IACHR Press Office
Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its progress report for the fourth year of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and reviewed the main outcomes of its work in 2020, with the aim of increasing transparency and its accountability to the international human rights community.
In response to the seriousness of the situation currently affecting millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean and the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 the IACHR adopted exceptional measures to continue fulfilling its mandate to protect and defend human rights throughout the year.
Even in this adverse context, major progress was made in 2020 on overcoming procedural backlog, developing standards, and issuing decisions on landmark cases. For the first time ever, the IACHR has been able to evaluate the petitions it has received in real time, which is a historic achievement. Furthermore, the steady increase in the number of admissibility and merits reports adopted by the IACHR is a reflection of this continuous progress, as was the marked drop in the time taken to evaluate requests for precautionary measures.
It has continued to strengthen the integrated, coordinated work on its monitoring mandate over the year, responding effectively to human rights situations in the region, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, the IACHR was able to maintain and expand its channels of dialogue with OAS Member States and inter-American civil society in 2020, implementing different spaces to address concerns and receive up-to-date information on human rights, especially regarding how these have been affected by the pandemic.
The IACHR has responded promptly to human rights crises by articulating its mechanisms through Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs). The SACROI COVID-19 became the first thematic response unit that the IACHR has established. It is responsible for monitoring the human rights situation during the pandemic, strengthening the comprehensive, intersectional nature of human rights. The main achievements of this SACROI include the drafting of Resolution 1/20, The Pandemic and Human Rights in the Americas. This resolution sets out a series of inter-American standards and puts forward 85 recommendations to States in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. A notable related achievement was the adoption of Resolution 4/20, Human Rights of Persons with COVID-19. The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (OSRESCER) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) played an active role in the work of SACROI COVID-19. Three new country-specific SACROIs were also established: Colombia, to provide close monitoring of the human rights situation in the country in response to the high numbers of murders and acts of aggression against social leaders and human rights defenders; the United States, in response to the mass protests triggered by various deaths, including the murder of George Floyd, which reflects structural racism and systemic violence against people of African descent; and Peru, to monitor the human rights situation in the context of the institutional crisis prompted by the decision to declare the office of the president vacant.
Other milestones this year include the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to assist with investigations into the acts of violence and human rights violations that took place in Bolivia between September 1 and December 31, 2019, and the revival of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for the Ayotzinapa Case.
The official launch of the Inter-American SIMORE in 2020 was a strategic achievement in terms of monitoring compliance with recommendations. This IT tool systematizes over 4,700 recommendations issued in the IACHR's merits reports, friendly settlement agreements, country reports, chapter IV.B of its annual reports, thematic reports, and resolutions, enabling States and civil society organizations to provide the IACHR with information on progress toward and challenges around implementing these recommendations.
The IACHR also held four Periods of Sessions in 2020: the 175th Period of Sessions took place in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, while the following three (176, 177, and 178) were held online due to the restrictions on international mobility prompted by the health emergency. The IACHR also held its regular internal sessions online in 2020.
The IACHR conducted two on-site visits in 2020, one to Chile and one to the Colombian–Venezuelan border, along with two working visits, one to Peru (with social distancing measures) and another to Mexico (using an online format).
In 2020, the IACHR has published four thematic reports and other documents: Trans and Gender-Diverse People and their Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights; People Who Have Been Deprived of Their Liberty During the Human Rights Crisis That Began on April 18, 2018; Due Process in Procedures to Determine Refugee and Stateless Persons Status and Grant Complementary Protection; the Compendium of Labor and Trade Union Rights; and the Report on the Right to Information and National Security. It also published a country report, The Human Rights Situation in Cuba.
As part of the work of the SACROI COVID-19, it has published the Practical Guide on Standards for Ensuring Respect for the Grieving, Funeral Rites, and Memorials of Those Who Died during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Practical Guide on Access to the Right to Education for Children and Adolescents during the COVID-19 Pandemic. These innovative tools seek to build respect and guarantees for human rights and include specific recommendations on public policies to guide practices and decisions adopted by States when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With regard to programs to promote human rights and provide training on these, 21 activities on the standards and mechanisms of the IA System were organized in 2020, which were attended by a total of 196 people. Some 136 promotional activities were organized in partnership with multilateral institutions and organizations in the Americas and around the world. These included 31 online seminars run by the SACROI COVID-19, which reached over 15,000 participants.
The IACHR is pleased to announce its main achievements and describe the progress it has made on complying with the goals of the 21 programs set out in the Strategic Plan 2017–2021. The complete progress report for 2020 is available here.
P1: Special Procedural Backlog Reduction Program
As was published at the start of 2021 in the press release discussing progress on this program, in 2020 all petitions received in 2019 and 2020 underwent the initial review stage, meaning that for the first time ever the IACHR was able to evaluate all petitions received in real time and provide petitioners with an immediate response.
In 2020, a total of 5,231 petitions were evaluated (581 received in 2018; 2,660 received in 2019; and 1,990 received in 2020). Of the total number of petitions, it was decided that 878 (17%) would be processed; 4,135 (79%) would not be processed; and additional information would be requested regarding 218 (4%). Furthermore, 359 notifications that petitions would be processed were issued to parties, despite the difficulties resulting from the closure of IACHR headquarters as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Petitions affected by chronic backlog were also processed.
In 2020, the IACHR approved 290 reports at the admissibility stage (245 admissibility reports and 45 inadmissibility reports) in which it expanded on and consolidated its decisions on a range of topics including forced disappearance; torture; the duty to protect the right to life; due criminal process; violence against women and girls; due process of law in administrative proceedings; extrajudicial executions; noncompliance with judicial rulings; and the right to equality in the context of reparations in the context of transitional justice.
