; on public policies regarding adolescents in conflict with the law in Brazil; on the malnutrition of indigenous children in the Americas; on the human rights situation of migrant workers, refugee children and other vulnerable groups in the United States; on children and adoption procedures in Guatemala, and on the situation of children in the armed conflict in Colombia.
76. Also, during 2007, the Rapporteurship began to carry out the activities planned under the “Technical Cooperation Agreement on the Protection of the Rights of Children in Latin America: Violence Prevention,” signed by IACHR and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In that regard, in April 2007, the Rapporteurship hired Peruvian attorney Cecilia Anicama Campos, as a consultant to implement the activities planned in the agreement. Ms. Anicama was selected in accordance with established guidelines for the selection of experts at the IACHR.
77. Within the framework of the said Technical Agreement, the Rapporteurship is in the process of completing the second edition of the book “Childhood and its rights in the inter-American System of Protection of Human Rights” as well as the elaboration of thematic reports on various issues related to violence against children in the hemisphere. Particular attention has been given to the situation of Children in conflict with the law. Regarding the latter issue, the Rapporteurship has requested information to various civil society organizations of the regarding children in conflict with the law due to their possible participation with the gangs (maras) in Central America.
78. Additionally, and in order to continue with the study and analysis of the situation of children in conflict with the law, on August 21 and 22, 2007 the Rapporteurship organized two working meetings on juvenile justice in the city of São Paulo, Brasil. On the first day, the Rapporteur met with regional experts and officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the subject of juvenile justice. On the second day, Commissioner Pinheiro and the delegation from the Executive Secretariat met with representatives of civil society organizations who work in the area of protection of children in conflict with the law. During their activities in Brazil, the Rapporteur and the delegation had the support of UNICEF and of “Save the Children” Sweden. In the context of the activities carried out in Brazil, the delegation visited the Center for the Defense of Children and Adolescent Rights in Interlagos (CEDECA Interlagos) and the National Defense Association (ANCED).
79. The Rapporteur for the Rights of Children and the Secretariat Specialist participated in other activities as it is described next: a meeting with experts of the region and officials of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from August 20 through August 24 in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. On November 15 and 16, the Organization of American States sponsored the Sub regional Conference on Culture of Peace and Prevention of the Juvenile Violence that took place in the city of San José, Costa Rica, that was attended by a delegation of the Secretariat. From November 20 until November 21 a delegation of the Executive Secretary took part in the XII Annual Meeting of the Latin-American Federation of Ombudspersons (FIO), which was held in Lima, Peru. On December 5, a delegation of the Executive Secretary participated in a working meeting organized by the Commission of Juridical and Political Affairs of the OAS in relation to the Draft Inter-American Program for Universal Civil Registry and the “Right to Identity”.
80. On December 17 a Cooperation Agreement was signed between the IACHR and the non-governmental organization “Save the Children Sweden” with the objective of strengthening the activities of the Rapporteurship in the defense of Children’s rights in the Hemisphere.
4. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
81. During visits conducted in 2007, the Rapporteurship continued to carry out field analyses of jails conditions for persons deprived of liberty. In that regard, Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty conducted an observation visit to Haiti from June 17 to June 20, 2007, for the purpose of receiving information and becoming better acquainted with the situation of persons deprived of liberty in certain detention centers in Port-au-Prince. The Rapporteur visited the National Penitentiary, the Delmas Police Station, the Delmas Juvenile Detention Center and the Women’s Prison in Pétion-Ville. During his visit, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty also organized a conference for government authorities and civil society representatives to promote the inter-American system on human rights and the protection of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas.
82. At the invitation of the government of Mexico and of the state government of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty visited Mexico from August 6 to August 11, 2007. The purpose of the visit was to monitor the human rights situation in the state of Oaxaca and to verify the situation of persons deprived of liberty in certain Mexican jails. The Rapporteur visited the Reclusorio Preventivo Varonil Oriente, a men’s prison in the Federal District, together with the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District. It is important to highlight that this was the first time that the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty had conducted a joint visit with an organization of that kind. He also visited the “Santiaguito” Center for Social Readaptation, with the objective of interviewing persons involved in the events that took place in San Salvador de Atenco in May 2006, and the “Altiplano” Federal Center for Social Readaptation, to interview brothers Flavio and Horacio Sosa Villacencio, leaders of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca – both in the state of Mexico. In the state of Oaxaca, the Rapporteur visited the Tlaxiaco District Jail and the Ixcotel Penitentiary. In the Federal District, Rapporteur Meléndez delivered a master lecture on the inter-American system on human rights and persons deprived of liberty. At the Benito Juarez Autonomous University in Oaxaca, Commissioner Meléndez spoke at a conference on the inter-American system on human rights.
