Pursuant to its analysis and reporting on the human rights situation in the member states of the OAS during this reporting period, and taking into account the priority issues it has identified as a result and those that have been identified within the regional framework, the Commission formulates the following recommendations:



          1.        That the member states take the steps to advance and consolidate the administration of justice in their domestic legal systems


          Given the fundamental role played by the judiciary in discharging the responsibility of each member state to respect and protect the human rights of those subject to its jurisdiction, a role of primordial importance in a democratic society, the Commission recommends that member states:


          Take the steps necessary to protect the integrity and independence of members of the judiciary in the performance of their judicial functions, and specifically in relation to the processing of human rights violations; in particular, judges must be free to decide matters before them without any influence, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, for any reason or from any quarter.


          Adopt the measures required to ensure that every human rights violation is subjected to a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation, and that those responsible are submitted to the appropriate processes of prosecution and punishment.


          Governments should ensure that lawyers, prosecutors and human rights monitors are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.  Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they should be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.


          That member states that have not already done so take the legislative and other measures necessary, pursuant to Article 2 of the American Convention, to ensure that civilians charged with criminal offenses of any kind be tried by ordinary courts which offer all the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality, and that the jurisdiction of military tribunals be confined to strictly military offenses.

          2.        That the member states take measures to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies and personnel to fulfill their mission to maintain the peace and provide security while fully respecting the protected rights and freedoms of the individuals within their charge


          Law enforcement is a basic function of the state, one which, in line with the impetus in our hemisphere toward consolidating democracy, is necessarily subordinate to the appropriate institutions of civilian government.  While the state structures charged with enforcing the law have evolved in certain instances to correspond with transitions to democratic governance, the Commission is concerned that in some countries, personnel are hired without appropriate screening, are placed in service without adequate training, and that their agencies lack the human and material resources required to discharge their mission.  Additionally, the Commission recommends that the member states put in practice the norms of the United Nations concerning the conduct of law enforcement officials.


          The Commission is particularly concerned with the proliferation of private sector security personnel, who may be directed by employers to use measures of force, and who may by utilized without sufficient public sector monitoring or regulation.  The Commission consequently recommends that member states review the norms applicable to the provision of private sector security services, and the systems to monitor such activity to ascertain where there may be lacunae in coverage and fill them, and take steps to ensure that the provision of such services, to the extent they may be permitted by law, neither conflicts with public sector duties nor infringes upon individual liberties.


          3.        That the member states develop new initiatives in favor of protecting the rights of children, who, by reason of their status and vulnerability, are entitled to special protection to safeguard their development


          Article 19 of the American Convention and Article VII of the American Declaration reflect the hemispheric consensus that children are entitled to special measures of protection.  The children of the Americas represent the future possibility for our region to attain the "system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man" set out as our objective in the preamble of the American Convention.  The survival and development of children throughout our hemisphere are imperiled by conditions of poverty and exploitation.  The basic needs of many children, including sufficient food, clothing, housing and education, are not met, and this in turn renders them vulnerable to other abuses.  The values of our societies and of our region are reflected in the treatment accorded to our young; the interests of children must be accorded priority status with a corresponding allocation of resources and effort in their favor.



          With this in mind, the Commission recommends as basic steps:


          That each member state implement concrete measures to ensure that every child within its jurisdiction has access to the education necessary for his or her full development, and to participate effectively in a democratic and pluralistic society.  Primary education must be compulsory and available to all without charge.  Secondary education should be generally available, as indicated in the Protocol of San Salvador, through the progressive introduction of free education where that does not already exist.


          That each member state adopt the legislative and administrative measures, including systems of application and monitoring, to ensure that when minors under the age of 16 must work, that this is subordinated to the requisites of school attendance and educational performance, and further, as established in Article 7.f of the Protocol of San Salvador, to guarantee "the prohibition of night work or unhealthy or dangerous working conditions and, in general, of all work which jeopardizes health, safety or morals for persons under 18 years of age." 



          4.        That the member states of the OAS develop and amplify measures to counter and eradicate gender-based discrimination


          Given that the member states have accorded priority status to action aimed at enhancing the ability of women to participate fully and equally in national life, through the eradication of the gender-based discrimination which constitutes an obstacle to the social and economic development of our countries, and considering that, notwithstanding important advances, discrimination against women persists in law and in fact, the Commission recommends that:


          The member states that have ratified the Convention of Belém do Pará take concrete steps to ensure the right of women to be free from violence in the public and private spheres, and to be free from all forms of discrimination, and recommends that the member states that have not yet become Parties, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and the United States, take the steps to ratify or accede to this innovative regional instrument.


          That member states which have not already done so introduce gender perspective and analysis in the design and implementation of public policy; and,


          That member states amplify initiatives designed to expand the number of qualified women serving in elected and appointed public office and augment the role of women in decision making in the public sphere.


      That member states that have yet to respond to the questionnaire sent out by the Commission in connection with the project of its Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights on the "Status of Women in the Americas" do so as soon as possible.