In addition to the considerable increase in the number of reports at the admissibility stage, the IACHR has generated new work tools in 2020, such as simplified report templates, systematized criteria in the IACHR Digest on Admissibility and Competence Criteria, and specialized work on specific topics in batches. It has also made headway on a chronological approach that made it possible to address most of the petitions submitted before 2010.
Furthermore, the IACHR approved 67 merits reports on 83 cases, providing responses to matters in which a decision on their merits was still pending due to their volume or a variety of procedural issues. In addition, the IACHR has been identifying cases at the merits stage that deal with similar issues, with the aim of handling reports in a more standardized fashion and adopting measures that reduce procedural backlog, such by batching cases with similar factual or legal aspects.
Of the inter-American public issues addressed in the merits reports, the IACHR has ruled on the right to judicial protection and its limits vis-à-vis immunity from execution, the prevention and investigation of terrorist acts, the rights to privacy and sexual and reproductive health, life imprisonment for adults, the right to the environment vis-à-vis extractive industries, the right to equality and nondiscrimination in access to health services for foreigners, nondiscriminatory access to public service under equal conditions, and the rights of children in international restitution proceedings. The IACHR has also continued to pronounce on serious human rights violations, including cases of forced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial executions.
In 2020, the IACHR submitted 23 cases to the jurisdiction of the IA Court, through which it will be able to rule on States' responsibilities and assign the corresponding reparations in favor of victims. In this regard, it should be noted that when analyzing how far the recommendations in merits reports have been complied with and deciding to submit cases to the IA Court, in 2020 special consideration was given to the obstacles faced by parties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and cases were approached with flexibility to enable parties to continue to make progress toward complying with recommendations.
In 2020, the IACHR developed new standards and submitted more than 120 briefs relating to such proceedings to the IA Court. It also took part in a total of 22 hearings, 10 of which were related to ongoing contentious cases, 9 to monitoring compliance with a ruling, and 3 to request for an advisory opinion before the IA Court.
P2: Program to Increase the Use of Friendly Settlements
In 2020, the IACHR adopted Resolution 3/20 on differentiated actions to address procedural backlog in friendly settlements, avoid delays in negotiation processes, and establish general guidelines for handling matters process using this mechanism more swiftly. It also established objective criteria for determining the course of action in longer negotiation processes. This approach has harmonized the principles of speed and voluntariness that should govern alternative dispute settlement mechanisms while keeping the procedure flexible and giving the IACHR a more active role in negotiation processes so as to guarantee that victims of human rights violations have timely access to comprehensive reparation and inter-American justice.
In 2020, the IACHR made headway on determining the course of action in friendly settlement procedures and 63 cases were processed through this approach: homologations were reached in 25 cases, negotiations were closed at the request of the parties in 13 cases, 7 cases were analyzed in the light of Resolution 3/20, and 18 at the follow-up stage were archived due to inactivity or at the request of the petitioning party. In the 25 friendly settlement agreements that were approved in 2020, a total of at least 116 beneficiaries have been identified, including 44 women, 66 men, and 2 children. It should also be noted that there are currently 81 processes at the negotiation phase and 71 in the follow-up phase.
The IACHR noted with satisfaction that progress had been made on implementing measures in 59 agreements, which represents a 180% increase over the previous period. Total compliance was reached on 8 agreements and partial compliance on 22. Progress was also made on the implementation of 148 reparation measures, including 34 of a structural nature and 118 of an individual nature.
P3: Program to Strengthen Precautionary Measures
In 2020, the IACHR kept up the optimal level of initial real-time reviews of requests for precautionary measures that it has achieved in recent years, continuing to provide protection for people who are at grave and urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm, paying particular attention to the specific circumstances that derive from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 1,170 requests for precautionary measures were received in 2020, all of which were analyzed and classified using indicators for seriousness and urgency. Of this total, 343 contain pandemic-related allegations.
The IACHR granted 49 precautionary measures and extended a further 9 in 2020, such that a total of 591 precautionary measures are now in force in its portfolio. Some 63.8% of this total were granted in less than 90 days, a reduction in the average analysis time compared to the previous year. Of these precautionary measures, 37.8% were granted in the same month in which they were requested.
The more than 54,136 beneficiaries of these precautionary measures include human rights defenders, children and adolescents, survivors of acts of violence, indigenous people, people who are under arrest or whose whereabouts are unknown, among other people or groups of people in extremely vulnerable circumstances. Of the total number of new measures granted, six relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the IACHR also approved Resolution 2/20, Strengthening of the Monitoring of Precautionary Measures in Force, with a view to increasing the effective monitoring of precautionary measures in force, in accordance with article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, which seeks to increase the transparency of the IACHR's work as part of the Strategic Plan by specifying what tools it will use to continue monitoring precautionary measures, including contemplating the possibility of monitoring resolutions and on-site visits. Similarly, to implement the strategy set out in Resolution 2/20, a Special Protection Monitoring Group (GESP) was appointed within the Precautionary and Provisional Measures Section at the Executive Secretariat. In 2020, the IACHR agreed to lift 40 precautionary measures that were in force. It also identified matters that merited monitoring. To achieve this, 39 working meetings and 32 bilateral meetings were held to receive information from the parties on the progress and challenges surrounding the implementation of these measures. Some 968 follow-up letters were sent to States and representatives to request information needed to monitor the implementation of precautionary measures. The aim of this review initiative is to focus the portfolio on issues that require the IACHR's attention because the regulatory requirements in question remain in force.
