ANNUAL REPORT OF THE IACHR 2006
4. Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty in the Americas
72. In 2006, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty, Commission member Florentín Meléndez, continued to participate in numerous promotional activities, to conduct on-site observations, and to provide advisory services to the member states. The Rapporteur also publicly expressed his concern over recurring incidents that have been affecting the life, dignity, and right to humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the Americas.
73. First, the Rapporteur participated in several events aimed at establishing a closer dialogue and cooperation with the representatives and officials of the member states. In that vein, the Rapporteur made two presentations to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) of the Organization of American States, in March and October of 2006 while the Commission was in session in Washington, D.C. Rapporteur Meléndez also participated in the Sixth Meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA-VI) held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on April 24, 2006, during which he gave a presentation on best practices and penitentiary reform in the hemisphere. Finally, the Rapporteur taught classes at the II Specialized Course for foreign ministry and government officials on the use of the inter-American system for the protection of human rights, sponsored by the Inter-American Court, the IACHR, and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights from September 26 to October 3, 2006 in San Jose, Costa Rica.
74. In 2006 massive acts of violence, uprisings, and hunger strikes occurred in the jails of different countries of the region, often at the cost of numerous human lives. Consequently, the Rapporteurship issued some press releases, and on several occasions solicited information from the States on measures adopted to guarantee the life and humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, as well as urging exhaustive investigations of the incidents, so as to establish criminal or administrative liability and guarantee that such acts are not repeated. The Rapporteur reiterated the need for the authorities to adopt effective preventive measures to address the precarious conditions in many of the penitentiary systems in the region, particularly the high rates of overcrowding and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
75. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur traveled to several countries of the region, including the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina to observe first-hand the detention conditions of persons deprived of their liberty in those countries. The Commission is grateful to the Governments of the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina for all the support and facilities provided to ensure the success and independence of the visits.
76. During his trip to the Dominican Republic from August 8 to 12, 2006, the Special Rapporteur visited the Higuey Public Jail, the La Victoria National Penitentiary, and the Center for the Comprehensive Care of Juvenile Offenders. He also visited detention centers whose facilities and administrative and disciplinary system are part of the new penitentiary model. This includes the Dajabón, Puerto Plata, Rafey Mujeres, Rafey Hombres, and Najayo Mujeres Correction and Rehabilitation Centers, as well as the Monte Plata Model Jail. During his visit the Rapporteur met with senior authorities in the penitentiary system. He led a workshop on the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, and on the inter-American system for the protection of penitentiary system personnel at the Penitentiary School. He also met with members of civil society organizations, for whom he gave a workshop on the rights of persons deprived of their liberty and the inter-American system’s protection mechanisms.
77. During his visit to Brazil from September 20 to 22, 2006, which was limited to the state of São Paulo, the Rapporteur verified the situation of persons deprived of their liberty on whose behalf provisional measures were ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In that context, the Rapporteur visited the Tatuapé Internment Center for Juvenile Offenders, run by FEBEM (Fundação Estadual do Bem-Estar do Menor de São Paulo). The purpose was to conduct on-site follow-up on compliance with the provisional measures granted on behalf of children and youth deprived of their liberty in that detention center. The Rapporteur also visited the Dr. Sebastião Martins Silveira Penitentiary (Araraquara Penitentiary) and Serra Azul Penitentiary I in order to gather information and interview the beneficiaries of said measures and their families, and thus provide the Inter-American Court with information on that situation for a subsequent hearing. On September 30, 2006, the Inter-American Court issued a Resolution on Provisional Measures on behalf of persons deprived of their liberty at the Araraquara Penitentiary. During his visit, the Rapporteur also met with representatives of the beneficiaries of both provisional measures, with representatives of the Federal Government, and with senior authorities in the Government of São Paulo.
78. The on-site observation in Bolivia took place from November 12 to 17, 2006 during the Commission’s visit to that country. Rapporteur Meléndez visited various detention centers from November 12 to 14 in order to witness prison conditions and respect for the rights of persons deprived of their liberty. First he visited the Chonchocorro maximum security prison in the city of El Alto. On November 14, the Rapporteur visited the San Pedro Jail and the Orientación Femenina Obrajes Center, both in La Paz. During the jail visits he interviewed inmates and their families, petitioners in cases before the Commission who are deprived of their liberty, and penitentiary staff. The Rapporteur and other members of the Commission also held meetings on prison issues with the Director General of the Penitentiary System, spokespersons of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Vice-Minister of Government, and various civil society organizations that defend the rights of persons deprived of their liberty.
