IACHR Completes 180th Period of Sessions

July 2, 2021

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 180 Period of Sessions, remotely, between June 21 and July 2, 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 180th Period of Sessions, the IACHR held 21 public hearings. Eight of them concerned human rights in the States of Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Venezuela. Two further hearings were called ex officio, to address the general situation of human rights in El Salvador and Brazil in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. A regional hearing was further held on the use of remote hearings in criminal justice proceedings in the Americas, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two more public hearings addressed precautionary measures in Brazil and Colombia, and four addressed cases in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala.

The IACHR notes with concern the situation of various groups who are at risk, like children and adolescents, women, human rights defenders, LGBTI persons, older persons, indigenous peoples, individuals who are deprived of liberty, and individuals in human mobility contexts. The Commission is particularly concerned about allegations of human rights violations against individuals in human mobility contexts inside detention facilities, about summary deportations, and about the failure to enforce due process. The IACHR has also been informed of adverse conditions faced by human rights defenders. The Commission stresses how important it is for States to publicly and unequivocally acknowledge the work of rights defenders in all democratic societies.

The IACHR stresses its concern about reports of unwarranted restrictions of civil and political rights in Nicaragua's election context and about increased repression and persecution against presidential candidates, social and political leaders, journalists, and human rights defenders in the country. The Commission calls on the State of Nicaragua to immediately release all individuals who remain in detention in the context of the crisis that started in 2018 and to protect these individuals' personal safety and integrity.

Concerning the hearings that were summoned ex officio, the Commission stressed its solidarity with Brazilian society in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and noted its specific concern about the human rights of vulnerable individuals and groups in this context. Concerning El Salvador, the IACHR is concerned about policy impact on democratic institutions, judicial independence, and the enjoyment of human rights, as well as about the militaristic approach adopted in citizen security policies. The Commission further noted its concern about reports regarding the deterioration of Venezuela's healthcare system—including the general cancellation of bone marrow transplants—and about its differential effect on children and adolescents.

The IACHR also held a hearing on the situation of freedom of expression among communications professionals in Chile. The Commission was informed about various forms of alleged State interference with the exercise of freedom of the press, including alleged pressure on editorial lines; public statements made by the Armed Forces against satirical content; and phone tapping and other forms of surveillance against journalists by military intelligence personnel. The IACHR stressed that the right to freedom of expression is essential for democratic societies and that the relevant inter-American standards require that the authorities tolerate public criticism based on the nature of their roles. The Commission further noted its availability to provide technical support to the State and offered to organize a working visit to Chile by its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression.

On its 180th Period of Sessions, the IACHR held four regional meetings, involving representatives of a total of 31 States. These regional meetings provided a platform for dialogue on the IACHR's mandate and on the situation of human rights. This period of sessions also provided an opportunity to officially introduce the Commission's new Executive Secretary, Tania Reneaum Panszi, and to discuss human rights across the Americas.

The IACHR further held four open meetings with civil society organizations, to gather information about the situation of human rights in the region, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 120 representatives of organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Venezuela took part in these meetings. During this period of sessions, the Commission further met with the International Coalition of Organizations for Human Rights in the Americas and with the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

Concerning friendly settlement procedures, the Commission held 10 working meetings about cases at various negotiation and implementation stages, concerning Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay. The IACHR particularly acknowledged Chile's efforts to bring representatives of seven ministries to high-level talks in order to pursue implementation of the friendly settlement agreement concerning the case of the Chusmiza-Usmagama Aymara community. The Commission further commended Panama for taking action concerning cases A and C, involving relatives of victims of the military dictatorship, to pursue the implementation of comprehensive reparation measures that remain pending despite having been included in friendly settlement agreements. The IACHR also acknowledged the efforts made by the States of Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico to pursue various ongoing procedures to negotiate and implement agreements.

A comprehensive process aimed at bracing the effectiveness of its mechanisms and ensuring they have a more systematic impact on the Americas led to the launch of the IACHR's Impact Observatory. The Impact Observatory is a collaborative platform that seeks to reflect on IACHR actions to defend and protect human rights in the Americas, to make those actions more systematic, and to raise their profile. In a historic panel that brought together members IACHR Board, Commissioners Antonia Urrejola, Julissa Mantilla, and Flávia Piovesan, and Executive Secretary Tania Reneaum Panzsi stressed the crucial role of this initiative, as a strategic contribution to the Inter-American Human Rights System intended to make institutional work more visible across the Americas.

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

During this period of sessions, the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights held the Regional Social Forum on COVID-19 Vaccines, to follow up on Resolution 1/2021. This event was attended by more than 40 representatives of civil society organizations from the Americas, who debated progress made and challenges remaining to ensure fair, non-discriminatory access to vaccines and reported on their own data. The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights reported on its own activities and on its active involvement in this period of sessions. This Special Rapporteurship—in cooperation with the IACHR's Executive Secretariat—further provided technical assistance to examine cases and precautionary measures concerning economic, social, and cultural rights.

The Inter-American Commission thanks States and civil society organizations for the efforts they made to take part in the 180th Period of Sessions and to contribute to ensuring progress in the defense and promotion of human rights in the Americas. At the same time, however, the Commission stresses how important it is for States to take part in hearings and notes the absence of State representatives from Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador.

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 this 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. 165/21

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