Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, of Colombia, obtained his doctorate in history at the University of Paris in 1975. He has been a member of the Colombian Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, President of the Center for the Study of Conditions in Colombia (Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Colombiana - CEREC), and Presidential Advisor for the Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Colombia (1987-1989). A lawyer, historian, journalist, and university professor, Dr. Tirado Mejía has worked on a number of Colombian periodicals and magazines and has lectured at several universities in Europe and the United States. He is the author of a number of books and publications, including "La Reforma Constitucional de 1936" and "Introducción a la Historia Económica de Colombia." He has represented his country on various occasions at the United Nations and other international organizations, and recently served as Colombian ambassador to Switzerland.
Prof. Claudio Grossman, of Chile, is now Professor and Dean of Graduate Studies of the Washington College of Law of American University. His academic experience includes serving as Professor of International Law at the Law Department of the Technological University of Twente, the Netherlands, and Professor of Law at the University of Chile. He is a member of various human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, and the Directorate of the International Law Group on Human Rights. He has published a number of books and articles for various international publications, including "Las Organizaciones No-Gubernamentales y la Protección de los Derechos Humanos," and "Manual Internacional de Derechos Humanos," published by Editorial Jurídica Venezolana, and articles, including "Proposals to Strengthen the Inter-American System of Protection of Human Right," published in the German Book of International Law.
Ambassador S. John Donaldson, a distinguished diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, has a law degree from the University of British Colombia, Canada, and has a degree in legal education. He has taught at various academic institutions in his country and has worked for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in a number of countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. He also served as ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago in Algeria, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia, as well as Ambassador at Large (Inspector of Missions) for several countries. He is a member of various associations in his country, including the People's National Movement (PNM), in which he has held several posts.
Washington, D.C., February 7, 1995
"Honduras is setting an example for the Hemisphere in its fulfillment of its human rights commitments," stated the Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, at the ceremony at which the Government of Honduras promised to disburse before March 31 the balance due as indemnity under judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the cases of Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez and Saúl Godínez Cruz, two Honduran citizens who disappeared in 1982.
At a special hearing during the Court's eighty-eighth session, held in Washington, the Government of Honduras, represented by its Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ernesto Paz Aguilar, by its Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Marlene de Talbott, and by Ambassador Policarpo Callejas Bonilla, presented the formal written commitment to Prof. Thomas Buergenthal, special delegate of the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Also present was Dr. José Miguel Vivanco, who served as counsel for the victims throughout the proceedings in these cases.
Prof. Buergenthal stressed the importance of the commitment with respect to these cases, in which judgments were rendered in 1989the first instances in which the Court found a state liable for human rights violations. He recalled that, "when the current president of Honduras, Dr. Carlos Roberto Reina, took office, he stated that payment of these indemnities was a 'debt of honor of the state,' and that a state that fails to comply with international court decisions by compensating victims of human rights violations cannot be seen as one in which the rule of law prevails."
At the ceremony, recognition was given to the Honduran Government's efforts to strengthen the observance of human rights, including its publication of the report of the National Human Rights Commissioner on persons who disappeared in Honduras between 1980 and 1994.
The Chairman of the Commission closed the ceremony by recalling the words of the illustrious Colombian Francisco de Paula Santander: "If weapons gave us independence, the law will be what gives us freedom."
Washington, D.C., February 10, 1995
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its 88th regular session on February 17, 1995. At this session, the Commission elected its new officers: Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Chairman; Professor Claudio Grossman, First Vice Chairman, and Ambassador John Donaldson, Second Vice Chairman. The other members of the Commission are Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Dr. Patrick Robinson, Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, and Professor Michael Reisman.
The Commission considered and approved the Annual Report it will present to the General Assembly at the latter's twenty-fifth regular session. It also approved a Special Report on the situation of human rights in Haiti.
The Commission continued with its analysis of the observance of economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of women in the hemisphere.
At this session, the Commission also discussed the human rights situation in a number of member States of the Organization.
In connection with Colombia, the Commission received the "Final Report of the Commission Investigating the Violent Events in Trujillo, Case 11,007", which the representatives of that Government and the petitioners had unanimously approved. The Report finds that the Colombian State bears responsibility and recommends that the responsible parties be subjected to criminal and disciplinary inquiries and that indemnizations be paid to the victims.
