Press Release

IACHR ends its 175th Period of Sessions

March 18, 2020

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Washington, D.C. / Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held the 175th Session in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from March 2 to 8, 2020. The IACHR thanks the State of Haiti for the invitation and for the facilities provided for the successful celebration of all scheduled events. The Commission expresses its appreciation to civil society organizations and the Haitian people for their collaboration and hospitality.

The 175th Session in Haiti is part of the Program for Assistance and Collaboration with the Caribbean and Central America, contemplated in the IACHR's Strategic Plan 2017-2021, which prioritizes the strengthening of the IACHR´s relationship with the Caribbean countries. The IACHR expresses its satisfaction with the successful holding of this important session that brought the IACHR closer to the peoples of CARICOM´s member countries.

In the framework of the 175th Period of Sessions, on March 2 the Inter-American Commission elected its new authorities. Its board of directors was made up of Commissioner Joel Hernández as President, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola as First Vice President, and Commissioner Flávia Piovesan as Second Vice President.

In addition, the IACHR held 19 public hearings on Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela, as well as on regional issues, such as asylum and refuge systems in the face of humanitarian situations and economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of LGBTI populations in the Americas. Likewise, 28 working meetings were held on petitions, cases, precautionary measures, follow-up on recommendations, as well as meetings with representatives of victims, States and civil society organizations. In addition to this, promotional activities and consultations with specialists were carried out.

This Period of Sessions was also highlighted by the approval of 10 merits reports. Likewise, the IACHR approved the “Digest of decisions on admissibility and jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” as well as the planning of the work of the Special Rapporteurships for Freedom of Expression and on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights for the year 2020. The IACHR also had the opportunity to review and approve the prototypes of the E-Vote and SIMORE-Inter-American Systems, as well as the development of its early stages.

During the hearings and meetings held within the framework of the 175th Period of Sessions, the IACHR received information on the general situation of human rights in the Americas. In this regard, the IACHR notes with concern that people in situations of special vulnerability due to historical or structural discrimination -such as women and girls, people of African descent, indigenous peoples, LGBTI people, and people in the context of human mobility- continue to face serious obstacles to enjoy the rights to life, personal integrity or health, among other rights contained in the American Convention.

On the other hand, the Commission warns of the persistence of social protests in the region, which are mobilized around legitimate demands; particularly around access to economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. The IACHR recognizes the legitimacy of historical demands, in particular claims regarding income inequality, access to education, health, social security, water, and other social rights. As it has been known, in general these protests are now being carried out broadly and peacefully. However, the IACHR has also had information on the excessive use of force by State agents, arbitrary arrests of protesters, and other acts of violence. In this regard, the IACHR reiterates the call to the States to adopt decisive measures for the generation of genuine social dialogues through effective citizen participation, in an environment of total transparency and without discrimination in accordance with the rights approach required by international and inter-American human rights standards.

In relation to the general human rights situation in Bolivia, the Commission continues to closely monitor the situation in the country, as a follow-up to the observation visit carried out in November 2019. In this regard, during the Period of Sessions, the Commission received reports of acts of physical, sexual and psychological torture in the context of the generalized violence that emerged from October 2019, as well as the repercussions that this context of violence has had on freedom of expression, judicial independence and the access to justice. In this regard, the IACHR calls on the State to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for all the acts of violence that occurred in the aforementioned context, as well as to repair the victims and their families. Furthermore, the Commission reiterates that the State must conduct, at the highest level, a national process of dialogue and reconciliation that allows defusing the tensions and hostilities latent in Bolivian society. Additionally, as a matter of special concern, the IACHR followed up on the situation of the rights of indigenous peoples in Bolivia, as well as allegations regarding non-compliance with the obligations derived from Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. In this regard, the Commission urges the Bolivian State to undertake dialogue measures with indigenous peoples that lead to meeting their needs and demands. In addition, it reminds the State of the recommendations made in the report of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Panamazonia.