83. In response to the mandate given the Commission by the OAS General Assembly in its Resolutions AG/RES. 2283 (XXXVII-O/07) of 2007, AG/RES. 2233 (XXXVI-O/06) of 2006, AG/RES. 2125 (XXXV-O/05) of 2005, and AG/RES. 2037 (XXXIV-O/04) of 2004, and in response to penitentiary conditions observed in several countries in the region, the Rapporteurship continued to move forward with the compilation of regional and universal parameters of detention and imprisonment policies in member states through the project “Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas.” During the 130th Regular Session, the IACHR decided to reopen consultations and request observations on the Principles and Best Practices project for an additional thirty (30) days, starting October 23, 2007.
84. Finally, following up on the Institutional Cooperation Agreement signed with Argentina’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights and with Argentina’s Public Defender in the Public Ministry of Defense, Spanish-speaking member states and Brazil were invited to participate in a Latin American seminar on best prison practices. The seminar was held in Buenos Aires from November 12 to November 16, 2007, and was attended by government officials and prison system officials from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as experts, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), universities, and nongovernmental organizations, both local and international. The memoirs of the seminar will be systematized and published, including an ideal proposal for a “system of good penitentiary practices” to be implemented in Latin America. In 2008, the Rapporteur plans to organize a similar event with the English-speaking countries of the Americas.
85. Lastly, the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Commission member Florentín Meléndez, met on December 13, 2007, with staff of the Department of Defense and the Department of State of the United States Government. They discussed the Government’s response to the Commission’s request to visit the Guantánamo Detention Center to assess the detention conditions of hundreds of persons of various nationalities who have been deprived of liberty for several years.
86. The United States Government representatives conveyed to the Commission’s President the Government’s willingness to permit the Commission to visit the Guantánamo facilities, on the condition that its members could not pose questions to the detainees.
87. The President of the Commission told the Government that such a condition was unacceptable to the IACHR. He declined to conduct the visit, since, under those conditions, the Commission’s ability to perform its functions would be curtailed and its mandate as a principal organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), entrusted with the observance and defense of human rights in the Hemisphere, would not be recognized.
Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and
88. The Commission established the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and Against Racial Discrimination early in 2005. Since then, the duties of the Special Rapporteur have been carried out by Commissioner Clare K. Roberts, member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and Against Racial Discrimination was charged with stimulating, systematizing, reinforcing and consolidating the actions of the Inter-American Commission in support of the rights of people of African descent and against racial discrimination. The core objectives of the Special Rapporteurship include working with OAS member States to generate awareness of the states’ duty to respect the human rights of afro-descendants and on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; to analyze current challenges that confront countries of the region in this area; to formulate recommendations designed to overcome those obstacles; to identify and share best practices in the region with respect to this matter, and to provide the technical assistance requested by member States in the implementation of the recommendations in national law and practice.
89. During 2007, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination continued its advisory role and maintained its activities in the area of promotion and protection of rights of afro descendents.
90. Between May 14 and 18 of 2007, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and against Racial Discrimination made its first visit to Colombia, with a delegation headed by the Rapporteur, Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts. During the visit, the Rapporteur met with representatives of the Colombian government, members of the Afro-Colombian civil society and representatives of the black communities of that country. Promotional activities on the Inter-American system of human rights took place as well. The purpose of the visit was to prepare an initial analysis of the human rights situation of Afro-Colombians. The issues it examined in its meetings with government authorities and Afro-Colombian representatives included the application of Law 70 on recognition of collective property rights over territories and the ethnic and cultural identity of black communities; the titling and protection of communal lands; the situation of displaced Afro-Colombian individuals and communities; and the extent to which the armed conflict has repercussions on the Afro-Colombian population. The visit also sought to evaluate the impact of the demobilization process and the application of the Justice and Peace Law on Afro-descendent communities. Further, the Rapporteur is expected to continue to monitor and report on the situation of afrodescendents in Colombia during 2008.
91. During the general and thematic hearings and working group sessions of the Commission’s regular period of sessions, the Rapporteur was informed about various aspects of racial discrimination in the region. Thematic specific hearings included (1) Racial Discrimination in the Dominican Republic; (2) Discrimination against Afro-Brazilian women; and (3) Situation of Discrimination against the Quilombolas Communities in Brazil; issues which the Rapporteur has continued to monitor during 2007.
