Nº 7/01 

          1.       Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("the Commission" or "the IACHR") is concluding its one hundred and eleventh special session that was held in the Republic of Chile, at the invitation of the Government of that country.   The IACHR is composed of Dean Claudio Grossman, President; Dr. Juan E. Méndez, First Vice President; and Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice President.  Dr. Hélio Bicudo, Professor Robert K. Goldman, Dr. Peter Laurie, and Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo are also members of the IACHR.  The sessions were coordinated by the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge Taiana, and the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla.  Dr. Santiago Canton, the Special Rapporteur of the IACHR for Freedom of Expression, served in advisory capacity.  Attorneys Mario López Garelli, Verónica Gómez, and Pablo Saavedra represented the Executive Secretariat, and administrative support was provided by Mrs. Gloria Hansen and Mrs. Ana Adriazola. 

          2.       The IACHR is the main organ, under the Charter of the Organization of American States ("the OAS"), responsible for ensuring the observance of human rights in all the states of the Hemisphere.  The Commissioners are seven independent experts, elected on an individual basis by the member states of the Organization.  In addition to its regular sessions held in Washington, D.C., the IACHR has agreed, on numerous occasions, to hold special sessions away from its headquarters, at the invitation of OAS member states.  In recent years, it has held special sessions in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Venezuela.  During these sessions, it holds internal working meetings, formal interviews, and numerous activities to promote the inter-American human rights system. 

          3.       At its one hundred and eleventh special session, the Commission held working sessions and met with senior officials of the three branches of the Chilean Government.  The President of the Republic of Chile, Dr. Ricardo Lagos, received the Inter-American Commission, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. María Soledad Alvear Valenzuela.  In addition, the IACHR met with the Minister of Justice, Dr. José Antonio Gómez Urrutia and with the Minister of Planning, Dr. Alejandra Krauss Valle.  In the case of the Judiciary, the IACHR met with the President of the Supreme Court, Dr. Hernán Alvarez García, and the judges of that court.  The Inter-American Commission held meetings with members of the Legislature, in particular the Senate Commission on Human Rights and Foreign Relations.  It also went to the headquarters of the Congress in Valparaíso to interview the Commissions on Foreign Relations and Human Rights of the House of Representatives.  The Inter-American Commission also met with the Attorney General, Dr. Guillermo Piedrabuena Richard, and with senior officials and authorities of the Chilean State. 

          4.       The IACHR held discussions with representatives of different sectors of the civil society, including 80 non-governmental organizations. Also, the IACHR included on its agenda interviews with Chilean political parties, such as the National Alliance of Political Parties for Democracy [Concertación Nacional de Partidos por la Democracia], the Independent Democratic Union [Unión Democrática Independiente], the National Renewal [Renovación Nacional], and the Communist Party [Partido Comunista].  Mention should also be made of a meeting held with Deans and Professors of more than 20 law faculties in Chile, during which very useful legal and academic discussions were held. 

          5.       In addition, the Inter-American Commission received a great deal of information on the entry into force of the new Code of Criminal Procedure.  In that context, the program of activities in that country included a visit to La Serena by an IACHR delegation, made up of the President, Vice President, and Executive Secretary, in order to interview the regional authorities in the Office of the Attorney General.  The Inter-American Commission is particularly appreciative of the opportunity that it has been given to obtain on-site information on the progress being made with this important change within the Chilean legal system, and hopes that it will contribute to strengthening the judicial guarantees of persons who are prosecuted. 

          6.       During its working meetings, the Inter-American Commission analyzed numerous individual cases, approved reports pertaining to the admissibility and merits phases, and adopted decisions on the publication of 14 reports.  The cases on which the IACHR has made a public decision are listed below: 

-                     12.067         Michael Edwards et al, Bahamas
-                     11.654         Río Frio Massacre, Colombia
11.710         Carlos Manuel Prada González and Evelio Bolaño Castro, Colombia
11.712         Leonel de Jesús Isaza Echeverry, Colombia
9.903           Rafael Ferrer Mazorra et al ("Marielitos"), United States
12.243         Juan Raúl Garza, United States
12.028         Donnason Knights, Grenada
9.111          Ileana del Rosario Solares Castillo et al, Guatemala
9.207          Oscar Manuel Gramajo López, Guatemala
11.826         Leroy Lamey and another 3 cases combined, Jamaica
12.069         Damion Thomas, Jamaica
11.565         González Pérez sisters, Mexico
Petition        Henry Antonio Jaspe Garcés, Venezuela
Petition        Wilfredo Peñalver Ramos, Venezuela 

7.       The IACHR paid special attention to the progress made with friendly settlement proceedings that have been instituted in a total of 91 cases that are currently being processed.  It also decided to grant precautionary measures to one person who, based on the complaint, was suffering from mental health problems and has been condemned to death in the United States of America.  It also granted precautionary measures to the President of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, who has been the object of serious threats and harassment in that country as a result of the exercise of his judicial functions. 

8.       The Inter-American Commission also analyzed the progress made in the 37 cases being processed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  In addition, it approved its annual report of activities for the year 2000, which will be submitted to the Permanent Council of the OAS and then to the General Assembly of the Organization. 

9.       In light of the entry into force of its Rules of Procedure, on May 1, 2001, the IACHR analyzed the implementation of various administrative measures.  It should be borne in mind that the new Rules of Procedure approved in December 2000 by the IACHR represent significant improvement in the area of human rights in the Hemisphere, such as the expansion of access by victims in the case of international proceedings, and more judicial guarantees for the parties. 

10.     Freedom of expression is a matter of great interest to the Inter-American Commission.  The organs of the inter-American human rights systems have stated, time and time again, that provisions related to contempt [desacato] and prior censorship are incompatible with the American Convention. During meetings and interviews with members of the three branches of the Chilean Governments, the Commissioners and Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression noted their concern over a number of restrictions on this right in the domestic legal system.  The IACHR received information regarding the legislative handling of draft laws, approval of which will lead to progress in the area of protection of freedom of expression in Chile. 

11.     The presence of the IACHR in Chile coincided with a legislative decision to abolish the death penalty in that country.  In the view of the Inter-American Commission, this represents very important progress by the Chilean Congress, and the Commission commends it for this decision which marks an important milestone in terms of respect for the right to life. 

12.     The IACHR thanks the State for all the assistance provided for this productive special session in Santiago, Chile, a city that is of special significance since it was there that this inter-American organ was established in 1959.  This has been a fitting opportunity to share information with the Chilean State authorities and the different civil society groups.


Santiago, Chile, April 6, 2001