A resolution was adopted wherein the Commission commended and endorsed the findings and recommendations of the Trujillo Commission's report. The Commission decided that at its next regular session, scheduled for September of this year, it will receive the parties for a hearing on the status of the Colombian State's implementation of the recommendations made in the Final Report.
The Commission's Annual Report to the General Assembly will include a thorough analysis of the general human rights situation in Colombia.
The Annual Report will also include an analysis of the most important developments in the area of human rights in El Salvador in 1994, in the context of the peace process in that member State. The Report highlights the positive developments vis-à-vis the protection of certain basic rights, such as the decline in forced disappearances and in reports of torture. In that report, however, the Commission also expresses concern regarding a number of areas in which problems still persist, such as the prison system, the administration of justice, the presence of unlawfully armed groups and the land transfer program.
The Commission visited Guatemala in March and again in December of 1994. It observed the progress achieved in the democratic process and noted that while the political dialogue had been enhanced and was addressing some major issues, it was nonetheless threatened by the persistence of human rights violations, committed with complete impunity. Particular attention was given to the violations of the right to life, the steps being taken to ensure an honest and lawful election process in preparation for the general elections slated for next October, the labor disputes in rural and urban areas, the reorganization of the public security services, resettlement of refugees, and the violations committed by the civilian self-defense patrols. The Commission's Annual Report will include an analysis of the human rights situation in Guatemala.
The Commission continued to monitor closely the developments in the human rights situation in Cuba in 1994. The information for that year indicates that the human rights situation in Cuba deteriorated markedly in 1994. The IACHR will continue to observe the human rights situation in Cuba, pursuant to its mandate to protect and promote the fundamental rights in every country of the hemisphere.
The Commission again examined the human rights situation in Brazil and has made progress in its preparation of a report thereon.
The Commission received reports on the human rights situation in Chiapas, Mexico, and fully intends to monitor developments in the human rights situation in that region.
As for Honduras, the Commission was pleased with the news it received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ernesto Paz Aguilar, to the effect that by March 31, 1995, the present Government of that member State will pay the total amount of the compensation set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Velásquez Rodríguez and Godínez Cruz judgments.
The Commission deplores the hostilities that erupted between Ecuador and Peru, which fortunately ended thanks to a cease-fire agreed to on February 14, 1995, reaffirmed by the Declaration of Peace of February 17. The Commission was deeply concerned for the welfare of the civilian population affected by the military hostilities along the border between the two countries. It was particularly concerned about the indigenous peoples living in the embattled area, since news reports indicate that the indigenous communities were the target of direct attacks. According to sources, the fighting has driven the indigenous peoples off their traditional settlements, forcing them to seek temporary refuge elsewhere.
Ecuador and Peru are parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that States have the obligation to respect and ensure the human rights of their peoples. During any armed conflict, respect for human rights and observance of the principles of international humanitarian law continue to be imperative.
The Commission trusts that the Itamaratí Declaration of Peace between Ecuador and Peru, intended to consolidate the cease-fire agreement and to avert further confrontation, will help achieve a peaceful and lasting settlement of the armed conflict between the two member States.
During this session, the Commission held hearings to receive permanent representatives of governments, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and of individuals. It heard testimony and statements about the general human rights situation in various States and about individual cases currently before the Commission.
The Commission held a hearing to receive the Chairman of the Commission of Truth and Justice of Haiti, Dr. Françoise Boucard.
During this session, the Commission examined the draft of an inter-American instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. The Commission will continue to study this draft in April of this year, whereupon it will present it to the governments and interested institutions for their comments and observations. The draft addresses the cultural, ecological, political, economic, social and organizational aspects of the human rights of native peoples.
As for its obligations under the case system, the Commission finds that the petitions that the new situation in the hemisphere generates are unlike those engendered by the massive and systematic human rights violations of the seventies. The new situation has thus had an effect on the system of individual petitions. The caseload created by the system of individual petitions, which are more complex from the legal standpoint, has increased because there are now more cases that the Commission must file with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission will continue to develop its capacity to handle these cases properly.
