TO MEMBER STATES IN AREAS IN WHICH STEPS NEED
TO BE TAKEN TOWARDS FULL OBSERVANCE OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS
SET FORTH IN
THE AMERICAN DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF
MAN AND THE AMERICAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Pursuant to its analysis and reporting on the human rights
situation in the member states of the OAS during this reporting
period, and taking into account the priority issues it has identified
as a result and those that have been identified within the regional
framework, the Commission formulates the following recommendations:
That the member states take the steps to advance and
consolidate the administration of justice in their domestic legal
Given the fundamental role played by the judiciary in
discharging the responsibility of each member state to respect and
protect the human rights of those subject to its jurisdiction, a role
of primordial importance in a democratic society, the Commission
recommends that member states:
Take the steps necessary to protect the integrity and
independence of members of the judiciary in the performance of their
judicial functions, and specifically in relation to the processing of
human rights violations; in particular, judges must be free to decide
matters before them without any influence, inducements, pressures,
threats or interferences, direct or indirect, for any reason or from
Adopt the measures required to ensure that every human rights
violation is subjected to a prompt, thorough and impartial
investigation, and that those responsible are submitted to the
appropriate processes of prosecution and punishment.
Governments should ensure that lawyers, prosecutors and human
rights monitors are able to perform all their professional functions
without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of
discharging their functions, they should be adequately safeguarded by
That member states that have not already done so take the legislative and other measures necessary, pursuant to Article 2 of the American Convention, to ensure that civilians charged with criminal offenses of any kind be tried by ordinary courts which offer all the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality, and that the jurisdiction of military tribunals be confined to strictly military offenses.
That the member states take measures to strengthen the ability of
law enforcement agencies and personnel to fulfill their mission to
maintain the peace and provide security while fully respecting the
protected rights and freedoms of the individuals within their charge
Law enforcement is a basic function of the state, one which, in
line with the impetus in our hemisphere toward consolidating democracy,
is necessarily subordinate to the appropriate institutions of civilian
government. While the state
structures charged with enforcing the law have evolved in certain
instances to correspond with transitions to democratic governance, the
Commission is concerned that in some countries, personnel are hired
without appropriate screening, are placed in service without adequate
training, and that their agencies lack the human and material resources
required to discharge their mission.
Additionally, the Commission recommends that the member states
put in practice the norms of the United Nations concerning the conduct
of law enforcement officials.
The Commission is particularly concerned with the proliferation
of private sector security personnel, who may be directed by employers
to use measures of force, and who may by utilized without sufficient
public sector monitoring or regulation.
The Commission consequently recommends that member states review
the norms applicable to the provision of private sector security
services, and the systems to monitor such activity to ascertain where
there may be lacunae in coverage and fill them, and take steps to
ensure that the provision of such services, to the extent they may be
permitted by law, neither conflicts with public sector duties nor
infringes upon individual liberties.
That the member states develop new initiatives in favor of
protecting the rights of children, who, by reason of their status and
vulnerability, are entitled to special protection to safeguard their
Article 19 of the American Convention and Article VII of the
American Declaration reflect the hemispheric consensus that children are
entitled to special measures of protection.
The children of the Americas represent the future possibility for
our region to attain the "system of personal liberty and social
justice based on respect for the essential rights of man" set out
as our objective in the preamble of the American Convention.
The survival and development of children throughout our
hemisphere are imperiled by conditions of poverty and exploitation.
The basic needs of many children, including sufficient food,
clothing, housing and education, are not met, and this in turn renders
them vulnerable to other abuses. The
values of our societies and of our region are reflected in the treatment
accorded to our young; the interests of children must be accorded
priority status with a corresponding allocation of resources and effort
in their favor.
With this in mind, the Commission recommends as basic steps:
That each member state implement concrete measures to ensure that
every child within its jurisdiction has access to the education
necessary for his or her full development, and to participate
effectively in a democratic and pluralistic society.
Primary education must be compulsory and available to all without
charge. Secondary education should be generally available, as
indicated in the Protocol of San Salvador, through the progressive
introduction of free education where that does not already exist.
