Press Release

Annex to Press Release 70/17 - IACHR Special Session in Argentina Comes to a Close

May 27, 2017

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Buenos Aires — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 162nd special session in Buenos Aires on May 22-27, 2017, at the invitation of the Argentine State. The IACHR thanks the State for its invitation and for the support it provided for these sessions, and appreciates the hospitality of the Argentine people.

The President of the IACHR is Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, the First Vice-President is Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, and the Second Vice-President is Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. In addition to this board of officers, the other members of the IACHR are Commissioners José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Paulo Vannuchi, James L. Cavallaro, and Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva. The Executive Secretary of the Commission is Paulo Abrão and the Assistant Executive Secretary is Elizabeth Abi-Mershed. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is Edison Lanza.

The162nd special session began with an opening ceremony that included the participation of the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli; the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Pedro Villagra Delgado; and the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Argentina, Germán Garavano. More than 100 invited guests attended the event, including representatives of Argentina’s three branches of government, autonomous State agencies, former Commissioners, former Executive Secretaries and Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, societal leaders and other civil society representatives, academics, authorities of international organizations, and representatives of the accredited diplomatic corps in Argentina.

The Commissioners and the delegation of the IACHR Executive Secretariat made a guided visit to the Place of Remembrance, at the site that was once the Escuela Mecánica de la Armada [Naval School of Mechanics] during the Argentine civil-military dictatorship. The Commissioners and all members of the delegation were deeply moved during the guided visit, as this was one of the clandestine sites where people were illegally deprived of liberty and tortured, and where many of the victims of forced disappearance were held. The Inter-American Commission visited this detention center during its visit to Argentina in September 1979, in the context of the historic visit that brought to international attention the State’s terrorism, including kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, deaths, forced disappearances, and appropriation of babies, among other serious human rights violations perpetrated by the civil-military dictatorship. The IACHR commends the Argentine State for having reclaimed this site and kept it as a place to keep alive the memory of the crimes against humanity committed there. The Commission applauds the fact that this place has been conserved over time, as a policy of the State, as this is an effective means to prevent a repetition of these serious human rights violations in Argentina. The Inter-American Commission also commends all the individuals and organizations that work day after day not only to keep the memory of those crimes alive but also to advance toward justice: judicial punishment for all those responsible for these grave violations, and reparation for surviving victims and relatives of all victims of the dictatorship. The IACHR expresses its admiration for the work that has been done for decades, and continues to be done, by civil society organizations and relatives of victims of crimes against humanity, who have not given up on the search for truth, justice, and reparation.

During this session, the IACHR examined draft thematic reports, held 18 hearings on human rights situations in the Southern Cone, analyzed requests for precautionary measures, and reviewed and approved reports on petitions and cases: 21 reports on admissibility, four reports on the merits, and one decision to publish, among other tasks.  

In addition, pursuant to its Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the IACHR decided to create three new thematic units: the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which falls under the responsibility of Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva; the Unit on Memory, Truth and Justice; and the Unit on the Rights of Older Persons, the latter two of which are under Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi. The Commission also proceeded to make some changes to the distribution of its thematic rapporteurships and country rapporteurships, which are now distributed as follows:

Commissioner Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli: Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela; Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons.

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominica, United States, El Salvador, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Rapporteur on the Rights of Women; Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination.

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño: Cuba, Ecuador, México, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Suriname; Rapporteur on the Rights of Children and Adolescents; member of the Working Group of the Protocol of San Salvador.
Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco: Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis; Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. 

Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi: Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru; in charge of the Unit on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (until July, when it becomes the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Right); Unit on Memory, Truth and Justice; Unit on the Rights of Older Persons.

Commissioner James L. Cavallaro: Belize, Brazil, Canada, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago; Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty.

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva: Barbados, Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic; Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants; in charge of the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The IACHR also decided that Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño and Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva will be in charge of the Follow-Up Mechanism to Precautionary Measure 409/14, “Students of the rural school “Raúl Isidro Burgos,” and the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI for its acronym in Spanish).