92. With respect to its advisory role, the Rapporteurship continued to provide technical support to the Working Group of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council of the OAS that is working on a Draft American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination. A first draft was prepared by the Working Group and circulated for comments in May 2007, during which time, comments by the States were provided, including those of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. A second (consolidated) draft was prepared and circulated to the member States at the conclusion of 2007.
93. The Rapporteur further held meetings during the year with representatives of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in an effort to maintain close coordination and collaboration between the Rapporteurship and the OHCHR on common themes and events taking place in the region.
94. On October 25, 2007, the Rapporteur received a visiting delegation led by the Minister at the Special Secretariat on the Policies of Promotion of Racial Equality in Brazil, Ms. Matilde Ribeiro, to discuss opportunities for collaboration on common themes and objectives.
95. Finally, the Rapporteurship would like to thank the governments of Brazil, Colombia and the European Commission for their financial contributions which have allowed the Rapporteurship to carry out its functions during 2007.
6. Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families
96. During 2007, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families continued with its promotional and advisory activities. Commissioner Freddy Gutiérrez performed the duties of Rapporteur in that area until July 2007, when the IACHR designated Commissioner Florentín Meléndez to take over that responsibility.
97. In February 2007, Commissioner Gutiérrez took part in the annual meeting on the implementation of the inter-American program for the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants, including migrant workers and their families. The meeting was organized by the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council of the OAS, and was held at OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Executive Secretary of IACHR, Santiago A. Canton, represented the Commission in the special session of the Permanent Council of the OAS on “Migrant Populations and Migratory Flows in the Americas”, which took place on May 2, 2007, at OAS Headquarters.
98. For his part, in July 2007, the President of the Commission, member Florentín Meléndez, formally requested permission from the Department of State to visit the migrant detention centers in the United States. In December 2007, he met with the United States Representative to the OAS, who reaffirmed the State’s willingness to cooperate in planning the visits. Also, in August 2007, the President requested and obtained permission from the Government of Mexico to visit the migrant detention centers located on the southern border of that country, especially in Tapachula and Chiapas, in 2008. Commissioner Florentín Meléndez also spoke at the VII Andean Regional Human Rights Course held in Lima, Peru, in November 2007, on the human rights of migrant workers in the Andean region.
99. In the area of responsibility of the Executive Secretariat, the Special Rapporteurship continues to provide technical support and to study petitions and requests for precautionary measures received by the Commission relating to migratory workers. The Special Rapporteurship has also participated in the process of setting up the Special Committee on Migratory Affairs created by the Permanent Council of the OAS, providing information on the activities of the Rapporteurship in that area.
100. Finally, it should be noted that in November 2006, an important financial contribution was received from the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to help finance the activities of the Rapporteurship. In that regard, in 2007 the Commission emphasized the value of that support and urged other states and organizations that have expressed interest in the Rapporteurship’s activities to have that interest reflected in more financial contributions.
7. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
101. The defenders of human rights from different sectors of society, and sometimes from government institutions, make contributions that are essential to the viability and strengthening of democratic societies. That is why respect for human rights in a democratic state depends, to a great degree, on adequate and effective guarantees that allow human rights defenders to freely pursue their activities.
102. During 2007, the Unit for Human Rights Defenders continued its activities in support of human rights defenders in the American hemisphere by giving impetus to individual petitions and cases before the IACHR as well as to precautionary measures.
103. In the same manner, the Unit received information on the situation of defenders in the region. Among the troubling situations to note: unannounced searches of various organizations and patterns of harassment and threats to their members; a growing campaign to discredit the work that human rights defenders carry out; the enactment and implementation of new laws and regulations that restrict or penalize the financing of non-governmental organizations for the sole reason that they receive international cooperation funding to carry out their activities, and the increased number of laws that restrict or penalize social protest.
104. During a visit to Mexico from April 9 to April 14 of 2007, the Unit met with human rights defenders and received updated information on their situation in the country. During the same visit, the President of IACHR, Florentín Meléndez, together with government officials and human rights defenders presented the “Report on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas.”
105. The Unit for Human Rights Defenders will continue to receive information regarding the follow-up to the recommendations the “Report on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas” in compliance with Resolution AG/RES. 2280 (XXXVII-O/07) of the OAS General Assembly titled “Human Rights Defenders: Support for the Individuals, Groups and Organizations of Civil Society Working to Promote and Protect Human Rights in the Americas.”