The IACHR had a very constructive dialogue with the Secretary General of the Organization, Dr. César Gaviria, about strengthening, promoting and defending human rights in the very favorable climate that now exists in the hemisphere thanks to the presence of 34 democratically elected governments. The Commission attaches great importance to the continuing dialogue with the Secretary General and appreciates his readiness to make a significant contribution toward strengthening the system for the promotion, protection and defense of human rights in the hemisphere.
Finally, the Commission decided to hold its next regular session from September 11 through 22, 1995.
Washington, D.C., February 21, 1995
At the invitation of the United States Government, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, will be conducting an on-site visit to Lompoc, California, from May 3rd to May 5th, 1995, in order to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at that facility.
The Commission will be represented on this mission by Ambassador John Donaldson, who is a Vice-president of the IACHR. The Commission will be assisted by Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Relinda Eddie, Staff Attorney and Human Rights Specialist, and Ms. Janet Pahlmeyer Davies, Interpreter.
The Commission is appreciative of the openness with which the Government of the United States of America has acceded to this proposed in situ visit.
Washington, D.C., May 1, 1995.
Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human rights concludes its on-site visit to Lompoc, California, in the United States. The object of the visit was to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at correctional institutions in Lompoc.
The Commission's on-site visit commenced on May 3rd, and concluded on May 5th, 1995. The Commission's delegation was composed of Ambassador John Donaldson, Commission Member, Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Relinda Eddie, Staff Attorney and Human Rights Specialist, and Ms. Janet Pahlmeyer Davies, Interpreter.
The Commission is the principal organ of the OAS charged with reporting on compliance with human rights standards in the hemisphere. Its authority derives primarily from the American Convention on Human Rights for the 25 States that are parties, and from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man for those Member States of the OAS that have not yet ratified the Convention. Whenever the Commission makes an on-site visit the Government concerned is deemed under the Regulations to have given assurances that the Commission may interview and meet freely, with Government officials, and persons whom the Commission deems relevant in assessing the situation.
During its stay the Commission's delegation benefited from the cooperation of the following persons: Jim Zangs, Administrator of Detention and Immigration Service Branch of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons; John Castro of Immigration and Naturalization Services, Cuban Review Panel; Patrick Keohane, Warden, and Joe Henderson, Acting Executive Assistant to the Warden of the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc; Juan Muñoz, Immigration and Naturalization Liaison Officer with the Bureau of Prisons at Lompoc; Michael A. Purdy, Warden, John Nash, Associate Warden of Programs at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, and staff of the two institutions.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation it received from the Government officials, and the access given to the "Mariel Cubans". It continues to assess the conditions of the Mariel Cubans detained at these facilities.
Washington, D.C. May 5, 1995
At the invitation of the United States Government, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, will be conducting an on-site visit to Leavenworth, Kansas from May 30th to 31st, 1995, in order to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at that facility.
The Commission's delegation will be composed of Ambassador John Donaldson, and Dr. Patrick Robinson, Commission Members, Drs. Relinda Eddie, and Milton Castillo, Staff Attorneys and Human Rights Specialists, Mrs. Marjorie Buergenthal, and Ronnie Rodríguez, Interpreters.
The Commission is appreciative of the openness with which the Government of the United States of America has acceded to this proposed on-site visit.
Washington D.C., May 30, 1995
Today, May 30th, 1995, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made a one day visit to Leavenworth, Kansas, in the United States. The object of the visit was to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
The Commission's delegation was composed of Dr. Patrick Robinson, and Ambassador John Donaldson, Commission Members, Drs. Relinda Eddie, and Milton Castillo, Staff Attorneys and Human Rights Specialists, Mrs. Marjorie Buergenthal, and Ms. Ronnie Rodriguez, interpreters.
The Commission is the principal organ of the OAS charged with reporting on compliance with human rights standards in the hemisphere. Its authority derives primarily from the American Convention on Human Rights for the 25 States that are parties, and from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man for those Member States of the OAS that have not yet ratified the Convention. Whenever the Commission makes an on-site visit the Government concerned is deemed under the Regulations to have given assurances that the Commission may interview and meet freely with Government officials, and persons whom the Commission deems relevant in assessing the situation.