In addition, during this session the IACHR selected the five finalists in the competition for the position of Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (ESCER). The five finalists are: Ligia Bolívar Osuna, from Venezuela; Ana María Díaz, from Colombia; Alexandre Brasil Carvalho da Fonseca, from Brazil; Soledad García Muñoz, from Argentina; and Oscar Javier Parra Vera, from Colombia. One candidate, Oscar Javier Parra Vera, communicated to the IACHR that he was withdrawing his candidacy, so there are currently four finalists, whose curricula vitae are published on the IACHR website. States, civil society organizations, members of academia, and other interested individuals or organizations may send in their comments on the candidacies through June 15, 2017, at midnight (Eastern Daylight Time). The IACHR hopes to complete the selection process in July 2017, in the framework of its 163rd session, which will take place in Lima, Peru. The IACHR made the decision to create an ESCER Special Rapporteurship in 2014, and then began the process of raising the necessary funds to make it possible. The selection of the person to lead the Special Rapporteurship marks an important step forward in expanding and intensifying the Inter-American Commission’s work related to respecting and upholding these rights for everyone who lives in the 35 countries under its jurisdiction.

During the 162nd session, a seminar on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was held May 23-24 at the School of Law of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). The activity was organized jointly by the IACHR, the UBA School of Law, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the International Political Studies Center of the National University of San Martín, the Public Defender’s Office for Cassation of the Center for Public Defense Studies, the National University of La Plata, the National University of Lanús, and the International Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The IACHR thanks all the co-organizing universities and organizations that made this seminar possible; the panelists, who enriched the debate; and all members of the public who attended. The massive attendance and participation of students, academics, human rights defenders, and the general public is a sign of the enormous interest of Argentine society in expanding its understanding of inter-American human rights standards, something the Inter-American Commission considers healthy in a democratic society.

Opening remarks at the seminar were delivered by the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren; the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Argentina, Germán Garavano; and the Research Secretary at the UBA School of Law, Marcelo Alegre. On May 23, a panel discussion was held on extractive industries and human rights, in which the IACHR introduced its thematic report “Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Descendant Communities, and Natural Resources: Human Rights Protection in the Context of Extraction, Exploitation, and Development Activities.” The panel was moderated by former IACHR Executive Secretary Jorge Taiana, of the National University of San Martín, and included IACHR President Eguiguren, Silvina Ramírez of UBA, and Gloria Bonatto of the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs. This was followed by the presentation of the IACHR thematic report on the problem of criminalization of the work of human rights defenders and the need for comprehensive protection. This panel was moderated by Santiago Canton, former IACHR Executive Secretary and current Human Rights Secretary for the Province of Buenos Aires. The panelists were Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco, IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Commissioner James Cavallaro, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty; the National Public Defender, Stella Maris Martínez; and human rights defender Diego Morales, of the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) of Argentina.

On May 24, the seminar opened with the introduction of the IACHR thematic report “Legal Standards related to Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System: Development and Application.” The panel was moderated by former IACHR Commissioner Víctor Abramovich, of the University of Lanús and UBA, and included presentations on the respect for and protection of women’s rights and access to justice. The panelists were Commissioner Margarette Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women; Soledad García of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights; and Alejandra Mangano, head of the Attorney’s Office on Human Trafficking and Exploitation in the Argentine Public Prosecutor’s Office. The next panel began with an introduction of the IACHR report “Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons in the Americas” and was moderated by Mario Coriolano, of the Center for Public Defense Studies and the National University of La Plata. The panel, which debated the issue of violence against LGBTI people and the problems faced by intersex children, was made up of Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons; Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Children and Adolescents; Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator of the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RedLACTrans) and President of the Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales y Transgéneros de Argentina (ATTA); and Diego Borisonik, Director of Sexual Diversity at the government of Argentina’s Secretariat of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism. The seminar’s last panel discussion focused on the obligation to achieve remembrance, truth, and justice for the crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Southern Cone, and it began with the presentation of the IACHR thematic report “The Right to Truth in the Americas.” It was moderated by Luis Hipólito Alen, of the National University of Lanús, and included the participation of IACHR Commissioners Paulo Vannuchi and Luis Ernesto Vargas, as well as Mariano Fridman, of the Memory, Truth, and Justice Program at the government of Argentina’s Secretariat of Human Rights, and Patricia Tapattá Vldez, of the UNESCO International Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights. The two-day seminar ended with closing remarks by IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão.

