OEA/Ser.L/V/II.98
doc. 6 rev.
13 April 1998
Original: Spanish

ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
 ON HUMAN RIGHTS 1997

CHAPTER II

 

COMMISSION ACTIVITIES

 

          This chapter takes up the activities conducted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during 1997.  It also discusses several of the tasks carried out in early 1998 which, because of their importance, the Commission believes should be made known to the General Assembly.

 

            1.            IACHR SESSIONS DURING 1997

 

          During the period covered by this report, the Commission held its 95th regular session between February 24 and March 3, 1997, its 96th special session between April 21 and 25, and its 97th regular session between September 29 and October 17, 1997.

 

            a.            95th regular session

 

          During this period, which, as mentioned, took place between February 24 and March 3, 1997, the Commission elected its new officers.  They were as follows:  Ambassador John Donaldson, Chairman; Dr. Carlos Manuel Ayala Corao, First Vice Chairman; and Professor Robert Kogod Goldman, Second Vice Chairman.  The other members of the Commission participating in this session were Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano, Dean Claudio Grossman and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume.

 

          During this session, the Commission considered and approved the 1996 Annual Report that the IACHR presented to the General Assembly of the Organization at its twenty-seventh regular session, held in Peru, in June of 1997.

 

          During that same session, besides performing its usual work, the Commission defined the following criteria to identify which OAS member states warrant special attention and should be covered in the annual reports that the Commission presents to the General Assembly.  First:  States ruled by governments that did not reach power by means of popular elections using secret, honest, regular and free vote, in accordance with internationally accepted rules of law; second:  States where the free exercise of the rights embodied in the American Convention or in the American Declaration have been suspended in full or in part, by means of imposition of exceptional measures such as state of emergency, state of siege or other; third:  States against which there is proof that they have committed widespread and grave violations of rights secured in the American Convention, in the American Declaration, or in other applicable instruments, that have suspended rights whose effect may not be interrupted, and have committed summary executions, tortures and forced disappearances of persons; and fourth:  States that are in a process of transition with respect to any of the three aforementioned situations.  Based on these criteria, the Commission included in Chapter V of its most recent annual report a section on the status of human rights in several member states.

 

          The Commission also approved the Proposed American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In this work, it took into account the findings of its own consultations and those of other OAS bodies with governments, indigenous organizations and human rights organizations.


          During this session, the Commission received a note from the Permanent Representative of Chile to the OAS, notifying, besides other matters, "that the Government of Chile has decided to withdraw its request for consultative opinion [OC-15] filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights."

 

          The Commission also considered during this session a request from the Government of Bolivia to have the IACHR conduct an on-site visit to that country to gather information about the events involving rural people and mine workers from the locales of Capasirca and Amayapampa during the month of December 1996.  For that purpose, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bolivia to the OAS appeared before the full meeting of the Commission and restated the request of his government.  To cooperate with the democratic governments in protecting and promoting human rights, the Commission decided to conduct that on-site visit which took place from April 26 to May 2, 1997.

 

          The Commission took up a progress report on the status of prison facilities and decided to explain in the report what is being done in connection with this problem.  The Commission also continued considering a draft report on the status of migrant workers and their families.  The progress on that report will be examined in the next session.  The Commission also discussed the progress it has made in its work on the women's rights study.

 

          The Commission also considered the findings of the Seminar on the Inter-American System of Promotion and Protection of Human Rights which took place in this city in December 1996.  It approved the report that contains the conclusions of that seminar and decided to remit the report to the Permanent Council, the Secretary General and the Permanent Representatives to the Organization, and to make it available to interested persons.

 

          The Commission considered as well the findings of the Seminar on the Inter-American System of Promotion and Protection of Human Rights that was held in Brasilia.  That event was organized by the ministries of foreign affairs and of justice of Brazil, with the collaboration of the IACHR.

 

            b.            96th special session

 

          The 96th special session took place between April 21 and 25, 1997.  Participating in it were the Chairman, Ambassador John S. Donaldson, the First Vice Chairman, Professor Carlos Ayala Corao, the Second Vice Chairman, Professor Robert K. Goldman and the other members, Drs. Oscar L. Fappiano, Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Jean Joseph Exume and Dean Claudio Grossman.

 

          During this session, the Chairman of the Commission presented the Annual Report of the Commission to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council during the latter's meeting held on April 24, 1997.

 

 

          The Commission also held a hearing for the Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States, Ambassador Brian Dickson, who invited, in the name of his government, the IACHR to conduct a visit to that country to observe the process of determining how a person is granted refugee status and the remedies available to those who wish to seek refuge in Canada.  The Commission accepted the invitation of the distinguished Government of Canada.

 

          During this session, the Commission proceeded to amend Article 71, paragraph 1, of its Regulations, which now reads as follows:

 

          1.       The Commission shall delegate one or more persons to represent it as delegates in the consideration of any matter before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

            c.            97th regular session

 

          The 97th regular session took place between September 29 and October 17, 1997.  Participating in it were Ambassador John Donaldson, Chairman; Dr. Carlos M. Ayala Corao, First Vice Chairman; Professor Robert Kogod Goldman, Second Vice Chairman; and Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano and Dean Claudio Grossman.  Dr. Jean Joseph Exume was unable to attend this session because of poor health as a result of being assaulted in July 1997.

