Press Release

IACHR Presents Annual Report

April 23, 2014

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presents today its 2013 Annual Report. The six chapters of the Annual Report are aimed at providing accessible, comprehensive and relevant information to all users of the Inter-American System of Human Rights on its work and resources and within the context of the Commission’s Strategic Plan to promote compliance with its decisions, to ensure accessibility to victims, to run the petition system with efficiency, stay current on the human rights situation in the region, respond to needs of groups historically marginalized, promote human rights, encourage universalization, publicize its work and procure resources to carry out its mandate.

“The Annual Report is not only a mechanism of accounting for what we do, it is a substantive report on the human rights situation in the Americas and an important way in which the Commission identifies and continues a conversation about best State practices and analyses regional challenges in the Americas,” said the IACHR Chair, Tracy Robinson, in presenting the Report before the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the OAS Permanent Council.

The Annual Report for 2013 is the first annual report to be prepared under the guidelines of the reformed Rules of Procedure of the IACHR, which changed substantially on August 1, 2013. Those reforms took place in the context of an open and constructive dialogue and strengthening process in relation to the IAHRS from 2011 to 2013, led by the Permanent Council and the Commission.

The Report consists of six chapters. Chapter I gives a broad overview of the Commission’s activities during the year. Chapter II looks at the Petition and Case System and Precautionary Measures. In 2013, the Commission received and registered over 2000 petitions, the largest number in the last decade. The Commission continues to put its attention on trying to shorten the initial evaluation period and prioritize the first reply to a petitioner and notification to the concerned State. Of the petitions reviewed in 2013, 83% were not accepted for processing, and 17% were accepted for processing. At the end of 2013, the Commission had approximately 1,753 cases in the stages of admissibility and merits. In addition, during 2013, the Commission received 400 requests for precautionary measures. It granted 26 and decided not to grant in 64 requests. Most of the other applications were still at the stage of requesting and awaiting information from the petitioners or states.

Chapter III is new, and it is devoted to the activities of the Thematic Rapporteurs, giving greater visibility to the ongoing work of the seven members of the Commission as Rapporteurs. Chapter IV, for the first time, provides an annual overview of the human rights situation in the hemisphere, which is done in Section A, while Section B provides special reports on the situation of some Member States. Section B reflects the Commission’s careful application of the criteria, methods and procedure identified in the reformed Rules of Procedure. Implicit in the chapter is a new mechanism that allows the Commission to more diligently monitor the situation of a country listed in Section IV.B and support efforts by the State to address it through an on-site visit and a report following that visit. Chapter V is designed to follow up on recommendations made in Country Reports previously adopted, and chapter VI provides information on institutional development and the administration of the Commission.

Chapter IV.A provides the hemispheric overview of the human rights situation during 2013, derived from the Commission’s monitoring work. In this context, it spotlights four issues of concern in the Hemisphere in 2013: right to personal liberty in reference to the persons deprived of liberty in Guantanamo; the situation of freedom of expression in Ecuador, the right to nationality and non-discrimination in Dominican Republic, and the independence of the judiciary, which is considered across the region. Chapter IV.A also examines the progress and challenges in relation to the universal ratification of inter-American human rights treaties and the incorporation of inter-American standards into domestic law, as well as review of laws for compliance with international human rights conventions and effective enforcement of related decisions and recommendations.

“Ratification furthers the integration goals of the OAS and ensures that all citizens of the Americas enjoy the full protection of their rights,” highlighted Chair Robinson.

Chapter IV.B includes the special reports that the Commission considers necessary regarding the situation of human rights in Member States and it analyses the situation in Cuba, Honduras and Venezuela. The section has been prepared in accordance with the specific criteria and methodology detailed in the Reforms to the Rules of Procedure. These reports rely on the best possible information available and ensures that the state has an opportunity to respond to the detailed analysis and to provide additional information. Each special report records challenges and progress and offers specific recommendations to the state.

In relation to Cuba, the Commission draws attention to the restrictions on the political rights to association, freedom of expression, and dissemination of ideas, the lack of elections, the lack of an independent judiciary, and the restrictions on freedom of movement that over decades have come to shape a permanent and systematic situation of violation of the human rights of the inhabitants of Cuba. In the course of 2013, the information available suggests that the general human rights situation has not changed and that as severe repression and restrictions of human rights defenders persist. In this report, the Commission reiterates its concern about the impact of the economic and trade embargo imposed on the United States on Cuba on the human rights of Cubans while emphasizing that this does not release the State from its international obligations under the American Declaration.

In relation to Honduras, the Commission received information over 2013 that points to the persistence of structural situations that seriously affect the use and enjoyment of fundamental rights. While acknowledging efforts on the part of the state to address specific issues, the Commission was especially concerned about the situation of citizen insecurity, the independence of the judicial and other branches of government, weaknesses in the administration of justice that are reflected in high levels of violence and impunity, as well as discrimination and marginalization of segments of society. In the aftermath of the 2009 coup d’état, there continues to be, in the Commission’s view, fragility in democratic institutions, and the Commission is committed to supporting the state in strengthening the protection of human rights.

In relation to Venezuela, the Commission recognizes efforts made by the State to reduce social inequality. This special report draws attention to the continuing concern about a core institution of a democracy—the independence of the judiciary. This report also points to concerns about the integrity of the criminal justice system, obstacles that human rights defenders encounter in performing their work and the infringement of freedom of expression. The Commission deeply regrets the denunciation of the American Convention on Human Rights that came into effect in 2013. While the Commission welcomes the participation of the State in hearings in every period of sessions, in the context of the Commission’s jurisdiction established by the OAS Charter and American Declaration, it strongly encourages Venezuela to review its decision which strips those in Venezuela of a mechanism to protect their human rights, and limits the resources they have to defend themselves in the context of human rights violations.

Chapter VI highlights the grave challenges facing the Commission in terms of staffing and financial resources. The Commission thanked the OAS decision to modestly increase the allocation to the Commission from the General Fund, which demonstrates an important show of support for the defense and promotion of human rights, since that the overall budget of the Organization absorbed a reduction over the previous year.

“The OAS Charter describes the historic mission of the Americas as that of offering to all human beings a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of their personality and the realization of their just aspirations. In protecting and promoting rights, the Inter-American Commission has accompanied Member States in that regional mission for over half a century,” said Chair Robinson before the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs.

“In this 2013 Annual Report, you should discern the Commission alertness to recommendations made by States about the IAHRS and you should equally recognize a call or entreaty to States to further build and strengthen the system through your compliance with recommendations and decisions of the system’s organs, ratification of Inter-American human rights instruments and giving it more to do its work,” she added.

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. 43/14