During its stay the Commission's delegation benefited from the cooperation of the following persons: Mr. Jim Zangs, Administrator of Detention and Immigration Service Branch of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons; Mr. John Castro, of Immigration and Naturalization Services, Cuban Review Panel; Mr. Willie Scott, outgoing Warden of the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Mr. Paige True, incoming Warden of the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth; and other staff members at Leavenworth.
The Commission received information from the inmates with whom it spoke. Inquiries were made into the general conditions under which the inmates were held. The main issues discussed included questions of the medical facilities and services available to the Mariel Cubans; housing accommodation; educational opportunities offered at the institution; recreational and vocational programs; arrangements for annual review of detention for post-sentence detainees; the availability of legal counsel for inmates; visiting difficulties of distant relatives of the inmates; methods of discipline at Leavenworth; and the fear inmates have that they might incur reprisals as a result of contact with the organizations such as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
A comprehensive report of the Commission's visit to Lompoc, California, and Leavenworth, Kansas, will be prepared.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation it received from the government officials, and the "Mariel Cubans" detained at Leavenworth. The Commission continues to assess the conditions of detention of the Mariel Cubans.
Washington, D.C., May 30, 1995.
On September 16,1995, in an audience convoked by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Government of Guatemala presented their arguments relating to the request for provisional measures in the Jorge Carpio Nicolle case. Jorge Carpio Nicolle, an important politician and journalist in Guatemala and President Ramiro de Leon Carpio's cousin, was attacked and killed on July 3, 1993 while travelling through El Quiché with members of his political party. The Commission has requested that the Court order the Government to take precautionary measures, such as provision of police protection and investigation of threats and intimidation, to protect persons involved in the Carpio Nicolle case, including the family of Jorge Carpio Nicolle and the witnesses and prosecutor in the case. The Commission was represented at the audience by Dean Claudio Grossman, First Vice-President of the Commission and Rapporteur for Guatemala; David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary for the Commission, and; Denise Gilman, staff lawyer for the Commission. Serving as legal assistants to the Commission were two lawyers associated with CEJlLíMesoamerica, Ariel Dulitzky and Marcela Matamoros. During the audience before the Court, the Government of Guatemala announced that it was not opposed to the continuing imposition of the provisional measures.
Also on September 16, the Court heard the arguments of the parties regarding the preliminary objections asserted by the Government of Guatemala in the case of Paniagua Morales, et al, also known as the "Panel Blanca" case. In that case, it is alleged that, during 1987 and 1988, agents of the Guatemalan Treasury Police kidnapped and murdered a number of civilians. The Commission was represented in that audience by Dean Grossman, David Padilla and Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, staff lawyer for the Commission. Ariel Dulitzky and Marcela Matamoros also appeared before the Court as assistants to the Commission.
The Court is expected to rule on this issue during its current period of sessions. The Government of Guatemala accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction on March 9, 1987. At this time, the following countries have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Suriname, Trinidad y Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Washington, D.C., September 19, 1995
In this session the Commission heard representatives of governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals interested in the observance and protection of human rights. Testimony was heard on the general situation of human rights and basic liberties in different countries, and on individual cases currently being processed by the Commission.
The Commission also received three representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who offered the collaboration of the ICRC in some of the work being done by the IACHR.
In regard to hearings on individual cases, the Commission decided that henceforth applications must be presented to the Secretariat of the Commission at least thirty days in advance of the date on which hearings are scheduled, and the Secretariat will notify the interested parties of the date set for them at least twenty days in advance. The Commission reiterates the importance of hearings for the best consideration of cases and asks interested parties for their utmost cooperation in effectively determining the matters of fact and law in each case.
The Commission examined the request for provisional measures presented to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of a witness in the case of Mr. Nicholas Chapman Blake, the victim of a forced disappearance in Guatemala.
The Commission approved several reports on individual cases in different countries and confirmed that on-site visits will be made to the Federative Republic of Brazil in December this year, and to the Republic of Venezuela in the first half of 1996, at the invitation of the governments of those two member states.
The Commission approved the preliminary draft Inter-American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This document will be sent to the governments of the Organization's member states, indigenous entities and interested organizations for comments and observations.
Beginning with its next session, the IACHR will review the document in light of the comments made and present the final draft Declaration to the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh regular session.
It was agreed that one report will be written on the situation of migrant workers and another on the situation of children in the hemisphere.
