IACHR Completes 181st Period of Sessions

November 8, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 181st Period of Sessions, remotely, over the period October 18–29, 2021. This remote format is a way to ensure compliance with IACHR mandates and operations in the face of the serious impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas and beyond.

During the 181st Period of Sessions, the IACHR held 20 public hearings concerning human rights issues in the States of Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States, and Venezuela. Several regional hearings were also held, concerning the situation of human rights. The topics that were addressed include the situation of indigenous children in residential schools; the use of surveillance technology and its impact on freedom of expression in the context of the pandemic; the human rights situation of individuals who are deprived of liberty in the Americas; the protection of individuals in human mobility contexts in the United States, Mexico, and the north of Central America; and cases concerning Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. A regional hearing was also held to address the impact of extractive industries on human rights and climate change in the Caribbean.

The Commission stresses the problems faced by various at-risk groups around the region, including Afro-descendant persons, human rights defenders (including environmental rights defenders), persons with disabilities, children (particularly indigenous children), individuals in human mobility contexts, women and girls, and individuals who are deprived of liberty. The IACHR is concerned about the information obtained at a hearing on justice operators in Guatemala, particularly the permanent attacks they face—in the form of threats, stigmatization, and criminalization—in retaliation for their independent work in the fight against corruption and impunity. The Commission also addressed the lack of a sufficient budget for the country's Office of the Prosecutor for Human Rights. The IACHR stressed its willingness to conduct a working visit to Guatemala in order to assess on the ground the situation faced by justice operators. 

The hearing on the use of surveillance technologies and their impact on freedom of expression in the context of the pandemic in the Americas enabled the submission of information concerning the lack of democratic monitoring structures and of sufficient transparency in the use and implementation of surveillance technologies by the State, which increases the risk of violations of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression stressed the need for States and private companies to recognize the fact that the use of surveillance technology also affects human rights, and therefore that democratic institutions need to protect the relevant rights. 

At the regional hearing to address the impact of extractive industries on human rights and climate change in the Caribbean, organizations from several countries denounced the serious impact that such activities have on economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights and their disproportionate effects on women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendant communities. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights stressed the importance of adopting a human rights perspective on climate change, and the need to take measures with an intercultural, intersectional focus. The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights stressed that this is a priority issue in its strategic agenda, particularly concerning Central America and the Caribbean.

During the ex officio hearing on protecting individuals in human mobility contexts in the United States, Mexico, and northern Central America, the IACHR reminded States of their duty to provide comprehensive protection for the human rights of mobile individuals and the need to adopt an intersectional focus given the risks that are triggered by deportations. The Commission welcomed the changes made by States in migration measures, but it expressed concern about allegations of human rights violations and about the lack of measures with perspectives focused on race, ethnic background, age, and gender.

Four meetings involving regional groups were held with representatives of the States of South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, the United States, and Central America. These regional meetings provide a platform for dialogue on the IACHR's mandate and on the situation of human rights in the Americas. The IACHR further held two open meetings with civil society organizations to gather information about the situation of human rights in the Americas, with the participation of more than 50 representatives of organizations from around the region. 

Concerning friendly settlement procedures, the Commission held seven working meetings about cases at various negotiation and implementation stages, concerning Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay. The IACHR also acknowledged the efforts made by States to pursue various ongoing procedures to negotiate and implement agreements.

In its 181st Period of Sessions, the IACHR supervised the implementation of the precautionary measures in force, through 10 working meetings concerning the States of The Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. The Commission was pleased with the attendance of State authorities. Through concerted efforts, these platforms allow the parties to get closer to each other and to address the risks faced by beneficiaries.

The IACHR considered eight merits reports, on issues that are iconic for the Americas and matters concerning public order in the region.

During this period of sessions, the Commission approved the resolution "Human Mobility and Humanitarian Protection in Haiti: Inter-American Solidarity." This resolution seeks to provide guidelines for Haiti and other States in the Americas to adopt a comprehensive, immediate, effective, and lasting approach to protect the rights of Haitians who are mobile on an international scale.

The Inter-American Commission thanks States and civil society organizations for the efforts they made to take part in the 181st Period of Sessions and to contribute to ensuring progress in the defense and promotion of human rights in the Americas.

The IACHR further notes that, as stated in Article 63 of its Rules of Procedure, States must adopt protection measures to ensure the safety of all people who have taken part in activities during this period of sessions or who use any of the tools available to everyone in the Americas.

Videos of these hearings are available, with subtitles in Spanish and English. This press release is being published alongside an annex with summaries of all the public hearings held during the 181st Period of Sessions.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 297/21

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