 

          During this session the Commission decided to create a report on freedom of expression.  In addition, it approved the preparations for an on-site visit that was carried out in Colombia in early December of last year.  The purpose of that visit was to observe directly the situation of human rights in that country.

 

          At the same time, the Commission discussed, approved and remitted to the Government of Bolivia on July 8, for observations, its report on its visit to that country in April of 1997.  The final report was approved on July 29 and remitted to the government, which accepted its recommendations.  The Commission will continue observing compliance with the recommendations made in that report.  Also, the Commission considered the findings of the on-site visit to the Dominican Republic from June 16 to 20, 1997 whose purpose was to observe the general situation of human rights in that country.  It approved the initial outline of the special report that will be prepared as a result of that visit.

 

          The Commission also considered the findings of the following visits:  To Mexico, in July 1997; to Brazil, which included the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Sao Paulo, July 1997; to Paraguay, also in early July, to participate in the Seminar on the Inter-American System of Human Rights held in Asuncion; and to Venezuela, on September 29 and 30, 1997, to observe judicial activities in connection with Case 11068.

 

          During the same 97th session, the Commission convened a hearing for the representatives of the Government of Panama and the Peruvian journalist, Gustavo Gorriti, the Associate Director of the La Prensa newspaper of Panama, who was faced with the imminent threat of deportation after the immigration authorities refused to extend his work permit.  According to the allegations, this was in reprisal for his work in the exercise of his professional activity.  During the meetings that were held, the representatives of the Government of Panama, after clarifying that there was no imminent threat of deportation, reported that on the 14th of September, Mr. Gorriti had been granted a work permit so that he could continue performing his work as a journalist and that the immigration authorities had been instructed to regularize his status.  The representatives of the petitioner expressed their satisfaction and their desire that, since a peaceful settlement of the issue had been reached, the IACHR would adopt the final report making note of that event.  Since the Commission thought that the decision fell within the framework of protection of human rights, it approved the settlement reached and decided to issue the report provided for in the American Convention.  That report appears in Chapter III of this Annual Report.

 

          During this same session, the Commission held a hearing for the representatives of Baruch Ivcher, an owner of a communications company, who filed a complaint against the state of Peru following the loss of Mr. Ivcher's Peruvian citizenship and the confiscation of his stock in the Frecuencia Latina television channel.  The Commission also took note that in partial compliance with the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Mrs. Maria Elena Loayza had been set free.  The Commission expressed its recognition to the state of Peru for this measure and exhorted it to comply fully with all parts of the Court's ruling of September 17, 1997.

 

          In addition, the Commission considered and approved the outline for the 1997 Annual Report which would be presented to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States which will take place in Caracas, Venezuela, next June.  It also decided to publish the report on the situation of human rights in Brazil as a result of the observation visit it conducted at the invitation of the government in December 1995.  That report was published at the end of November 1997.

 

          During the 97th session, the Commission decided to add a new paragraph to Article 63.h of its Regulations.  That paragraph now reads as follows:

 

          h.       Any general or special report that the Commission considers necessary with regard to the situation of human rights in the member states, noting in such reports the progress achieved and difficulties that have arisen in the effective observance of human rights.

 

          The Commission shall gather information for the preparation and publication of such reports from all sources it deems necessary for the protection of human rights.  Prior to its publication in the Annual Report, the Commission shall transmit a copy of that report to the state in question.  This state may send to the Commission any opinions it considers advisable within a maximum term of one month as from the forwarding date of the pertinent report.  The content of that report and the decision to publish it shall be the exclusive competence of the Commission.

 

          On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signature of the Charter of the Organization of American States and the approval of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man at the Ninth International Conference of American States held in Colombia, in May 1948, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights decided to organize a number of commemorative and formal ceremonies.  Taking into account the invitations made by the Governments of Venezuela and Colombia to hold special meetings and events to promote human rights in the cities of Caracas and Santafe de Bogota, it decided to accept those invitations and to hold those meetings in those capitals.

 

          During this session, as preparation for the Summit of the Americas that will take place in Santiago, Chile, next year, the Commission met with the Secretary General of the OAS, Dr. Cesar Gaviria, to take up its contribution to the human rights issues considered in the agenda of that meeting.  The Commission sees this summit as an important opportunity for the states of this hemisphere to restate their support for a stronger inter-American system.

 

            2. TWENTY-SEVENTH REGULAR SESSION OF THE OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

          During the twenty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly which took place in the Republic of Peru, in Lima, the Commission was represented by its Chairman, Ambassador John Donaldson, Dr. Carlos M. Ayala Corao, the First Vice Chairman, and Professor Robert Kogod Goldman, the Second Vice Chairman.  Also attending were the members, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, the Executive Secretary, and the Assistant Executive Secretaries, Drs. David Padilla and Domingo Acevedo.

