REPORT ON CONDITIONS OF DETENTION
IN THE AMERICAS
At the Commission's 85th and 86th Period of Sessions, it
established a Working Group to Study the Conditions of Detention in
the Americas. The
Commission resolved that upon conclusion of the Prison Study, it would
issue a Report of its Study of Conditions of Detention, and draft an
instrument which would establish a uniform code of minimal conduct and
standards, to serve as a model for Member States which is consistent
with international law in the administration of their prisons, and
treatment of their detained and incarcerated population.
The Commission envisioned that this model code of prison
conduct will ultimately lead to more satisfactory practices in the
Americas, in this aspect of national life.
The Working Group was composed of the following Members:
Professor Michael Reisman, then Chairman of the IACHR,
Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Chairman of the IACHR, Dr. Jean Joseph
Exumé, Commission Member, and Dr. Relinda Eddie, human rights
To assist the Working Group in its study of Conditions of
Detention in the Americas, questionnaires were sent to Governments of
the Member States requesting information on conditions of detention
and prisons in their respective countries. Questionnaires were also sent to non-governmental
organizations who have focused on conditions of detention in the
In addition, the Commission also conducted specific visits to
detention centers and prisons to countries in the Americas.
During these visits, the Commission was able to obtain personal
knowledge and information of conditions of detention in the countries
At its 93rd Period of Sessions the Commission reiterated its
request to the Member States which had not responded to the Prison
questionnaire. It sought
the assistance, cooperation, and contribution of those Member States,
and established a deadline of December 31st, 1996, for responses to
At the Twenty-Sixth Regular Session of the General Assembly of
the OAS in Panama, on June 3, 1996, in considering the Annual Report
of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Resolution AG/RES.
1404(XXVI-O/96) was adopted at the Eight Plenary Session, which stated
the following in paragraph 16:
To recommend to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it continue to place priority on adoption of the necessary measures to remedy the situation of persons held in custody awaiting justice and the overcrowding of prisons; and to request that the Commission present a report on these topics at the next regular session of the General Assembly
The Commission wishes to thank the Governments of the Member
States for their cooperation, contribution, and assistance in this
undertaking. To date,
twenty six Member States responded to the Prison questionnaire and
provided the Commission with useful information pertaining to general
conditions of detention in the Americas.
The following Member States responded to the Prison
Questionnaire: Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas,
Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica,
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras,
Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, Trinidad and
Tobago, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The Commission received responses to the prison questionnaire,
and reports on Prison conditions, and Conditions of Detention in the
Americas, from non-governmental organizations.
The Commission wishes to thank the following non-governmental
organizations for their assistance, cooperation and contribution to
its study: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, The National
Prison Project, U.S.A., Amnesty International, U.S.A., Americas Watch,
A Division of Human Rights Watch, U.S.A., Human Rights Watch, U.S.A.,
George Washington University's Prison Project, U.S.A., Caribbean
Rights, Caribbean Human Rights Network, Barbados, Jamaica Council for
Human Rights, Jamaica, CASDEL, Centro de Asesoramiento Social y
Desarrollo Legal, Bolivia, CODEHUCA, Comisión para la Defensa de los
Derechos Humanos en Centroamérica, Costa Rica, Centro de Asistencia
Legal Popular (CEALP), Panáma, Centro de Estudios Humanitarios, (CEDHU),
Paraguay, and COFAVIC, Comité de los Familiares y las Víctimas de
los Sucesos, Venezuela.
At the close of the deadline of December 31st, 1996, which was
established by the Commission, the Working Group has been evaluating
and examining the information provided concerning conditions of
detention and prisons, practices and related legislation pertaining to
the same in the Americas. The Commission has also commenced
preparation of its Report on the Conditions of Detention in the
REPORT ON THE PROJECT TO PROMOTE AND PROTECT THE RIGHT
WOMEN IN THE HEMISPHERE TO BE
FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION
During its 85th Regular Session, the Commission appointed Dean
Claudio Grossman to serve as its Special Rapporteur on the theme of
women's rights. His
mandate is to analyze and report on instances of de facto and de
jure discrimination which may hinder the ability of women to
exercise their rights and freedoms set forth in the American
Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights
and Duties of Man. Once
the Rapporteur has completed his study, he will report to the plenary
of the Commission, which will issue recommendations to the Member
States designed to enhance compliance with the norms of the
inter-American human rights system.
