BY DEAN CLAUDIO GROSSMAN,
OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
SUBMISSION OF 2000 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE IACHR
THE COMMITTEE ON JURIDICAL AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS
THE OAS PERMANENT COUNCIL
D.C., April 26, 2001
Madam Chair of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of
the Permanent Council, distinguished representatives of member states of
the Organization, observers, members of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, ladies and gentlemen:
First, I would like to acknowledge the presence in our midst of
Commissioner Robert Goldman, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive
Secretary of the IACHR, Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive
Secretary, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in the
Americas, Dr. Santiago Cantón, who join me in the submission of the
Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
This Annual Report was approved by the IACHR at its 110th
and 111th sessions, held in February, March, and April 2001.
It was drafted in accordance with the special parameters
established in Resolution AG/RES.331 (VIII-O/78) and the Rules of
Procedure of the IACHR. The
IACHR is also submitting on this occasion its Third Report on the
Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay.
Madam Chair, representatives: in the vast majority of OAS member
states, the existence of democratically elected governments has paved the
way for conditions that are more conducive to strengthening the rule of
law. This represents a major step forward, given the fact that
democratic governments are a prerequisite for the effective exercise of
human rights. However, the
number of petitions received by the Commission has not declined, although
more and more, there has been a shift from petitions related to
disappearances, summary executions, and torture to petitions related to
violation of the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, and the
prohibition of discrimination. This
can in part be attributed to democratic systems that inspire confidence,
thereby permitting citizens to refer matters to the international organs
of protection when, in their view, the State fails to respect their
rights. Also, the positive
change that has occurred in the Region has also encouraged the men and
women of the Americas to focus on internationally recognized rights which,
in the past, were not effectively exercised and which, because of their
importance, contribute to the improvement and strengthening of democracy.
Despite the achievements in the area of the protection and
consolidation of democratic systems in the Region, it is important to bear
in mind that we still have a long way to go in terms of ensuring the
complete exercise of human rights. The
report that I am submitting today demonstrates the contribution of the
Commission to this process in which we must all participate.
SUMMARY OF THE 2000 REPORT
The Annual Report, which consists of three volumes and includes the
report of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in the
Americas, describes a large portion of the work done by the Commission in
2000, in particular in the area of the processing of individual cases, in
fulfillment of its mandate to promote and oversee respect for human rights
in OAS member states.
Since the submission of its last Annual Report, the Commission has
held two regular sessions and three special sessions, two of them in
Brazil and Chile, at the kind invitation of their respective governments.
I would like to thank Brazil and Chile for their invitation, which
permitted us to bring the work of the Commission closer to the countries.
I would like to thank, in particular, Presidents Fernando Henrique
Cardoso and Ricardo Lagos for receiving us personally and providing full
support for our activities. The
Commission also conducted an on-site visit to the Republic of Haiti.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the then President
of Haiti for his assistance with the visit and to note that the Commission
is drafting the report on the situation of human rights in that country.
IACHR members also conducted working visits to other member states,
including Grenada, where the Seminar on the Inter-American Human Rights
System was held February 1-2, 2001, at the invitation of the government of
that country and generated great interest among governmental and
non-governmental organizations in the Caribbean region.
The spirit of cooperation reflected at the seminar fostered greater
understanding of the legal situation in that region and the value of the
regional system of protection. The
success of this seminar has led the Commission to plan a similar event in
another State of the region, Belize, which has graciously offered to serve
The individual case system
As part of its ongoing
effort to promote human rights throughout the Hemisphere, the Commission
has focused on the protection of the human rights enshrined in the
American Declaration and Convention and other pertinent instruments in the
processing of 930 individual cases that are currently pending before the
Commission. As the
statistical tables included in the Report indicate, in 2000 the Commission
received 681 petitions alleging human rights violation and, after
conducting the appropriate review, opened a total of 110 cases involving
25 member states. At its 107th,
108th, 109th, 110th, and 111th
sessions, the Commission held 98 hearings and made numerous decisions on
pending cases. In this
report, 35 decisions of admissibility, 23 on merits, and 13 friendly
settlement reports are published, in addition to 21 decisions of
inadmissibility and 61decisions to close cases. These decisions, totaling
153, stand in contrast to the nine reports included in the 1995 Annual
The processing of cases is a very valuable exercise.