The IACHR also presented a total of 59 briefs relating to the supervision of 27 provisional measures issued by the IA Court and that remain in force. On February 6, 2020, the IA Court granted an extension of the provisional measures requested in favor of members of the Miskitu indigenous communities in Nicaragua.
P4: Program on Transparency and Access to Information
In 2020, the IACHR continued to increase its efforts to improve transparency, accountability, and access to information.
The IACHR's Access to Information Policy is in its final phase, and progress was made on drafting the protocol for this. This policy seeks to establish a series of obligations around issues that include active transparency, establishing a regulated procedure for delivering information, and standards and protocols to safeguard personal data and sensitive information regarding whistleblowers, petitioners, victims, and/or witnesses.
In 2020, the Executive Secretariat responded to a total of 36 requests for access to information.
With regard to active transparency measures, the Executive Secretariat has constantly updated its institutional information, reports, resolutions, and other decisions adopted to comply with its mandate. These include the Annual Report for 2019; the progress report on the third year of implementation of the Strategic Plan; a report discussing the progress, impacts, and results achieved by the SACROI COVID-19 since its inception; and the progress report on the outcomes of the Strategic Plan for the first half of 2020.
The Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) continued to publish monthly bulletins reporting on its progress and the human rights situation in Nicaragua.
The agreement that the IACHR signed with the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Nonrepetition of Colombia facilitated access to historical archives in Colombia through the Columbus Memorial Library.
P5: Program to Improve the Scope and Impact of Monitoring of Human Rights Situations by Topic and Country
In 2020, the IACHR continued to increase its efforts to broaden the scope and impact of its monitoring of human rights situations in the region, especially considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment and exercise of those rights.
It also continued to use all mechanisms to respond promptly to the most significant situations from a crosscutting, integrated perspective entailing geographic and thematic monitoring through its observation mechanisms. To this end, significant progress was made on standards that widen the scope of protection for the people of the Americas and help develop interpretations of the human rights enshrined in the inter-American instruments.
In 2020, the IACHR issued 143 press releases on human rights situations reported via its regional monitoring mechanisms. Through these press releases, the IACHR addressed the human rights situation in 17 countries in the region (Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Venezuela). Specifically, 40 press releases were published regarding human rights violations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other issues addressed in these included protests, racial discrimination, forced evictions and internal displacement, migration policies that result in greater restrictions on human mobility, human rights defenders, the excessive use of force, the rights of women and girls, the rights of LGBTI people and the elderly, the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, issues relating to memory, truth, and justice, the right to freedom of expression, and economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.
The IACHR also conducted two on-site visits in 2020, one to Chile and one to the Colombian–Venezuelan border, along with two working visits, one to Peru (with social distancing measures) and another to Mexico (using a virtual format).
Between January 25 and 31, the IACHR conducted an on-site visit to Chile to observe the human rights situation surrounding the recent social protests on the ground and evaluate the causes and consequences of these. The visit built on the monitoring work carried out since these protests began in October 2019. In this regard, the IACHR acknowledged the Chilean State's democratic system and rule of law and solid democratic and human rights institutions. However, it noted the profound challenges faced by the country's democratic institutions in the context of a social crisis that caused widespread trauma in Chilean society. In response, the IACHR made 20 preliminary recommendations to the State.
Between February 4 and 8, the IACHR conducted an on-site visit to the Colombian–Venezuelan border to monitor the human rights situation in Venezuela, as part of the work of its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE). The visit was initially scheduled to take place in the cities of Caracas and Maracaibo. However, as the Venezuelan authorities refused to allow the IACHR delegation to enter the country, they moved to the cities of Bogotá and Cúcuta in Colombia. Following the visit, a report containing preliminary observations was drafted, which included 45 recommendations addressed to the State of Venezuela.
The IACHR also conducted a working visit to Peru and a virtual visit to Mexico. The visit to Peru took place from November 29 to December 2, 2020, with the aim of observing the human rights situation in the country on the ground, specifically in connection with the current social protests around the recent political and institutional crisis. The IACHR released its observations on the visit in press release 290/20. The virtual working visit to Mexico was conducted in two stages, the first from December 16 to 18, 2020, to observe the human rights situation of people in movement from a subregional perspective.
In 2020, the IACHR sent 120 letters requesting information from States in the region, 97 of which were pursuant to article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights and 23 were pursuant to article 18 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
As part of these requests for information, it also sent letters to all 35 OAS Member States to conduct a regional consultation on measures implemented to prevent, address, and contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Letters were also sent to all States to gather information on the rights of LGBTI people to draft a report on education and cultural change as tools for advancing the recognition of LGBTI people's rights and their social inclusion. Requests were also sent regarding the eviction of indigenous people from their territories and other ways in which their rights are being jeopardized; the situation of people being deprived of their freedom; murders and the criminalization of human rights defenders and journalists; and inquiries relating to the work of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI).
The IACHR has also followed up on a significant number of human rights situations by holding 59 public hearings relating to its monitoring activities in the region. These addressed a total of 12 priority issues, with an emphasis on issues relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, memory, truth and justice, migrants, and people deprived of their freedom. These hearings allowed the IACHR to raise the visibility of region-wide human rights situations and follow up on those, and to address 17 specific situations in different countries in the region.