That each member state adopt the legislative and administrative
measures, including systems of application and monitoring, to ensure
that when minors under the age of 16 must work, that this is
subordinated to the requisites of school attendance and educational
performance, and further, as established in Article 7.f of the Protocol
of San Salvador, to guarantee "the prohibition of night work or
unhealthy or dangerous working conditions and, in general, of all work
which jeopardizes health, safety or morals for persons under 18 years of
That the member states of the OAS develop and amplify measures to
counter and eradicate gender-based discrimination
Given that the member states have accorded priority status to
action aimed at enhancing the ability of women to participate fully and
equally in national life, through the eradication of the gender-based
discrimination which constitutes an obstacle to the social and economic
development of our countries, and considering that, notwithstanding
important advances, discrimination against women persists in law and in
fact, the Commission recommends that:
The member states that have ratified the Convention of Belém do
Pará take concrete steps to ensure the right of women to be free from
violence in the public and private spheres, and to be free from all
forms of discrimination, and recommends that the member states that have
not yet become Parties, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Grenada, Haiti,
Jamaica, Suriname and the United States, take the steps to ratify or
accede to this innovative regional instrument.
That member states which have not already done so introduce
gender perspective and analysis in the design and implementation of
public policy; and,
That member states amplify initiatives designed to expand the
number of qualified women serving in elected and appointed public office
and augment the role of women in decision making in the public sphere.
That member states that have yet to
respond to the questionnaire sent out by the Commission in connection
with the project of its Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights on the
"Status of Women in the Americas" do so as soon as possible.
That the member states take the necessary steps both internally
and through the OAS juridical and political bodies to review the
Commission's proposal for an "American Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples" in order to achieve consensus and the adoption
of such an instrument at the 1998 General Assembly meeting commemorating
the 50th anniversary of the OAS and the American Declaration of the
Rights and Duties of Man
Given the completion by the Commission of the preparation of a
proposal to the General Assembly for an inter-American legal instrument
on indigenous rights, pursuant to the recommendation issued in
Resolution AG/RES. 1022 (XIX-O/89) and reiterated in subsequent years;
having achieved a fruitful dialogue through direct, national and
regional consultations with governments, indigenous organizations and
communities, the Inter-American Indian Institute, legal experts and
government authorities with regard to the original draft, so it reflects
to the extent possible their concern as well as the work of the United
Nations in this area, as recommended by the General Assembly in
paragraph 21 of AG/RES. 1404 (XXVI-O/96); and, given the hemispheric
recognition that the distinct cultures of the indigenous peoples of the
Americas form an irreplaceable part of our regional heritage, the
Commission recommends that:
The member states, working on the basis of the proposal prepared
pursuant to ample consultation, approved by the Commission during its
95th Regular Session and included in Chapter IV of the Annual Report,
consider the proposed text during the upcoming General Assembly in Lima,
Peru, and decide on the steps, that with intervention of the other
juridical and political bodies of the organization, will be necessary to
approve the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
during the 1998 General Assembly commemorating the 50th anniversary of
the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
That the member states devote renewed effort to evaluating the
effects of racial discrimination, which continues to prevent individuals
in various countries of our hemisphere from fully enjoying their human
rights, and to the design of mechanisms to more responsively address the
As it persists in many countries of our hemisphere, racial
discrimination is fundamentally unjust and contravenes the basic norms
of the inter-American human rights system.
However, in many countries such discrimination is not well
documented or analyzed so that its full impact may be understood.
Racially based prejudice must be outlawed not only as a matter of
law, but as a matter of fact. Accordingly,
it is important for member states to come to terms with the extent of
the harm caused by such discrimination, and to ensure that adequate
responses exist, including access to judicial protection.
Accordingly, the Commission recommends that:
Member states review their domestic legislation to ensure that no
provision has the effect of permitting or perpetuating racial
discrimination, and to ensure that the law sanctions such discrimination
and provides adequate responses and recourse when it occurs.