First, it permits justice to be dispensed in situations that could
not resolved in the domestic sphere.
Second, the system enriches the regional and national store of
legal information by providing interpretations of human rights
regulations, thereby creating a shared hemispheric legal vision based on
treaties that have been freely ratified.
By way of example, the cases included in this report provide solid
and well-founded interpretations of the right to life, the concept of
illegal and arbitrary detention, and violence and discrimination against
women. From a procedural
standpoint, the cases, taken as a whole, which are submitted during this
period are very valuable in terms of defining different admissibility
criteria, in particular the one related to the exhaustion of domestic
During my eight years as Commissioner, I was able to observe the
constant and growing legal complexity of the cases processed by
Commission, a situation that creates a need for expanded legal expertise,
both in terms of the content of rights and compliance with procedures
established in the system.
The legal processing of cases helps to de-politicize human rights,
thereby strengthening the system and its legitimacy.
This leads to strict compliance with the decisions of the organs of
the system and provides them with the resources necessary to continue
performance of their functions.
The important legal contribution being made by the IACHR through
its case system reflects the new hemispheric context of elected
governments, with the exception of Cuba.
Democratic change in our Region permits the Commission to conduct a
separate study of situations involving alleged violation of human rights,
unlike the past, when priority had to be given to general reports.
In addition to resolving specific situations that affect
individuals, the processing of cases contributes, as I have noted time and
time again, to the strengthening of the democratic system.
Cases permit the early detection of violations which, if not
resolved in the domestic sphere, can undermine the rule of law.
Furthermore, the case system contributes to the widening and
deepening of democracy, through the application of rules that are freely
agreed upon related to due process, equality before the law,
non-discrimination, the principle of legality, and other rights enshrined
in the American Convention and Declaration, which, because of inadequate
application in the Region, tarnish our democracies.
Madam Chair, friendly
settlements attest to the willingness of the parties to reach a solution
to serious problems and to their skill in doing so, at a much lower cost
from a procedural standpoint. It
should be noted that in addition to the decisions published in this Annual
Report, in the past year the Commission continued to work towards friendly
settlement in 91 individual cases. In
many instances, friendly settlement proceedings instituted have led to the
conclusion of agreements that have benefited hundreds of persons.
For example, in the case of the Enxet Lamenxay indigenous people,
the State provided, as a result of a friendly settlement agreement
concluded simultaneously in Asunción and Washington, D.C., reparations to
this indigenous community for the plunder of their ancestral territory
taking the form of acquisition of several hundred hectares, which were
returned in the appropriate manner. Also,
in a case involving Guatemala, friendly settlement proceedings resulted in
several community projects requested by a community that was the target of
acts of violence. Argentina,
Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the
Dominican Republic, and Venezuela participated in friendly
settlement proceedings. As indicated
earlier, this Annual Report includes 13 friendly settlement reports
involving 25 individual cases, a fact that attests to the growing
importance of this mechanism.
The IACHR will continue to offer its expertise to the parties in an
attempt to achieve results that are conducive to the protection of human
rights, through the friendly settlement process.
I would like to thank both the petitioners and governments for
their growing willingness to cooperate in what are often incredibly
difficult situations. We
appeal for continuation of this spirit, based on respect for the human
rights established in the system.
During this period, the Commission continued to grant precautionary
measures in several States, in order to protect the lives or personal
safety of persons who are at risk. Since
submission of the last report, 52 precautionary measures have been
granted, involving 21 member states.
I would like to note that the use of precautionary measures has
become, more and more, a flexible and highly effective tool for preventing
grave human rights violations, thereby saving numerous lives.
The Commission appreciates the cooperation of States, which have
responded quickly to these urgent measures.
The submission of cases to the Court
The IACHR has continued,
as part of its activities, to work with the Court in 24 contentious cases
that are pending and 12 provisional measures related to situations of
serious and irreparable harm. In
addition, since the submission of the last Annual Report, the IACHR
referred the following cases to the contentious jurisdiction of the
Inter-American Court: Constantine et
al (Trinidad and Tobago), Benjamin et
al (Trinidad and Tobago), Barrios Altos (Peru), Walter David Bulacio
(Argentina), and 19 merchants [comerciantes]
(Colombia). The Commission
also requested an Advisory Opinion from the Inter-American Court on
applicable guarantees related to due process pursuant to Article 19 of the
American Convention in the case of minors.