 

          The General Assembly adopted several resolutions in the area of human rights and humanitarian law.  Because of their importance for the promotion and defense of human rights in the Americas and for consolidation of the Inter-American System, the following are mentioned:

 

          The resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1478 (XXVII-O/97).  Observations and Recommendations to the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

                    THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   HAVING SEEN the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CP/doc.2882/97) and the presentation thereof by the Chair of the Commission, as well as the observations and recommendations of the Permanent Council on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) (AG/doc.3492/97); and

 

          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That the member states of the Organization of American States have proclaimed in the Charter, as one of their principles, respect for the fundamental rights of the individual, without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex;

 

                   That the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, established at the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in Santiago in 1959, has as its principal function, pursuant to the Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, that of promoting the observance and protection of human rights;

 

                   That numerous member states have expressed the view that, when the IACHR is preparing a report on the human rights situation in a specific state, that state should be given the opportunity within a reasonable time to review the report so that it may present its observations; and

 

                   That the member states have reaffirmed the inextricable link between human rights, democracy, and development,

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To take note of and express appreciation for the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

                   2.       To urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to continue to promote the observance and protection of the human rights established in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights; to recognize the Commission's efforts to that end in the Hemisphere; and to urge the member states to continue to assist and support the Commission and to provide it with the resources it needs in order to fulfill its functions, within allocated resources approved in the program-budget and other resources.

 

                   3.       To welcome the observations and recommendations presented by the Permanent Council and to transmit them to the Commission along with those contained in this resolution.

 

                   4.       To express its satisfaction with the progress made in the effective observance of human rights in the region, in particular the measures being adopted by the member states to strengthen the promotion, observance, and defense of human rights in their respective countries; and to appeal to the member states to overcome the difficulties that still hinder the full exercise of human rights.

 

                   5.       To recommend to member states that have not yet done so that they sign, ratify, or accede to, as appropriate, in accordance with their constitutional and statutory requirements, the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San Josť, Costa Rica); the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, "Protocol of San Salvador"; and the other inter-American instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights.

 

                   6.       To urge the member states to guarantee and exercise special vigilance with regard to the human rights of indigenous populations, minors at risk, refugees, persons with disabilities, migrant workers and their families, detainees and prisoners, undervalued or minority groups, and victims of racial discrimination; to urge the member states to establish conditions that foster harmony and tolerance among them and all sectors of society; and to call upon the IACHR to continue paying special attention to these matters.

 

                   7.       To request the IACHR to continue to report on measures taken in response to the observations and recommendations of the Permanent Council that were transmitted by the General Assembly.

 

                   8.       To call the attention of the IACHR to the issue of the prior review by the concerned state of reports on the human rights situation in a specific state.

 

                   9.       To call upon the IACHR to continue to place special importance on dialogue with the member states regarding the progress achieved and the difficulties encountered in terms of effective promotion and protection of human rights in the Hemisphere.

 

                   10.     To condemn emphatically all forms of racism, racial or religious discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance; and to urge the member states to adopt effective measures to promote tolerance and eliminate all racist and discriminatory conduct.

 

                   11.     To request the IACHR to continue its work on the project to promote and protect the right of women in the Hemisphere to be free from discrimination against women, in conjunction with the member states and the competent bodies of the inter-American system.

 

                   12.     To thank the Commission for beginning to evaluate the situation of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere, to call upon the Commission to complete its evaluation as soon as possible, and to invite the member states to continue to assist the Commission when it so requests.

 

                   13.     To note with satisfaction the growing use of the friendly settlement mechanism, and to call upon the member states and the IACHR to continue to use this mechanism, within a framework of cooperation, in cases where it can produce a solution.

 

                   14.     To reiterate the importance of retaining the impartial and independent character of the membership of the IACHR as a key factor in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Hemisphere.

 

                   The resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1479 (XXVII-O/97).  Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

          THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   HAVING SEEN the observations and recommendations of the Permanent Council on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (AG/doc.3492/97); and


          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That, through resolution AG/RES. 1022 (XIX-O/89), the General Assembly requested the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to prepare a declaration on the rights of indigenous populations; and

 

                   That, on April 10, 1997, the Permanent Council received the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (CP/doc.2878/97 corr. 1), prepared by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To express its appreciation for and take note of the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," prepared by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

                   2.       To instruct the Permanent Council to study the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

 

                   3.       To express the view that the text of the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" should reflect the concerns of indigenous populations as well as the work of the United Nations in this area.

 

                   4.       To urge the member states to present to the Permanent Council, by December 31, 1997, their observations and recommendations on the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

 

                   5.       To request the Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Inter-American Indian Institute to transmit to the Permanent Council their comments on the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," taking into account any observations and recommendations presented by the member states.

 

                   6.       To instruct the Permanent Council to convene a meeting of government experts in this field, within allocated resources approved in the program-budget and other resources, upon receipt of the observations and comments referred to in the preceding paragraphs, and once it has carried out other activities it deems pertinent, with a view to the possible adoption of the "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" by the General Assembly at its twenty-eighth regular session.

 

          Resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1480 (XXVII-O-97).  The Human Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.