The principal objective of this project is to assist the member
states of the OAS by identifying instances of discrimination which are
inconsistent with inter-American human rights guarantees and issuing
recommendations designed to remedy such inconsistencies and advance
the ability of women to fully and equally enjoy their rights and
The member states of the OAS have identified enhancing the
ability of women to freely and fully enjoy their human rights as a
crucial challenge in the quest to consolidate democratic systems in
The priority accorded throughout the region to enhancing the
effective exercise of democracy is an essential pre-condition for
achieving advances in respect for human rights. At the same time, truly participatory democracy cannot
flourish until every segment of society fully takes part in national
As the OAS has renewed its commitment to advancing the rights
of women, for example through the work of the member states and the
Inter-American Commission of Women to adopt the Inter-American
Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence
Against Women (Belém do Pará, 1994), so too has the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights enhanced its focus on the promotion and
protection of women's rights. Human
rights violations which have gender specific causes and consequences
are generally linked to the over-arching problem of discrimination
against women. For
example, the Convention of Belém do Pará sets forth in Article 6
that the right of every woman to be free from violence must include
the right "to be free from all forms of discrimination."
In recent years, the Commission has begun to address human
rights violations with gender-specific causes and consequences through
its individual petition system and its monitoring functions.
For example, the Commission is currently processing a pair of
individual petitions, one of which alleges discrimination against
women in provisions of civil and family law, and the other of which
relates to the phenomena of domestic violence.
During its on site visits and within certain special country
reports as well, the Commission is dedicating attention to the
specific situation of the human rights of women.
For example, when the Commission visited Haiti during the final
year of the de facto regime, it interviewed women who had been
the victims of politically-motivated rape, and reported on this
violation of multiple provisions of the American Convention and other
principal human rights instruments.
The Commission is currently pursuing its commitment to the
protection of the rights of women across a number of fronts, and in
carrying out these activities is increasingly aware that the status
accorded women under domestic law and practice often hinders their
ability to exercise their individual rights and freedoms.
Activities during the current reporting period
On March 30, 1996, the Commission's Special Rapporteur convened
a Second Meeting of Experts to discuss the design and implementation
of the instant project, and, in particular, the form and content of
the questionnaire to be sent to member states, and intergovernmental
and nongovernmental organizations to gather basic data to be used in
the study. In conjunction
with this meeting, the Commission co-sponsored a conference entitled
"Women, Human Rights and the Inter-American System" with the
participation of the Commission of Women of the OAS, the Pan-American
Health Organization, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and
the Washington College of Law.
Pursuant to that Second Meeting, the Special Rapporteur
finalized the content of the project questionnaire, and presented it
to the Commission for its review.
In July of 1996, the Special Rapporteur began transmitting the
questionnaires to the member states, with a request that they provide
the information deemed pertinent by February 1, 1997.
As of its 95th Regular Session, the Commission had received
substantive responses to the questionnaire from Belize, Colombia,
Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Paraguay,
Panama, Peru and Uruguay, a provisional response from Brazil, and
requests for brief extensions from several other member states in the
final stages of collecting the rather extensive information requested.
The Commission is gratified to note the breadth and depth of
the information submitted thus far, and appreciates the support of the
member states for this project.
The Commission encourages those member state governments who
are still in the process of compiling information in response to the
questionnaire to submit their responses as soon as possible, so that
all the pertinent information may be taken into account as the Special
Rapporteur proceeds with this project.
The Commission has also compiled a list of intergovernmental
and nongovernmental organizations to receive the questionnaire, and
will be sending those out shortly.
Several such organizations have approached the Commission to
offer their assistance and information.
The Special Rapporteur hopes this will be a highly
collaborative and interactive process, and encourages the
participation of all sectors with relevant expertise and information.