In this session the Commission approved amendments to article 12, paragraphs 2 and 3 of article 13, paragraph 2(a) of article 19, and paragraph 6 of article 47 of its Regulations, which will now read as follows:
Regarding the special study of prisons, the IACHR decided to reiterate to the governments of the member states that have not yet done so its request to respond to the questionnaire it has prepared on the subject. The Commission expects to present a progress report on this matter and on the theme of the rights of women to the next regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS.
The Commission expresses its concern about the increase of violence in the Urabá area, in the Republic of Colombia, and makes an urgent appeal for peace and comity there to avert the commission of violations of the right to life.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold its 91st regular session from February 26 to March 8, 1996. Hearings will be held from 21 to 23 February of that year for interested parties who request them at least thirty days in advance, as prescribed by the Commission.
Washington, D.C., September 22, 1995
It is with deep regret that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues the following communique:
Andrés Aguilar Mawdsley, a distinguished Venezuelan diplomat and jurist, passed away on Monday, October 23 at his home in The Hague, the Netherlands, at the age of 71. The cause of death was a heart attack.
In recent years Justice Aguilar served as a judge on the International Court of Justice. During his long and distinguished career he served variously as Venezuela's first Minister of Justice upon the restoration of democracy under President Rómulo Betancourt.
Later Dr. Aguilar went to represent Venezuela as its Ambassador to the United Nations on two occasions. In addition he served as his country's Ambassador to the United States from 1972-1974.
Dr. Aguilar, a native of Caracas, was a summa cum laude graduate of the Central University in that city. He subsequently earned the degree of Master of Civil Law at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, where he met his future bride, María Margarita Réjane Laurin.
Among the many important posts and honors he held or received over the years, it was in the field of human rights that Dr. Aguilar made his greatest mark. In addition to serving as Chairman of the United Nations' Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Committee, Dr. Aguilar was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an agency of the Organization of American States, for thirteen years, serving as president of that body four times.
As one of the most prominent human rights defenders in Latin America during a period characterized by repressive authoritarian regimes (1972-1985), Dr. Aguilar stood out as an active and innovative exponent of respect for human rights. He led pathbreaking on site visits to a number of countries including Argentina, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Panamá and more than once denounced massive and gross human rights violations by various military dictatorships at the OAS' annual general assemblies.
In 1979 the United Nations' Secretary General asked Dr. Aguilar to head a special United Nations diplomatic mission to Iran to try to obtain the release of a diplomatic held hostage in that country by the government of Ayatollah Khomeini.
In recent years Dr. Aguilar sat as a judge on the International Court of Justice, a United Nations body composed of some of the most distinguished jurists in the world.
Besides his widow, María Margarita Réjane Laurin de Aguilar, he leaves a daugther, María Elena, his son-in-law Victor Bischoff and four grandchildren.
Washington, D. C. October 25, 1995
Today, December 4, 1995 marks the start of a visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Brazil. This visit is at the invitation of President Henrique Cardoso of the Federative Republic of Brazil and his Government and its purpose is to observe the human rights situation in that country.
This being its first visit to Brazil since its establishment in 1959, the IACHR believes this is a very significant event in the history of the Commission.
The Commission's delegation comprises Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Chairman; Dean Claudio Grossman, First Vice-Chairman; Ambassador John Donaldson, Second Vice-Chairman; Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, and Dr. Patrick Robinson. The commissioners will be assisted during their visit by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; by Dr. Domingo Acevedo, Legal Adviser, and by attorneys Martha Braga, Osvaldo Kreimer, Milton Castillo and Felipe Sánchez. Cecilia Adriazola, Martha Keller and Tania Hernandez will provide administrative support.
The IACHR is one of the principal bodies through which the Organization of American States performs its duties. It is responsible for the observance and promotion of human rights in the Hemisphere and serves as a consultative organ in these matters.
The seven members of the Commission are elected in a personal capacity by the General Assembly of the OAS for a four-year term and represent all the member states. The Commission's powers essentially derive from the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights. The latter instrument was ratified by Brazil on September 25, 1992.
During its visit, which will continue to December 8, the Commission will meet with Federal Government officials, representatives from the Congress and judiciary, officials from several states, dignitaries of the Catholic Church, political leaders, representatives from the mass media and from organizations defending and promoting human rights, and with persons who feel that their rights have been affected and wish to present their cases before the Commission.