 

          THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   HAVING SEEN the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (document CP/doc.2882/97), Chapter VI of which contains a progress report on the situation of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere that states that a working group has been formed and a rapporteur appointed;

 

          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man proclaims that all persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties enshrined in that declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed, or any other factor;

 

                   That the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes that the essential human rights are not derived from one's being a national of a particular state but are based upon attributes of the human person, for which reason they merit international protection;

 

                   That each state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights must guarantee the rights recognized therein for all individuals present within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction;

 

                   That all states parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should pledge to guarantee the exercise of the rights set forth therein, without discrimination of any kind, particularly with regard to national origin;

 

                   That the Declaration of Principles of the Summit of the Americas held in 1994 states that it is politically intolerable and morally unacceptable for some sectors of our populations to be bypassed and not to share fully in the benefits of development, and that everyone should have access to the fruits of democratic stability and economic growth, without discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion; and

 

                   That the Plan of Action of that summit sets forth the commitment to review and strengthen the law governing protection of the rights of minority groups, so as to ensure that they are free from discrimination, guarantee them full and equal legal protection, and facilitate their active participation in society;

 

                   CONSIDERING ALSO the sovereign right of each state to formulate and apply its migration laws in the way that best meets its national interests, always in keeping with the principles and rules of international law and in a spirit of cooperation;

 

                   RECALLING that the Declaration of Montrouis:  A New Vision of the OAS states that increasing interdependence and economic integration require that the question of migrant workers and their families be addressed on the basis of solidarity among member states and with full respect for the dignity and rights of such persons;

 

                   RECALLING ALSO that, in the Declaration of Montrouis:  A New Vision of the OAS, concern is expressed over the situation of all migrant workers and their families, whose dignity and human and civil rights should be respected and protected by the member states;

 

                   BEARING IN MIND the statements made on the rights of migrant workers and their families within the framework of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) and, in particular, the references to this especially vulnerable population group in the Strategic Plan for Partnership for Development 1997-2001 and the Inter-American Program to Combat Poverty and Discrimination;

 

                   BEARING IN MIND ALSO that many migrant workers and their families are compelled to leave their homes in search of better opportunities and to escape the poverty that the member states are committed to eradicating, as noted in the Inter-American Program to Combat Poverty and Discrimination;

 

                   CONCERNED over the increasingly frequent expressions of racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment leveled at migrant workers and their families in various parts of the world;

 

                   TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the vulnerable situation in which many migrant workers and their families often find themselves, in part because they do not live in their states of origin; they have  difficulties owing to differences of language, customs, and culture; and their circumstances often lead to the breakdown of the family; and

 

                   CONVINCED that it is necessary to intensify efforts to improve the situation of all migrant workers and their families and guarantee their rights and their dignity,

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To reaffirm that the principles and standards set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights apply to all persons, including migrant workers and their families.

 

                   2.       To urge the states to promote and guarantee effective protection of the essential rights of all migrant workers and their families, in keeping with applicable international instruments and taking account of generally recognized humanitarian principles.

 

                   3.       To thank the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for its work in behalf of the rights of all migrant workers and their families, and to urge it to intensify its efforts with a view to presenting a thorough report on their situation.

 

                   4.       To urge the Permanent Council to continue to support the work of the IACHR in this area and to take into account the efforts of other international organizations in behalf of migrant workers and their families, with a view to helping to improve their situation in the Hemisphere.

 

                   5.       To urge the Inter-American Council for Integral Development to carry out projects and activities to benefit all migrant workers and their families, as an expression of inter-American solidarity and an essential element in the integral development of the member states.

 

                   6.       To request the councils of the Organization to present to the General Assembly, at its twenty-eighth regular session, a report, with recommendations, on the implementation of this resolution in their particular areas of competence.

 

          Resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1488 (XXVII-O/97).  Evaluation and Improvement of the Workings of the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

 

          THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   HAVING SEEN the report of the Permanent Council on evaluation and improvement of the workings of the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights (AG/doc.3481/97); the working document "Toward a New Vision of the Inter-American Human Rights System" (CP/doc.2828/96), presented to the Permanent Council by the Secretary General and now being considered by the governments; and the document "Seminar on the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights:  Conclusions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Minutes of the Statements Made by Participants (OEA/Ser/L/V/II.95, doc.28);

 

                   BEARING IN MIND that the member states of the Organization of American States have proclaimed in the Charter, as one of their principles, respect for the fundamental rights of the individual, without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex;

 

          RECALLING:

 

                   That Article 105 of the Charter stipulates that the "principal function" of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights "shall be to promote the observance and protection of human rights and to serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in these matters"; and

 

                   That, under the American Convention on Human Rights, it is within the authority of the General Assembly to adopt the statutes of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights;

 

                   AWARE that the international promotion and protection of human rights enhances and complements the protection offered by the internal law of member states and has as its cornerstone the dignity of the human being; and

 

          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That next year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Charter and the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, instruments that gave rise to the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights and have had a decisive influence on its subsequent development;

 

                   That after 38 years of activity in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and 18 years in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and 28 years after the signing of the Pact of San Josť, Costa Rica, along with acknowledging the achievements of the inter-American human rights system and underscoring its effective contribution to the observance of human rights in the Hemisphere, it is appropriate to continue to examine the system in order to formulate proposals to contribute to its improvement and strengthening;