On the other hand, the Commission reiterates its concern about the allegations of acts of police violence against people of African descent in Brazil. On this matter, during the hearing "Police violence against the Afro-descendant population in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo," the IACHR heard the testimony of the sister of a 16-year-old teenager who -like 8 other people- died after an action by the military police generated a panic and stampede among those attending a party in the Favela de Paraisópolis in São Paulo, a fact that was condemned by the Commission at the time. The IACHR reminds the State of Brazil that, in accordance with inter-American standards, it must carry out a serious, impartial, and effective investigation into the acts of violence, to ensure that these do not go unpunished. This investigation must be oriented to the determination of the truth, as well as the individualization, prosecution and eventual sanction of the persons responsible for these events. The IACHR highlights the State's duty to make reparations to the victims of violence and their families, whom the Commission deeply thanks for the testimonies they have provided in the framework of this Period of Sessions. Lastly, it calls on the State of Brazil to continue in its effort to implement public policies for citizen security that address the problem of institutional racism, to prevent future police interventions from having a negative impact on the human rights of people of African descent.

The IACHR received information about repeated human rights violations of women and young activists in Cuba. During the hearing, civil society organizations denounced a pattern of harassment, bullying, threats, beatings, discredit, arbitrary arrests, torture, violation of the right to free transit by denying departure from the country, violation of freedom of thought and freedom of expression, association ban, among others. In addition, in some bilateral meetings the IACHR received information regarding the lack of attention to the human rights situation of persons with disabilities. The Commission expressed its solidarity with the activists in Cuba and reaffirmed its commitment to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the country.

The IACHR received with concern information on disappearances of people in Mexico, noting that boys, girls, and particularly adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age are in an increased condition of vulnerability to this phenomenon. In this regard, the IACHR highlights the need for an institutional framework that considers the differentiated approach necessary to prevent and react against acts of violence that particularly affect children and adolescents. In addition, it recalls that, according to Inter-American standards, whenever there are reasons to suspect the disappearance of a person, the investigation should be initiated ex officio, without delay, in a serious, impartial, and effective manner, oriented towards determining the truth and that allow the identification, judgment and punishment of those responsible. This search must be effective and allow the immediate location of the disappeared person or their mortal remains, either through a criminal investigation or through another appropriate and effective procedure. In this sense, the Commission welcomes the existence of the National Registry of Data on Lost or Missing Persons, as well as the efforts highlighted by the United Mexican States for the implementation of a National Protocol to optimize the State's response to cases of missing children and adolescents.

Another issue of special concern to the IACHR is the shortage of basic supplies and services in Venezuela. According to the information received during the Session Period, the collapse of the electricity grid has caused interruptions to the service with a duration of up to 5 days in 2020; as a consequence of the above, only a minority of the population would be receiving continuous drinking water service. In addition to this, the lack of medicine and food, as well as the constant failures in telecommunications, transport and solid waste management system, have negative impacts on the effective enjoyment of the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of the Venezuelan population. The Commission notes that these conditions force a large number of people to emigrate to other countries in the region, facing a series of adverse conditions that place them in a particularly vulnerable condition. The IACHR warns that the human rights recognized in the inter-American instruments protect all those who are under the authority and control of the State, and urges the States of the region that receive Venezuelan migrants to adopt measures in line with the provisions of its Resolution 2/18 on Forced Migration of Venezuelans, especially with regard to refraining from adopting measures such as the closing of borders, entry restrictions on people who may have international protection needs, the penalty for irregular entry or presence, the need to present official documents, such as passport or criminal record, immigration detention and hate speech. Likewise, in order to prevent discrimination and xenophobia, the IACHR remembers that States must implement positive measures such as educational and awareness campaigns aimed at promoting multicultural societies.

The Commission held three public hearings in relation to cases: Case 13,615 Miskitu indigenous community of Trasbapounie, Afro-descendant community of Monkey point, Rama indigenous people, Black Creole Indigenous Community of Bluefields vs Nicaragua; Case 13.627 Carlos Alberto Moyano Dietrich vs Peru; and Case 13,388 Fernando Aguirre et al (53 deputies removed from Congress) vs. Ecuador.
The Commission supervised the implementation of precautionary measures in force through 12 working meetings regarding precautionary measures corresponding to the States of Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Commission considers that these spaces are important for the implementation of the precautionary measures in force based on the principle of agreement, as well as for addressing the risk situation of the beneficiaries.

