Meeting in its 91 st regular session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a principal organ of the Organization of American States, is pleased to announce the results of the elections held today at its headquarters in the city of Washington .
Claudio Grossman has been unanimously elected Chairman of the Commission for the coming year. In addition, John Donaldson and Carlos Ayala Corao have been elected First and Second Vice Chairman, respectively, for the same term.
Professor Claudio Grossman, dean of the College of Law at the American University, Washington, D.C., is the first Chilean member of the Commission to rise to this post. He has had a long international career, and has written many books and articles in the fields of international law and human rights. He is a member of the Chilean International Law Society and of the American International Law Society. He is also an Adviser to the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and the InterAmerican Federation of Lawyers. Professor Grossman took his law degree summa cum laude at the University of Chile, and later earned a doctorate in law at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Professor Grossman said that he intends to contribute to the strengthening of human rights by promoting active efforts to analyze and transform the system. He said, among other things, that "legal procedures need to be adopted that are suited to a new hemisphere of democratic governments." To do this, he said, "it is essential to promote a rich dialogue between governments, entities of civil society, and international agencies." He also called for support domestic courts, to which the inter-American system is subsidiary.
Ambassador John Donaldson, a distinguished diplomat and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Security of Trinidad and Tobago, received his legal education in British Columbia and Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Carlos Ayala took his law degree, with honors, and his doctoral studies in law at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Venezuela, and holds a master's degree in government from Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. Dr. Ayala practices law in Caracas. He has written extensively on law in general and on human rights in particular. He is currently professor of constitutional law at the Andrés Bello University and at the Central University of Venezuela. He is also President of the Venezuelan Association of Constitutional Law.
Three new members have joined the Commission this term: Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, of Venezuela, Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé, of Haiti, and Professor Robert Goldman, of the United States.
Three members of the Commission ended their terms on December 31 last year: Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, of Honduras, Dr. Patrick Robinson, of Jamaica, and Professor Michael Reisman, of the United States.
Washington, D . C ., February 26, 1 996
At its 91st session the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed by the Permanent Representative of Honduras to the OAS, Ambassador Marlene Villela de Talbott, that on February 7, 1996, the President of her country, Dr. Carlos Roberto Reina, had presented to the families of Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez and Saúl Godínez Cruz, checks for the balance pending on the indemnifications awarded in the judgments rendered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on July 21, 1989, and December 27, 1990, in the cases concerning the disappearance and death of those two victims.
On that date Mmes. Godínez and Velásquez each received the check due to her together with evidence of establishment of the trusts created by the State of Honduras for the minor children of the victims. The Commission will transmit that information to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica for final disposition of the two cases.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that this compliance by the administration of President Reina in the name of the State of Honduras with the first judgments in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided that a state was responsible for violations of human rights bears witness to his Government's respect for law and its international commitments, and to its recognition of and disposition to strengthen the Inter-American system for the promotion and defense of human rights.
Washington, D.C., March 1, 1996
The 91st regular session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was concluded on March 8, 1996. During that session the Commission elected its new officers as follows: Dean Claudio Grossman, Chairman; Ambassador John Donaldson, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, Second Vice Chairman. The other members of the Commission are Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Professor Robert Goldman, and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume.
In accepting the Chair of the IACHR Dean Claudio Grossman thanked his predecessor, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, for the valuable work he had done, and Ambassador Edith Márquez Rodríguez, who after 5 years as the Executive Secretary of the IACHR was taking up important new functions in the OAS.
At the opening of the present session the Commission paid posthumous tribute to the noted Venezuelan jurist Dr. Andrés Aguilar, who had been a member of the IACHR from 1972 to 1985. In his memory the IACHR will issue a publication specially dedicated to the memory of his career in the field of human rights.
The Commission then expressed recognition for the work done by the three members whose terms had ended on December 31 of last year: Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Prof. Michael Reisman, and Dr. Patrick Robinson. It then welcomed the new members: Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, Dr. Jean Joseph Exume, and Prof. Robert Goldman.
The Commission considered and approved the Annual Report for presentation to the General Assembly of the OAS at its twenty-sixth regular session, to be held in Panama in June 1996.
In the course of the current session, the Commission was able to note the continued spread of human rights and democracy, which are deeply rooted in the peoples of the Hemisphere. The IACHR examined how it would continue to contribute to the strengthening of those processes, promote their development and avert relapses into authoritarianism. It discussed how to improve its work in the treatment of individual cases, on-site visits to countries, its system of reports on subjects of special importance, and its promotional work.
