On April 24, 2014, The President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Tracy Robinson, presented the 2013 Annual Report before the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the OAS Permanent Council.
This is the first annual report prepared under the guidelines of the new Rules of Procedure of the IACHR, adopted in August of 2013 as a result of the OAS reflection process. The Rules of Procedure establish new guidelines and standards in the evaluation of the state of human rights in the region.
As a result, the 2013 Annual Report is divided into six chapters.
Chapter I addresses the activities conducted by the IACHR in its relation with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and with other regional and universal bodies of human rights. According to the report, the IACHR submitted 11 contentious cases to the jurisdiction of the Court, one less than in 2012 and 48% less than in 2011. Four cases were submitted against Peru, two against Honduras, and one against Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. Of these, three had indigenous and tribal communities as victims, two were related to illegal detentions and torture and two to extrajudicial executions, among other affected rights. On the other hand, there was only one petition made to the Court for a provisional measure, while in 2012 there were four made and in 2011 there were seven.
Chapter II addresses the protection of human rights from the perspective of the system of cases and precautionary measures. According to the Report, in 2013 2061 petitions were received, almost 100 more than in the previous year and 400 more than were received in 2011. This shows a 20% increase in the number of petitions received since 2011.
Of the petitions it received in 2013, the IACHR opened 736, that is to say, a total of 35.7%; this reflects a diminution of 41.3% of the total number of open petitions in the previous year. Of these, only 123 were accepted for processing leaving out 613 petitions. Therefore, of the total petitions analyzed, 16.7% were accepted for processing.
At the end of 2013, a total of 8548 petitions were pending a resolution before the IACHR, 1753 of which are in the phases of admissibility and merits. There were a total of 116 reports in which the IACHR made decisions of admissibility (44), inadmissibility (9), merits (19), friendly settlement (6) or archive (38) during the 2013 period. This shows a decrease from the previous year when 125 reports were approved. It also shows a substantive reduction in comparison to the 165 reports approved in 2011. However, this year there were more admissibility reports and less inadmissibility in relation to the previous year. Additionally, three Merits Reports were published in accordance with article 51(3) of the American Convention on Human Rights, whereas only one was published in the previous year. Two were emitted against the United States and one against Mexico.
In relation to precautionary measures, the Commission received 400 petitions, 10% less than in 2012. Of those, it only granted 26, meaning 6.5% of the total. This shows a diminution in comparison to the previous year, in which 35 measures were granted out of the 448 petitions; in 2011, 57 measures were granted out of the 422 petitions. 12 measures were granted prior to the effective date of the new regulations and 14 thereafter.
Of the 400 precautionary measures petitioned, the majority were filed against Mexico (85), Colombia (62) and Argentina (31). However, the Commission primarily issued measures against Cuba (5), Haiti (4) and Mexico (3).
Country visits doubled in 2013 from the three that occurred in 2012 to the six that took place in 2013. The IACHR conducted in loco visits to the Dominican Republic, Suriname, Argentina, Honduras, Canada and Guatemala. The visits addressed a variety of issues including the right to nationality, identity, equality before the law and non-discrimination, women’s rights and the rights of indigenous communities, among others.
Chapter III reports the activities developed by the seven rapporteurships and the two bodies. A separate chapter reports the work of the Special Rapporteurhip for Freedom of Expression.
For the first time, the work conducted by the Unit on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), created in November 2012, is presented. In April 2014 the Unit established itself as the Special Rapporteurship on ESCR. Furthermore, the Report announces that in November 2013, the IACHR decided to create the Rapporteurship on the Rights of the LGBTI persons, which began working on February 1, 2014.
The following thematic and country reports were approved in 2013: (1) The Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Persons Deprived of Liberty in Honduras; (2) The Rights of Boys and Girls to a Family. Alternative Care. Ending Institutionalization in the Americas; (3) Guarantees for the Independence of Justice Operators in the Americas; (4) Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Process; (6) Report on the Use of Pretrial Detention in the Americas; (7) Report on the Human Rights of migrants and other persons in the context of human mobility in Mexico; (8) Truth, Justice and Reparation: Fourth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia. The previous is an unusual number in comparison of 2012, in which not a single thematic report was released.
Split into two sections, Chapter IV contemplates the new methodology that follows the 2013 approved Rules of Procedure.
The first section presents a panorama on the human rights situation in the hemisphere, an analysis that comes from the monitoring conducted by the Commission. The IACHR issued 103 press releases. In 22 of them it reported murders or the persecution of human rights defenders and reporters, including attacks against judges and organizations for their actions. Furthermore, the IACHR gave special attention to the violent deaths that occurred in the penitentiary centers of Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Bolivia. It also gave special attention to the situation of LGBTI persons.
In addition to the above, this section also includes information requested from States in relation to specific violations related to four key issues: the effect on the right to personal liberty in relation to the Guantanamo military base and the responsibility of the United States in the compliance of the issued precautionary measures; the situation of Ecuador and the effects on the right to freedom of expression; the independence and impartiality of the operators of justice in the region; and lastly, the effect on the right to nationality and non-discrimination in relation to the Judgment TC/0168 issued September 23, 2013 by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic.
The second section reports on the specific human rights situation in some states selected by the Commissioners in accordance with the criteria, methodology and procedures set out in the new Rules of Procedure, and highlights critical situations affecting human rights. The Commission, by an absolute majority, decided to include three member States in the second section: Cuba, Honduras and Venezuela.
Regarding the universality of the Inter-American System, the IACHR shows that as of June 2013, only 7 Member States (20%) had ratified all the Inter-American human rights treaties: Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay. Because of this, the IACHR calls on the other Member States to ratify all the treaties and asks them to remove the internal obstacles to reach this objective.
Chapter V is left pending for the 2014 Report, evidencing the monitor of recommendations given by the IACHR in its country or thematic reports specific to a single country, Jamaica. The reports are currently still undergoing consultation with the State and civil society.
Chapter VI of the Report shows that a precarious financial situation continues to persist in the IACHR. Even though the OAS increased the IACHR’s budget by US$65,000 for the 2014 fiscal year, the IACHR continues to depend on external funds to minimally respond to the growing demand of the countries in the Americas. As of October 31, 2013, the specific funds generally represented 46% of the money the Executive Secretariat takes in to perform its various functions and 49% for its implementation. Additionally, the IACHR reported the approval of the increased budget for the Commissioners’ fees from US$2,000 to US$4,000 monthly.
After the presentation of the Annual Report, the majority of the States publically expressed the need for the IACHR to be able to count on the financial conditions that permit it to fully dedicate itself to the persons and groups of the region that have multiple necessities for protection and gravely suffer effects to their essential rights. However, to date, the political bodies of the OAS continue without adopting the necessary measures to guarantee the adequate funding of the System.