 

                   That through resolution AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96), the General Assembly instructed the Permanent Council to evaluate the workings of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights with a view to initiating a process for its improvement, possibly by modifying the respective legal instruments and the working methods and procedures of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;

 

                   That the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs held several meetings to consider the evaluation and improvement of the inter-American human rights system, at which various governments made comments;

 

                   That, in April 1997, for the first time, a special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, convened by the Permanent Council [CP/RES. 687 (1089/96)] and attended by government experts, was held to consider evaluation and improvement of the inter-American human rights system, and at that meeting conclusions on the subject of the international promotion of human rights were formulated and firm progress was made in identifying mechanisms and criteria for improving the international protection of human rights in the Hemisphere; and

 

                   That it would be desirable to continue efforts toward improving the inter-American human rights system, including the possibility of evaluating the appropriate legal instruments and the working methods and procedures of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights,

 

 

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To note with satisfaction the report of the Permanent Council on evaluation and improvement of the workings of the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights.

 

                   2.       To welcome the conclusions of the special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on the international promotion of human rights in the inter-American system, as set forth in resolution AG/RES. 1489 (XXVII-O/97).

 

                   3.       To note with interest the results of the Seminar on the Inter-American System for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, sponsored by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from December 2 to 4, 1996, in Washington, D.C., as well as the working document "Toward a New Vision of the Inter-American Human Rights System," presented to the Permanent Council by the Secretary General.

 

                   4.       To instruct the Permanent Council to continue, in fulfillment of resolution AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96), through its Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs and with a view to strengthening and improving the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights, its comprehensive consideration of the various aspects of that system, formulating recommendations, as appropriate and through the corresponding organs, concerning possible reforms of the applicable legal instruments.

 

                   5.       To instruct the Permanent Council to submit to the General Assembly at its twenty-eighth regular session the recommendations referred to in the preceding paragraph as well as those on any other matter that could contribute to the improvement and strengthening of the inter-American human rights system.

 

                   6.       To instruct the Permanent Council to promote dialogue, through its Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs and in order to strengthen and improve the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights, with the due cooperation of the agencies and entities of the inter-American system and, when applicable, with the cooperation of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and, where appropriate, other governmental and nongovernmental organizations and institutions.

 

                   7.       To transmit this resolution to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

                   Resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1489 (XXVII-O/97).  International Promotion of Human Rights in the Inter-American System.

 

 

          THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   BEARING IN MIND that the member states of the Organization of American States have proclaimed in the Charter, as one of their principles, respect for the fundamental rights of the individual, without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex;

 

                   RECALLING that Article 105 of the Charter stipulates that the "principal function" of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights "shall be to promote the observance and protection of human rights and to serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in these matters"; and

 

          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That, in the current situation in the Hemisphere, which is characterized by representative democracy, the international promotion of human rights takes on fundamental importance and must be given strong impetus within the inter-American system; and

 

                   That the Permanent Council convened a special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on evaluation and improvement of the inter-American human rights system, with government experts in attendance, at which important criteria for enhanced promotion of human rights in the Hemisphere were adopted,

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To welcome the conclusions of the special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on international promotion of human rights in the inter-American system, which appear below:

 

INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

IN THE INTER-AMERICAN SYSTEM

 

                   1.       Given the present situation in the Hemisphere, which is characterized by representative democracy, the international promotion of human rights takes on fundamental importance and must be given strong impetus within the inter-American system.

 

                   2.       International promotion should focus on raising an awareness of human rights while fostering and strengthening a culture of tolerance, peace, and development in the Hemisphere.  To that end, there was a consensus to reiterate the appeal to sign, ratify, and/or accede to regional human rights instruments and to accept the adjudicatory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

                   3.       The promotion and protection of human rights are interdependent concepts that interact and reinforce one another.  Promotion helps to raise awareness of the rights and duties of the people and serves to prevent human rights violations.  The observance and defense of human rights are helpful in promoting them.

 

                   4.       Within this framework, greater impetus and appropriate approaches for IACHR human rights promotion tasks should be sought, without reducing protection activities.

 

                   5.       Emphasis was placed on the complementarity that exists between the international promotion of human rights and national promotion carried out by the member states, which have prime responsibility in the area of promotion.

 

                   6.       The promotion of human rights should be viewed from a broad perspective, on the basis of the criteria of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence.

 

                   7.       Among effective means for the international promotion of human rights are education, dissemination, fellowships, internships, and the exchange of experience among states.

 

                   8.       Human rights education and dissemination should encompass primarily all internationally recognized rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights; corresponding duties; and the guarantees, remedies, and procedures for the defense of human rights envisaged in both domestic laws and international instruments; as well as reports of the IACHR and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

                   9.       Promotional activities must be directed at the society as a whole through all levels of education, with special attention to the groups most at risk --including women, children, displaced persons, migrant workers, indigenous populations, and people with disabilities--and, in particular, specific sectors such as forces of law and order, judges, teachers, and political leaders.

 

                   10.     Dissemination must take place, inter alia, through the mass media, publications, audiovisual technology, and the Internet.