The Commission decided to call a Meeting of Experts on the Future of the Inter-American Human Rights System, to be held in Washington, D.C., in November of this year. That meeting will review the system as a whole and the rules and procedures of the regional promotion and protection of human rights for the purpose of advancing proposals for strengthening it.
In this session the Commission held 40 hearings, in which it received representatives of governments, nongovernmental organizations and individuals, who presented testimony on specific cases in progress and statements on the general human rights situation in different member states of the OAS.
The Commission considered the status of the consultation on the future InterAmerican Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, on which it awaits replies from governments, indigenous organizations and experts before June of this year, in order to review the draft and send it to the General Assembly of the OAS in 1997. The Commission received ethnologist José del Val, Director of the InterAmerican Indian Institute, with a view to the organization of cooperative activities in this area.
The Commission expresses its satisfaction at the entry into force of the InterAmerican Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, made possible by the deposit by Argentina and Panama of their instruments of ratification on February 28, 1996, thereby scoring a major gain in the area of the protection of human rights in the hemisphere.
The Commission has expressed great interest in the processes for discovery of the truth, and understands the importance of combating impunity through cases that reveal in detail the violations of human rights that some countries have endured. Recently the IACHR gave strong support to the National Committee for Truth and Justice in Haiti by providing information authorized by complainants and ongoing legal advisory services to that institution.
The Commission approved the publication in its Annual Report of a study in progress on conditions of detention in the Americas, and decided to continue its observation of the conditions of penal institutions in several countries. Thus, the Commission accepted an invitation of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela to travel to the country and observe the conditions at detention centers in May of this year. For the same purpose, in the near future the Commission will visit, at the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, the penal institutions of Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and Talladega, Alabama, to observe the situation of the Marielitos .
The Commission examined the conditions under which many minors are being held in detention in Honduran prisons. The Government and petitioners undertook to
cooperate to bring about compliance with the requirements established in domestic and international legislation.
The Commission accepted the invitation of the Government of the Dominican Republic to investigate in situ the case of Mr. Luis Lizardo Cabrera from 15 to 17 March of this year.
The Commission also accepted the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Mexico to visit the country for on-site observation, from 15 to 19 July 1996, of the human rights situation there.
The Commission calls upon the States in the Hemisphere to apply strictly the standards on emergency situations when they are validly declared. The IACHR reiterates the importance of full application of the rules of Humanitarian International Law, including the prohibition of the use of minors in situations of armed conflict, as are required by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their additional Protocols of 1977.
During the present session the Commission discussed the human rights situation in Brazil in light of information obtained on the latest on-site visit, paid in December 1995, which will be very useful in the report currently being written.
The Commission considered the Report of the IACHR delegation that traveled to Santafé de Bogotá in December 1995, and observed that, thanks to a great effort on both sides, considerable progress had been made.
The activities of the Commission with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have increased remarkably in terms of the large number of cases it has presented to that judicial body. The Commission reviewed the part it has played in several cases in the XVIII special session of the Court from 27 November to 7 December 1995, during which the Court held a public hearing in the case of Jean Paul Genie vs. the State of Nicaragua and handed down a sentence in the case of Isidro Caballero Delgado and María del Carmen Santana vs. the State of Colombia.
The Commission also reviewed its participation in the XXXIII regular session of the Court, from 22 January to 3 February 1996, in the following matters: a public hearing on the case of Neira Alegría et al., on the amount of the indemnification to be paid by the Peruvian State to the relatives of the victims; a reading of the sentence on the Paniagua "Panel Blanca" case, in which the preliminary motions presented by the Government of Guatemala were rejected; a public hearing on reparations and indemnifications in the "El Amparo" case against the State of Venezuela; and in the Nicholas Chapman Blake case the pleadings of the parties on the procedural objections raised by the Government of Guatemala were heard in a public hearing.
In the Jorge Carpio Nicolle and Colotenango cases, both against the State of Guatemala, the Court decided to continue the precautionary measures requested by the Commission. In the case of Garrido and Baigorria, the Commission heard the Court's ruling granting time to the Government of Argentina and the IACHR in which to come to an agreement on reparations and indemnifications. The Commission also took cognizance of the sentences rejecting the preliminary motions presented by the Peruvian government in the cases of Castillo Páez and María Elena Loayza Tamayo.