PLANNED ON-SITE VISITS
As indicated, although
the processing of cases is the main activity of the Commission during this
phase of development of the system, on-site visits remain a very important
mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of
Panama for its invitation to conduct an on-site visit to that country next
June. The Commission
thanks the Republic of Colombia for its recent invitation and hopes to be
in a position to set a date, by mutual agreement, as soon as possible.
Moreover, the Commission hopes
to set a date for its acceptance of the invitation of the Republic of
Venezuela, extended more than one year ago, to conduct an on-site visit.
CHAPTER IV OF THE ANNUAL REPORT
Representatives, the Commission has followed the criteria set forth
in its 1998 Annual Report for identifying member states whose human rights
practices deserve special attention and inclusion in a special chapter of
the Annual Report. In that
regard, Chapter IV of this year's report analyzes the human rights
situation in Cuba and Colombia.
Cuba has been included in this Chapter because its government was
not freely elected in accordance with internationally accepted standards,
in violation of the right to political participation enshrined in Article
XX of the American Declaration the Rights and Duties of Man.
In its report on Cuba, the Commission notes with concern the rise
in statistics related to the violation of civil and political rights by
the Cuban State during the period covered by this report, compared to 1999
and 1998. The Commission continues to express its concern over the
denial of freedom of expression and the serious restrictions that exist
with respect to judicial guarantees in Cuba.
Colombia has also been included in this Chapter.
As I indicated, the Government of the Republic of Colombia has
extended an invitation to the Commission to conduct an on-site visit before
the end of 2001. In light of
this upcoming visit, the report is limited to preliminary comments on the
progress made and the serious challenges faced by the Colombian Government
and people. The Commission
has taken advantage of this opportunity to underscore its concerns in the
area of basic human rights in view of the violent acts of the persons
involved in internal armed conflict and the vulnerability of the civilian
population, particularly the displaced communities, indigenous and
Afro-Colombian communities, human rights ombudsmen, and state officials
working in the justice system.
ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE
The process of adoption of the new Rules of Procedure
On May 1, 2001, the new
Rules of Procedure of the IACHR will take effect.
They were approved by the IACHR at the 109th special
session, in accordance with the authority set forth in its Statute
(Articles 23 and 24) and the American Convention (Article 39), which
authorize the Commission to issue its own Rules of Procedure.
The reform of the Rules of Procedure is the result of a
broad-based, extensive, and transparent process that took into account the
proposals of the General Assembly, member states, and more than 100
non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors, including
independent experts in the field. The Commission would like to express its appreciation to the
States that provided their comments in a timely manner.
Experience of the Commission
The reforms reflect the
wealth of legal experience acquired by the Commission, as the entity
established by the Convention, in the processing of thousands of
individual petitions, which has provided it with a thorough understanding
of the needs and challenges facing the case system in order to achieve
justice within a legal framework that ensures transparency and accuracy.
Specifically, the ideas and suggestions put forward by member
states in Article 6 of Resolution 1701, adopted by the OAS General
Assembly in Windsor, Canada, have served to enhance this understanding.
In fact, the new Rules of Procedures propose, among other
suggestions outlined in this Resolution, "resolving questions
pertaining to the admissibility of individual petitions by opening a
separate, mandatory procedure and issuing their findings by way of concise
resolutions, the publication of which shall not prejudge the
responsibility of the State" and "defining the criteria the
Commission follows for referral of cases to the Inter-American Court of
Independent admissibility proceedings
In fact, the new Rules of
Procedure provide for a previous and independent procedure, with the
participation of both parties, in order to determine whether petitions
meet existing admissibility requirements (Article 30 and related
provisions). Once this procedure has ended, the Commission shall adopt a
decision on admissibility by means of a public report (Article 37).
Once a petition has been found admissible, the Commission shall
open a case and shall begin the phase related to the merits (Articles
37(2) and 38). In order to
move towards consolidation of the prior admissibility phase and to
expedite proceedings, the new Rules of Procedure provide for a working
group on admissibility that will meet prior to sessions and will make the
appropriate recommendations to the plenary of the IACHR (Article 36).