On the other hand, the Commission held 7 working meetings on matters under the friendly settlement procedure at different stages of negotiation and implementation of agreements. In these meetings, the parties advanced with the facilitation of the Commission in the construction of work routes and in the identification of interests for the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements. The Commission values the willingness of the parties in said cases to advance in the negotiation and fulfillment of friendly settlement agreements that allow victims to achieve full reparation for human rights violations related to said matters.

The Commission held 4 working meetings to follow up on compliance with the recommendations regarding cases that already have a report on the merits and in which the Commission will adopt a decision on their eventual submission to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Holding working meetings within the framework of the Sessions is part of a practice that the Commission seeks to increase, with the aim of achieving greater efficiency in its decisions at this stage.

During the Period of Sessions, work meetings were also held on 5 cases in the follow-up stage of recommendations, referring to Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala. The IACHR appreciates the information provided by the parties and welcomes the progress in the implementation of the recommendations. Likewise, it calls on all the States of the region to continue implementing the recommendations issued in merits reports, in an effective manner and in consultation with the victims and their representatives, in order to guarantee full and comprehensive reparation to the victims of human rights violations.

The IACHR appreciates the participation of the States and civil society in the public hearings, working meetings, and public events that took place within the framework of this Period of Sessions. It also highlights the importance of States participating in all hearings, in good faith and with adequate substantive information, in order to constructively move towards solutions to the human rights problems facing the region. The active participation of States, victims of human rights violations and their representatives and civil society organizations, is essential for strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System. Hearings are an essential tool for receiving information in order to fulfill the mandate assigned to it by the OAS member states themselves, to protect, promote, and defend human rights in the region.
Additionally, on March 4, the IACHR held an open meeting with more than 70 members of Haitian and inter-American civil society organizations and groups, in which worrisome information was received on various human rights situations in Haiti. The IACHR highlights the participation and representativeness of civil society organizations, which has allowed obtaining a broad and detailed overview of human rights.

Also on March 4, the IACHR carried out a promotional event to launch the Report on "Violence and discrimination against women, girls and adolescents," which identifies and analyzes the most significant advances, the main pending challenges, and good practices existing in the compliance with its recommendations on violence and discrimination against women, girls and adolescents, from an intersectional approach and especially focused on the causes and consequences of these violations of the human rights of women, girls and adolescents. The promotional event emphasized the racial dimension of violence and discrimination against women girls and adolescents in the region.

Likewise, the IACHR presented the “Principles on Public Policies on Memory in the Americas,” adopted by Resolution 3/19, at another promotional event held on March 4. These principles develop guidelines for the design, elaboration, and implementation of public memory policies in accordance with state obligations to provide truth, justice, reparation, and measures of non-repetition of serious human rights violations.

On March 5, 2020, the Commission held a consultation meeting with experts to prepare a Practical Guide on guidelines and recommendations for preparing risk mitigation plans for human rights defenders in the region. This meeting was attended by over 40 participants from various countries in the region, including representatives of various groups of human rights defenders, including indigenous defenders, women defenders, defenders of the territory and the environment, Afro-descendants, LGBTI defenders, among others. Likewise, the meeting had the participation of autonomous state organizations such as the Bolivian Ombudsman and members of States such as Colombia, the United States, Guatemala and Mexico.

At the consultation meeting on Human Rights Defenders, several participants stated that ignorance of the “legal personality of indigenous peoples” prevents them from defending and exercising their rights; therefore, the IACHR recommends that the States fully recognize the “legal personality of indigenous peoples” (American Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, art. IX). Likewise, some indigenous rights defenders indicated that they do not find judicial protection against the hate speeches promoted by some media, stigmatizing them as "unfair to their country" for going to the IACHR, and that this later escalates to criminalization, threats and attacks. The Commission reminds the States of their obligation to grant the pertinent guarantees to all persons who attend the IACHR (IACHR Regulations, art. 63).

Videos of the hearings are available, as well as high-resolution photos licensed to be downloaded and used by the interested public. Accompanying this press release is an annex with the summaries of all the public hearings held during this Session.

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 and to defend 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. 056/20