To accomplish its objectives, the Commission will travel to other states of the Federation. Three groups will head to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Pernambuco, and Roraima.
The Commission's visit is being conducted within the framework of the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights and in accordance with the regulations of the Commission.
Under the IACHR Regulations, a government, in extending an invitation for an on-site observation, shall furnish to the Commission all necessary facilities for carrying out its mission. In particular, it shall bind itself not to take any reprisals of any kind against any persons or entities cooperating with the Commission or providing information or testimony.
The Commission thanks the President of the Republic, federal authorities, state governments, nongovernmental organizations and the eminent persons and institutions in civil society for their assistance in its preparation for this visit.
At the end of the visit, the Commission will hold a press conference at the Hotel Atlántica, in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, December 9, at 10:00 a.m.
Brasilia, December 4, 1995
December 8, 1995 was the final day of the visit carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), at the invitation of the Federative Republic of Brazil, for the purpose of observing the human rights situation in this country. The visiting officials were Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Chairman of the Commission; Dean Claudio Grossman, First Vice Chairman; Ambassador John Donaldson, Second Vice Chairman; Dr. Patrick Robinson, and Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano. The Commission was assisted by Ambassador Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary; Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Dr. Domingo Acevedo, Legal Adviser; and Drs. Martha Braga, Osvaldo Kreimer, Milton Castillo, and Felipe Sánchez. The Commission received administrative support from Gabriela Hageman, Ana Cecilia Adriazola, Martha Keller, and Tania Hernández.
To carry out its observation program during the visit, the Commission split up into four groups. The first went to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, the second to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the third to the states of Bahía and Pernambuco, and the fourth to the states of Pará and Roraima. All the groups finally met in Rio de Janeiro to evaluate their observations and hold a press conference on Saturday, December 9.
In Brasilia the IACHR met with President of the Republic Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Luis Felipe Lampreia, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Sebastião do Rego Barros, Minister of Justice Nelson Jobim, President of the Federal Supreme Court José Paulo Sepúlveda Pertence, Federal Deputy and President of the Chamber of Deputies Luis Eduardo Magalhães, Attorney General of the Republic Geraldo Brindeiro, Federal Attorney for Citizens' Rights and Assistant General Attorney Alvaro Augusto Ribero Costa, Federal Deputy and President of the Committee on Human Rights of the Chamber of Deputies Nilmario Miranda, Federal Deputy and Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies Hélio Bicudo, Senator and Second Vice President of the Senate Julio Campos, Chief of the Department of Human Rights and Social Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Minister José Augusto Lindgren Alves, Coordinator of the National Council for the Defense of Human Rights Humberto Espinola, and Secretary for Citizens' Rights of the Ministry of Justice Luiza Nagib Eluf.
In Brasilia, meetings also took place between the Commission and the Forum against Violence in the Countryside, the National Movement of Street Children, the National Human Rights Movement, the Socioeconomic Studies Institute, the Indigenous Affairs Council, the Confederation of Agricultural Workers, the Brazilian Bar Association, the Pastoral Land Commission, the Landless Farmworkers' Movement, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil chaired by its Secretary General, Dom Raymundo Damasceno Assis, and spokespersons of other nongovernmental organizations.
In São Paulo, the second group held talks with State Governor Mario Covas, President of the Court of Military Justice Colonel Antonio Augusto Neves, Secretary of State for the Protection of Citizens Belisário dos Santos Junior, Secretary of Public Security José Alfonso Silva, Ombudsman of the Civilian and Military Police Benedito Domingos Mariano, and Secretary for the Administration of Penitentiaries João Benedicto Azevedo Márquez. The Commission visited the Criminological Observation Center, the Women's Penitentiary, and the Carandirú House of Detention, as well as the Third Police Delegation of São Paulo. In addition, meetings were held with nongovernmental human rights organizations and other groups representing the São Paulo community.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights further met with, among others, the following nongovernmental organizations: Santo Dias Human Rights Center of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, Center for the Study of Violence of the University of São Paulo, Landless Farmworkers' Movement, State Council for the Defense of Human Rights, Women's Union, Union of Relatives of Dead and Disappeared Persons, Teutônio Vilela Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Movement, Center for the Protection of Children and Adolescents of ABC, and Human Rights Committee of the Brazilian Bar Association, São Paulo session.