As part of its constant monitoring of human rights in the region, in 2020 the IACHR approved and published a country report on the Human Rights Situation in Cuba, four thematic reports, and a document on new human rights issues, paying particular attention to the situations of the various individuals and groups who have historically been subject to discrimination or otherwise vulnerable. These reports made significant progress on standards that widen the scope of protection for the people of the Americas and help develop interpretations of the human rights enshrined in the inter-American instruments: Trans and Gender-Diverse People and their Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights; the report on People Who Have Been Deprived of Their Liberty During the Human Rights Crisis That Began on April 18, 2018; the report on Due Process in Procedures to Determine Refugee and Stateless Persons Status and Grant Complementary Protection; and the Compendium of Labor and Trade Union Rights.
On May 6, 2020, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for the Ayotzinapa case was revived at the request of the parents of the missing students, with the agreement of the Mexican State, which provided assistance, and the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. At present, the GIEI provides technical assistance to the Special Public Prosecutor's Office for the Ayotzinapa Case with its investigations, and the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case is monitoring compliance with the recommendations the IACHR has made. Likewise, on November 23, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) was established to assist with investigations into the acts of violence and human rights violations that took place in Bolivia between September 1 and December 31, 2019. This mechanism was created through the Agreement signed by the IACHR and the Plurinational State of Bolivia on December 12, 2019. Since being established, the GIEI has gone about its work independently and impartially.
P6: Special Rapporteur Program
Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE)
As part of the process of executing its 2018–2021 Action Plan, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression continued to implement projects focusing on democratic governance, the defense of civic space, and protecting online freedom of expression. In the last quarter of the year, the Strategic Planning Process for 2021–2023 began, which seeks to build on the achievements of the current plan and include new challenges to freedom of expression that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic, authoritarian modes of government in the region, and the participation of a range of stakeholders in the digital environment.
The work of the RFOE will focus on issues such as freedom of expression and COVID-19, access to information, privacy and the internet; personal data protection, fake news and misinformation; security, censorship, and the harassment of journalists; and the use of criminal law to criminalize expressions protected by the right to freedom of expression. The RFOE focused particularly on the situations in Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela, where the most serious restrictions were identified.
The RFOE took part in 15 public hearings over the year, including those on the human rights situation in Cuba, the restrictions on freedom of expression in Brazil, illegal interception practices in Colombia, freedom of expression and the work of journalists during the protests in the United States, and freedom of expression in El Salvador.
In addition, 26 press releases were published regarding the murders of journalists and attacks, threats, and intimidation against journalists and media workers, and the use of force against journalists during protests, among other topics. The RFOE also worked in partnership with the United Nations special procedures mandate holders and the offices of other special rapporteurs to publish the Statement on guarantees of access to information during COVID-19, the 2020 Joint Declaration on elections and freedom of expression in the digital era, and the Joint Declaration on the Right of Freedom to Peaceful Assembly and Democratic Governance. Other communications were sent to States and information was exchanged on the situation in the region.
The RFOE also published two merits reports. The IACHR also decided to send the cases of the Maya Kaqchikuel de Sumpango Indigenous Peoples and Others v. Guatemala; Ronald Moya Chacón and Freddy Parrales Chaves v. Costa Rica, and Carlos Baraona Fray v. Chile to the IA Court. The RFOE also contributed to the evaluation process for 27 requests for precautionary measures in 2020, 5 of which were granted.
To mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information, the RFOE published a thematic report, The Right to Information and National Security, which concerns the de jure and de facto obstacles preventing the circulation of information concerning the public interest and national security interests. Finally, as part of its projects providing training on inter-American standards on freedom of expression for legal workers, the RFOE partnered with UNESCO and provided training for 2,348 judges and judicial personnel in the region in 2020.
Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (OSRESCER)
As the main advisory body on the right to health within the IACHR, the OSRESCER monitored the situation in the region closely in 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OSRESCER has worked on the comprehensive agenda of rights and issues that are part of its mandate, taking a crosscutting, intersectional approach in its work with the IACHR's other areas, focusing on the groups that are most affected by the pandemic and pay particular attention to health-sector workers and professionals.
The OSRESCER has actively participated in the SACROI COVID-19, where it played a fundamental part in creating Resolution 1/2020, The Pandemic and Human Rights. It also led the process for drafting Resolution 4/2020 on the rights of people with COVID-19. The OSRESCER issued nine press releases relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. These included a joint declaration with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment on environmental protection measures during the COVID-19 pandemic; and another with the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the OECD, and the ILO regarding the role of businesses in the region and their human rights responsibilities during the health emergency.
The OSRESCER also took part in 37 thematic hearings at the IACHR's Ordinary Periods of Sessions. At the 177th Period of Sessions, the OSRESCER organized an event in which more than 30 civil society representatives from Central America and Mexico took part to discuss the effects of climate change on guarantees and respect for and the protection of human rights. This is an issue that the OSRESCER prioritized in 2020 by developing partnerships with key institutions in the region and international cooperation toward generating new inter-American standards to respond to the climate emergency.
The OSRESCER also took part in the IACHR visit to the Colombia–Venezuela border, where it gathered information on the ESCERs of Venezuelans inside and outside their country. It also took part in the IACHR's virtual visit to Mexico, where it assessed the humanitarian situation of people in movement and their access to ESCERs, as this group is one of its priorities.
The OSRESCER has also provided the IACHR with expert inputs for the petition and case system at all stages in these processes, and regarding precautionary measures on which its opinion was requested. In 2020, the OSRESCER sent inputs regarding 37 petitions at the admissibility stage, 10 cases, and 14 requests for precautionary measures. The Special Rapporteur was the IACHR delegate at the hearing before the IA Court on the request for an advisory opinion submitted by the IACHR and the OSRESCER regarding the scope of States' obligations under the IASHR as regards guarantees on freedom of association and its relationship to other rights and its application from a gender perspective.
