REPORT ON CITIZEN SECURITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
III. Citizen security in the Americas
25. The authoritarian governments and military dictatorships that acted in the Hemisphere during the last decades in defiance of international obligations to respect human rights, left as a legacy a permanent cycle of violence. It has also been argued that the so-called structural adjustment policies exacted a heavy toll on the role of the State as guarantor of the social covenant of coexistence prompting profound cultural changes and weakening the influence of traditional institutions of socialization (the family, the school, the workplace or community organizations) in shaping the individual’s habits and behavior. The increase in poverty and indigence raised levels of inequality and social exclusion and favored violence and crime.
26. The Americas have some of the highest rates of crime and violence in the world. The rate of homicides per 100,000, which is the universally accepted ratio of measuring violence in a society, reached 25.6/100,000 in Latin America, although the figure changes constantly. By comparison, the rate in Europe reached 8.9/100,000, whereas in the Western Pacific it was 3.4/100,000 and in Southeast Asia 5.8/100,000. However, if the focus is narrowed to just the middle and low-income sectors of the population, the average homicide rate in the Americas climbs to 27.5/100,000.
27. The Commission is particularly troubled by the fact that prominent among the victims and perpetrators of violence and crime are children and young people in the age group ranging from 15 to 29, with a homicide rate of 68.9/100,000. Breaking down this figure, one finds that the rate among young people in the high-income group is 21.4/100,000, whereas the rate among young people in the middle and low-income sectors surges to 89.7/100,000. Here again, the region accounts for the highest rate of violence in the world. Although it is alarmingly high in the region, violence among adolescents and young adults is part of a disturbing pattern worldwide. The United Nations has reported that
A sudden, steep increase is noticeable in the rates of violence (both victimization and perpetration), particularly among boys at around age 15, indicating that a number of factors come together during adolescence to make peer violence more common. The available data indicate that in most parts of the world, homicide rates among boys aged 15 to 17 are at least three times greater than among boys aged 10 to 14. This sudden increase in violence among children older than 15 years occurs even in regions with low overall homicide rates and implies that measures to curtail violent behavior are critical before, and in, the early to mid-teens.
28. Taking the Americas a whole, the highest levels of violence are in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, although the situation may be different if sub-regions are considered. The average homicide rate for the Caribbean countries is 30/100,000; for South America it is 26/100,000; and for Central America, it is 22/100,000. Apart from the toll in human lives, violence has a significant impact on the economy: the estimate is that the cost of violence ranges from 2% to 15% of these countries’ gross domestic product.
29. Apart from the impact of crime and violence on the right to life and the right to physical integrity, in most countries of the Hemisphere property-related crimes like robbery and theft have been steadily increasing. It is difficult to pin down the average rates for the region as a whole, because there are no objective indicators to measure crimes of this type. However, the increase is obvious in the country-by-country statistics produced by official agencies and nongovernmental organizations. In general, the main victims of this type of common crime are within the middle and low-income sectors of the population. Children and teens are particularly affected, and significant physical violence is often involved. The United Nations describes the situation as follows:
Physical violence between peers tends to be more common in urban areas characterized by lack of employment, education and social amenities and low standards of housing, where youthful and rapidly growing populations express frustration, anger and pent-up tension in fights and anti-social behavior. Much of the violence involves personal disputes between friends and acquaintances; there is a very pronounced correlation with the use of drugs and alcohol.
30. With this overview, the Commission observes that member states are having serious difficulties finding effective solutions to these problems. For the first time in decades, crime is the public’s number one concern in Latin American countries, even more than unemployment. Security appears as an everyday demand within the political and popular debate.
31. In the Americas –and Latin America and the Caribbean in particular- the high rate of violent crime is alarming for democratic governance and the rule of law, as the public’s confidence in government, the legislature, the police and the judicial system is on the decline. Although the level of confidence started to rise in 1996, in 2006 only 43% of the population had confidence in the government, 37% in the police, 36% in the judicial system, and 27% in the legislature. Of all the data analyzed thus far, the most alarming of all is that only 38% of the population has confidence in the democratic system of government. The Commission has indicated that:
[i]n this context, the democratic system and the observance of the rule of law are crucial for effective protection of human rights. In accordance with international instruments on human rights, a state in which the rule of law prevails is one that functions soundly and that equitably and effectively fulfills its responsibilities in the areas of justice, security, education and health. In the final analysis, the rule of law entails full respect and effective exercise of the human, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the inhabitants of states, ensuring access to better and increased protection of the values of human dignity.