 

                   11.     Pursuant to the instruments governing it, the main function of the IACHR shall be to promote respect for and the defense of human rights at the regional level, with special attention given to the needs of member states in this area.  The IACHR will carry out this function in coordination with other competent OAS bodies and in cooperation with the agencies and entities of the inter-American system as well as the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations and institutions.

 

                   12.     To facilitate effective international promotion of human rights in the inter-American context, it would be advisable to receive support and financial resources from international organizations (such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme) and from their national counterparts (e.g., foundations, cooperation agencies).

 

                   13.     There was a consensus concerning the importance of an inter-American program for the international promotion of human rights, which would have to be submitted to the political organs of the Organization.

 

                   2.       To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to prepare, without reducing its protection activities and in collaboration and/or consultation with other pertinent organs and entities, a draft inter-American program for the international promotion of human rights, to be submitted to the Permanent Council for consideration before the twenty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly, a task that should be carried out within the allocated resources approved in the program-budget and other resources.

 

          3.       To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its twenty-eighth regular session on the implementation of this resolution.

 

 

          Resolution adopted at the seventh plenary session, held on June 5, 1997, AG/RES. 1503 (XXVII-O/97).  Respect for International Humanitarian Law.

 

          THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

 

                   CONSIDERING its resolutions AG/RES. 1270 (XXIV-O/94), AG/RES. 1335 (XXV-O/95), and AG/RES. 1408 (XXVI-O/96) on respect for international humanitarian law;

 

                   CONVINCED of the continuing value of the fundamental principles and established rules of international humanitarian law and of the need to respect and ensure respect for these rules in all circumstances;

 

                   STRESSING the need to consolidate the existing body of international humanitarian law by achieving universal acceptance thereof, the need for wide dissemination and full implementation of that law at the national level, and the need to repress all violations of its provisions;

 

          CONSIDERING:

 

                   That the Organization of American States proclaims the fundamental rights of the individual and encourages the promotion of those rights; and

 

                   That all member states should raise awareness of international humanitarian law in their respective countries;

 

                   RECALLING the continuing efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to promote and disseminate knowledge of international humanitarian law and the activities it carries out in its capacity as a specifically neutral and independent intermediary; and

 

                   RECALLING ALSO the cooperation agreement signed by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States and the International Committee of the Red Cross on May 10, 1996, in the city of Washington, D.C., as well as the Seminar on International Humanitarian Law, held jointly by the General Secretariat and the ICRC in January 1997,

 

          RESOLVES:

 

                   1.       To appeal to all member states that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Convention at the earliest possible date.

 

                   2.       To call upon all member states that are parties to the 1977 Additional Protocol I and those who have not yet signed it but intend to do so to make the declaration provided for under Article 90 thereof.

 

                   3.       To urge member states to consider the possibility of examining the adoption, as necessary, of national enabling laws and regulations, to apply and disseminate international humanitarian law, and to monitor its implementation, with particular emphasis on:

 

- The adoption of adequate criminal legislation to punish war crimes in international conflicts and other serious violations of international humanitarian law;

 

- The adoption of measures to prevent misuse of the red cross and red crescent emblems and other signs provided for in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols; and

 

- The dissemination of the appropriate humanitarian treaties among the armed forces, security forces, and the general public and the appointment and training of persons qualified in international humanitarian law including legal advisers within the armed forces.

 

                   4.       To encourage member states to consider the possibility of examining the establishment of national advisory committees on international humanitarian law to ensure its effective implementation.

 

                   5.       To invite member states to continue their cooperation with the ICRC in its various areas of responsibility and to facilitate its work.

 

                   6.       To invite the member states to consider information submitted by the ICRC relating to the implementation of international humanitarian law.


            3.            VISITS MADE BY THE COMMISSION

 

            a.            Visit to Bolivia

 

          Between April 26 and May 2, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Bolivia at the invitation of that country's government.  The purpose of the visit was to investigate events that occurred in December 1996 in the locales of Amayapampa, Llallagua and Capasirca, situated in the northern part of the Department of Potosi.  There several mine workers were killed as a result of acts allegedly committed by the armed forces of Bolivia.

 

          Participating in the visit were the Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador John S. Donaldson, and Commission members Dean Claudio Grossman and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume.  The Commission members were assisted during the visit by the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla, and by the attorney of the Secretariat charged with Bolivian affairs, Dr. Milton Castillo.  Mrs. Ana Cecilia Adriazola served as administrative support staff.

 

          As part of its activities, a group of the IACHR delegation went to the place of the events where the group conducted an inspection and listened to several accounts given by mine workers and rural people of the area.  The Commission also met with the family members of the deceased and a group of wounded persons from the Siglo XX University of Llallagua, and the Commission traveled to Amayapampa and Capasirca where it heard testimony from trade union leaders and local residents.

 

          The investigation conducted during the on-site visit and the statements given during it helped to gather more information about the events that occurred in northern Potosi in December 1996.  The Commission's investigation ended with the preparation of a report on the extent of the responsibility of the Bolivian state in the events that were the subject of investigation.

 

            b.            Visit to the Dominican Republic

 

          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to the Dominican Republic with the consent of the government.  Its purpose was to observe the general situation of human rights in that country.  The visit took place between June 16 and 20, 1997.