At the close of July of 1996, the Special Rapporteur was
represented by the Commission Secretariat at a workshop entitled
"Protection of the Human Rights of Women in the International
Sphere," sponsored by the Inter-American Institute of Human
Rights, CLADEM (Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa
de los Derechos Humanos de la Mujer), the International Center for
Human Rights and Democratic Development and the Swedish Agency of
International Cooperation for Development, in San José, Costa Rica.
Legal professionals participating from twenty countries in the
region discussed the instruments and mechanisms of protection of the
rights of women pertaining to the United Nations and inter-American
human rights systems. The
participants were briefed about the project of the Commission's
Special Rapporteur, and were provided with copies of the project
questionnaire. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur wishes to recognize
the important collaboration he has received from the Inter-American
Institute of Human Rights during the development and initial phases of
The Special Rapporteur is considering how opportunities such as
the March and July conferences can be further developed and utilized
to disseminate information about his project, to gather information
about instances of discrimination in law and in fact, and to promote
the interchange of dialogue and information among interested parties.
Attaining advances in the promotion and protection of the human
rights of women requires the participation and collaboration of all
sectors, and the Commission will continue to seek broad-based
participation in this project.
PROGRESS REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF MIGRANT
AND THEIR FAMILIES IN THE HEMISPHERE
At the Commission's 92nd Special period of Sessions which
concluded on May 3, 1996, it decided "to begin consideration of
the topic of migrant workers in the Hemisphere, with a view to
preparing a report on that subject." At the eight plenary
session, of the Twenty-Sixth Regular Session of the OAS General
Assembly held on June 7,
1996, in Panama, the General Assembly took note of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights' Annual Report of 1995 and by Resolution
AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96)
in paragraph 20, resolved, inter alia, "to recommend that the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights include in its next annual
report an evaluation of the situation of migrant workers and their
families in the Hemisphere."
The Commission has empaneled a Working Group to Study the
situation of Migrant Workers and their families in the hemisphere.
The Commission's Working Group is composed of Dr. Alvaro Tirado
Mejía, Rapporteur, and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume, Commission Members, Dr.
Relinda Eddie, and Dr. Bertha Santoscoy, the Secretariat's Senior
human rights attorneys. The
focus of the Commission's Study will be limited to the situation of
"Migrant Workers" and their families in the hemisphere, and
will not address issues relating to "internally displaced
persons," stateless persons, or "refugees."
FIRST PHASE OF THE STUDY
The Commission's Working Group commenced working on the first
phase of the Study which involves, meeting with international,
regional and domestic organizations based in the Washington, D.C. area
who interact with migrant workers, in order to ascertain what issues
are related to migrant workers and their families, and receiving
information from them in order to assist the Commission in its Study
of the Situation of migrant workers and their families in the
To date, Members of the Working Group, have met with the staff
members of the following international organizations: Mr. Hans Petter
Boe, Chief of Missions at the Washington Office of the International
Organization for Migrantion (IOM) and Ms. Laura Park, Senior
Operations Assistant for Latin America and the Caribbean (IOM); Mr.
Tony Freeman, Director of the Washington Branch of the International
Labour Organization, (ILO); Ms. Kate Balian, Deputy Regional
Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
Bernadette Passade-Cissé Legal Counselor, and Caroline van Buren,
Legal Officer, staff members at the UNHCR's Regional Office for the
United States and the Caribbean, located in Washington, D.C.
These organizations have provided the Working Group with useful
information pertaining to the Study. The Working Group has also sought
the assistance of Dr. Juan E. Mendez, Director of Inter-American
Institute of Human Rights (IIHR) in San Jose Costa Rica, who has
agreed to assist the Commission in its Study, and Dr. Cristina Zeledón,
Director of the Migrant Populations and Victims of Violence Program,
at the IIHR.
Members of the Working Group received information, reports and
laws of the International Organizations with whom it have had
meetings. The Working Group is in the process of analyzing the
information and data received by these organizations. The Working Group also plan to communicate with staff members
at the Headquarters of these organizations for more information
concerning the situation of the migrant workers.