79. The visit to Argentina, which was limited to the Province of Buenos Aires, was from December 3 to 5, 2006. On December 3, Rapporteur Meléndez conducted on-site observations of the Lomas de Zamora 10 and Esteban Echeverría 3 Police Stations. On December 4, the Rapporteur visited Units 36 and 28 of the Magdalena Complex, the Villa Devoto Penitentiary, Women’s Unit 31 of the Ezeiza Complex, and Unit 20 of the Borda Men’s Psychiatric Service. During the visit the Rapporteur also met with senior authorities in the federal and provincial penitentiary services, and with members of civil society organizations that work on detention centers in the Province of Buenos Aires.
80. The Special Rapporteur also served as a delegate of the Commission to public hearings on provisional measures and contentious cases relating to the rights of persons deprived of their liberty in several countries, including: Provisional Measures at the Penitentiaries of Mendoza, Argentina, and the case of Vargas Areco vs. Paraguay, held in Brazilia, Brazil on March 30, 2006; the case of Hugo Juarez Cruzatt vs. Peru regarding the Castro Castro prison, held on June 26 and 27, 2006 in San Salvador, El Salvador; and the hearing on Urgent Measures at the Araraquara, Brazil Penitentiary held in San José, Costa Rica on September 28, 2006.
81. Finally, the Rapporteur advanced the process of consultation on the Draft Declaration of Principles on the Protection of Persons Deprived of their Liberty in the Americas. This draft declaration seeks to promote the use of principles recognized in the various international instruments to protect the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, as well as new principles that are emerging in this area from the jurisprudence of the inter-American system of human rights.
82. On July 17, 2006 the Commission sent a questionnaire to the 34 member states of the OAS and to more than 60 civil society organizations, including international, regional, and national organizations in the member states of the OAS. As of December 2006, the Commission had received replies from the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Argentina; and from such international and regional organizations as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, the International Centre for Prison Studies, the Human Rights Centre at Essex University, Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and International Law, and Mental Disability Rights International; and from civil society organizations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay.
83. The Draft Declaration is now being revised on the basis of analysis of the comments submitted by the aforementioned member states and civil society organizations. The Rapporteur expects to submit the draft to the seven members of the Commission for their approval during the next session.
5. Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and against Racial Discrimination
84. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendents and to Fight Racism and all Forms of Discrimination continued its work in 2006, and participated in several meetings in the Americas. Rapporteur Clare Roberts attended the International Conference of African and Diaspora Intellectuals held in Salvador, Bahía, Brazil. The Rapporteur also participated in the Regional Conference of the Americas on accomplishments and challenges in the program of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance held in Brazilia, Brazil. These are two very important forums for debate on ways to combat racism and to develop strategies to help implement public policies to reduce social inequalities that have resulted from racism.
85. During the 126th regular session of the IACHR, the Rapporteur submitted a report to the Commission on affirmative action in the Americas. The Rapporteur also submitted a report on admissibility and another for publication (the case of Simone André Diniz vs. the Republic of Brazil) on racial discrimination in the workplace. In that case he affirmed that the country’s system of justice had failed by not allowing a victim of racism access to the courts.
86. The Rapporteur has been conducting studies and following reports of discrimination in the Americas. He also gave support to the Working Group of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council of the OAS that is working on a Draft American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination. He is currently analyzing the draft and contributing to the discussion of the final draft.
87. The Rapporteur emphasized the need to raise awareness that racism is a tool used to exclude political minorities and hinder their access to full enjoyment of citizen’s rights in the Americas. Many cases of human rights violations are against afro descendents and indigenous peoples, which shows that these are vulnerable groups, and that therefore, they need the special protection of government agencies and of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
6. Special Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families
88. During 2006 the Special Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families continued its promotional and advisory activities. In March of 2006 the Commission held hearings on the situation created by the General Migration Law of the Dominican Republic, and on the situation of migrant workers in Costa Rica. During the special session held in Guatemala City in July of 2006, the Commission received information on the free trade agreements and human rights in Central America, a topic which also impacts migrant issues.
89. The Special Rapporteurship has also continued to help the Commission review petitions and requests for precautionary measures that it received regarding migrant workers.
90. In light of the special interest that several member states have expressed in this topic, in its seventh progress report included in the 2005 Annual Report of the IACHR, the Rapporteurship decided to address the issue of sending States’ obligation to protect and guarantee the human rights of migrant workers. The Rapporteurship was able to document that protection or violation of a right is often contingent upon prompt and effective diplomatic or consular representation of the migrant worker before the authorities of the receiving State.
91. It is noteworthy that from August 2005 to the end of 2006 the Special Rapporteurship did not have any additional funds with which to carry out its activities, and therefore its work dwindled. In November of 2006 a sizeable donation was received from the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The Rapporteurship noted the value of that support and hopes that interest expressed by other States and organizations will also result in financial contributions.
