Press Release

IACHR Concludes its 144th Session

March 30, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 144th regular session from March 19-30, 2012. The IACHR is made up of José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Chair; Tracy Robinson, First Vice-Chair; Felipe González, Second Vice-Chair; and Dinah Shelton, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Rosa María Ortiz, and Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. The Executive Secretary is Dr. Santiago A. Canton.

First, the Commission highlights as of historic importance that, for the first time in its more than half a century of existence, the IACHR met in sessions with a majority of women commissioners.

The Commission welcomes the advances in the area of human rights about which it received information during these sessions, as well as the efforts made by the States to improve the situation of human rights of their populations. In addition, the IACHR values and thanks the victims, petitioners and representatives of the States for their active participation in the hearings and working meetings.

The IACHR condemns the reprisals and actions taken to discredit individuals who appeared at IACHR hearings and working meetings, on the part of private individuals and, in some cases, high-level State officials.

The IACHR also expresses its concern over information received in hearings and working meetings on various human rights problems that persist in the region. These have to do with, among other matters, respect for the right to life and personal integrity; guarantees of due process and judicial protection; the exercise of economic, social, and cultural rights; and situations involving the rights of children, migrants, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, women, persons deprived of liberty, lesbians, gays, and trans, bisexual, and intersex persons.

Specifically, during these sessions the IACHR received with concern information on the lack of access to justice for adolescent girls who have been victims of sexual violence, the impact of extractive industries, especially on indigenous peoples and afro-descendent populations, and the situation of triple discrimination historically faced by indigenous women based on gender, indigenous identity and poverty. The Commission expresses its concern over information received in relation to discrimination and violence against indigenous women in various countries in the region, and the impunity that often prevails in the grave crimes against them, including killings and disappearances.

In this context in which individuals and groups face serious human rights violations in every country of the hemisphere, the work of human rights defenders takes on special importance, as they are a first line of defense for all persons. Mindful of that, during this session, the Inter-American Commission presented its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, which indicates that the obstacles that had been identified in its 2006 First Report as hindering the efforts of human rights defenders not only continue, but in some cases have intensified. Extrajudicial executions, attacks, forced disappearances, threats and illegal searches continue, as do statements by high-level authorities discrediting and stigmatizing the work of human rights defenders.

In this regard, in one of the hearings during this session, the Commission received information concerning a series of undue restrictions on freedom of association that seriously affect the capacity of society to organize itself to exercise its rights. The participants informed the Commission that criminal law is used against members of organizations that receive international funding.

In this context, it is imperative and urgent to provide the inter-American human rights system with the needed human and financial resources to face these challenges and comply with its mandate, as the inter-American system is the last instance of recourse for millions of persons seeking justice.

Along these lines, in the hearing on the "Process of Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System," a coalition representing 700 human rights organizations in the Americas affirmed that, in light of the grave infringement of human rights, humanitarian crises, and troubling rates of inequity and violence in the region, the inter-American system "is one of the most important tools for the protection of human rights." The organizations indicated that some governments are trying to keep the IACHR from doing its job.

Further, during the sessions, the Commission also analyzed the report of the Working Group of the Permanent Council to Reflect on the Workings of the IACHR with a View to Strengthening the Inter-American human rights System. The IACHR will continue its dialogue with the States and with civil society so that the protection and promotion of the human rights of all persons in all OAS member countries will be even more effective.

The IACHR would like to highlight how important it is that the Government of the United States grant the visas that are necessary for persons to participate in hearings and working meetings. The IACHR reiterates that it is of fundamental importance that all persons who want to appear before the Inter-American Commission are able to do so.

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 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. 36/12