States must find solutions to the problems arising from violence within the framework of the tools provided for in the international human rights instruments and the enforcement of the rule of law as basic pillars for overcoming poverty and full respect for human rights and dignity.
32. The citizen security policies historically pursued in the Americas have, in general terms, diverged from international standards in the area of human rights and in many cases, the authorities have resorted to the illegal and arbitrary use of force in the name of crime prevention and control.
33. Despite the region’s recent history of transitions from authoritarian to democratic systems of government, the majority of the institutions that are today part of the state apparatus of judicial and police control have not undergone in-depth, effective reforms. Despite the political transitions and a generation of constitutional and legal reforms, the institutional apparatus of the security forces today retains vestiges of the old authoritarianism. The judicial mechanisms charged with the task of ensuring transparency and accountability remain weakened. All in all, the institutions associated with the judicial branch, the prosecutor’s office, the police and the prison system have not developed the capacity to respond to crime and violence effectively through legitimate measures of prevention and enforcement. In certain cases the private sector, social organizations and other actors have tried to replace the State with precarious results. In some countries of the region, corruption and impunity have enabled criminal organizations to develop and establish parallel power structures.
34. The use of force beyond the boundaries established by law and by international standards, compounded by the inability of the institutions responsible for ensuring citizen security to develop effective measures to deal with crime and violence, only increases the public’s insecurity. As will be explained later in this report, this is particularly evident in the generalized absence of efficient and effective citizen security policies aimed at confronting the violence committed against those groups that have traditionally experienced discrimination and marginalization, such as women, children and adolescents, Afro-descendents, indigenous populations, migrant workers and their families, among others.
 Based on data and forecasts on mortality and population for the years 2005, 2015 and 2030 from the World Health Organization in Dammert, Lucía; Alda, Eric; and Ruz, Felipe, Desafíos de la seguridad ciudadana en Iberoamérica, FLACSO, Chile, 2008, pp. 22 to 25, available at http://www.who.int.
 Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO), Health in the Americas, 2002.
 Dammert, Lucía; Alda, Eric; and Ruz, Felipe, Desafíos de la seguridad ciudadana en Iberoamérica, FLACSO, Chile, 2008, pp. 22 to 25.
 United Nations, General Assembly, “Report of the Independent Expert for the United Nations Study on Violence against Children”, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, A/61/299, 61st Period of Sessions, item 62(a) on the provisional agenda, Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children, August 29, 2006, paragraph 71.
 United Nations/World Bank, Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean, cited by Rojas Alavena, Francisco in “Violencia en América Latina. Debilidad estatal, inequidad y crimen organizado inhiben el desarrollo humano” in Revista Pensamiento Iberoamericano No. 2, AECID-Fundación Carolina Editors, Madrid, 2008.
 Carrillo-Flores, Fernando, “Seguridad ciudadana en América Latina: un bien público cada vez más escaso” in Pensamiento Iberoamericano, Nueva Época No. 0, Fundación Carolina, Madrid, 2007, citing data from the Inter-American Development Bank.
 United Nations, “Report of the Independent Expert for the Study of Violence against Children”, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, A/61/299, General Assembly, 61st Period of Sessions, Item 62 of the provisional program, Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children, August 29, 2006, paragraph 72.
 Within the region, "concern over crime and violence is clearly on the rise, as the crime rate doubled between 2003 and 2007. In Europe, on the other hand, the rate of crime and violence has held steady, at around 24%." Perea Restrepo, Carlos Mario, Con el diablo adentro: pandillas, tiempo paralelo y poder, Siglo XI, Mexico, 2007, page 19 and following.
 See OAS, Permanent Council, Committee on Hemispheric Security, Working Group to Prepare the First Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas: “An Academic Diagnostic Assessment and Proposals regarding Security Issues in Latin America. Input for the First Meeting of Ministers of the Americas Responsible for Public Security in the Americas”, OEA Ser.G/CSH/GT/MISPA 2-08, June 10, 2008, p. 2.
 IACHR, Annual Report 2006, Chapter IV, paragraph 208.
 OAS, Permanent Council, Committee on Hemispheric Security, Working Group to Prepare the First Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas “An Academic Diagnostic Assessment and Proposals regarding Security Issues in Latin America. Input for the First Meeting of Ministers of the Americas Responsible for Public Security in the Americas”, OEA Ser.G/CSH/GT/MISPA 2-08, June 10, 2008, p. 2.