92. Among the activities that this financial support made possible was the Rapporteurship’s participation in a workshop in November of 2006 on behalf of the Commission, called “Migrant Workers: Protection of Labour Rights and Labour Market Programs.” The event, organized by the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor, was held in Ottawa, Canada. One of the objectives of the workshop was to promote dialogue and cooperation among Ministers of Labor in the Americas to promote the labor rights of migrant workers and cooperation in the migration processes implemented by States according to their respective legal systems; to exchange experiences with programs to promote and protect the labor rights of migrant workers and labor market programs, with special emphasis on Canada’s temporary worker program; and to identify lessons learned and guidelines for future action in this field in the inter-American system.
7. Unit for Human Rights Defenders
93. During its 124th regular session the Commission approved the Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. The IACHR published this Report in fulfillment of the mandate handed down by the General Assembly of the OAS in AG/Res 1818 of June 5, 2001. The Report was presented to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on September 14, 2006. On October 18 the Secretary General of the OAS presented the Report to the representatives of the member states and representatives of civil society.
94. In 2006 the activities of the unit for human rights defenders revolved around disseminating the Report. To this end, various forums, roundtables, and formal and informal presentations were organized in different countries of the region, including El Salvador. As part of the program of activities planned around the holding of a special session of the Inter-American Court in that country, the Commission presented the Report to human rights organizations from several Central American countries and to Salvadoran authorities. The Report was also presented in Guatemala during a special session of the Commission in that country, and in Peru during a working visit by the Commission. The Report was also the focus of programs at such institutions and organizations as American University, the Carter Center, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. This last program was attended by a special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani. The unit also participated in a round table discussion of the Report during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which included the participation of some States, a representative of the Council of Europe, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Human Rights Defenders.
95. The unit continued to work on individual cases and petitions, as well as to examine and follow-up on precautionary measures on behalf of human rights defenders in the hemisphere.
E. Activities of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in connection with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
96. In 2006 the Commission continued litigation of several matters before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
97. Between January 1 and December 31, 2006, the Commission presented fourteen (14) cases before the Inter-American Court: García Prieto Giralt (El Salvador), La Cantuta (Peru), Cantoral Huamaní and García Santa Cruz (Peru), La Rochela (Colombia), Bueno Alves (Argentina), Escué (Colombia), Boyce et al. (Barbados), Chaparro Álvarez et al. (Ecuador), Twelve Saramaka Clans (Suriname), Cornejo et al. (Ecuador), Zambrano et al. (Ecuador), Ruggeri Cova et al. - First Administrative Litigation Court (Venezuela), Salvador Chiriboga (Ecuador), and Yvon Neptune (Haiti).
98. Also in 2006, the Commission participated in numerous public hearings before the Court. This included hearings of the LXX, LXXI and LXXII regular periods of sessions of the Court held at its headquarters, as well as the XXVII, XXVIII and XXIX extraordinary periods of sessions held in Brasilia, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and San Salvador, El Salvador. In these periods of sessions, hearings were held in the cases Nogueira de Carvalho (Brazil), Vargas Areco (Paraguay), Almonacid Arellano (Chile), Claude Reyeset al. (Chile), Retén de Catia (Venezuela), Castro Castro Prison (Peru), Employees Dismissed from Congress (Peru), La Cantuta (Peru), and in provisional measures "La Pica" Judicial Detention Center (Venezuela), Prisons in Mendoza (Argentina), Millacura Llaipén et al. (Argentina), Araraquara Penitentiary (Brazil).
99. In the period that comprises the present report, the Commission also took note of various sentences dictated by the Court on cases submitted for its consideration, including rulings on merits, reparations and costs in the cases Pueblo Bello (Colombia), López Álvarez (Honduras), Acevedo Jaramillo et al. - SITRAMUN (Peru), Sawhoyamaxa (Paraguay), Baldeón García (Peru), La Granja y el Aro – Ituango (Colombia), Ximenes Lopes (Brazil), Retén de Catia (Venezuela), Servellón García et al. (Honduras), Goiburú, Mancuello and Villalba (Paraguay), Vargas Areco (Paraguay), Claude Reyes et al. (Chile), Almonacid Arellano (Chile), Employees Dismissed from Congress (Peru), Nogueira de Carvalho (Brazil) and La Cantuta (Peru); and rulings of interpretation in the cases Yakye Axa (Paraguay), Raxcacó Reyes (Guatemala), Moiwana (Suriname), Yean and Bosico (Dominican Republic), Acevedo Jaramillo et al. - SITRAMUN (Peru) and Pueblo Bello Massacre (Colombia).