In October, the OSRESCER launched its report on Business and Human Rights, in which 309 people took part, including representatives from States, international organizations, academics, and the private sector. It also launched a multimedia site and a social media campaign on the report. The OSRESCER published a compendium on labor and trade union rights and a report, "Trans and Gender-Diverse People and their Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights."
It also carried out 73 outreach and academic activities and organized and took part in promotional activities targeting authorities, civil society organizations, trade unions, professionals, journalists, and human rights defenders in various countries in the region. Throughout the year, it has met with States, public and private institutions, academics, rights holders, members of civil society, other OAS bodies, intergovernmental organizations, and donors to discuss issues that are part of its mandate. The OSRESCER has also provided States with support, specifically with the drafting of Ecuador's and Peru's National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
It is also continued to play an active role representing the IACHR in the Working Group on the Protocol of San Salvador. The OSRESCER has finished implementing phase II of the project financed by the Spanish Fund for the OAS to promote and protect ESCERs in the Americas and is continuing to implement the project on ESCERs in Central America and Mexico, with an emphasis on people in movement, which was financed by the Norwegian International Cooperation through the Embassy for Mexico and Central America.
During this period, the OSRESCER worked with two grant-holders from the University of Monterrey (UDEM), and one from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in consortium with Oxfam. The Diploma in ESCERs was launched and run for the first time, in partnership with the School of Law at the University of Buenos Aires and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. More than 200 people enrolled in the course.
P7: Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs)
In 2020, the IACHR updated and reorganized its Rapid Integrated Response Coordination Units (SACROIs) to address emerging human rights situations in the region effectively and swiftly.
The following three country-specific SACROIs were established: Colombia, to provide close monitoring of the human rights situation in the country in response to the high numbers of murders and acts of aggression against social leaders and human rights defenders; the United States, in response to the mass protests triggered by various deaths, including the murder of George Floyd, which reflects structural racism and systemic violence against people of African descent; and Peru, to monitor the human rights situation in the context of the institutional crisis prompted by the decision to declare the office of the president vacant.
The SACROIs in Brazil, Haiti, Chile, and Bolivia have remained in operation in 2020. The IACHR visited these countries in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively, and the resulting country reports are still pending publication or on-site visits to them pending completion.
As mentioned above, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IACHR established the SACROI COVID-19, its first thematic response unit, which is responsible for monitoring the human rights situation during the pandemic, strengthening the comprehensive, intersectional nature of human rights. After it was established, the IACHR approved the work plan for the unit, whose achievements include drafting and publishing Resolution 1/20, The Pandemic and Human Rights in the Americas, which contained 85 recommendations to States; Resolution 4/20, Human Rights of People with COVID-19; the publication of press releases on human rights situations during the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on specific countries and issues; and the organization of bilateral dialogues with States and social forums and online seminars; the publication of practical guides, awareness-raising and outreach campaigns; and the creation of a microsite containing up-to-date information.
P8: Integrated Information Analysis and Management Platform
In 2020, the IACHR continued its work raising resources to implement the Integrated Information Analysis and Management Platform (IIAMP) and the different administrative and IT components this will include. Shared criteria information classification criteria have been established to record and systematize data in the monitoring and follow-up systems. The technology currently available includes software that allows information to be recorded, classified, systematized, and analyzed according to established parameters, and integrated, thus facilitating the coordination of work in the different areas.
The platform is the main tool for managing the information gathered from States, academic establishments, civil society organizations, the media, and international organizations, among others, as well as from the Monitoring and Technical Cooperation areas and the Offices of Special Rapporteurs. Using a methodology for integrated information use, it seeks to ensure strategic, timely decision-making and effective use of information in the drafting of reports.
As part of the work of the IIAMP's work, the IACHR presented the results of its analysis via regular panel discussions analyzing the human rights situation and outlook in the Americas. In the first half of the year, the IACHR presented its analysis of the human rights situation in Cuba, the situation of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia, and information regarding its visit to the Colombia–Venezuela border.
P9: Expanded Training and Promotion Program on Thought and Culture in Human Rights
In 2020, the IACHR consolidated its promotion and training activities on its work mechanisms and inter-American human rights standards by implementing 157 activities.
A total of 136 promotional activities were carried out to raise awareness around IASHR standards and improve the capacity to defend human rights among public officials, organizations, academic establishments, and social media platforms, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of these activities were organized in partnership with other stakeholders, thus consolidating collaboration with civil society organizations, regional and international institutions, and States.
As part of the work of SACROI COVID-19, a cycle of 31 online seminars was organized, entitled "Human Rights Challenges During the Pandemic," in which more than 15,000 people took part.
In 2020, seven outreach campaigns on standards were implemented, based on the reports published by the IACHR.
P10: Program for Assistance and Collaboration with the Caribbean and Central America
Throughout 2020, the IACHR continued its technical cooperation initiatives on development and human rights for the States of the Caribbean and Central America, which were adapted to be able to use an online format.
The ad hoc Common Law Working Group, which was created in 2019 as part of the Admissibility Section to strengthen work in countries using a common law system, completed its work, having resolved the vast majority of petitions at this stage.
As part of the implementation of the Human Rights and Democracy Regional Project, which is being executed in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), a series of activities were carried out to strengthen the capacities of stakeholders in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. A total of 63 people took part in these, including government and civil society officials.
Other achievements include a training course on the inter-American human rights system that was held for public officials in Saint Lucia. One of the webinars organized as part of the work of the SACROI COVID-19 dealt with the human rights situation in the Caribbean during the pandemic, in which 138 people took part. The Annual Human Rights Seminar for CARICOM State agents took place in November and was organized in partnership with the George Washington University Law School (GWULS).