Unification of petitions
The Rules of Procedure
have unified, where pertinent, the processing of petitions submitted
pursuant to the Convention, Declaration, Additional
Protocol in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the
Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Inter-American
Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, and the Inter-American
Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence
Against Women (Article 23 and related provisions).
This unification has taken place in accordance with the instruments
derived from conventions freely agreed upon by States and in accordance
with the Statute of the Inter-American Commission.
The Commission has considered the fact that under Article 29 of the
American Convention, it cannot limit the enjoyment and exercise of any
right or freedom that may be recognized in another convention to which one
of these States is a party (Article 29(b), nor can it exclude or limit the
effect that may be produced by the American Declaration on the Rights and
Duties of Man and other similar international instruments (Article 29(d)).
Furthermore, and as the Court has indicated in Advisory Opinion
OC-1/82 on "Other Treaties," the organs of the system are
required to include in their legal arguments all human rights treaties
that have been ratified by one or more American States.
Under its Statute, the Commission is permitted to request reports
from States on measures that they have adopted in the area of human
rights, to prepare the studies or reports that it deems appropriate, and
to make recommendations to the governments of States regarding the
adoption of progressive measures related to human rights, within the
framework of their legislation, Constitutions, and international
commitments, and the adoption of appropriate provisions to foster respect
for those rights (Article 18(b), (c), and (d)).
Lastly, Article 19(6) of the
Additional Protocol in the Area of Economic,
Social, and Cultural Rights, Articles XIII and XIV of the Inter-American
Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, and Article 12 of
the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment
and Eradication of Violence Against Women expressly authorize the
Inter-American Commission to hear complaints related to the alleged
violation of these conventions.
In order to expedite the proceedings handled by the Commission, the new Rules of Procedure provide for shorter periods during the admissibility and merits phases (Articles 30(3) and 38(1)). It should be made clear that the shortening of the time periods does not in any way affect the State's right to defense. By dividing the procedural phases into admissibility and merits phases, the new Rules of Procedure, unlike the old, allow States to address only admissibility requirements in their initial response, without being required to address the merits of the case (Article 30). Once the Commission adopts its admissibility reports, States shall respond to the merits of the case (Article 38). This completely safeguards the State's right to defense while reducing the time required for the processing of petitions by the Commission.
In keeping with the
American Convention and based on the successful experience of the
Commission in recent years, which has received extraordinary assistance
from States and petitioners, the new Rules of Procedure stress the
availability of friendly settlement as a procedural step prior to a
decision on the merits and at any phase during review of a petition or
case. They also expressly
institute this phase in the proceedings involving States that are not
parties to the American Convention Article 41(1).
Criteria for the submission of cases to the Court
In keeping with
suggestions made by States, the Commission has set forth in its new Rules
of Procedure the criteria to be considered when decisions are being made
regarding the submission of cases to the Court involving the 21 states
parties to the American Convention that have accepted the jurisdiction of
After consulting with the petitioners (Article 43(3)), the
Commission shall submit to the Court those cases in which the States
involved have failed to comply with the recommendations made by the
Commission in the report mentioned in Article 50 of the Convention,
without prejudice to a well-founded decision by an absolute majority of
its members. In making this
decision, the Commission shall give consideration to the possibility of
obtaining justice in the case in question, based on the following
elements, among others: the
position of the petitioner, the nature and gravity of the violation, the
need to develop or clarify the case law of the system, the possible effect
of the decision on the legal systems of member states, and the quality of
the evidence available (Article 44).
It should be noted that both the Rules of Procedure of the
Commission and those of the Court provide for greater participation by
victims in proceedings before the Court.
The Inter-American Commission is pleased that the Court has finally
reformed its own Rules of Procedure to permit the direct participation of
victims once a case has been submitted by the IACHR.
This is a very important reform and is one that the IACHR has been
seeking from the Court since its submission of the first cases to this
esteemed Court. With the
independent representation of victims, the impression will no longer be
given that the IACHR is playing a dual role in the system.
I would also like to inform this Commission that in continuation of
the practice of holding joint meetings, the Commission and Court met in
March 2001 and analyzed together the reform of their Rules of Procedure
within their respective spheres of competence and reached an agreement
regarding identification of their objectives and compatibility.
In addition, the IACHR and Court agreed to request the financing
needed for the successful implementation of the new provisions.