Prior to the session, on May 19, the IACHR held the Fifth National Seminar on the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in Argentina. Opening remarks were given by the President of the IACHR, Francisco Eguiguren; the National Secretary of Human Rights, Claudio Avruj; and the National Public Defender, Stella Maris Martínez. The Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, made a presentation on the mandate and functions of the IACHR. This was followed by a panel discussion in which participants shared international experiences with friendly settlement processes and discussed their scope and challenges. The panelists were Angela Ramírez, adviser to the director of the National Legal Defense Agency of the State of Colombia; Erasmo Lara, director of Human Rights at the Foreign Ministry of Mexico; and Mario Coriolano, head of the Public Defender’s Office for Cassation of the Province of Buenos Aires and member of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture of the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The panel on the Argentine experience with the friendly settlement process for petitions and cases presented to the IACHR included one section where the State’s perspective was presented and another that offered the perspective of petitioning parties. The representatives of the State who participated were Javier Salgado, Director of Contentious International Human Rights Matters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Brian Schapira, Deputy Secretary of Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice; and Santiago Canton, Human Rights Secretary for the Province of Buenos Aires. Petitioners were represented by Gabriela Kletzel, of the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS); Gustavo Iglesias, of the National Public Defender’s Office; and Ana María Herrán, of the Comisión de familiares de víctimas indefensas de la Violencia Social-Policial-Judicial-Institucional (COFAVI). For her part, Sylvia Aguilera, of the Mexican organization Centro de Colaboración Cívica, made a presentation on tools to facilitate a friendly settlement. The final debate, which included the participation of everyone who attended, looked at ways to increase the use of the friendly settlement mechanism in Argentina and examined lessons learned from the past and suggestions for the future.     
In addition, as the IACHR member of the Working Group of the Protocol of San Salvador, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitino participated in the fourth session held to analyze national reports in that context. The meeting was held May 18-20, 2017, in Buenos Aires, at the invitation of the Republic of Argentina. Participants reviewed the initial national reports presented by Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru. Presentations were also made to public officials, civil society organizations, and academics on the progress and challenges with regard to the compliance mechanism on economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the inter-American system.

In addition, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, gave a lecture on the current situation of migrants in the Americas, as part of a public conference on migration and human rights. The conference, held May 26 at the UBA School of Social Sciences, emphasized aspects of detention, expulsion, and irregular migration related to people in a situation of human mobility in the Americas. The event was organized jointly by several Argentine organizations: the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS); Pastoral de Migraciones, of the Diocese of Neuquén; Red Nacional de Líderes Migrantes en Argentina; Asociación Ecuménica de Cuyo; the University of Lanús, and the Comisión Argentina para los Refugiados y Migrantes (CAREF). The conference took place in the framework of the 2017 National Meeting of Social-Legal Clinics, which specialize in the issue of migration and are led by civil society organizations in coordination with academia. Participants included migrant leaders and representatives of migrant organizations in various provinces throughout Argentina, as well labor union and academic leaders and people who work in public defense, such as at the Commission on Migration of the National Public Defender’s Office, the Attorney’s Office for the Prison System, and the Buenos Aires Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office.

During the session in Argentina, the IACHR signed cooperation agreements with the Criminal Public Defender’s Office of Chile; the Supreme Court of Mendoza, Argentina; and the Public Defender’s Office of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. These agreements will make it possible to strengthen the work of the IACHR through visits by professionals to the Executive Secretariat, improve channels for information exchange, and work together on other promotional and training activities.   

During the 162nd session, the IACHR held 18 public hearings on human rights situations in Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, and on regional situations that affect the Southern Cone.

The IACHR regrets that the State of Uruguay did not participate in two of the three hearings to which it had been convened, one on judicial independence and the other on justice operators and human rights defenders in the transitional justice process in that country. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission emphasizes that it is important for the States to participate in all the hearings, in good faith and with sufficient substantive information available, in order to make constructive progress toward solutions to human rights problems in the region. The inter-American human rights system is strengthened with the active participation of the State, the victim and his or her representatives, and civil society organizations.

The Commission will a report on the hearings held during these sessions. Videos of these hearings are also available on the IACHR’s YouTube channel, and high-resolution photos can be found on the IACHR’s institutional Flickr account, where they can be downloaded for use and publication free of charge, provided that the respective credit is included in any publication.

The IACHR will hold three additional sessions this year. The 163rd special session will take place in Lima, Peru, July 3-7, and will include hearings on Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Suriname, and Venezuela. The 164th special session will take place in Mexico City, September 4-8, and will include hearings on Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, United States, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. The 165th regular session will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, October 23-November 1, 2017; since this will be a regular session, not a special session, hearings will be held on the 35 countries over which the IACHR has jurisdiction.

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 the respect for and defense of 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. 070A/17