Press Release

IACHR Brings its 143rd Regular Session to a Close

November 4, 2011

Washington, D.C., November 4, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 143rd regular session from October 19 to November 4, 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.

First of all, the Inter-American Commission welcomes Uruguay's enactment, on October 30, 2011, of Law No. 18.831, which states that the crimes committed during the dictatorship are not covered by statutes of limitation. In its first article, the new law "reestablishes the full exercise of the State's punitive powers" for the crimes covered by the Expiry Law of the Punitive Powers of the State [Ley de Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado], of December 22, 1986. With the new law, Uruguay has made significant progress toward complying with the recommendations in Report No. 29/92—approved by the IACHR on October 2, 1992—and the judgment handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Juan Gelman case.

The IACHR also welcomes the State of Peru's commitment to combat impunity in cases involving human rights violations that took place in times of authoritarian regimes, a commitment expressed by Minister of Justice Francisco Eguiguren in a public hearing held on October 25. The IACHR welcomes the declarations of the Minister stressing that Peru's position is geared toward complying with the decisions of the bodies of the inter-American human rights system, and toward an ethical and moral commitment to defending human rights.

During the session, the Commission received information about efforts being carried out by the States to meet their international obligations. In this regard, the IACHR welcomes the decision by Peru's Office of the Public Prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the case of María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez. This decision was communicated to the IACHR in a working meeting to follow up on a Friendly Settlement Report, in which the State had made a commitment to identify and appropriately punish those responsible for the forced sterilizations to which more than 2,000 women were subjected during the government of Alberto Fujimori.

Likewise, with respect to Colombia, the Commission welcomes the adoption of Decree No. 3375 as a step forward in the protection of women's rights, given that it emphasizes the importance of a differentiated approach that takes into account specifics related to age, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and urban or rural origins in recommending and adopting protection measures.

In the hearing on the "Situation of the Judiciary in Haiti," the government representatives introduced the Ministry of Justice and Public Security's new program which aims, among other things, to strengthen the National School of Magistrates, avoid prolonged periods of pretrial detention, and establish mechanisms to improve access to justice. The IACHR hopes that this program will be implemented effectively.

The Commission especially welcomes the presence of María da Penha in the hearing on "Obstacles to the Effective Implementation of the María da Penha Law in Brazil." This law, which was passed in Brazil in 2006, establishes criminal sanctions for acts of domestic and family violence against women, promotes rehabilitation programs for perpetrators of such violence, and creates specialized police forces and courts. The law came about, in part, because of the case that was processed by the IACHR, and led to important changes in laws and public policies in Brazil.

In another vein, during the hearings the IACHR continued to receive, with concern, information regarding the particular level of risk faced by women of African descent, who historically have suffered triple discrimination based on their gender, poverty, and race.

Moreover, the Commission received information on grave violations of the rights of children and adolescents in the region. The IACHR is especially concerned over the information it received, in the hearing on juvenile criminal justice, on regressive measures by various States that have passed or are trying to pass laws that would lower the maximum age of responsibility in the juvenile justice system from 18 to 16 years or increase the length of incarceration for children and adolescents convicted of breaking criminal laws.

In addition, the Commission received information on the situation of human rights defenders in the region and the obstacles they continue to face in carrying out their work of promoting and protecting human rights. Besides the threats, acts of harassment, and attacks on their life and safety, the Commission received information on an increase in the criminal charges brought against them, with accusations of rebellion, terrorism, sedition, and conspiracy, among others.

The IACHR expresses its deep concern over the serious security situation in the Mesoamerican region. The homicide rates are among the highest in the world, and most of the cases remain in absolute impunity. The IACHR is particularly concerned about the situation in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras, where 42 individuals affiliated with campesino organizations, as well as a journalist and his spouse, reportedly were killed between September 2009 and October 2011, in the context of an agrarian conflict. In a hearing on this situation, the Commission received information regarding the criminalization of the campesino struggle and the militarization of the area, which has reportedly placed the peasant farmers and human rights defenders in the Bajo Aguán in a state of high risk.

The Commission is concerned over the participation of the armed forces in citizen-security duties. The Commission reiterates that the States have the obligation to adopt and implement comprehensive public policies for prevention and deterrence, and should focus on the creation and consolidation of State institutions that can provide effective and efficient responses to the demands of a democratic society.

This press release has an annex, which will be available on the website of the IACHR.

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 an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 117/11