          5.        That the member states take the necessary steps both internally and through the OAS juridical and political bodies to review the Commission's proposal for an "American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" in order to achieve consensus and the adoption of such an instrument at the 1998 General Assembly meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man


          Given the completion by the Commission of the preparation of a proposal to the General Assembly for an inter-American legal instrument on indigenous rights, pursuant to the recommendation issued in Resolution AG/RES. 1022 (XIX-O/89) and reiterated in subsequent years; having achieved a fruitful dialogue through direct, national and regional consultations with governments, indigenous organizations and communities, the Inter-American Indian Institute, legal experts and government authorities with regard to the original draft, so it reflects to the extent possible their concern as well as the work of the United Nations in this area, as recommended by the General Assembly in paragraph 21 of AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96); and, given the hemispheric recognition that the distinct cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas form an irreplaceable part of our regional heritage, the Commission recommends that:


          The member states, working on the basis of the proposal prepared pursuant to ample consultation, approved by the Commission during its 95th Regular Session and included in Chapter IV of the Annual Report, consider the proposed text during the upcoming General Assembly in Lima, Peru, and decide on the steps, that with intervention of the other juridical and political bodies of the organization, will be necessary to approve the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the 1998 General Assembly commemorating the 50th anniversary of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          6.        That the member states devote renewed effort to evaluating the effects of racial discrimination, which continues to prevent individuals in various countries of our hemisphere from fully enjoying their human rights, and to the design of mechanisms to more responsively address the problem


          As it persists in many countries of our hemisphere, racial discrimination is fundamentally unjust and contravenes the basic norms of the inter-American human rights system.  However, in many countries such discrimination is not well documented or analyzed so that its full impact may be understood.  Racially based prejudice must be outlawed not only as a matter of law, but as a matter of fact.  Accordingly, it is important for member states to come to terms with the extent of the harm caused by such discrimination, and to ensure that adequate responses exist, including access to judicial protection. 


          Accordingly, the Commission recommends that:


          Member states review their domestic legislation to ensure that no provision has the effect of permitting or perpetuating racial discrimination, and to ensure that the law sanctions such discrimination and provides adequate responses and recourse when it occurs.


          Member states review the nature and extent of judicial action required in response to complaints of racial discrimination in order to overcome the deficiencies in protection that may exist, and to ensure that racial discrimination is counteracted through the legal and administrative systems, offering available, simple, prompt and effective recourse.


          7.        That the member states take the steps required to remedy inhuman conditions in prisons and to minimize the number of pre-trial detainees


          The Commission has consistently studied and reported on the situation of human rights in the penal facilities of the hemisphere, which continues to be characterized in many countries of the hemisphere by inhuman conditions resulting from the overcrowding of facilities which lack adequate space or basic infrastructure; by abuses committed by those charged with the custody of detainees; the insufficient allocation of human and material resources; and by the failure of a number of systems to separate those accused from those convicted.  Those accused may wait for periods of up to several years without a determination of guilt or innocence, leading to grave injustice in the case of detainees deprived of their liberty for prolonged periods only to be found innocent. 


          The Commission therefore recommends that:


          Member states adopt the appropriate measures to offer adequate infrastructure in its penitentiaries; adequate training for its personnel exercising custody over inmates; sanction the abuses of penitentiary personnel; dedicate sufficient human and material resources to these facilities; and separate those accused from those convicted.


          Member states immediately take action to address the delay in criminal justice proceedings that persists as a chronic problem in many systems, and which contributes to overcrowding in facilities.  Improving criminal justice procedures to provide for trial within a reasonable time protects the rights of both the accused and the victim, and remains a critical priority within the inter-American system.


          8.        That member states further develop the programs carried out to train public sector personnel in order to instill an understanding of the relevant inter-American and international human rights norms


          Given the importance of "institutionalizing" respect for human rights within the public sector, the Commission recommends that:


          Each member state include within its career training activities courses on human rights, and how human rights obligations must influence the day to day implementation of public sector functions.  In particular, such training should be directed toward personnel of the military, law enforcement, public prosecutor's office and the judiciary.


          The Commission periodically participates in activities designed to train such personnel in the norms of the inter-American human rights system, and remains at the disposition of the member states to provide such technical assistance as may be required.


          9.        That member states ensure that national institutions specifically charged with the promotion and protection of human rights have the resources and support required to discharge their mandates


          Given the role of each member state as the primary guarantor of the human rights of those within its territory, the Commission is gratified to see the development of new and specialized national and local institutions charged with promoting and protecting human rights.  The international, regional and national human rights systems each have a role to play in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Within a democratic society, however, the state remains the guarantor of the human rights of those within its territory through the exercise of its legislative, judicial and administrative safeguards.  Accordingly, the Commission encourages member states to accord such institutions the resources and support they require, and particularly calls for these institutions to advance human rights education within the national framework.  The Commission is at the disposal of the member states to provide materials and technical assistance that would be of use in this regard.


          10.       That the member states that have yet to do so take the steps to ratify or accede to the American Convention on Human Rights


          The Commission encourages the ten member states who are not party to the American Convention on Human Rights:  Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Cuba, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States of America, take the steps necessary to ratify or accede to the paramount instrument of our inter-American human rights system, thereby consolidating the system within a unitary legal framework.  The Commission particularly encourages those member states that have initiated the internal consultations necessary to carry this out to redouble their efforts in pursuit of this critical goal.


          11.      That the States Parties to the American Convention that have not done so accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


          The Commission recommends that the eight States Parties to the American Convention that have yet to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights:  Barbados, Brazil, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico, take steps to declare acceptance, pursuant to Article 62, of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court in all matters relating to the interpretation or application of the Convention.


          12.      That the member states of the OAS that have not already done so review the treaty law of the inter-American human rights system with a view to ratifying or acceding to the OAS sponsored human rights treaties to which they are not party


          The Commission urges the member states that have yet to do so to adopt the measures required to become party to:


          The Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;


          The Additional Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty;


          The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture;


          The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances; and,


          The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.


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