The Working Group also plan to meet and correspond with
domestic organizations in the Americas, who interact with migrants on
a daily basis in the respective countries, in order to assess and
gather information concerning the same.
Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía and Dr. Relinda Eddie were invited by
Dr. Rodrigo Alberto Carazo, President of the Central American Council
of Human Rights Ombudsmen, to attend a meeting of Central American
Ombudsmen which was held in San José, Costa Rica, from October 28 to
October 30, 1996, entitled "Regional Forum on Human Rights,
Refugees and Migration in Central America." Dr. Relinda Eddie
attended the meeting on behalf of the Working Group.
The situation of refugees and migrant workers and their
families in the hemisphere dominated the meeting.
The meeting was organized by Central American Integration
System, (SICA), and well attended by the Central American Council of
Human Rights Ombudsmen, and representatives of Governments in the
Americas; and by representatives from international organizations,
which included the IIHR, the IOM, the ILO, the UNHCR, the UNICEF, the
International Trade Organization, (ITO) et al, other regional
organizations, and observer countries.
At the meeting letters of understanding in defending migrants
and refugees were circulated by the Ombudsmen in relation to their
individual countries, and the international organizations developed
proposed Plans of action for addressing the migrant situation. The
issue of the situation of migrant workers and their families in the
hemisphere, is one which the Central American Ombudsman have under
active consideration, and at the conclusion of the meeting a plan was
developed whereby a working paper on Recommendations were proposed
entitled "Mechanisms for the Implementation of the Guidelines
adopted by the Regional Forum of Human Rights on Refugees and Migrants
in Central America," in order to address the current migrant
laws, and treatment of migrants in their respective regions.
It is estimated that there are approximately 125 million
migrants in the hemisphere.
In order to assist the Commission in its Study on the situation
of the migrant workers and their families in the hemisphere, at the
meeting in Costa Rica, Dr. Relinda Eddie, had brief meetings with, and
received useful information from the following persons: Dr. Rodrigo
Alberto Carazo, President of the Central American Council of Human
Rights Ombudsman, Dr. Juan E. Méndez, Executive Director of the IIHR,
Mrs. Cristina Zeledón of IIHR, Ms. Wairimu Karago, Deputy Director of
the International Division of Protection of the UNHCR, in Geneva, Mr.
Philippe Garnier, Specialist in Migrant Services, Labor Department of
the ILO in Geneva, Mr. Camilo A. Vásquez Garcia, Deputy Director of
the ILO's Office for Central America and Panama, Mr. Tony C. Garcia,
Protection officer of the UNHCR'_ Office in Belize, Mr. Patrick Zahnd,
Regional Delegate for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean of the
International Committee of the Red Cross in Guatemala.
INTERNATIONAL DEFINITION OF MIGRANT WORKERS
United Nations' "International Convention on the Protection of
the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families"
was passed by the United Nations General Assembly's Resolution 45/188.
This Convention which is not yet in force, classifies a number
of workers as "migrant workers." Article 2 (1) of the
Convention provides that for the purposes of the Convention: "The
term "migrant worker" refers to a person who is to be
engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in remunerated activity in a
State of which he or she is not a national.
11. Article 2 of the Convention provides that a "frontier worker," a "seasonal worker," a "seafarer," a "worker on an offshore installation," an "itinerant worker," a "project-tied worker," a "specified-employment worker," and a "self-employed worker, are "migrant workers, and sets out the criteria of how and when these persons should be considered to be migrant workers.y
12. The preliminary information received by the Working Group seems to indicate that labels are attached to migrant workers. Migrant workers are labeled as "documented," "undocumented," "regulars," and "irregulars." The information also indicated the movement of Migrant workers who migrate with or without their families to countries of the Americas seeking employment and a better standard of living. A summary follows on the movement of Migration of workers in the hemisphere which is not meant to be exhaustive: Migrant workers migrate from Mexico to the United States; migrant workers migrate from Guatemala to Mexico then to the United States; migrant workers migrate from Haiti to the Dominican Republic; migrant workers migrate from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico in order to gain entry into the United States; migrant workers migrate from Haiti to work in The Bahamas; migrant workers migrate from El Salvador and Guatemala to work in Belize; migrant workers migrate from Cuba to the United States, The Bahamas, and Jamaica; migrant workers migrate from Bolivia and Peru to Argentina; migrant workers migrate from Nicaragua to work in Costa Rica; migrant workers migrate from Colombia to work in Venezuela, and Panama.