With regard to cases that are not referred to the jurisdiction of
the Court at the request of the petitioner or based on a decision of the
Commission or reports in which the Commission makes recommendations, the
new Rules of Procedure codify the judicial framework for monitoring
compliance with these recommendations (Article 46).
This legal framework for monitoring compliance is based entirely on
legal criteria. The case law
of the International Court of Justice
and general legal principles
state that international organizations are vested with the implicit
authority needed for the effective fulfillment of their obligations.
Furthermore, the Statute of the Commission explicitly grants the
IACHR the authority to request information from member states and to
prepare the reports and recommendations that it deems pertinent (Article
18). In accordance with the
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a rule can be formulated from
the general practice of States. It
is interesting to note in this regard that a number of States participate
in the monitoring of activities and some States have changed their
position on this matter in order to bring it in line with the law.
During the last session, the Government of Mexico, headed by the
Director of Human Rights in its Foreign Ministry, participated in all
working meetings related to follow-up of the recommendations of the
Commission. At the last
session also, the Government of Peru, represented by its Minister of
Justice, also participated in follow-up meetings aimed at implementation
of the recommendations of the Commission.
Need for time, resources, and political support
Reform of the Rules of
Procedure represents the culmination of a long period of reflection,
experience, and participation. The
implementation of these reforms of both the Commission and Court is now
very important. It is imperative to monitor their practical application and
contribution to the joint objective of the promotion and protection of
human rights. Serious and
careful consideration was given to these reforms, and the OAS should
devote the time and resources and give the political support necessary to
permit the success of these reforms and their evaluation in the future. The temptation of becoming caught in a spiral of reforms
should be avoided, since this can affect a system that is perceived now
more than ever as conferring a great deal of status on the regional
THE NEED FOR MORE FINANCIAL RESOURCES
Representatives, the Inter-American Commission is carrying out all
the tasks that I have outlined with a small budget that makes it difficult
for it to fulfill all the duties assigned to it under the Convention.
Of course, implementation of the suggestions made by States that
are set forth in Resolution 1071, through the new Rules of Procedure of
the IACHR, will require additional financial resources.
Our Chiefs of State are fully aware of these needs.
For this reason, in Quebec they pointed to the need for a
substantial increase in the funds assigned to carry out the current
activities of the Commission and Court, and, in particular, recommended to
the Thirty-first General Assembly of the OAS, to take place in San José,
Costa Rica in June of this year, that it take steps to achieve that
The Commission appreciates the fact that the Government of Costa
Rica has centered the next General Assembly to be held in San José around
the strengthening of the system and hopes that, on this occasion, member
states will substantially increase the financial resources of both the
Commission and the Court, as an indispensable step towards achievement of
the objectives identified by the States themselves with respect to the
strengthening of the system and in keeping with the mandate assigned by
our Presidents and Heads of State.
Madam Chair, the common task of member states of the Organization
and the inter-American community in general is the strengthening of
democratic values, taking into account the foundation on which they are
built and their reason for existence; namely, human rights in the civil,
political, economic, and social spheres.
The work done this year has allowed the Commission to identify a
number of areas in which the exercise of these fundamental rights is not
fully guaranteed. As a
result, a number of general recommendations have been made to member
The Commission would like to reiterate that the integrity and
effectiveness of the protection provided to persons living in the
Hemisphere is largely dependent on the efforts made by member states to
achieve universality of the system through the ratification of the
American Convention and other human rights instruments and acceptance of
the jurisdiction of the Court; fulfillment of the obligation to bring the
domestic legislation of states parties in line with the rights enshrined
in the instruments adopted within the framework of the system and their
due interpretation and application by the entities, in particular, the
courts; and finally, fulfillment of the international commitments,
decisions, and orders of the Commission and the Court.
Based on estimates of international organizations, almost 80
million persons in Latin America and the Caribbean live below the poverty
line and do not have equitable access to education and health services, a
situation that affects their opportunities for personal development and
participation in all areas of national life.
In its Report, the Commission makes an appeal for work to be done
to combat and overcome the social marginalization that is plaguing the
inhabitants of the Region, through the individual and collective adoption
of measures that favor the exercise of the social, economic, and cultural
rights that are designed to achieve dignified living conditions, equal
opportunity, and full participation in decision-making, as basic
objectives for achieving the overall development of the people and
societies of the Hemisphere.