106. Finally, the Commission announced the establishment, for the first time, of a scholarship for attorneys from the Hemisphere to work in a professional capacity for one year in the IACHR Unit for Human Rights Defenders. The person selected for 2007 was attorney Belissa Guerrero Rivas, from El Salvador.
E. Other events and activities
107. The IACHR carried out a number of activities related to public safety, most of them connected with the project “Initiative on Public Safety and Human Rights in the Americas.” In February 2007, a consultant was hired to oversee the process, conduct investigations, and prepare a draft report on the subject. On May 30 and 31, 2007, a meeting was held in Washington, D.C., with international and regional experts on public safety and human rights. The main purpose of the meetings was to present the activities proposed in the project to regional and international public safety experts; discuss the report’s aims and approach to the matter; discuss the impact of the report; compile comments, suggestions, and critical assessments for the draft final report; and invite regional and international experts to work with the Commission in preparing the report. After the preliminary meeting in Washington, and the experts’ suggestions having been taken into account, certain key questions were included in a questionnaire sent to OAS member States and civil society representatives, together with a letter introducing the project. The topic of public safety and human rights has given rise to various hearings during different sessions of the Inter-American Commission, as reported in the corresponding sections of its Annual Report for 2007.
Inter-American Treaties (Agreements) on Human Rights
108. Regarding the seven inter-American human rights instruments, only one ratification and two deposits were made in 2007. On June 28, 2007, Mexico ratified the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty; Mexico deposited its instrument of ratification on August 20, 2007.
109. On February 5, 2007, the Dominican Republic deposited its instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. The Convention had been ratified by the Dominican Republic on December 28, 2006.
110. To promote the universal adoption of the inter-American system, in a note addressed to the Ministers Foreign Affairs of the States of the region, dated December 13, 2007, the President of the Commission, Florentín Meléndez, urged them to ratify all inter-American human rights treaties that were pending ratification. The President recognized and thanked the seven States of the region who had already ratified all the human rights treaties: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, and Venezuela. He also urged the other States to ratify the pending treaties and to remove any obstacles to the fulfillment of this objective.
Scholarships and Internships
111. In 2007, the Commission continued its Rómulo Gallegos Scholarship Program. The program offers training on the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights to young lawyers from the Hemisphere who are selected annually on the basis of competition, at which time they must demonstrate their commitment to human rights as well as a solid academic record. During the course of 2007, 20 scholarship recipients worked with the Commission: ten during the first semester of 2007, corresponding to the scholarship period 2006-2007, and ten scholarship recipients who began their activities during the first semester corresponding to the period 2007-2008. The scholarships granted during the period 2007-2008 included two thematic scholarships, one to work in the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the other to work in the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women, as well as one scholarship for young professionals from member states in Central America and the Andean Region.
112. In addition to its scholarship program, the Commission continued and expanded its internship program. These internships, which are administered in cooperation with the OAS Student Intern Program, are targeted to university students of both cycles and to graduates, as well as to young professionals, to allow them to work in their field of study. The goal of the internships is to offer law students and recent law school graduates or of other related disciplines, the opportunity to learn about the work of the Commission. It also offers professionals an opportunity to acquire practical training in the human rights area and to work with the attorneys in the Executive Secretariat in the different activities carried out by the IACHR. It is worth noting that during the 130th regular session, the Commission signed an internship agreement with the University of Quebec, Canada, which will provide a scholarship financed by the university to establish an annual internship in honor of the Human Rights Specialist, Attorney Brian Tittemore. In 2007, the Commission received a total of 21 interns. Additional information on scholarships and internship programs is available on the Commission’s website www.cidh.org.
113. Throughout 2007, the members of the Commission and of the Secretariat took part in numerous international conferences, seminars and workshops on international protection of human rights and related topics. The areas covered in the events in which the Commission took part include the workings of the inter-American system on human rights; imposition of the death penalty; the protection of human rights in the context of the war on terrorism; guaranteeing human rights in armed conflicts, and contributions of the inter-American system on human rights to the efforts aimed at ending impunity in cases of serious crimes within the framework of international law.
114. In May 2007, the Executive Secretary and Commission attorneys also took part in the Twelfth Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition organized by the Washington School of Law of the American University. The competition has been held annually since 1996, and more than 1,300 students and faculty representing more than 140 universities in, at least, 25 countries in the Hemisphere have taken part.