Finally, the IACHR has maintained different spaces for dialogue with States and civil society in the Caribbean and Central America during 2020. This included holding bilateral meetings with several States as part of the work of SACROI COVID-19 and meetings with both regional groups of States as part of the 176th, 177th, and 178th Period of Sessions. The work of SACROI COVID-19 also included social forums with civil society organizations from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
P11: Technical Cooperation Program on Institutional Matters and Public Policies with a Human Rights Focus
In 2020, activities were carried out to expand and strengthen relations with OAS Member States and to facilitate technical assistance and human rights cooperation for State entities requesting this and for the political bodies of the OAS.
The IACHR has played a leading role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing technical input for Member States' decisions. In this regard, meetings were held with different groups of countries to address issues relating to the pandemic, and bilateral meetings took place to address States' concerns in this regard and their human rights measures, and to conduct a permanent survey of policies, measures, and responses relating to COVID-19.
The IACHR also made progress toward strengthening collaboration with the region's national human rights institutions (NHRIs). This included an online seminar on NHRI responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aim of which was to publicize the work of these institutions and the challenges they are currently facing. Another noteworthy achievement was the publication of the compendium on labor and trade union rights, which is part of the IACHR's technical cooperation work.
P12: Program to Foster Social Participation and Build Capacities for Action Among Organizations and Networks of Social and Academic Stakeholders to Defend Human Rights
The IACHR held meetings with civil society as part of the visits it conducted in 2020 to Chile, the Colombian–Venezuelan border, Peru, and Mexico (a virtual visit).
It also held an open meeting with Haitian and inter-American civil society at the 175th Period of Sessions, which took place in Haiti. Organizations from the region also participated in the 19 public hearings held during the 175th Period of Sessions, and in the 46 public hearings held online during the 177th and 178th Periods of Sessions. At the 176th, 177th, and 178th Periods of Sessions, all of which took place online, seven open meetings with civil society were held.
As part of the work of the SACROI COVID-19, the IACHR implemented initiatives to maintain and expand channels of dialogue with civil society during the pandemic, notably the social forums held with civil society organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay. Other achievements include the participation of representatives of civil society organizations in the online seminars held during this period.
Likewise, the launch of the Inter-American SIMORE in 2020 means that a new channel is now available for civil society to take part in the work of the IACHR—in this case, through monitoring its recommendations.
Through its special follow-up mechanisms (MESA, MESENI, and MESEVE), the IACHR continued to promote permanent dialogue with civil society organizations, the victims of human rights violations, and their families.
The IACHR once again invited civil society organizations and other stakeholders from the 35 OAS Member States to send information on the human rights situation in the region for chapters IV.A, IV.B, and V of the 2020 Annual Report.
It also organized a selection process to establish an Expert Academic Network for Technical Cooperation. This network seeks to contribute to the IACHR's work by conducting studies, research, and other joint activities to deepen understandings and generate information that contributes to the promotion and defense of human rights in the region.
P13: Program for Cooperation and Coordination with the Universal Human Rights System and Other International Agencies
In 2020, the IACHR carried out a series of joint activities with various authorities from the United Nations Human Rights System, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also promoted a series of technical and high-level bilateral meetings between IACHR commissioners and United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR, OHCHR, and others.
As a result, Joint Declarations were published on issues including freedom of peaceful assembly, democratic governance, human rights defenders, the constituent process in Chile, and the political participation of tribal peoples of African descent. Another noteworthy achievement was the unprecedented meeting between the IACHR plenary and the plenary of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the meeting with the OHCHR focal points on economic, social, and cultural rights and development.
At the technical level, existing cooperation initiatives with the OHCHR continued, particularly in relation to human rights defenders.
P14: Program for Articulation and Complementarity with Regional Systems and Subregional Human Rights Mechanisms
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed new challenges to the various regional and subregional human rights bodies in the Americas, which has prompted the need for plans to be adapted and modified. Nevertheless, throughout 2020, the IACHR resumed cooperation and dialogue with the African Commission on Human Rights, the Arab Commission on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights.
It has continued to exchange information with the Mercosur Institute for Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH). In February 2020, the in-person phase of the International Course on Public Policies on Human Rights came to an end. This was the second time that the course, which is run in partnership with the IPPDH, was held, and the two institutions are working together to organize the third.
In April 2020, the president of the IACHR, Commissioner Joel Hernández, met with the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and human rights and to share information and experiences regarding the outlook in their respective regions and the actions the two organizations have taken.
P15: Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas (in Partnership with OHCHR)
Throughout 2020, the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas continued to be implemented, in partnership with the OHCHR. The two organizations have periodically exchanged information to analyze issues and situations of particular concern and define actions to implement effective, timely protection for human rights defenders who are at risk. Specifically, they have shared information on the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala, and on other particularly concerning situations.
As part of this mechanism's work, in January a meeting took place between the IACHR and the OHCHR South America Regional Office. Likewise, in February 2020, the Rapporteur, Commissioner Hernández, met with the Americas Section and the focal point in Geneva. Commissioner Hernández also held a meeting with the interim representative of the OHCHR Honduras office at which it was agreed that joint work would be increased as part of the mechanism's work.
The initiatives implemented included an initial online meeting of the Joint Mechanism with national offices and the Geneva office, which took place on May 15, 2020, to find out more about the progress that had been made on protecting human rights defenders during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges around this.
In July, a meeting took place between the Joint Mechanism and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, to introduce the mechanism and possible joint activities.
On several occasions, these meetings have resulted in joint pronouncements on various topics.