Further, the Report underscores the need for States to root out
persistent discrimination in the Americas, to provide special protection,
and to encourage the development of persons who are in especially
vulnerable situations. In that regard, special mention should be made of the work
done within the framework of the offices of the special rapporteurs for
the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples, and the recommendations
made to all members states in the "Second Progress Report on the
Situation of Migrant Workers and their Families" and in the
"Recommendation on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of
Mentally Disabled Persons," appearing in Chapter IV of the Annual
Despite the progress made in the holding of free elections in all
States of the Hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba, a significant number
of countries in the Region continue to face serious institutional
obstacles to the full application of the law, a factor that affects
enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the people and generates a climate
that is conducive to social crises that are felt in the political and
institutional spheres. Member
states must continue efforts to strengthen the rule of law based on the
standards of our regional system, thereby avoiding setbacks that undermine
the legitimacy and legality of institutions.
As in previous years, this Annual Report shows that the men and
women of the Hemisphere continue to experience violation of such
fundamental rights as the right to life, freedom, and personal integrity,
and documents cases of abuse of authority by the security forces that
reveal the deficiencies of the judiciary and agents of penitentiaries or
other public services. States
should prevent or provide remedies for the effects of these violations by
ensuring that justice is done and root out impunity and obstacles to a
fair trial that continue to affect the victims of human rights violations
and citizens accused of breaking the law.
The Annual Report also addresses the proliferation of threats
against judges, prosecutors, and persons who are willing to collaborate
with the justice system and Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Furthermore, in the year 2000, acts of intimidation and attacks, in
some instances fatal, have continued.
This includes forced disappearances that target persons and
organizations whose mission is to defend human rights and journalists.
The Report outlines some of the activities undertaken by the
Commission, and where appropriate, by the Inter-American Court, to monitor
fulfillment by States of their duty to combat and stop the attacks against
these persons and to protect their right to life, to personal integrity,
and to assemble and express themselves freely.
Madam Chair and representatives, permit me to share a few final
thoughts before concluding my presentation.
On behalf of the IACHR, I would like to thank the Secretary General
of the Organization for his ongoing support for the IACHR and for ensuring
that its Executive Secretariat is granted the necessary administrative
autonomy, within the guidelines of the OAS, to carry out its mandate in an
efficient, independent, and impartial manner.
Furthermore, I would like to express my personal gratitude and the
gratitude of my colleagues of the Commission to its Executive Secretary,
Ambassador Jorge Taiana, who, on July 31, will step down from the position
that he accepted in 1996, to the good fortune of this Organization and
humankind. During these
years, Ambassador Taiana represented the Commission on a permanent basis
at its headquarters and accompanied Commissioners on their visits to
member states. His words of
advice served as a source of inspiration and he faithfully performed the
work of the Commission. We
all know that his serious and consistent work, as well as his charisma and
moral and intellectual authority that he radiates have earned him the
respect, trust, and admiration not only of the members of the Commission,
who have publicly and repeatedly expressed their appreciation to him, but
also of member states, with which he has engaged in direct, honest and
respectful dialogue, and of the victims of human rights violations and
their representatives, to whom he has listened earnestly, both on the
human and institutional levels. A
clear consensus exists not only with respect to the virtues displayed by
Jorge Taiana in the discharge of duties, which are critical to the
functioning of the system of protection, but also the prominent leadership
role that he has played in the history of this 40-year old Commission.
Madam President, representatives: we are living in a time of great
promise. Never before have so
many men and women of this Hemisphere experienced such a great possibility
of developing as free human beings. The
common task of member states of the Organization and the inter-American
community in general is to strengthen democratic values and to
re-incorporate into these values their fundamental component, namely, the
defense and protection of the fundamental rights of humankind.
Against that backdrop, we face joint challenges: the institutional
development of strong, independent, and effective judicial authorities
that embrace modern policies, fostering powerful and rich civil societies
that serve to guarantee governance, promoting a culture of respect and
tolerance, including everyone in the well-being of our societies, forging
ahead with the internationalization of human rights and the collective
guarantee of the protection of these rights and democracy for all, and
recognizing that the rule and supremacy of the law are prerequisites for
the legitimacy of the actions of those who govern and are governed.