The first and second groups met in Rio de Janeiro with Vice Governor and Chief of the Civil Affairs Office Luiz Paulo Correa, General Prosecutor Hamilton Carvalhido, Secretary of Public Security General Milton Cerqueira, Secretary of Justice and Appeals Court Judge Jorge Fernando Loretti, and Civil Police Chief Helio Luz. The groups also met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations, including Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil), CEPIA, CEMINA, REDEH, State Council for Women's Rights, Movement for Life, Mothers of Acari, Brazilian Center for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, No More Torture Group, CEAP, House of Peace, and Human Rights/Americas Watch.
The third group went to the cities of Salvador and Recife. In Salvador, meetings were held with Governor of Bahía Paulo Ganem Souto, Secretary of Public Security Francisco de Souza Neto, Secretary of Justice and Human Rights Ivan Nogueira Brandão, and the Human Rights Committee of the Bahía Legislative Assembly. The group also met with representatives of the following nongovernmental organizations: Committee on Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Salvador (FEDH), Social Service of Mosteiro de São Benito de Bahía, Regional Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), Bahía chapter of the No More Torture Group, Committee for the Defense of Women's and Human Rights of the Legislative Assembly, Center for the Protection of Minors and Adolescents of Bahía (CEDECA), and Coordinating Committee of the Unified Negro Movement. In Recife the third group met with Governor of Pernambuco Miguel Arraes, Mayor of Recife Jarbas Vasconcelos, Secretary of Public Safety Antônio de Moraes Andrade Neto, Secretary of Justice Roberto M. Moraes, Commandant of the State Military Police Colonel Jorge Luis de Moura, and Secretary of Public Safety of the State of Sergipe Wellington Dantas Mangueira. Meetings were also held with representatives of the following nongovernmental organizations: Office of Legal Advice to the Popular Organizations (GAJOP), Regional Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), Dom Helder Câmara Studies and Social Action Center (CENDHEC), Community Justice and Peace Service, Take Back Your Life, and National Movement of Street Minors.
The fourth group met in Pará with Governor Almir Gabriel, President of the Superior Court of Justice Chisto Alves, General Prosecutor Manuel Santino, and judges and promoters of justice of Rio Maria and Redenção. In Roraima it met with State Governor Neu do Campos and the Secretary of Public Safety, Attorney General of the Republic Osorio Silva Barboso Sobrino, and the Chief of the Federal Police Delegation of Roraima. In addition, it visited the Macuxé and Yanomami Indigenous Reserves.
The observations and contacts resulting from these days of intense activity, coupled with the Commission's monitoring of the human rights situation in Brazil, have produced an overall view of that situation. The IACHR furthermore gathered valuable information that will be useful to it in the report which it will prepare on the visit. For the Commission, the inter-American protection system, and international public opinion, this first visit paid by the IACHR to the Federative Republic of Brazil constitutes an historic occasion.
The Commission is gratified to note the Federal Government's concern for human rights, a concern that has led to inclusion of this issue in the national debate and triggered a process which includes legal and institutional changes, reparations, and measures of a symbolic nature designed to promote and strengthen a culture of respect for these rights. The Federal Government has invited numerous organizations and individuals to take part in that process, so that the initiatives flowing from it reflect the important positions of civil society.
The Commission was informed that a National Human Rights Plan under preparation will include important initiatives in this area and will be made public shortly by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It has also examined the recently passed Law on Recognition of Political Disappeared Persons. It has received information on a series of bills concerning human rights, including those relating to the federalization of crimes against human rights and the reorganization of the National Council for the Protection of the Human Person, and drafts defining crimes of torture, providing for the protection of victims and witnesses, and arranging for transfer to the regular justice system of crimes committed by the military police in connection with their enforcement of public order.
The Commission recommends that the proposed legislative and administrative measures be adopted and implemented at the earliest opportunity, in order to ensure more effective protection of the rights and guarantees enshrined in the American Convention, to which Brazil is a party.
The Commission also took note of the fact that the President has created a human rights prize to encourage persons and institutions that show dedication, take risks, and make sacrifices to further the protection of human rights. The President of the Republic recently awarded this prize to distinguished individuals.