On December 22, 1995, the Commission presented to the Court case N° 11.273, on Rafael Iván Suárez against the State of Ecuador.
The Commission examined the request for provisional measures presented to the Court on February 2, 1996, on behalf of Mr. Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, in which the Court required the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua to adopt immediately, without delay, the measures needed to protect Mr. Alemán's life and person.
The Commission was informed of the delivery by the Government of Honduras on February 7, 1996, to the families of Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez and Saúl Godínez Cruz of checks for the balance due on the indemnifications ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in sentences handed down in July 1989 and December 1990. The IACHR expresses its profound recognition to the Government of President Carlos Roberto Reina for complying with the international obligations freely assumed by Honduras under the American Convention on Human Rights.
In the course of the present session the members of the Commission met with Mr. Francis Deng, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the subject of internally displaced persons with a view to an exchange of information and to learn from him how he is discharging his mandate.
In recognition of the grave situation of internally displaced persons in several countries of the Hemisphere, the Commission appointed Professor Robert K. Goldman as rapporteur in this matter. The Commission calls upon the governments of the member states of the OAS to cooperate with and support the work of Mr. Deng and of its own rapporteur.
The Commission also appointed Commissioners John Donaldson and Jean Joseph Exume as rapporteurs in the study on "Conditions of Detention in the Americas." Commissioners Carlos Ayala and John Donaldson were designated as rapporteurs on the subject of indigenous populations. The Chairman of the IACHR, Claudio Grossman, will continue serving as rapporteur on the subject of the Rights of Women.
In relation to the project being developed by the Commission's special rapporteur on women's rights, concerning the right of women to be free of discrimination in all spheres of life, the Commission is co-sponsoring a conference entitled "Women, Human Rights and the Inter-American System: an Agenda for Action," to be held on March 29, 1996. The themes the invited experts will address include violence against women, discrimination, the right to political participation, and action to be taken in pursuit of the priorities established at the 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing. The conference is co-sponsored by the OAS's Inter-American Commission of Women, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.
The IACHR calls upon States and petitioners to abide fully by article 70 of the American Convention, which provides that:
Full respect for the deliberations and opinions of the commissioners is an essential requirement for the performance of their important work.
The Commission was able to engage in a fruitful dialogue with the Secretary General of the Organization, Dr. César Gaviria, on the future of its human rights organ and how the General Secretariat at will support those activities.
During the current session Ambassador Jorge Enrique Taiana was appointed new Executive Secretary of the IACHR. The Commission expresses great satisfaction at the appointment of this distinguished diplomat and university teacher, which it regards as a major step toward the strengthening and development of the interAmerican system for the protection of human rights.
Finally, the Commission agreed to hold its 92nd special session from 29 April to 3 May of this year, and its 93rd regular session from 30 September to 20 October 1996.
Washington, D.C., March 8, 1996
At the invitation of the United States Government, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, will conduct an on-site visit to Allenwood, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 1996, in order to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at Federal Institutions there, and general conditions of detention for its study on Prisons.
The Commission's delegation will be composed of Ambassador John S. Donaldson, First Vice-Chairman, Commission Members Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Relinda Eddie, Human Rights Officer, Mr. Henry McDonald, and Ms. Tania Hernández, secretariat staff; Mr. Michel Valeur, and Ms. Miriam Deutsch, interpreters.
The Commission is appreciative of the openness with which the Government of the United States of America has acceded to this proposed on-site visit.
Washington, D.C. April 25, 1996.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its one day on-site visit to Allenwood, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 1996. The object of the visit was to assess the conditions of detention of the "Mariel Cubans" detained at Federal Institutions in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and general conditions of detention for its study on Prisons.
The Commission's delegation was composed of Ambassador John S. Donaldson, First Vice-Chairman, Commission Members, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, and Dr. Jean Joseph Exume; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Relinda Eddie, Human Rights Officer, Mr. Henry Mac-Donald, and Ms. Tania Hernández secretariat staff; Mr. Michel Valeur, and Ms. Miriam Deutsch, interpreters.
The Commission is the principal organ of the OAS charged with reporting on compliance with human rights standards in the hemisphere. Its authority is derived primarily from the American Convention on Human Rights for the 25 States that are parties, and from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man for those Member States of the OAS that have not yet ratified the Convention. Whenever the Commission makes an on-site visit the Government concerned is deemed under the Regulations to have given assurances that the Commission may interview and meet freely with Government officials, and persons whom the Commission deems relevant in assessing the situation.