The Commission would like to take this opportunity to commend the
Republic of Peru for the institutional changes that it has made and for
the willingness of the transition government to honor its international
commitments and to cooperate with the organs of the system in the task of
protecting the fundamental rights of its people.
As member states will recall, during the past ten years, the
Commission has consistently documented and called the attention of the
political organs to the serious human rights violations that were being
perpetrated and covered up by the previous regime.
The adoption of individual reports on more than 100 individual
cases, the referral of key cases to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American
Court--Loayza Tamayo, Castillo Petruzzi, Baruch Ivcher, and the
Constitutional Court, among others--, the special reports included in its
Annual Reports, the on-site visits, and the two reports on the situation
of human rights in Peru, in particular the one submitted to the General
Assembly held in Windsor, Canada, in June 2000, attest to the efforts of
the Commission to contribute to the reestablishment of the rule of law and
the complete exercise of human rights in Peru.
The case of Peru reveals both the strength and weakness of the
system of protection. Its strength lies in the fact that the Commission performed
its duty of sounding an early warning regarding the violations and
deficiencies of the rule of law, it provided a written account of events
to ensure that no victims were anonymous or unidentified, and stressed
time and time again the values of democracy and human rights.
For this reason, it is moving for us to see that the Commission
performed its duty by recognizing the people of Peru, as evidenced by the
special visit of the Justice Minister to the Commission and the invitation
extended to visit Peru. However,
the case of Peru also shows up the weaknesses of our regional system. The former Government of Peru tried to withdraw the
jurisdiction of the Court and expressly and explicitly stated that it
would not comply with the decisions of the Inter-American Court.
Those two very serious acts did not generate enough of a reaction
to guarantee the integrity of the system.
What lessons should we learn from the Peruvian case?
Ignoring appeals to address a situation, repeated failure to
fulfill obligations, and ignoring the authority of the organs will merely
undermine the rule of law. Repeated
human rights violations cannot and do not lead to stable democracies.
In these remarks, and based on the extensive experience of the
Inter-American Commission, I would therefore like to stress that complete
fulfillment of international obligations that are voluntarily assumed, in
particular the decisions of the organs of the Inter-American system, is
essential in order to preserve democracy.
As our Chiefs of State recently reaffirmed in Quebec, democracy and
the complete exercise of human rights are inextricably linked.
I have outlined the contributions of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights to this process. We
are open to criticism and comments in our joint quest for a Hemisphere
that is free and permits the development of everyone.
Madam Chair, representatives, esteemed colleagues, co-workers,
ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you very much.
Approved by member states of the General Assembly held in La Paz,
Bolivia in 1979
Point 6 of this Resolution states: "to recommend to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in connection with its
request for ideas and suggestions on the reform process, in accordance
with the provisions governing its areas of competence, and in the
context of the regulatory autonomy conferred upon it by the American
Convention on Human Rights in terms of the procedures followed in
processing individual cases, it consider the possibility of:
Defining the criteria it follows for the opening of cases;
Resolving questions pertaining to the admissibility of
individual petitions by opening a separate, mandatory procedure and
issuing their findings by way of concise resolutions, the publication
of which shall not prejudge the responsibility of the state;
Making all necessary efforts to ensure that individual cases
are processed as expeditiously as possible and that each procedural
stage, in particular the admissibility phase, is governed by
reasonable deadlines; and considering defining the criteria to be
followed in determining when a case should be closed because of
inaction on the part of the petitioner;
Continuing to promote the friendly settlement procedure as a
suitable mechanism for the successful resolution of individual cases;
Establishing minimum criteria that petitioners must meet in
order for the IACHR to request a state to adopt precautionary
measures, bearing in mind the circumstances and nature of a case;
Defining the criteria the Commission follows for referral of
cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and
Establishing a frame of reference enabling the Commission to
establish a new Rapporteur function, define clearly the mandates of
such a Rapporteur, and appoint an individual to the position.
Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile,
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras,
Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and
Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations,
1949 I.C.J. 174 and Effects of Awards of Compensation made by the UN
Administrative Tribunal, 1954 I.C.J. 47.
See Henkin et al, International
Law, 1993, page. 350 et seq.,
Ian Brownlie, Principles of
Public International Law, 1992, page. 689 et