1. Since its last annual report, the IACHR has learned of important progress on human rights matters: the decision by the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina nullifying the due obedience and “full stop” laws, as recommended by the Commission; extensive constitutional reforms in Chile to remove obstacles to equal political participation, also recommended by the Commission; the conclusion of agreements and important progress in friendly settlement processes involving Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. There has also been progress in women’s human rights law, such as the adoption of the Family Violence Act in Chile and the ratification by Jamaica of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, "Convention of Belém do Pará." At the end of 2004, a far-reaching national human rights program was introduced in Mexico and constitutional reforms were approved in Brazil to modernize the judicial system and enhance the judicial mechanisms available to ensure that human rights violations do not go unpunished. The Commission has also noted the profound changes adopted by the Brazilian Government to promote racial equality in Brazil. During this year, the Argentine state has accepted responsibility for the failure of the judicial investigations in the case of the terrorist attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA). Other states have recognized their responsibility, both before the Commission and before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
2. The IACHR also emphasizes that the inter-American human rights system has continued to gain legitimacy and effectiveness, as evidenced by a steady increase in the number of persons who submit petitions, the diversity of issues presented and of organizations that attend sessions and hearings, the high level of state and civil society representation at sessions and hearings, the increasing use of the system’s jurisprudence by numerous courts in our region, and the significant results achieved in defending human rights under the system. The Commission also wishes to recognize the important work of human rights defenders in the Hemisphere and to remind member states of their obligation to grant all the necessary guarantees to persons who attend hearings.
3. Regrettably, problems remain. The weak rule of law in various countries of the region hinders the full exercise of human rights. The socioeconomic situation in most OAS member states prevents the effective exercise of their inhabitants’ economic, social, and cultural rights. Structural problems from prior decades also remain, involving impunity in serious human rights violations, such as torture and extrajudicial executions; arbitrary detention; a weak judiciary in most countries of the region; in some countries, attacks on judicial independence and impartiality; overcrowding and other inhumane conditions for persons in detention; and severe prison violence leading to the death of dozens of detainees. Nor has there been a change in the tangible and legal inequality faced by groups traditionally subjected to discrimination, such as women, indigenous peoples, persons of African descent, and homosexuals. In 2005 again there was a growing problem of public insecurity and a lack of a sufficient institutional response consistent with the principles of a democratic society that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms; usually, hard-line policies are implemented without due attention to the causes of the problem and or consideration of prevention and rehabilitation policies.
4. Despite major economic improvements in various countries, the social situation still poses serious problems. For example, on the right to work–the topic chosen for the Summit of the Americas held in November 2005–in Latin America and the Caribbean today there are more than 20 million unemployed, seven in 10 new jobs are in the informal sector, and many workers earn too little to keep their families above the poverty line. The World Bank, in its recently released report “Poverty Reduction and Growth: Virtuous and Vicious Circles,” again indicates that Latin America remains the region with the greatest inequality.
5. One of the largest challenges faced by OAS member states is to increase good governance and the quality of public administration as a prerequisite for the effective promotion and protection of human rights. Structural weaknesses in many basic institutions of democratic societies, together with significant short-term crises that generate political instability, prevent the formation of a broad and lasting consensus. Such a consensus would permit the definition and implementation of inclusive government policies, which are necessary to the observance and effective exercise of all human rights, particularly equal exercise of the right of political participation, access to independent and impartial justice and effective recourse, freedom of expression and association, equal protection before the law, and the economic, social, and cultural rights recognized in the Protocol of San Salvador.
6. Strengthening democratic governance involves broadening and strengthening freedom in the Americas. It involves the building of freer societies, with full expression and participation by all citizens, with more independent, impartial, and speedy justice, with greater transparency in public administration, with more freedom of expression and association, with full respect for gender equality, and with respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, communities of African descent, and the most vulnerable groups, including millions of migrants, displaced persons, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
7. In this context, societies in the Americas and their governments should make use of the available inter-American mechanisms. In particular, the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter constitute irreversible progress in the region. These are international legal obligations and commitments to strengthen a community of free nations, whose governments not only develop democratically but also govern with full respect for the rule of law, guaranteeing at all times the human rights of all their citizens. The Commission, as the principal organ of the inter-American human rights system, is available to the citizens of the Americas and their governments to advance this hemispheric agenda.
8. Helping to alleviate these shortcomings by protecting and promoting human rights should be considered the Commission’s essential mission over the coming years. International obligations assumed by OAS member states in the area of human rights can be translated into reality only by national action. The responsibilities of the Commission are subsidiary to the primary function of the state. Fulfilling its mandate thus requires the Commission, above all, to work with the governments. Therefore, it especially values dialogue and contact with governments, which allow it to study obstacles to the fulfillment of international obligations and attempt to overcome them. The Commission also should strengthen its permanent capacity for rapid response to short-term crises, for lending support on the ground, for fostering the human rights capabilities of states, and for providing technical advice and assistance. This is not to deny the crucial role played by civil society, which the Commission values highly and considers, along with the states, a natural participant in the effort to promote and defend fundamental freedoms.
9. Lastly, the Commission must not fail to reiterate the importance of ratification of all the inter-American instruments for the protection of human rights by states that have not yet done so and of their faithful compliance with the decisions of the organs of the human rights system.