P16: Program for the Universalization of the IASHR and Coordination with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
During the COVID-19 pandemic, both the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have held online seminars to promote human rights in the Americas. As part of the IACHR's series of webinars on challenges to human rights during the pandemic, the vice president of the IA Court, Judge Patricio Pazmiño, took part in a webinar entitled "The Right to Health from the Perspective of Indivisibility and Interdependence," which took place on May 15, 2020. As part of the IA Court's Inter-American Conference Cycle, the special rapporteur on ESCERs took part in a webinar entitled "The Economic and Social Impacts of COVID-19. Challenges to Promoting the Enjoyment an Effective Protection of Human Rights," which took place on June 12, 2020. Commissioner Julissa Mantilla, the rapporteur on the rights of older people, took part in the online meeting of experts organized by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups, which took place on June 26, 2020.
At the 178th Period of Sessions, the IACHR met with the regional groups of OAS Member States to discuss the status of ratifications of the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons, the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, and to promote the ratification of these instruments.
P17: Management and Institutional Development Program
In response to the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IACHR's planning processes, management, and accountability processes have had to be adapted to the new circumstances to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.
With regard to the management of human resources, a selection process was carried out to fill the position of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The IACHR also decided to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (DESCA), Soledad García Muñoz, until August 28, 2023. Finally, due to the refusal of the GS/OAS to renew the contract of the Executive Secretary, Paulo Abrão, the process to select the new head of the Executive Secretariat was launched in September in accordance with the procedures contained in Article 11 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.
In 2020, the IACHR continued with the competitive processes to fill the vacant positions created in the IACHR's approved organizational structure, including the selection of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, the call for applications for the position of Executive Secretary in accordance with the procedures contained in Article 11 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, and three other vacant positions for specialists as part of the regular fund. The IACHR also began the process of reclassifying positions to adapt them to this structure, the audits for which were conducted between March and April 2020, although at the close of this report they were being approved by the GS/OAS. Some 47 interns worked at the IACHR, as did 19 grant-holders thanks to support from different educational establishments in the region. It also received three staff members from human rights institutions as associate personnel.
On the initiative of the ES/IACHR, the GS/OAS Department of Human Resources launched its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in May 2020. All OAS staff, including consultants, grant-holders, and interns, will have access to the EAP, as will members of their households. As part of the IACHR's plan to address the work environment within the organization, it is currently seeking to find out more about the current work environment within the ES/IACHR to implement joint actions and build a healthy, safe, participatory, transparent workplace environment for all. To achieve this, a workplace environment consulting firm was hired at the request of the IACHR.
The "open doors policy" is being implemented such that staff can meet with the Executive Secretary (and now with the Interim Executive Secretary) to discuss issues of interest to them. The Workplace Environment Committee resumed its meetings in the last quarter of 2020 to work on initiatives to improve the workplace environment at the ES/IACHR. The Diversity Subcommittee, which is part of the Workplace Environment Committee, made progress in December when it ran its first workshop on promoting diversity and preventing discrimination in the workplace. This subcommittee is continuing its work to implement a self-identity questionnaire and design an inclusion and diversity policy for the ES/IACHR.
Another achievement during this period was the continued increase in the diversity of nationalities among staff at the IACHR Executive Secretariat. In 2017, there were staff members from 18 different countries. By June 2020, this number had risen to 24.
With regard to project management, 34 interim or final narrative reports were drafted and delivered to 15 donors promptly in 2020.
As part of the Communication Policy, 12 information and awareness campaigns on human rights standards were implemented via social media platforms in 2020, obtaining 66.3 million views and 365,400 reactions. Some 314 press releases were published in Spanish and English on the IACHR website, which was visited 49,442 times. There was a record increase in visits to the IACHR website in 2020, which received 50,497 visits compared to an average of 10,000 in the last five years.
With regard to press management, more than 30 interviews with commissioners and 250 news items relating to the IACHR's mandate have been published in the media, mainly as a result of its press releases and reports, which are published through various channels, including a network of 150 journalists in the region.
P18: Program of Technological Innovation Applied to Human Rights
The IACHR continued to make progress on technological innovation in 2020. In this regard, various remote working tools have been implemented to enable the IACHR to continue functioning uninterruptedly, including holding three Periods of Sessions using an online format.
The Inter-American System for Monitoring and Evaluation of Human Rights (SIMORE) was also implemented, as was the electronic voting system for internal IACHR consultations (E-Vote).
Finally, work to promote the integrity and transparency of the IACHR's procedures has continued, as has the use of technology and automated management tools to improve decision-making, internalization processes, and the systematization of manual processes for staff and to help victims, petitioners, and States. Automated online systems have also been developed to gather information electronically, enabling the IACHR to receive requests for hearings and register attendees for the Periods of Sessions.
P19: Financial Sustainability Plan
The OAS General Assembly approved a budget of $10,627,900 for the IACHR for 2020, of which $7,741,200 is for staff costs and $2,886,700 for operating expenses. This increase in the budget for 2020 marks the final stage in the process of doubling the budget for the regular fund that began after it was agreed on at the OAS General Assembly in Cancún in 2017.
Thanks to the support received from Member States, progress has been made toward doubling the IACHR budget, and although this has not yet been fully achieved, the increase has enabled the IACHR to continue to consolidate its administrative structure and expand its capacities. The approved budget for the ES/IACHR for the year 2021 was set at $10,081,900. The IACHR's Program-Budget for 2021 was approved by the General Assembly at its 50th regular session in October 2020 through AG/RES.2957 (L-O/20).