METHODOLOGY FOR ASSESSING THE SITUATION OF MIGRANT WORKERS AND
THEIR FAMILIES IN THE HEMISPHERE:
COMMISSION PROPOSES TO:
and compile, a questionnaire on migrant workers and send the same to the
OAS Member States for their cooperation and assistance in its Study.
Prepare a separate questionnaire, send it to both
inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations who
interact with migrant workers on a daily basis, in order to obtain a
fair assessment of the situation.
on-site visits to the Member States where there is a large concentration
of migrant workers and their families, in order to obtain a first-hand
personal assessment of the situation.
15. At the conclusion of the receipt of the answers to the questionnaire, and on-site visits, and all the data, the Commission will analyze the same and prepare a Report of its assessment of the situation.
This was stated in the Declaration of Principles of the Summit of
the Americas (Miami 1994), affirmed in the Declaration of Montrouis
(Haiti 1995), and elaborated upon in resolutions AG/RES. 1422 and
1432 (XXVI-O/96) on the Situation of Women in the Americas, and on
Cooperation within the Inter-American System to Assure the Full and
Equal Participation of Women in the Process of Development, adopted
at the 1996 General Assembly in Panama.
Article 87(1) of the Convention provides that: "The present
Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month
following a period of three months after the date of the deposit of
the twentieth instrument of ratification or accession." The
information received by the United Nations office in Washington,
D.C. states that as of June 30, 1996 only eight countries have
ratified the Convention.
The term "frontier worker" refers to a migrant
worker who retains his or her habitual residence in a neighbouring
State to which he or she normally returns every day or at least once
(b) The term
"seasonal worker" refers to a migrant worker whose work by
its character is dependent on seasonal conditions and is performed
only during part of the year;
The term "seafarer," which includes a fishermen,
refers to a migrant worker employed on board a vessel registered in
a State of which he or she is not a national;
The term "worker on an offshore installation"
refers to a migrant worker employed on an offshore installation that
is under the jurisdiction of a State of which he or she is not a
The term "itinerant worker" refers to a migrant
worker who, having his or her habitual residence in one State, has
to travel to another State or States for periods, owing to the
nature of his or her occupation;
The term "project-tied worker" refers to a migrant
worker admitted to a State of employment for a defined period of
work solely on a specific project being carried out in that State by
his or her employer;
The term "specified-employment worker" refers to a
who has been sent by his or her employer for a restricted and
defined period of time to a State of employment to undertake a
specific assignment or duty; or
who engages for a restricted and defined period of time in work that
requires professional, commercial, technical, or other highly
specialized skill; or
who, upon the request of his or her employer in the State of
employment, engages for a restricted and defined period of time in
work whose nature is transitory or brief; and who is required to
depart from the State of employment either at the expiration of his
or her authorized period of stay, or earlier if he or she no longer
undertakes that specific assignment or duty or engages in that work;
The term "self-employed worker" refers to a migrant
worker who is engaged in a remunerated activity otherwise than under
a contract of employment and who earns his or her living through
this activity normally working alone or together with members of her
or her family, and to any other migrant worker recognized as
self-employed by applicable legislation of the State of employment
or bilateral or multilateral agreements.
Commission conducted an on-site visit to the Dominican Republic on
August 12-14 of 1991, and prepared a Report on "the Situation
of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, with emphasis on the
"Situation of the Sugarcane Workers." The Report was
published in the Commission's Annual Report of 1991 at 269-297.
The Commission also
conducted an on-site visit to The Bahamas on May 22-27, 1994. At the time of the visit an approximate figure was given of
50,000 to 60,000 Haitian refugees and migrant workers in The
Bahamas. This figure
may have been reduced because of an agreement reached between the
Government of Haiti and The Bahamas to repatriate Haitians who were
in The Bahamas.