 

          Participating in the visit were the following Commission members:  Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Chairman; Dean Claudio Grossman and Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejia.  The Commission had the support of Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, the Executive Secretary, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy, Senior Specialist and officer in charge of Dominican Republic affairs, and attorneys Ibrahim Garcia and Denise Gilman, as well as Ms. Tania Hernandez and Mrs. Ana Cecilia Adriazola, IACHR secretaries.

 

          During the course of the visit, the Commission conducted an extensive work program in the city of Santo Domingo and also in the city of Barahona.  The Commission also visited the La Victoria prison and the San Pedro de Macoris jail, for the purpose of observing conditions in those penal facilities and the situation of the prisoners.          The Commission also visited a number of sugar mills to observe the conditions in which sugar cane cutters work.

 

          In ending its visit, the Commission undertook a study and evaluation of the observations made for the purpose of preparing its final report.

 

            c.            Visit to Canada

 

          At the invitation of the Federal Government of Canada, the Commission visited that country from October 20 to 22, 1997.  The purpose of its visit was to observe the process of determining how a person is granted refugee status in Canada and the remedies that that country offers to those who request it.  During their visit, the Commission members visited Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

 

          The delegation of the Commission consisted of Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Chairman, Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, First Vice Chairman, Professor Robert K. Goldman, Second Vice Chairman, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Dean Claudio Grossman and Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano, Commission members.  Assisting the members were the following Secretariat staff:  Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Drs. Relinda Eddie and Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, Secretariat attorneys and Mrs. Gabriela Hageman and Ms. Tania Hernandez, administrative staff.

 

            d.            Visit to Colombia

 

          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Colombia at the invitation of that country's government on December 1, 1997.  The purpose of the visit was to observe the general situation of human rights.  The visit lasted until December 8.  This visit took place five years after the last on-site visit by the Commission to that country.

 

          Participating in the visit were the following Commission members:  Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Chairman; Professor Carlos M. Ayala Corao, First Vice Chairman, Professor Robert K. Goldman, Second Vice Chairman, Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano, Dean Claudio Grossman and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume.  Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejia, also a member of the Commission, did not participate in the visit because, the Regulations barred him from doing so because he is a Colombian.  Dr. Helio Bicudo, an elected member of the Commission, participated as advisor.  The Commission was assisted by Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla, the Assistant Executive Secretary, and the attorneys of the Executive Secretariat, Drs. Osvaldo Kreimer, Denise Gilman and Mario Lopez Garelli.  Administrative support came from Madam Gabriela Hageman, Gloria Hansen and Martha Keller.

 

          During the course of the visit, the Commission carried out its work program in a number of places in the country, among them, Bogota, Medellin, Uraba, Puerto Asis and Villavicencio.  The Commission members also went to the lands of the Uwa indigenous people in Boyaca.

 

          The information received has been processed and examined for the purpose of preparing the third report on the status of human rights in Colombia.

 

            e.         Commission activities in Lima during the twenty-seventh regular session of the OAS General Assembly

 

          As a result of being in Lima, Peru, to participate in the twenty-seventh regular session of the OAS General Assembly, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received information through the communications media and a personal interview held at the request of the affected parties involving a situation arising from the dismissal, by the Congress of the Republic of Peru, of three members of the Constitutional Tribunal and the consequent resignation of the chief justice of that high court.

 

          The Commission saw that several groups of Peruvian society made their thoughts known by pointing to the seriousness of these events because of the negative effect that they had on democracy and the state of law and, in particular, on the independence and impartiality of judges, a fundamental factor for the protection of human rights.  For this reason, the Commission exhorted the state of Peru to guarantee, through public sector organs, due respect for the independence, impartiality and independence of the constitutional court, in order to achieve its consolidation as the highest level of appeal of the constitution and of human rights, and to enable that court to renew regular operations as soon as possible.

 

            f.            Visits of special IACHR committees

 

          During the year covered in this report, special IACHR committees also conducted a number of special visits.  Among them, the following may be mentioned:

 

          A visit to Colombia in February, 1997, to meet with government authorities and with petitioners in connection with several cases that are in the process of friendly settlement.  Participating in that visit were Professor Robert K. Goldman, rapporteur for Colombia, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary and Denise Gilman, an attorney.  The Committee visited Bogota, Medellin and Trujillo during the time the members were in Colombia.

 

          Visit to Mexico, in July 1997, to meet with government authorities and with petitioners in connect with several cases that are in the process of friendly settlement.  Participating in this visit were Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, First Vice Chairman of the IACHR, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary and Ibrahim Garcia, attorney.

 

          Visit to Brazil, which included the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Sao Paulo, in July 1997, for the purpose of conducting interviews with senior authorities and petitioners to discuss general aspects of the relationship between the state and the work of the Commission.  The members of the delegation were Professor Robert K. Goldman, Rapporteur for Brazil, and Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, Secretariat attorney.

 

          Visit to Paraguay, also in early July 1997, to participate in the seminar on the Inter-American System of Human Rights held in Asuncion and to attend several hearings dealing with friendly settlement procedures of cases before the Commission.  This delegation consisted of Commission members Dean Claudio Grossman, Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Dr. Oscar L. Fappiano, and Dr. Christina Cerna, Secretariat attorney.