In 2020, the IACHR continued implementing the various components of its financial sustainability plan, particularly the communications strategy and improvements to accountability processes for donors. The IACHR also continued to mobilize funds as part of the resource diversification strategy it has been implementing in 2020 and 2021. Some 14 project proposals for funding were submitted to donors.
As of December 31, 2020, $9,119,200 has been assigned to the budget for the regular fund. With regard to raising specific funds, as a result of the resource mobilization strategy and the trust placed in the IACHR, some $6,831,300 was raised in 2020. These two sources of funding totaled $15,950,500.
P20: User Support Center
In 2020, while its staff were working remotely, the IACHR received, analyzed, and registered more than 3,600 cases, thus ensuring that the petitions and precautionary measures requested by users began to be processed without delay. More than 80 files relating to petitions, cases, and precautionary measures have been handled, and efforts have been made to ensure continual user attention through various means. More than 1,000 requests were handled by e-mail and more than 2,000 by telephone.
P21: Special Program to Follow Up On and Gage the Impact of IACHR Recommendations
In 2020, the IACHR has made progress on developing methodologies to follow up on its recommendations for promoting and increasing the effectiveness of its recommendations and thus improve the human rights situation in the region.
The Inter-American SIMORE was officially launched in 2020: this IT tool systematizes the more than 4,700 recommendations issued in the IACHR's merits reports, friendly settlement agreements, country reports, chapter IV.B of its annual reports, thematic reports, and resolutions. The tool was publicized by sending more than 300 communications and providing training for 113 public officials.
Progress was also made on activating accounts for Member States, autonomous agencies, and civil society organizations. The IACHR is planning to continue the strategy to promote the SIMORE and provide training around, with a view to making it a privileged information channel on actions made to comply with recommendations.
The IACHR published its 2019 Annual Report in 2020, in which it noted that significant progress had been made on compliance with 23 recommendations in cases for which merits reports had been issued. It also communicated with the parties in 105 cases for which merits reports have been published, with the purpose of evaluating compliance levels in the 2020 Annual Report. In these communications, it asked specific questions on compliance according to the level of implementation in each case.
The IACHR has continued its efforts to consolidate and strengthen the operations of its special mechanisms for following up on recommendations, which have achieved significant results. Through its Special Technical Advisory Group for Honduras (MESAT), the IACHR successfully coordinated with the Honduran Secretariat of Human Rights through activities to provide technical and advisory services to improve the Honduran State's capacity to follow up on the recommendations that were made in the report entitled "The Human Rights Situation in Honduras," which was published in 2019. The IACHR continues to work with its different areas and the Government of Honduras to coordinate activities including technical advice on public policies on children's rights, human rights defenders, women's rights, indigenous peoples, and Hondurans of African descent.
As part of the work of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA), the Work Plan for the Technical Accompaniment Group (GAT) was implemented to verify and provide technical assistance for compliance with the recommendations in PM 409-14. It also attended the sessions of the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Case (COVAJ), provided support for search procedures, and held meetings with the Investigation Unit for the case and victims' representatives to follow up on progress on the investigation, the search for the students, and care for the victims. The IAHCR's work on guarantees of nonrepetition included taking part in the work sessions of the follow-up group promoting the establishment of the Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism (MEIF), National Search System meetings, and work sessions toward establishing the Homologated Search Protocol (PHB). Based on the International Agreement to reinstate the GIEI, which was signed on May 6, 2020, the group of experts continued its work providing technical assistance for the State to investigate the case and presented a report on its findings in October 2020.
Through the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR included a report on the human rights situation in the country in chapter IV.B of its 2019 Annual Report, which was published in April. In November, the IACHR published a report entitled "People Who Have Been Deprived of Their Liberty During the Human Rights Crisis That Began on April 18, 2018" and launched a multimedia site containing its main findings and the recommendations made to the State in the report.
The mechanism also drafted press releases, held meetings with civil society, and gathered testimonies from relatives and victims of human rights violations. Five hearings on the human rights situation in the country were among the other activities it organized.
The work of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE) included an on-site visit to the Colombian–Venezuelan border in February to monitor the human rights situation in Venezuela, where it met with deputies of the National Assembly, victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations, and international organizations. It also gathered testimonies from people who have been forced to migrate. Based on this visit, MESEVE prepared a report with preliminary observations and 45 recommendations addressed to the State, which it presented publicly on May 8.
The IACHR is grateful to civil society human rights organizations throughout the Americas, OAS Member and Observer States, international and regional organizations, the Secretary General of the OAS and his team, and the entire team at the IACHR Executive Secretariat for their role in enabling the organization to reach the landmark achievements presented in this report.
It wishes to thank the OAS Member States for implementing the second stage in the increase of the regular fund, and for approving the third phase in this increase. It also wishes to thank the OAS Member States, Observer States, and donors whose voluntary contributions have played a decisive role in achieving the outcomes presented in this publication: Brazil, Canada, Chile Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru, United States, European Commission, Spain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the Arcus Foundation, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Justice Center of the Americas (CEJA), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), the Ford Foundation, Google, the Open Society Foundation, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), and OXFAM.
The IACHR was grateful for the Haitian state's invitation to hold the 175th Period of Sessions in Port-au-Prince between March 2 and 8, 2020, and for the hospitality and logistical support provided.
The IACHR wishes to acknowledge the leading role that civil society organizations and social movements play in building fairer societies that are more respectful of human rights.
The IACHR wishes to thank all the members of the Executive Secretariat whose commitment and teamwork have made it possible to take on the challenges of this year and achieve the results described here.
Finally, the IACHR dedicates its work this year to the memory of the more than one million fatal victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas.
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.