Washington, 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.



          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 as host.


a.       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 Report.


          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 remedies.


          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.


b.       Friendly settlement


          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.


c.       Precautionary measures


          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.


d.       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.




          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.




          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.




a.       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[1] (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. 

b.       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.[2]  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 Human Rights."


c.       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).


d.       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.


e.       Expedited proceedings


          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.

f.       Friendly settlement


          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).


g.       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 that Court.[3]  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.


h.       Follow-up procedure


          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[4] and general legal principles[5] 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.


i.        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 organization.




          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 objective.


          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 states.


          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 Report.


          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.


          7.       FINAL THOUGHTS


          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.

[1] Approved by member states of the General Assembly held in La Paz, Bolivia in 1979

[2] 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:

a.          Defining the criteria it follows for the opening of cases;

b.          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;

c.          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;

d.          Continuing to promote the friendly settlement procedure as a suitable mechanism for the successful resolution of individual cases;

e.          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;

f.          Defining the criteria the Commission follows for referral of cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and

g.          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.


[3] Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

[4] 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.

[5] See Henkin et al, International Law, 1993, page. 350 et seq., Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law, 1992, page. 689 et seq.