Washington D.C, March 28, 2012 –This afternoon, at a public hearing before the seven Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the International Coalition of Human Rights Organizations in the Americas, representing over 700 organizations, denounced the attempts by several Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to undermine the work of the IACHR and urged it to take actions to strengthen itself.
At the hearing, the region’s organizations showed particular concern regarding the intention of some governments to complicate the procedures surrounding precautionary measures. These protection measures provided to victims in emergency situations must be managed through simple and effective procedures. The importance of maintaining the integrity of the annual report of the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression was also emphasized. This issue has been similarly questioned by some members of the OAS.
Additionally, members of civil society stressed the importance of transparency in relation to the Commission’s electoral process. Transparency is particularly significant with regards to the forthcoming elections for the Commission’s Executive Secretary, which will be held in July this year. Furthermore, the organizations present expressed that the signing of friendly settlements should be done in good faith and with the intention of upholding them, and not simply to prevent a case from being sent to the Inter-American Court. The petitioners also stressed the importance of maintaining the fourth chapter of the Commission’s annual report, which includes the reports of the Commission’s various rapporteurships. For many countries this is a sensitive issue, as the chapter highlights the countries that face greater challenges in terms of human rights violations. It has been particularly questioned by Venezuela and Colombia.
In the spirit of collaboration, organizations also proposed mechanisms to foster improved compliance with the decisions of the IACHR, and measures to improve efficiency in the processing of cases. Finally, the Coalition emphasized the need for greater financial support on the part of the OAS for the organs of human rights protection in the region (Inter-American Commission and Court), to ensure effective operation and respect for human rights in the Americas.
A document containing many of the observations raised by civil society at this hearing was signed by over 90 organizations and delivered at the OAS’s Permanent Council in January 2012. The document was written as a reaction to a report submitted to the Permanent Council of the OAS by the Special Working Group on the Strengthening of the Inter-American System, a group whose composition includes, among others, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. The special group’s report contains some recommendations clearly aimed to hinder the work of the Inter-American Commission. These recommendations can be seen as a response to specific actions of the IACHR, such as the recent admission of cases denouncing human rights violations in aforementioned countries.
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