Nº 4/01

          1.           The 110th regular session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“the Inter-American Commission” or “the IACHR”) came to an end on March 9, 2001. The Inter-American Commission elected its board of officers, comprising Dean Claudio Grossman, as Chairman, Dr. Juan E. Méndez, First Vice-Chairman, and Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice-Chairman. Also present at its meetings were Commissioners Hélio Bicudo, Robert K. Goldman, Peter Laurie, and Julio Prado Vallejo. The meetings were prepared and coordinated by Executive Secretary Jorge E. Taiana, with assistance from Assistant Executive Secretary David J. Padilla.  

          2.          During this period of sessions, the IACHR met with Dr. César Gaviria, the Secretary General of the OAS. These meetings, which have become traditional over recent years, offer valuable opportunities for dialogue to flow between the General Secretariat and the Commission. They agreed wholeheartedly about strengthening the IACHR’s administrative autonomy and about the need to avoid any interference in the delicate functioning of the OAS’s chief human rights protection body. 


          3.          On March 8, 2001, the IACHR held its annual joint meeting with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court was represented by its President, Dr. Antonio A. Cançado Trindade, its Vice-President, Dr. Máximo Pacheco Gómez, Judges Alirio Abreu Burelli, Sergio García Ramírez, Carlos Vicente De Roux Rengifo, and Hernán Salgado Pesantes; and by Secretary Manuel Ventura Robles and Assistant Secretary Renzo Pomi.  

          4.          The meeting addressed several issues of mutual interest, including the implementation of the amendments to the bodies’ rules of procedure, which promise great improvements in the fields of juridical certainty and access to proceedings by victims and their representatives. The IACHR and the Court also analyzed their joint search for better funding of their operations; compliance with the Court’s judgements and the IACHR’s recommendations; strengthening the inter-American human rights protection system; and closer cooperation between the two organs in performing their duties. The meeting also reiterated the importance of these annual meetings between the Commission and the Court in continuing their institutional cooperation for the protection and defense of human rights. 


          5.          On February 22, 2001, the IACHR held a meeting with Peru’s Minister of Justice, Dr. Diego García-Sayán, and Amb. Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, that country’s Permanent Representative to the OAS. Acting on behalf of his government, Dr. García-Sayán submitted a wide-ranging proposal for resolving 165 cases, which account for more than half the cases involving Peru currently being processed by the IACHR. Dr. García-Sayán explained that this initiative was among the steps being taken by the current government in order to restore democratic institutionality and reestablish the rule of law and respect for human rights in Peru.  At the meeting the Inter-American Commission once again noted its appreciation of the measures for redefining and strengthening the basic institutions of state that have been adopted by the transitional government under the leadership of President Dr. Valentín Paniagua, the members of his cabinet, and the Congress of the Republic of Peru.  

          6.          These cases will be resolved in full compliance with the international obligations assumed by Peru in its capacity as a sovereign state and with the following specific guidelines: Peru’s responsibility in those cases that involve human rights violations is to be recognized; amends for the damages and other repercussions suffered as a result of those human rights violations are to be made to the victims or their families; the appropriate investigations are to be conducted by an autonomous judiciary to determine the applicable responsibilities; the precautionary measures recommended by the Commission are to be implemented; and friendly settlement proceedings are to be pursued, with the involvement of the IACHR, the petitioners, and the victims or their relatives.  


          7.          On March 2, 2001, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) adhered to the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression at a ceremony held at OAS headquarters. The gathering was addressed by OAS Secretary General Dr. César Gaviria, IACHR Chairman Dean Claudio Grossman and Executive Secretary Amb. Jorge E. Taiana, IAPA President Danilo Arbila, and the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago Canton.  

          8.          The Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression aspires to protect that fundamental right more effectively through the Office of the Special Rapporteur created for that purpose within the framework set by Article 13 of the American Convention and other applicable provisions. The Declaration, which comprises 13 principles, was drawn up by the Office of the Special Rapporteur and subjected to a wide-ranging consultation process involving specialized sectors of civil society. The Declaration defines freedom of expression as “an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.” Jurisprudence from both the Commission and the Inter-American Court has stressed the importance of this right, both in and of itself and as a guarantee for the protection of other basic rights. 


          9.          During this session, and at the request of a number of prominent nongovernmental organizations, the Commission held a hearing on the situation prevailing among human rights activists in the hemisphere. At the hearing the Commission received information about threats, attacks, and assaults (including some fatal ones) perpetrated against human rights organizations and defenders in several of the region’s countries, with the intention of interfering with their work in favor of human rights. 

          10.          The IACHR has frequently used the precautionary measures mechanism provided for in Article 29 of its Regulations to protect the lives and physical integrity of human rights workers. The Inter-American Commission has received numerous complaints of human rights defenders who have been harassed or killed in Colombia; the vast majority of these incidents, which remain unpunished, are the work of paramilitary groups. The Inter-American Commission is similarly concerned by information it has received from Guatemala, where human rights activists have had their property invaded, been harassed, and received threats, and from Cuba, where such human rights defenders do not enjoy freedom of expression or freedom of assembly and are targets for coercion and imprisonment. The Commission will formally communicate with the authorities about its specific concerns relating to the guarantees that human rights defenders must enjoy in the performance of their duties. 

