Monday, April 7, 2014

IACHR Concludes Its 150th Session

Inter Am Commn Human RtsOn Friday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded its 150th session.  The IACHR is celebrating 55 years of work since its creation. 

During the 150th session, the Commission held meetings with high-level authorities from States, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Missions to the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and civil society organizations, among others involved in the inter-American human rights system. 

According to its press release, "The session included 55 public hearings with the participation of delegations from 20 OAS Member States, as well as 30 working meetings on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures. The Commission approved reports on individual cases and petitions and made progress in friendly settlement proceedings. During the session, the IACHR presented two Commission reports, one on guarantees for the independence of justice operators and the other on the use of pretrial detention in the Americas."

The IACHR noted that significant progress was made in various working meetings with representatives of States and petitioners from Argentina, Colombia, the United States, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, and Peru with respect to the implementation of precautionary measures in effect. These meetings make it possible "to reach agreements and overcome hurdles in order to ensure greater protection in the face of grave and urgent situations that pose a risk of irreparable harm to people."

The IACHR also was encouraged by friendly settlement proceedings and increased compliance with previous reached agreements, shown by the parties in 17 working meetings on petitions and cases from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname.

The press release also stated that: "For this session, the IACHR received 61 requests to hold working meetings and 220 to hold hearings, including 12 requests from Member States. The Commission notes in particular the initiative by nearly one third of the OAS Member States to request a hearing on the issue of the death penalty in the Americas, a step toward identifying ways to work toward the abolition of the death penalty in the region. The participating States were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay, with the Permanent Observer Mission of France to the OAS and Amnesty International also joining in. In addition, a significant number of civil society organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay requested a hearing to address an emerging issue and one that the Inter-American Commission will be following: the adverse impact of repressive anti-drug policies on the exercise of the human rights of major sectors of the population, with a disproportionate impact on children and adolescents, women, poor people, people of African descent, and campesinos, among other groups."

According to the IACHR, "The active participation of States and civil society in these mechanisms and the constant increase in the requests received are indicators of these mechanisms’ effectiveness, as well as an acknowledgment of the credibility and legitimacy of the inter-American human rights system as a whole. . . The IACHR views as extremely positive the growing interest of people of the Americas to be informed about the human rights situation in the region and the inter-American human rights system’s mechanisms to protect and promote fundamental rights so that they are respected and guaranteed."

The IACHR press release also listed "some of the structural human rights problems that persist in the region. These have to do with respect for the right to life and humane treatment; guarantees of due process and judicial protection; judicial independence; justice and reparation for grave human rights violations of the past; the exercise of economic, social, and cultural rights and the right to freedom of expression; discrimination based on race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity; and the situation concerning the rights of children, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, persons of African descent, women, persons deprived of liberty, and persons with disabilities, among other matters. The Commission also addressed emerging issues such as corporate responsibility as regards the impact of extractive industries on the observance of human rights, especially the impact on certain groups such as Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples. In one hearing to follow up on recommendations from the report “Juvenile Justice and Human Rights in the Americas,” the IACHR received troubling information indicating a regressive trend in this area in several countries in the region, including the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility and an increase in penalties, in a context of poor incarceration conditions and scant socio-educational measures."

With respect to violence against women, "The Commission examined the implementation status of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará,” 20 years after the treaty’s adoption. Violence against women and structural gender-based discrimination continue to be profound and widespread problems in the region, and the response from States continues to be inadequate, in terms of both prevention and investigation and punishment. An unacceptable percentage of killings and other violent attacks on women continue to go unpunished, while human rights defenders—particularly those who defend the rights of women—are victims of attacks, the criminalization of their activities, public defamation campaigns, and the excessive use of police force against them, among other grave problems. The IACHR urges the States to make significant and urgent advances in implementing public policies that give effect to the standards established in the Convention of Belém do Pará, particularly through measures that dismantle the structural discrimination underlying violence against women."

For more information, especially with respect to the human rights records of specific states, visit the OAS website

(cgb)

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