Press Release

IACHR Concludes its 141st Regular Session

April 28, 2011

Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 141st regular session from March 21 to April 1, 2011. The IACHR is composed of Dinah Shelton, Chair; José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, First Vice-Chair; Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Second Vice-Chair; and Commissioners Luz Patricia Mejía, María Silvia Guillén, Felipe González, and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The Executive Secretary is Santiago A. Canton.

The Inter-American Commission welcomes the approval, in Mexico, of a draft constitutional reform that, among other things, elevates to constitutional status the human rights recognized in treaties ratified by Mexico. The IACHR hopes that the draft will be approved by the Mexican states so the reform can take effect. On another matter, during these sessions the IACHR received new information about the human rights situation of migrants in Mexico, a situation that will be the focus of a visit the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families will make to that country the last week in July.

The Commission observes with concern that certain human rights violations continue in Honduras, including practices that were verified following the coup d'état of June 28, 2009. These refer particularly to the disproportionate use of force to quell public demonstrations against the policies of the current government; the lack of independence of the judiciary; and the situation of human rights defenders. The IACHR urges the State of Honduras to implement the Protocol for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders announced during a hearing held during this period of sessions and to promote, throughout government and in society in general, a culture that recognizes the work of human rights defenders as essential to the strengthening of the rule of law and democracy.

The Commission urges the States to comply with the decisions issued by the bodies of the inter-American human rights system. The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the failure by several States to comply with the Inter-American Commission's decisions and recommendations. During these sessions, the Commission again received very troubling information about significant problems and obstacles in the implementation of precautionary measures that the Commission has granted to individuals at risk in order to prevent irreparable harm. Beneficiaries of IACHR precautionary measures have been murdered and others have been extrajudicially executed. The inter-American protection system is a tool conceived to protect the human rights of persons in this hemisphere, and its effectiveness and credibility depend on the compliance given to its pronouncements.

The Commission also received alarming information on the already serious impact of anthropogenic climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, especially in mountain regions where the widespread loss of glaciers and snow pack and rising temperatures are diminishing access to water, harming food production, and introducing new diseases. The Commission urges States to keep human rights at the forefront of climate change negotiations, including in designing and implementing measures of mitigation and adaptation.

The Commission is also concerned about the forced displacements taking place in many countries of the region as a result of the construction of mega-dams and the exploitation of natural resources in indigenous and Afro-descendant territories, which in many cases jeopardizes the survival of peoples. Along these lines, the IACHR urges the States to take steps to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the full exercise of the right to prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations over decisions that affect their territories.

The IACHR also expresses its concern about anti-terrorism laws being applied to children and adolescents, and reiterates that this practice contravenes international human rights law. The Commission urges the States to redouble their efforts to respect and guarantee the rights of children and adolescents.

During this period of sessions, the IACHR decided to establish an Office of the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, in view of the petitions it has received and in the interest of giving greater visibility to the role that human rights defenders and justice operators have in building a democratic society in which the rule of law is in full effect. The Rapporteur is Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez. The IACHR also made the decision to give special thematic emphasis to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (LGBTI).

With the three-year term to which Catalina Botero was elected Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression coming to an end in October 2011, the Commission decided to renew her mandate for another three years, pursuant to Article 15.4 of its Rules of Procedure. The IACHR expresses its deep appreciation for the Special Rapporteur's efforts to protect and promote human rights in the hemisphere.

Finally, the IACHR approved a draft reform to Article 11 of its Rules of Procedure, which is open as of today for consultation and comments by the States and by civil society, until June 1, 2011.

This press release has an annex, which is available on the IACHR website.

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 human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 28/11