Press Release

IACHR Wraps Up its 159th Session

December 7, 2016

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Panama - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 159th regular session in Panama City, Panama, from November 28 to December 7, 2016, at the invitation of the Panamanian State. During the session, the IACHR held 37 public hearings and 32 working meetings on precautionary measures and friendly settlements. It also made progress in the development of its Strategic Plan and held consultations on its first thematic report on poverty and human rights, as well as various events to promote human rights. In addition, the Commission is announcing that it is moving to implement its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The Commission expresses its appreciation to the government of Panama for its invitation to hold the regular session in this country, enabling the Commission to move forward on issues that are essential to the fulfillment of its mandate to promote and uphold human rights in the hemisphere. The Commission extends its appreciation to civil society organizations and to the Panamanian people for their hospitality and collaboration.

More than 200 civil society organizations from the region and representatives of the States of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela participated in the hearings. The Commission thanks the States and civil society for their active participation in all the hearings, the summaries of which are annexed to this press release.

The Commission is pleased to announce that it has identified the necessary resources to implement the conversion of its Unit on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to a Special Rapporteurship. This will enable the Commission to take a broader, deeper, and more cross-cutting approach to these fundamental challenges. In the coming months, the Commission will proceed with the selection of the Special Rapporteur.

Reiterating its commitment to dialogue and transparency in its work, the Commission made progress in developing its 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. The IACHR held workshops on the subject with international organizations, civil society representatives, and international experts. The Commission will continue to hold participatory workshops which will culminate with regional consultations expected to take place in February. As part of this consultation process on its Strategic Plan, the IACHR held a coordination meeting with the regional and national offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to ensure that the regional and universal human rights systems are working together and on the same page. The two organizations approved a joint work plan which will be published in the coming days.

In the context of preparing its first thematic report on poverty, extreme poverty, and human rights in the Americas, the Commission held discussions with States and with civil society during this session. The IACHR also held a consultation meeting with international experts from the following agencies: the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the International Organization for Migration, as well as human rights experts from academic institutions in the region. A preliminary version of the report will be released soon for comment, with a view to presenting the final report in March 2017.

In fulfillment of its mandate to promote human rights in the region, the Commission made a public presentation of its report “Criminalization of the Work of Human Rights Defenders” and held a workshop for Panamanian public servants on the Commission’s friendly settlement mechanism. It also offered a course for journalists, in conjunction with the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In its first session following the signing and approval of Colombia’s new “Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace,” and in the context of two public hearings on the subject during this session, the IACHR reiterates its commitment to closely follow the transition to peace in Colombia. To that end, the Commission will monitor compliance with inter-American standards related to truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition in the implementation of the agreement.

The Inter-American Commission also worked on the analysis of individual petitions and cases alleging violations of human rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other inter-American instruments. Once the parties have been notified, the list of petitions and cases along with their respective reports will be published on the Commission’s website.

Those who participated in the 159th regular session included the President of the IACHR, James L. Cavallaro; the First Vice-President, José Eguiguren Praelli; the Second Vice-President, Margarette May Macaulay; Commissioners José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Paulo Vannuchi, Enrique Gil Botero, and Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño; the IACHR Executive Secretary, Paulo Abrão; the Assistant Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Abi-Mershed; the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza; and other members of the IACHR Executive Secretariat. The IACHR reiterates its appreciation to the Panamanian State for enabling it to hold this regular session in the context of the Commission’s financial difficulties.

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. 183/16