1.       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.


          2.       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 attorney.


          3.       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 Americas.


          4.       In addition, the Commission also conducted specific visits to detention centers and prisons to countries in the Americas.[1] During these visits, the Commission was able to obtain personal knowledge and information of conditions of detention in the countries visited.


          5.       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 the same. 


          6.       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



          7.       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.


          8.       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.


          9.       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 Americas.





          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 freedoms. 




          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 hemisphere.[2]  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 life. 


          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.[3]


          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.[4] 


          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 this project.


          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.



                                         AND THEIR FAMILIES IN THE HEMISPHERE



          I.          INTRODUCTION


          1.       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)[5] 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."


          2.       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."


          II.        FIRST PHASE OF THE STUDY


          3.       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 hemisphere.


          4.       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.


          5.       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.


          6.       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.


          7.       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.


          8.       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.


          9.       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.




          10.     The 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."[6] 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.[7]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.[8]  







          13.     Prepare, 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.


          14.     Conduct 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.

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    [1] During this period, visits were made to Brazil, Ecuador, Jamaica, United States, and Venezuela.

    [2] 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.

    [3] These developments were referred to prospectively in the project update published in the Commission's Annual Report for 1995, see, OEA/Ser. L/V/II.91, Doc. 7 rev., Feb. 28, 1996, at Chapter V.

    [4] The French and Portuguese translations of the questionnaire were sent out several weeks later.

    [5] OEA/Ser.P/XXVI-O.2, Certified Texts of the Declarations and Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-sixth regular session, 25 September 1996.

    [6] 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.

     [7] Article 2 of the Convention provides:

          (a)      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 a week;

          (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;

          (c)      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;

          (d)      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 national;

          (e)      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;

          (f)      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;

          (g)      The term "specified-employment worker" refers to a migrant worker:

                   (i)       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

                   (ii)      who engages  for a restricted and defined period of time in work that requires professional, commercial, technical, or other highly specialized skill; or

                   (iii)     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;

          (h)      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.

     [8]The 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.