V.           ANNUAL REPORT 

          11.           The Commission spent a significant proportion of its meeting time on its Annual Report for the year 2000, which will be submitted to the OAS General Assembly in San José, Costa Rica, in June 2001. Specifically, it approved the plan of the report and the contents of its different chapters. 


          12.           The Commission continued its analysis of numerous individual communications alleging violations of human rights protected by either the American Convention or the American Declaration, or both, and it adopted a total of 63 reports on individual cases and petitions. The following list indicates the 32 reports in which the IACHR issued a public decision: 

A.           Decisions  

          i.          Inadmissible

        Ernesto Ramón Chiacchiarela, Petition 28/96, Argentina
        María Isabel Pavesio, Petition 16/98, Argentina
        Héctor Benigno Rivero, Petition 48/98, Argentina
        Savio Mario Rolando del Valle, Petition 68/98, Argentina
        Claudio Hugo Zacarías, Petition 148/98, Argentina
        Ricardo Mancuro, Petition 67/99, Argentina
       Subira Jaime, Manuel de Tezanos, and Horacio Sergi,
          Petitions 13/99, 114/99, and 115/99 (combined), Argentina
        Aníbal M. Farias Solimano, Petition 83/99, Argentina
        Federico José Aragno, Petition 90/99, Argentina
        Néstor Antonio Fuhr et al., Petition 109/99, Argentina
        Dionisia Angela Zambón de Zamboni, Petition 112/99, Argentina
-        Mario Eduardo Cabrosi, Petition 124/99, Argentina
        Eduardo J. Carrio, Petition 84/00, Argentina
        Alvaro Robelo, Case 12.144 – Report 25/01, Nicaragua
        Frank Ulises Guelfi Aguilar, Case 11.716 – Report 17/01, Panama 

          ii.           Admissible 

                    Fernando Giovanelli, Case 12.298 – Report 30/01, Argentina
                    Araguaia Guerrillas, Case 11.552 – Report 33/01, Brazil
                    Jailton Neri da Fonseca, Case 11.634 – Report 35/01, Brazil
                    Evandro Oliveira, Case 11.694, Report 36/01, Brazil
                    Mapiripán, Case 12.250 – Report 34/01, Colombia
                    José Sánchez G. et al., Case 11.529 – Report 37/01, Costa Rica
                    Marco Vinicio Almeida Calispa, Case 11.450 – Report 18/01, Ecuador
                    Jorge O. Miranda Cortez et al., Case 12.249 – Report 29/01, El Salvador
                    Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz, Case 12.132 – Report 31/01,
                      El Salvador
                    Castro Castro Prison, Case 11.015 – Report 43/01, Peru
                    Emilio and Rafael Gómez, Case 11.016 – Report 44/01, Peru
                    Augusto Zúñiga Paz, Case 11.149 – Report 45/01, Peru
                    Dilcia Jean and V. Bosica, Case 12.189 – Report 28/01, Dominican

          iii.          Friendly Settlement  

                    Juan Clímaco Cuéllar et al., Case 11.478 – Report 19/01, Ecuador
                    Lida Angela Riera Rodríguez, Case 11.512 – Report 20/01, Ecuador
                    René Gonzalo Cruz Pazmiño, Case 11.605 – Report 21/01, Ecuador
                    José Patricio Reascos, Case 11.779 – Report 22/01, Ecuador 

          B.           Cases closed 

          13.          Pursuant to Article 48(1)(b) of the American Convention and Article 35(c) of its Regulations, the IACHR examined a number of files and decided to close the following cases: 

                    11.711, Guillermo Cherashny, Argentina
                    11.773, Ada Elizabeth Aspe, Argentina
                    9.894, Haitians, The Bahamas
                    11.619, Cyril James Darville, The Bahamas
                    11.527, Herman Mejía Pasquall Bull, Belize
                    11.424, Sergio Buschman Silva, Chile
                    11.640, Miguel Guzmán, El Salvador
                    11.244, Pedro Rax Cucul, Guatemala
                    11.580, Abdool Saleem Yassen and Noel Thomas, Guyana
                    11.340, Yves Dort, Haiti,
                    11.341, Elisias Arnaud, Haiti
                    11.342, Mrs. Leroy Charles Vigne, Haiti 
          11.343, Saint Juste Willio, Haiti  

                    11.344, Castor Jacques, Haiti  
          11.346, Sanon Berthold, Haiti  
          11.347, Moliere Michelet, Haiti  
          11.348, Gala Jean Rhoud, Haiti
                    11.350, Joseph Emmanuel, Haiti  
          11.352, Jean Bertrand Mathurin, Haiti  
          11.353, Adner d’Haiti, Haiti
                    11.354, André Sinord, Haiti
                    11.355, Alexandre André, Haiti 
          11.357, Emmanuel Polynice, Haiti  
          11.359, Jean Vergniaud, Haiti            

