PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON INTER-AMERICAN SUMMITS MANAGEMENT
INTER - AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
October 12, 1995
Harriet C. Babbitt
Dear Ambassador Babbitt:
On behalf of the President of the Inter-American Commission, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejia, I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 25, 1995, concerning the progress the Commission has made in implementing the initiatives identified through the Summit of the Americas. I am pleased to have the opportunity to inform you, as chair of the Special Committee on Inter-American Summit Management, as to the measures taken thus far and those which are planned as additional follow up. The Secretariat apologizes for the delay in submitting our response, which is due only to the press of work during and following the Commission's 90th period of sessions.
The Commission has noted the decisions reached during the Summit with special attention, as reflected in the recommendations it elaborated to assist member states in promptly effectuating those decisions in its Annual Report for 1994. With respect to action that may be taken by the organs themselves, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was identified in the chart formulated by the Permanent Council as having a special role in implementing Summit initiatives in two areas: first, regarding the promotion and protection of human rights and the consequent need to strengthen the ability of the Commission to act in this regard; and second, with respect to eliminating the threat of national and international terrorism.
The first initiative, as is most appropriate, refers to the mandate the Commission is empowered by the Charter to fulfill as the principal organ of the OAS with responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission is therefore continuing to carry out its mandated functions which include, inter ail processing individual cases, carrying out on site observations, preparing and publishing special studies and reports, as well as undertaking special activities for the promotion of human rights in the hemisphere.
The Commission continues to work on several projects with specific relevance to the objectives outlined during the Summit. As to the decision adopted in the Plan of Action to "promote policies to ensure that women enjoy full and equal legal rights," the Commission, through its Special Reporter, continues to develop its project aimed at examining the status of women's rights in the hemisphere. In connection with the decision to "take steps to remedy inhumane conditions in prisons," the Commission continues work on its project devoted to examining the situation of prisons in the hemisphere. With regard to both of these projects, the objective is to provide information and assistance to member states, and to formulate pertinent recommendations to assist them in their quest to promote and protect human rights. The Commission is also continuing its intensive work on an instrument to strengthen laws for the protection of indigenous people, another priority identified in the Plan of Action. Most recently, during its 90th period of sessions the Commission approved a new draft of the instrument to circulate to OAS member states and other interested parties for observations. During this same period of sessions, the Commission approved the preparation of two special studies which draw from themes accorded special priority during the Summit. One study will treat the human rights situation of children in the hemisphere, and the other will address the human rights situation of migrant workers.
In addition to these activities, the Commission is devoting special attention to the priority need to strengthen its ability to fulfill its mandate. In accordance with the plans established to fortify the Commission, new initiatives have been developed in the areas of internal resources and procedures, case management, case practice and promotion.
Having been accorded a critically necessary grant of additional operating funds for the current year, the Commission is in the long anticipated process of selecting and hiring two additional attorneys as human rights specialists. One of the truly pressing needs of the Commission has been to expand and enhance its professional and support staff. We expect to hire an additional secretary to provide administrative support to these two attorney positions. Furthermore, assuming the availability of the required funds, the Commission hopes to further expand its professional attorney staff by another two positions within the next year. Enhancing the legal staff of the Commission Secretariat is a fundamental element of the Commission's plans to strengthen its ability to serve the cause of human rights in fulfillment of its mandate.
This year, in cooperation with the OAS Office of Fellowships, the Commission has expanded the number of Romulo Gallegos Fellowships, which enable young attorneys to spend a year at the Commission's headquarters learning about the Inter-American human rights system and assisting in the work of the Secretariat. The program provides a stipend to fund the participation of these professionals. While the Commission usually supports two fellowships for the year, during the current period it is benefiting from the contribution of four Romulo Gallegos Fellows from throughout the hemisphere.
Perhaps the most significant new initiative in terms of internal procedures relates to the issue of case management. The Commission has determined that updated measures to -track and facilitate the processing of individual petitions will provide a benefit to all the parties concerned and to the inter-American human rights system as a whole. The Commission is in the process of developing and implementing measures which include: a centralized and secure filing system for active cases, an effective software program for tracking and updating active cases, and the development of a repertoire of inter-American human rights case law. The latter project is in the initial stages of implementation, and will consist of an indexed digest of the case law of the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This project will benefit the Commission and its staff in terms of facilitating juridical consistency and expediting the time-consuming process of legal research, and provide importance guidance to member state governments and petitioners with respect to the procedures and substantive norms of the system,
The Commission was also assigned a role in implementing the decision to work toward the elimination of the threat of national and international terrorism. In this regard, it may be noted that the Commission has been called upon to deal with the scourge of national and international terrorism primarily in relation to individual cases whose facts raise the issue. Another important means the Commission has utilized to examine this pressing challenge has been in its analysis of the situation of human rights in specific member states, either in the reports included in chapter four of its annual report, or in its special country reports. Lamentably, there have been many instances in recent years in which the Commission has found it necessary to condemn resort to these forms of violence.
As the committee will note from the above, the Commission has developed and is implementing multi-track initiatives to strengthen both the substantive and procedural aspects of its mission. We look forward to any suggestions the committee may have on further measures to strengthen the Commission and the promotion and protection of human rights in the -hemisphere.
Edith Márquez Rodríguez
Entire contents © 1998 Organization of American States, Office of Summit Follow-Up