 

          Visit to Venezuela, on September 29 and 30, 1997, to observe legal activities in Case 11068 (Eleazar Ramon Maveres), aimed at punishing those responsible in that case.  The special IACHR delegation was made up of Commission member Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano and attorney Milton Castillo.

 

            5.         COMMISSION ACTIVITIES IN CONNECTION WITH THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

 

            a.            Combined working activities of the Commission and the Court

 

          On September 5 and 6, 1997, a work meeting took place between the judges of the Court and the members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, while the thirty-seventh regular session of the Court was underway.  Participating in that meeting were, in behalf of the Commission, Chairman, Ambassador John Donaldson, the Second Vice Chairman, Professor Robert Goldman, and members, Drs. Alvaro Tirado Mejia and Oscar Lujan Fappiano, and Dean Claudio Grossman.  Also in attendance were Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary, and Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary.  This meeting also took up matters of common interest relating to the operations of the organs that protect the Inter-American System of Human Rights.

 

          During the meeting, the members of the Commission and the Court examined a series of general and specific questions.  Among the former, one was the 50th anniversary of the Organization of American States.  In this connection, the Court and the Commission were pleased to accept a personal invitation from Ambassador Jorge Michelson Rueda, in the name of the Government of the Republic of Colombia, to attend a celebration in Santafe de Bogota on April 29 and 30, 1998.  The Commission member Alvaro Tirado Mejia, who also serves as secretary for the organizing committee of this event in Colombia, provided some explanation of the nature and scope of the celebration.

 

          Another important general matter concerns the Summit of the Americas.  The Commission and the Court, after exchanging information and opinions, decided to play a larger role at the upcoming summit both in the area of human rights and in their position as the organs that protect and promote human rights and provide the fundamental mechanism of the Inter-American System.

 

          The joint meeting also was useful to examine the issue of refining the system, including the possibility of expanding the role of the victim in contentious cases.

 

          In connection with this subject, the Court and the Commission decided to consider specific proposals at some future meeting.

 

          Finally, the judges of the Court and the members of the Commission examined in detail a large number of procedural issues associated with litigation, including important subjects such as evidence and its evaluation for purposes of establishing reparations, the separate opinions of victims about the reparations, requests and verification of precautionary measures, presentation of witnesses and documentary evidence at hearings, the scope and cost of reparations, the nature of the actions before the Commission and the Court regarding their confidentiality, and translations and notifications of presentations from the parties and the judgments.

 

          One of the specific procedural questions examined related to amending the regulations of the Commission and specifically Article 71.1.  This article now allows any person to be designated as the Commission's representative for the purposes of litigation before the Court.  This important reform will enable the Commission to be much more flexible in the handling of cases before the Court and the work of the Commission before the twenty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly to be held in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

            6.            OTHER ACTIVITIES

 

          In 1997 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continued its exchange program with the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples.  In its 95th and 97th sessions, the Commission welcomed the following members from the African Commission:  Professor E.V.O. Dankwa, Mr. Mohamed Kamel Razzag-Bara, Judge Robert Habesh Kisanga, Professor U. Oji Umozurike, Dr. V.V.D.M. Duarte-Martins and Dr. Julia Harrinton, attorney of the Commission.  All these persons participated as observers during the meetings.  For its part, the Inter-American Commission, represented by its Assistant Executive Secretary, David J. Padilla, attended the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the creation of the African Commission at its headquarters in Banjul, Gambia, on November 1 to 5, 1997.

 

          In 1997, the Commission carried out activities to disseminate the rights of native peoples and in particular, the proposal that it approved on the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Besides other activities, the Commission collaborated in the organization and execution of the Forum on Democracy and Human Rights, held in Washington in May 1997, with the participation of the Secretary General, the directors of indigenous agencies and international agencies.  The Commission also presented this subject at a number of forums, among them, the Training Program for Latin American Magistrates at American University (November 1997) and the seminar on Ten Years of Human Rights Work in Suriname (Paramaribo, Suriname, May 1997) and at the meeting on Constitutionality and Indigenous Rights, organized by the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico in May 1997.

 

          The Commission also participated in the African Human Rights Camp (HURISA, ACCRA, October, 1997) in Ghana by explaining the characteristics of the Inter-American Human Rights System to magistrates and attorneys from a number of African countries.

 

          The Commission has continued its involvement in the joint effort conducted by the armed forces of the member countries to establish an institutional culture of respect for human rights.  To this end, it participated in the Inter-Ministerial Defense Conference (Miami, February 1997) and in two technical  follow-up seminars to measure the respect for human rights by military forces in Panama (June 1997) and Miami (February 1998).  All of these events were organized jointly by the Southern Command of the United States Army and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.

 

          Through the Office of Executive Secretary, the Commission also collaborated, at the invitation of the Southern Command of the United States Army, in an evaluation activity of the School of the Americas (Fort Benning, Georgia) in June 1997.  In this activity, the Commission offered the school authorities its opinions regarding the teaching of human rights in courses for military personnel at the school.

 

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