During its stay the Commission's delegation benefited from the cooperation of the following persons: Mr. Jim Zangs, Administrator of the Detention and Immigration Service Branch of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons; Ms. Amy Dale, Assistant Administrator of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Mr. John Castro, of Immigration and Naturalization Services, Cuban Review Panel; Mr. J.T. Holland, Warden of the United States Federal Penitentiary (High Security), Mr. R.L. Hamm, Executive Assistant, and staff members at the institution; Ms. Margaret L. Harding, Warden of the Federal Correctional Complex (Medium Security), Ms. Laurie M. Rule, Executive Assistant, and staff members at the institution; and Mr. Michael V. Pugh, Warden of the Federal Correctional Complex (Low Security), Mr. Ken Arnold, Executive Assistant, and staff members at the institution; in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.
The Commission received information from the inmates with whom it spoke. Inquiries were made into the general conditions under which the inmates were held. The main issues discussed included questions of the medical facilities and services available to the Mariel Cubans; housing accommodation; educational opportunities offered at the institution; recreational and vocational programs; arrangements for annual review of detention for post-sentence detainees; the availability of legal counsel for inmates; visiting difficulties of distant relatives of the inmates; methods of discipline at Allenwood.
A comprehensive report of the Commission's visit to Lompoc, California, Leavenworth, Kansas, and Allenwood, Pennsylvania, will be prepared.
The Commission is grateful for the cooperation it received from the government officials, and the "Mariel Cubans" detained at Allenwood, Pennsylvania. The Commission continues to assess the conditions of detention of the Mariel Cubans.
Washington, D.C., April 29, 1 996.
At its 92° special session the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., today, May 1, 1996, sent the following message to His Excellency Juan Carlos Wasmosy, President of Paraguay:
Washington, D.C., May 1, 1996
ASSESSMENT OF DEMOCRACY AND OF THE LEADERSHIP OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE OAS
In his remarks to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, Dean Claudio Grossman, Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), referred to a new hemispheric situation marked as never before by the existence of democratically elected governments throughout the Americas. Dean Grossman stated that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must gear its working procedures to this positive development, which made for a qualitatively different and improved climate in comparison with previous eras in which the IACHR had to direct its attention primarily to massive and systematic violations of essential human rights.
Under these new circumstances, the Chairman of the Commission pointed out that new approaches to the Commission's work must receive high priority. Instead of general country reports designed to mobilize public opinion in the face of fundamental human rights violations, "the new situation in the Hemisphere permits focusing on individual cases," in Grossman's words.
The Chairman announced that the Commission would call a meeting of experts in November of this year for the purpose of defining ways in which the procedures and activities of the IACHR could be matched to the new situation in the Hemisphere.
The Chairman added that, paradoxically, the new situation in the Hemisphere had nevertheless generated more cases for the Commission because in democratic systems individuals actively seek to assert their rights. Furthermore, cases had grown legally more complex to reflect a shift from violations of basic rights to disputes over more complex legal interpretations typical of increasingly open societies. In this connection the IACHR values the role both of governments and civil organizations, whose information and legal arguments add interesting new facets to the Commission's work.
Despite the emphasis on the case system, the Chairman noted that some situations continued to require specific country reports and specialized reports on subjects such as conditions of detention and women's rights, and the need to launch promotion activities still existed.
Dean Grossman attached significance to the very fruitful dialogue between the IACHR and OAS Secretary General César Gaviria, of whom he said, "He has been very supportive of the Commission's endeavors. The Secretary General has done a great deal to link human rights with the consolidation of democracy in the Hemisphere. In addition he has made himself constantly and fully accessible to the Commission to facilitate its pursuit of the matters it considers necessary."
The Chairman went on to express his appreciation for the support of "the freely elected governments in the Hemisphere which view as a basic policy goal the realization of the aspirations of all individuals to live in a system allowing for constant expansion of the rights of the human person."
Following the presentation of the Annual Report of the IACHR, Grossman expressed his satisfaction with the excellent reception accorded his commission by the governments. He also lauded the positive reaction to the IACHR's initiative to call the meeting of experts on the future of the inter-American system.
Washington, D.C., May 2, 1996