IACHR Presents Its Annual Report for 2020

April 16, 2021

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2020 Annual Report

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its 2020 Annual Report, in compliance with Article 59 of its Rules of Procedure. The Annual Report describes the work that the organization carried out between January 1 and December 31, 2020, and details the results that were achieved. It is also an accountability tool and one of the main instruments for monitoring the human rights situation in the Americas and for following up on the recommendations issued by the IACHR through its different mechanisms.

"The region faced major challenges around protecting and defending human rights during what was a particularly complex year, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, is important to note the objectives the IACHR achieved, which include strategic contributions regarding inter-American standards, progress on overcoming procedural backlog, and rulings on landmark cases. But understanding the new issues that our society is facing in this context will remain an ongoing challenge, as will responding in accordance with the standards of the inter-American system, with support from and the commitment of international organizations, States, and organized civil society," said the president of the IACHR, Antonia Urrejola.

As is described in detail in this Annual Report and in the 2020 Annual Report on the Implementation of the IACHR's Strategic Plan 2017–2021, 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.

The report consists of an introduction, six chapters, and annexes. The introduction lists the IACHR's main achievements, the progress made on human rights in the region, and the status of universalization of the Inter-American System of Human Rights in 2020. Chapter I provides an overview of the IACHR's activities during the year, including progress on the Strategic Plan 2017–2021, matters relating to the structure and reorganization of the Executive Secretariat, and information on sessions, resolutions, relationships with other organizations, and progress on cooperation and monitoring.

Chapter II presents information on the petition and case system and precautionary measures, as well as the monitoring of recommendations on individual cases. Chapter III reviews the activities of the offices of the thematic and country rapporteurs and promotion and training activities. Chapter IV is divided into two parts. Chapter IV.A contains a descriptive overview of the human rights situation in member countries, with a particular emphasis on the rights and issues prioritized by the IACHR while also covering other cross-cutting areas. Chapter IV.B analyzes the human rights situation in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, which the IACHR once again included in this section because they require special attention according to the criteria established in article 59.6 of its Rules of Procedure.

Chapter V monitors the recommendations made by the IACHR in its country reports on Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras and in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders in Colombia.

Finally, Chapter VI discusses the IACHR's structure and personnel, staff training, financial resources and its use of its budget, resource mobilization, and project management, among other matters that relate to institutional development over the year. The document also contains the following reports as annexes: "Situation of Human Rights in Cuba," "Business and Human Rights," "Report on Trans and Gender-Diverse People and Their Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights," "Report on People Deprived of Their Liberty in Nicaragua in Connection with the Human Rights Crisis That Began on April 18, 2018," "Due Process in Procedures for the Determination of Refugee Status and Statelessness and the Granting of Complementary Protection," "Compendium on Labor and Trade Union Rights. Inter-American Standards," "Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression," and "Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights (OSRESCER)."

In 2020, the IACHR observed advances on human rights issues on the part of the OAS Member States, which sought to promote and protect the human rights of individuals in accordance with the international obligations these States have taken on and those contained in the American Declaration, the American Convention, and other inter-American instruments.

The measures in question fall into three groups: 1) measures concerning crosscutting issues that have a multidimensional impact on guaranteeing protection for human rights, which include the following areas: given the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having in the Americas, measures adopted to prevent it from spreading are included as a crosscutting issue; priority initiatives such as the strengthening of human rights institutions; democratic participation; judicial independence and access to justice; citizen security and the prevention of violence against vulnerable populations; gender equality; and social diversity; 2) measures adopted to protect priority populations, especially those in particularly vulnerable predicaments; and 3) actions taken to strengthen memory, truth, and historic justice; freedom of expression and thought; and the protection of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.

In Chapter IV.A., the IACHR identifies a series of challenges that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the persistence of discrimination and violence against women, LGBTI people, people of African descent and indigenous people, children and adolescents, older people, and in particular against human rights defenders, journalists, and social leaders; the growing repression of social protest in some countries in the region through the disproportionate use of force, as well as acts of violence and vandalism that took place during these contexts; people in situations of human mobility and, in particular, forced migration; and the seriousness of the conditions in which people who are deprived of their freedom in the region are being held and setbacks concerning the death penalty.

With regard to Chapter 4.A, in June 2020, the IACHR published its Report on Cuba, which reveals that the overall human rights situation in the country remained unchanged between 2017 and 2019. On the topic of Nicaragua, the IACHR's special mechanism continued to closely monitor the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country that began with the violence of April 18, 2018, which entailed state repression of social protests. Finally, concerning Venezuela, the IACHR observed how the principle of the separation of powers continued to break down and democratic institutions in the country deteriorated further, which led to an undermining of civil and political human rights and ESCERs, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IACHR also drew attention to the on-site visits it conducted to Chile and the Colombian–Venezuelan border and wishes to thank the Member States in question for their invitations. After these visits, the IACHR published preliminary observations containing specific recommendations, which it hopes will be useful in formulating human rights policies.

The IACHR hopes that its findings and observations will prove useful to all OAS Member States in their respective efforts to improve human rights standards.

The IACHR is grateful to civil society organizations working on human rights issues, OAS Member States and Observer States, international and regional organizations, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, and his team, and to the entire team at the IACHR Executive Secretariat for the part it played in enabling the organization to achieve the results presented in the 2020 Annual Report.

Finally, it should be noted that 2020 was a year that left major challenges for the entire world and the Americas in particular due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on millions of people. The IACHR wishes to pay tribute to the more than 1.4 million people who died from COVID-19 and their families, and once again expresses its commitment to defending and promoting human rights.

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.

No. 091/21