          11.360, Thibault JM Mozart, Haiti  
          11.366, Pierre L. Jean Noel, Pierre L. Marie Yolene,
                      and Pierre L. Jeff, Haiti
                  11.369, Wichenieu Jean, Haiti  
          11.370, Cius Joseph, Haiti  

          11.371, Duplessis Heudouville, Haiti  
          11.372, Metayer Francesse, Haiti  
          11.373, Kroutchev Celestin Jean, Haiti  
          11.374, Mr and Mrs. Destaul, Haiti  
          11.375, Avril Saurel, Haiti
          11.376, Damicy Maurice, Haiti  
          11.377, Amousel Oreste, Haiti
          11.380, Herard Jean Wilfred and Mrs. Enine Jean Herardo, Haiti  
          11.272, Antoine Izmery, Haiti
          11.997, Mario Rojas and family, Mexico
          11.889, Merky Tamara Gutiérrez et al., Venezuela


C.           Hearings, working meetings, and friendly settlements 

          14.           The Commission held 46 hearings on individual cases, the human rights situation in different states around the hemisphere, precautionary measures, compliance with recommendations, and other matters over which it has jurisdiction.  

          15.           The IACHR also held hearings to follow up on the recommendations it issued in seven reports on cases involving Mexico. These meetings were attended by the head of the Human Rights Directorate of that country’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Juan José Gómez Camacho. The Director for Human Rights expressly stated his country’s willingness to cooperate with the mechanisms that exist for monitoring compliance with the Inter-American Commission’s recommendations. The IACHR welcomes the Mexican government’s stance and trusts that as a result, justice will be done in the individual cases that have been brought before it. In addition, working meetings were held to deal with several individual cases from Mexico that are still being processed and in which the parties agreed that concrete progress has been made. 

          16.          Mention should also be made of the presence of State Attorney General of Ecuador, Dr. Ramón Jiménez Carbo, who attended working meetings with the petitioners in 13 cases that are in the friendly settlement phase or regarding which agreements for implementing the IACHR’s recommendations are being negotiated. Dr. Jiménez Carbo reported on the major progress made with victim compensation efforts and offered to actively promote the friendly settlement mechanism in an additional six cases. 

          17.          Working meetings were also held with petitioners and government representatives from Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru. The Inter-American Commission appreciates the valuable contributions made by all the participants at those meetings, which resulted in concrete progress toward the friendly settlement of several cases. 

          18.          Further to the meeting with Peru’s Minister of Justice, during this period of sessions and with the support and approval of the IACHR, the petitioners in cases 11.756 (Leonor La Rosa Bustamante), 12.095 (Mariela Barreto), and 12.191 (María Mamérita Mestanza) and government representatives reached preliminary friendly settlement agreements. Under these, Peru acknowledged its international responsibility for the incidents described in the cases, and ground rules were set for their friendly settlement: namely, investigation and punishment of the human rights violations involved, the provision of material and moral compensation, and preventive measures to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future. 


          19.           On January 8, 2001, the Permanent Representative of Peru to the OAS signed the instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons. On January 31, 2001, the Permanent Representative of Peru to the OAS presented the Organization’s Secretary General with a document certifying the normalization of that country’s situation vis-à-vis the Inter-American Court and its compliance with the Court’s judgments ruling inadmissible the unilateral action contained in the “withdrawal of recognition of the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court” by means of a legislative resolution dated July 7, 1999. The Commission congratulates Peru on those initiatives and, once again, urges all the OAS member states to continue advancing toward their full incorporation into the inter-American human rights system. 

          20.          During this session, the Inter-American Commission was told about major progress in the inclusion of international human rights law into the legislative and judicial systems of several of the hemisphere’s states. These initiatives represent an important step forward for international human rights commitments, and the Commission appreciates them enormously. In particular, the Commission notes the recent initiatives toward this end taken by Argentina, Mexico, and Peru, as well as those of other countries. 


          21.          The IACHR considered several invitations to conduct on-site visits and trips to follow up on individual case reports that were submitted by representatives of OAS member states. During this session, an invitation to visit the Dominican Republic was received from that country’s government. The IACHR also made progress with details relating to the invitations it has received from Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.


          22.          Amb. Jorge E. Taiana has informed the IACHR of his decision to terminate his service as the Commission’s Executive Secretary in order to return to his country of origin, Argentina. This personal decision by the Executive Secretary will take effect on July 31, 2001. Although the Inter-American Commission fully understands his reasons, it nevertheless regrets the departure of Amb. Taiana, who has played a decisive role in developing and strengthening the inter-American human rights system by dint of his professional skills, high personal and intellectual integrity, understanding of the problems related to this field, and far-reaching sensitiveness. 

* * * * * * * * * 

          23.           At the kind invitation of the Government of Chile, the Commission will hold its next special session on April 4–6, 2001, in the city of Santiago, Chile. The event will be combined with a protocol visit to that country.


Washington, D.C., March 9, 2001