Member states review the nature and extent of judicial action
required in response to complaints of racial discrimination in order to
overcome the deficiencies in protection that may exist, and to ensure
that racial discrimination is counteracted through the legal and
administrative systems, offering available, simple, prompt and effective
That the member states take the steps required to remedy inhuman
conditions in prisons and to minimize the number of pre-trial detainees
The Commission has consistently studied and reported on the
situation of human rights in the penal facilities of the hemisphere,
which continues to be characterized in many countries of the hemisphere
by inhuman conditions resulting from the overcrowding of facilities
which lack adequate space or basic infrastructure; by abuses committed
by those charged with the custody of detainees; the insufficient
allocation of human and material resources; and by the failure of a
number of systems to separate those accused from those convicted.
Those accused may wait for periods of up to several years without
a determination of guilt or innocence, leading to grave injustice in the
case of detainees deprived of their liberty for prolonged periods only
to be found innocent.
The Commission therefore recommends that:
Member states adopt the appropriate measures to offer adequate
infrastructure in its penitentiaries; adequate training for its
personnel exercising custody over inmates; sanction the abuses of
penitentiary personnel; dedicate sufficient human and material resources
to these facilities; and separate those accused from those convicted.
Member states immediately take action to address the delay in
criminal justice proceedings that persists as a chronic problem in many
systems, and which contributes to overcrowding in facilities.
Improving criminal justice procedures to provide for trial within
a reasonable time protects the rights of both the accused and the
victim, and remains a critical priority within the inter-American
That member states further develop the programs carried out to
train public sector personnel in order to instill an understanding of
the relevant inter-American and international human rights norms
Given the importance of "institutionalizing" respect
for human rights within the public sector, the Commission recommends
Each member state include within its career training activities
courses on human rights, and how human rights obligations must influence
the day to day implementation of public sector functions.
In particular, such training should be directed toward personnel
of the military, law enforcement, public prosecutor's office and the
The Commission periodically participates in activities designed
to train such personnel in the norms of the inter-American human rights
system, and remains at the disposition of the member states to provide
such technical assistance as may be required.
That member states ensure that national institutions specifically
charged with the promotion and protection of human rights have the
resources and support required to discharge their mandates
Given the role of each member state as the primary guarantor of
the human rights of those within its territory, the Commission is
gratified to see the development of new and specialized national and
local institutions charged with promoting and protecting human rights.
The international, regional and national human rights systems
each have a role to play in the promotion and protection of human
rights. Within a democratic society, however, the state remains the
guarantor of the human rights of those within its territory through the
exercise of its legislative, judicial and administrative safeguards. Accordingly,
the Commission encourages member states to accord such institutions the
resources and support they require, and particularly calls for these
institutions to advance human rights education within the national
framework. The Commission
is at the disposal of the member states to provide materials and
technical assistance that would be of use in this regard.
That the member states that have yet to do so take the steps to
ratify or accede to the American Convention on Human Rights
The Commission encourages the ten member states who are not party
to the American Convention on Human Rights:
Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Cuba, Guyana,
St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the
United States of America, take the steps necessary to ratify or accede
to the paramount instrument of our inter-American human rights system,
thereby consolidating the system within a unitary legal framework.
The Commission particularly encourages those member states that
have initiated the internal consultations necessary to carry this out to
redouble their efforts in pursuit of this critical goal.
That the States Parties to the American Convention that have not
done so accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights.
The Commission recommends that the eight States Parties to the
American Convention that have yet to accept the compulsory jurisdiction
of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights:
Barbados, Brazil, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti,
Jamaica and Mexico, take steps to declare acceptance, pursuant to
Article 62, of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court in all matters
relating to the interpretation or application of the Convention.
That the member states of the OAS that have not already done so
review the treaty law of the inter-American human rights system with a
view to ratifying or acceding to the OAS sponsored human rights treaties
to which they are not party
The Commission urges the member states that have yet to do so to
adopt the measures required to become party to:
The Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human
Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
The Additional Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty;
The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture;
The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances; and,
The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and
Eradication of Violence against Women.