F. Financial Situation
115. Throughout 2007, the Commission repeated its request to the various organs of the Organization of American States, to continue to search for ways to obtain an effective increase of the economic resources allocated to the IACH, with the purpose of having adequate financing for this organ in the budget program of the organization. Likewise, the Commission suggested to donors that, to the extent that it was possible, they assign part of their voluntary contributions that have no specific goals to provide IACHR with flexibility in the allocation of resources among its various activities and programs.
116. Also with respect to the financial situation in 2007, the Commission was pleased to point out the significant financial contributions made by the governments of the following member states of the Organization of American States (OAS): Brazil, Chile, Colombia, United States and Mexico, as well as those of the Permanent Observers who support the activities of the Commission: Korea, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden. The Commission expressed its gratitude to the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, and to the Open Society Foundation for their financial contributions. The IACHR emphasized that those contributions provide concrete support to the strengthening of the inter-American system on human rights in the American continent.
G. Activities of the Inter-American Commission in connection to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
117. In 2007, the Commission continued to argue a number of cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
118. Between January 1 and December 31 of 2007, the Commission presented fourteen (14) cases to the Inter-America Court: Heliodoro Portugal (Panama), Jesús María Valle et al. (Colombia), Jorge Castañeda Gutman (Mexico), Kimel (Argentina), Gabriela Perozo et al. “Globovisión” (Venezuela), Luisiana Ríos et al. “RCTV” (Venezuela), Juan Carlos Bayarri (Argentina), María and Josefa Tiu Tojín (Guatemala), Renato Ticona Estrada (Bolivia), Santander Tristán Donoso (Panama), María Cristina Reverón Trujillo (Venezuela), Claudia Ivette González at al. “Campo Algodonero” (Mexico), Arley Escher et al., “Interception of the telephone lines of social movements” (Brazil), and Setimo Garibaldi (Brazil).
119. In 2007 the Commission also participated in numerous public hearings before the Court. The Commission participated in hearings at the LXXIV, LXXV, LXXVI, and LXXVII regular sessions and the XXXII special session of the Court, held at its headquarters, and in the XXX and XXXI special sessions, held in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Bogotá, Colombia. At those sessions, public hearings were conducted in the cases Cantoral Huamaní et al. (Peru), García Prieto Giralt (El Salvador), Provisional Measures in favor of the Kankuamo Indigenous People (Colombia), Escué Zapata (Colombia), La Rochela Massacre (Colombia), Bueno Álves (Argentina), Saramaka People (Suriname), Albán Cornejo et al. (Ecuador), Zambrano Vélez et al. (Ecuador), Chaparro and Lapo (Ecuador), Boyce et al. (Barbados), Kimel (Argentina), and Salvador Chiriboga (Ecuador), and private hearings were held to assess compliance with rulings in the cases Garrido and Baigorria (Argentina), Blake (Guatemala), and Paniagua Morales et al. “Panel Blanca” (Guatemala).
120. In this reporting period, the Commission also took note of various rulings issued by the Court on cases submitted to it for consideration. These are the judgments on preliminary exceptions, the merits, reparations, and costs and fees in the cases La Rochela Massacre (Colombia), Bueno Alves (Argentina), Escué Zapata (Colombia), Zambrano Vélez et al. (Ecuador), Cantoral Huamaní at al. (Peru), García Prieto Giralt (El Salvador), Boyce et al. (Barbados), Chaparro and Lapo (Ecuador), Albán Cornejo et al. (Ecuador), and Saramaka People (Suriname); and the interpretive judgments in the cases La Cantuta (Peru) and Terminated Congressional Workers (Peru).
H. Thirty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS
121. During the thirty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, held in Panama City, Republic of Panama, from June 3 to June 5, 2007, the Commission was represented by its President, Florentín Meléndez and by its Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton. The President of the Commission addressed the General Assembly with regard to the human rights situation in the OAS member states and officially submitted the Commission’s Annual Report for 2006. During the regular session the President of the Commission urged the member States, through their respective Foreign Affairs Ministers, to ratify those human rights treaties of the inter-American system which remain pending ratification. In addition, the President encouraged the Ministers to extend an “open and permanent invitation” to the IACHR to visit the countries of the hemisphere. Such an invitation would represent willingness on the States’ behalf to cooperate with the IACHR in fulfilling its function of promoting the observance and the defense of human rights in the Hemisphere, a function entrusted by the same States through the OAS Charter.
122. The General Assembly adopted various resolutions with regard to human rights and humanitarian law. These resolutions acan be found at the Commission’s website at the following address: http://www.cidh.org. Given their importance for the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas and the strengthening of the inter-American system, they are listed below.