The IACHR welcomes the authorities' willingness to examine the human rights situation in Brazil in an atmosphere of openness and transparency, and to identify the sometimes very complex problems in this area which come to light through the statements of human rights organizations and representatives of the public at large. Those problems fall under the following topics, among others:
While an in-depth analysis of those topics is scheduled for its meeting in February of next year, the IACHR wishes to point out here that an effective judicial branch is an essential requirement of a modern democratic system. Under the provisions of the Pact of San José, the inhabitants of the states parties to the Convention are entitled to access to justice within a reasonable time. Article 25 of that instrument establishes everyone's right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts that violate his fundamental rights. The member states, for their part, undertake to guarantee the exercise of that recourse. In this respect the Commission notes with concern the difficulties which the exercise of the right under reference -- i.e., to try a case initiated within a reasonable time -- entails in Brazil.
The Commission also received information about acts of violence committed by the police and the impunity accorded them. To combat police violence the Commission feels that an imperative step would be to pass a law ensuring that any crime committed by military police against civilians be adjudicated through the regular justice system. The Commission similarly feels that efficient procedures should be established to receive and consider complaints against police officers.
With reference to the so-called extermination groups whose existence has been reported in some locations, the Commission was informed that those groups share the following characteristics:
They are generally financed by business and financial interests; they consist of former police personnel, civilians and other public employees, and, in many cases, police officers on active duty. The modus operandi always involves acts of violence, including murder and forced disappearance of persons, and the victims are usually poor black males. The members of these groups are seldom arrested and even more seldom brought to justice. Their members are almost never convicted, because witnesses are reluctant to testify for fear of being assassinated. Some organizations have reported to the Commission that these groups act as a sort of social "cleansing" agent.
The Commission recommends the adoption of a protection program for witnesses who agree to testify against the members of these groups.
The IACHR remains convinced that it is possible to fight crime and guarantee public order while respecting human rights. Its hemispheric experience tells it that violating the rights of the accused does not create the climate of security to which citizens legitimately aspire.
On the subject of racial discrimination, the Commission was informed that the high incidence of human rights abuses suffered by the black population is attributable to discrimination. However, this was denied by authorities who maintained that this phenomenon is rooted in poverty rather than ethnicity. The Commission was informed that, although according to some statistics 60% of the population is black, only 3% of university students belong to this group. In this regard the IACHR wishes to point out to the Brazilian state the provisions of Article 1 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
With respect to the indigenous peoples, the Commission was informed in the state of Roraima of the need to complete the demarcation of the native lands, especially those of the Macuxé people. The IACHR received further information concerning the application of Decree 22/91 on the demarcation of native lands in other states. The Commission will in due course make known its views on this and other matters relating to the indigenous peoples, for example the problem of the prospectors and complaints of discriminatory treatment of those populations by some agents of the state.
Its visits to the correctional facility of Carandirú and the Third Police Delegation of São Paulo gave the Commission a chance to confirm the authorities' statements to the effect that those facilities are experiencing a general crisis. Serious overcrowding is evident, with prisoners crammed into unhealthful or cramped quarters or open-air yards. Unconvicted defendants are placed there together with first-time convicts and repeat offenders. Health services are practically nonexistent in these facilities. In addition, there are inmates entitled to be transferred to lower security facilities who cannot be moved there because those facilities lack space. In this connection the IACHR recommends to the authorities that they immediately apply international standards on human rights and Brazil's own laws on prisons, including urgent steps to correct the appalling situation witnessed by the visiting Commission members.
The Commission wishes to express its desire to work with the Government within its area of competence in order to help strengthen domestic and international mechanisms for the defense and protection of basic rights covered by the rule of law.
The Commission wishes to express its appreciation to the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the other federal and state authorities for the courtesies and cooperation extended to ensure a successful visit. It also thanks the nongovernmental organizations and individuals who, with their valuable statements and documentation, contributed in frank and open fashion to this mission's effectiveness.
The Commission is grateful to the media for their interest in covering this visit.
In accordance with its functions as set forth in the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Brazil and reiterates its desire to work with the authorities within its area of competence.
Rio de Janeiro, December 9, 1995