● AG/RES. 2262 (XXXVII-O/07) PROTOCOL OF SAN SALVADOR: COMPOSITION AND FUNCTIONING OF THE WORKING GROUP TO EXAMINE THE PERIODIC REPORTS OF THE STATES PARTIES
● AG/RES. 2263 (XXXVII-O/07) SUPPORT FOR THE COMMITTEE FOR THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
● AG/RES. 2267 (XXXVII-O/07) RIGHT TO THE TRUTH
● AG/RES. 2271 (XXXVII-O/07) PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS WHILE COUNTERING TERRORISM
● AG/RES. 2276 (XXXVII-O/07) DRAFT INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION AGAINST RACISM AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AND INTOLERANCE
● AG/RES. 2277 (XXXVII-O/07) INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
● AG/RES. 2279 (XXXVII-O/07) PROMOTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
● AG/RES. 2280 (XXXVII-O/07) HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS: SUPPORT FOR THE INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS, AND ORGANIZATIONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY WORKING TO PROMOTE AND PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AMERICAS
● AG/RES. 2283 (XXXVII-O/07) STUDY OF THE RIGHTS AND THE CARE OF PERSONS UNDER ANY FORM OF DETENTION OR IMPRISONMENT
● AG/RES. 2284 (XXXVII-O/07) SITUATION OF THE INTER-AMERICAN INDIAN INSTITUTE
● AG/RES. 2287 (XXXVII-O/07) RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MEDIA
● AG/RES. 2289 (XXXVII-O/07) THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
● AG/RES. 2290 (XXXVII-O/07) OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
● AG/RES. 2291 (XXXVII-O/07) STRENGTHENING OF HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEMS PURSUANT TO THE MANDATES ARISING FROM THE SUMMITS OF THE AMERICAS
● AG/RES. 2293 (XXXVII-O/07) PROMOTION OF AND RESPECT FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
● AG/RES. 2294 (XXXVII-O/07) AMERICAN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
● AG/RES. 2295 (XXXVII-O/07) PERSONS WHO HAVE DISAPPEARED AND ASSISTANCE TO MEMBERS OF THEIR FAMILIES
● AG/RES. 2296 (XXXVII-O/07) PROTECTION OF ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES IN THE AMERICAS
● AG/RES. 2345 (XXXVII-O/07) STRENGTHENING OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEMS OF THE MEMBER STATES AND SUPPORT FOR THE WORK OF DEFENDERS OF THE PEOPLE, DEFENDERS OF THE POPULATION, AND HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEYS OR COMMISSIONERS (OMBUDSMEN)
● AG/RES. 2350 (XXXVII-O/07) OBLIGATION OF THE MEMBER STATES TO RESPECT THE RULES, PRINCIPLES, AND ESSENTIAL PURPOSES CONTAINED IN THE CHARTER OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES AND INTERNATIONAL LAW IN ORDER TO PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN PEACE IN THE HEMISPHERE
● AG/RES. 2351 (XXXVII-O/07) CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND PROMOTION OF DEMOCRACY
 For further details on the sessions held by the Commission in 2007 see IACHR press releases 14/07, 40/07, 49/07 and 54/07 at the Commission’s website at www.iachr.org.
The activities of the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of
Expression are included in Volume II of this
 See: Justice and Social Inclusion: Challenges to Democracy in Guatemala (2003); Fifth Report on the Human Rights Situation in Guatemala (2001); Third Report on the Human Rights Situation in Paraguay (2001); Second Report on the Human Rights Situation in Peru (2000); Third Report on the Human Rights Situation in Colombia (1999); Report on the Human Rights Situation in Mexico (1998); Report on the Human Rights Situation in Brazil (1997); Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ecuador (1997); Second Report on the Human Rights Situation in Colombia (1993); Fourth Report on the Human Rights Situation in Guatemala (1993); Second Report on the Human Rights Situation in Suriname (1985).
 IACHR, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Guatemala, 1993.
 See Press Release issued by the Coordinating Committee for Indigenous Peoples Self-Determination (CAPI) September 12, 2007.
 See IACHR Press Release N° 51/07 of September 18, 2007.
 See IACHR Press Release N° 40/07 “IACHR Concludes its 128th Period of Sessions” (August 1, 2007), also available at: http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2007/40.07eng.htm.
 See IACHR website, “Public Hearings” available at: http://www.cidh.org/audiencias/select.aspx.
 See IACHR Press Release No. 54/07 “IACHR Concludes its 130th Period of Sessions” (October 19, 2007), also available at: http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2007/54.07eng.htm.