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PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON INTER-AMERICAN SUMMITS MANAGEMENT

OAS/Ser.G CE/GCI-121/97
4 November 1997
Original: Spanish

SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
Miami, December 1994 

Issues in Whose Implementation the Secretariat for Legal Affairs Has Played a Role
(Document submitted by the Office of the Assistant Secretariat for Legal Affairs) 

The purpose of this document is to present the issues raised by the presidents and heads of government at the Summit of the Americas which had specific mandates for the Organization of American States and whose implementation called for action by the Secretariat for Legal Affairs. The outline followed in the paper consists of the mandate from the Summit, the actions taken by the Organization and the General Secretariat in this regard, and any considerations deemed appropriate.

Human Rights 

1. Mandate

The Plan of Action of the Miami Summit of the Americas considers the promotion and protection of human rights as one of the aspects of the preservation and strengthening of democracy. It contains commitments that the member states must adopt basically within their domestic jurisdictions. The Plan of Action also contains commitments associated with the inter-American human rights system, such as giving "serious consideration" to accession to international human rights instruments and cooperation with human rights bodies.

The Organization of American States is specifically referred to three times: first, regarding the support that the states will give to "a process to review and enhance the protection of indigenous rights in OAS member states"; second, with regard to the request to the OAS—in conjunction with the IDB—to establish or to reinforce programs to support national projects for the promotion and observance of human rights; and lastly, regarding the pledge made to further strengthen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

2. Action by the Organization

a. The Organization's activities in the human rights field have taken place through the various bodies involved in this area: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, with their respective secretariats; the Permanent Council, especially through the activities of its Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, which receives assistance from the General Secretariat, primarily from the Secretariat for Legal Affairs as concerns technical-juridical advice and support; and the General Assembly, which adopts basic decisions in this regard.

b. Following the Summit of the Americas, in the Declaration of Montrouis of 1995, the General Assembly put forth various ideas on the role of human rights in the Organization and after reaffirming its intent to continue to promote the observance and defense of human rights, made an appeal for the member states to "seriously consider ratifying or acceding" to the inter-American human rights instruments. In this connection, the ministers of foreign affairs and heads of delegation expressed:

Their conviction that the inter-American system has valuable experience and well-earned prestige in the promotion and protection of human rights, which warrants decisive member state support for its bodies, including the allocation of increased financial and human resources, as well as an evaluation of how the inter-American human rights system operates. The purpose here is to initiate reflection leading to its improvement, including the possibility, if necessary, of amending the pertinent instruments, especially the American Convention on Human Rights.

c. In 1996, the General Assembly instructed the Permanent Council to:

Evaluate the workings of the inter-American system for the protection and promotion of human rights so as to initiate a process leading to its improvement, possibly by modifying the respective legal instruments as well as the methods and working procedures of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for which it shall request the cooperation of the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights . . . .

d. In 1996 and 1997, the various aspects of the mandate to evaluate the system were examined. The Secretary General presented the document "Toward a New Vision of the Inter-American Human Rights System" (CP/doc.2828/96, November 26, 1996) and the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council (CAJP) devoted a large part of its endeavors to the topic and held a special meeting with the participation of government experts from April 2 to 4, 1997. The Secretariat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights prepared, at the request of the CAJP, the document titled "The Inter-American Court and the Inter-American system of Human Rights: Projections and Goals" (OEA/Ser.G, CP/CAJP-1130, November 26, 1996). For its part, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights organized a seminar on "The Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights," held from December 2 to 4, 1996. The Committee's conclusions on the issues discussed and the minutes of the presentations have been published (OEA/Ser/L/V/II.95, Doc. 28, March 11, 1997).

e. In light of the activities held within the Organization, in 1997 the General Assembly adopted two resolutions in this area: AG/RES. 1488 (XXVII-O/97), "Evaluation and Improvement of the Workings of the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights," and AG/RES. 1489 (XXVII-O/97), "International Promotion of Human Rights in the Inter-American System." The first resolution instructs the Permanent Council, inter alia, "to continue . . . with a view to strengthening and improving the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights, its comprehensive consideration of the various aspects of that system, formulating recommendations, as appropriate . . . concerning possible reforms of the applicable legal instruments." The second resolution welcomes the conclusions of the special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on international promotion of human rights and requests the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to prepare a draft inter-American program for the international promotion of human rights, to be submitted to the Permanent Council.

f. With regard to the rights of indigenous populations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights prepared a "Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," currently under consideration by the Permanent Council, which is the subject of resolution AG/RES. 1479 (XXVII-O/97), adopted by the General Assembly in 1997 at its most recent session. The Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Inter-American Indian Institute are in the process of examining the Proposed Declaration with a view to making observations.

3. Considerations

a. As is apparent, the activities outlined in the previous section generated a large number of contributions from experts and other individuals interested in the future enhancement of the human rights system. The Secretariat for Legal Affairs has been consistently monitoring the topic of the various legal regimes governing the human rights system and their impact on the system's structure as well as the signing and ratification of inter-American legal instruments by the member states of the Organization, since it is charged with performing the function of depositary of the inter-American treaties, which is entrusted to the General Secretariat by the Charter of the Organization.

b. The process of reflection aimed at strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in the Hemisphere is making significant progress. This is true for the promotion of human rights, an area in which work is under way to design a specific program. In any event, this effort should cover the basic question of the resources needed to implement the initiative.

Another sector with positive results is the review of procedures followed for processing individual cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Inputs by the bodies of the inter-American system, which have taken the form of reports, procedures, and resolutions, as well as contributions by the member states, made through comments, proposals, and observations in different bodies and forums, are helpful in reaching agreements on amendments to the Statute and Regulations of the Commission and, if necessary, even of the Court.

Along the same lines, a certain level of agreement can be noted regarding the complexity and difficulties of introducing amendments to the Pact of San Josť.

c. Year after year, the General Assembly has called on member states to sign or ratify, as appropriate, the basic international human rights instruments and to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the competence of the Inter-American Commission to receive interstate reports.

d. There has been no change in the status of ratifications of and accessions to the American Convention on Human Rights. As concerns other inter-American instruments, it should be noted that the Government of Paraguay recently ratified the Protocol of San Salvador.

Corruption

1. Mandate

The Declaration of Principles of the Summit of the Americas considers combating corruption as a topic under the heading preserving and strengthening the community of democracies of the Americas. In this connection, it says:

Effective democracy requires a comprehensive attack on corruption as a factor of social disintegration and distortion of the economic system that undermines the legitimacy of political institutions.

For its part, the Plan of Action reiterate these concepts and sets forth new ones, which are an outgrowth of the earlier ones. It specifies seven categories of action which the states pledge to undertake. Among them, the following two are directly related to the activities of the Organization of American States:

Call on the governments of the world to adopt and enforce measures against bribery in all financial or commercial transactions with the Hemisphere; toward this end, invite the OAS to establish liaison with the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions.

Develop within the OAS, with due regard to applicable treaties and national legislation, a hemispheric approach to acts of corruption in both the public and private sectors that would include extradition and prosecution of individuals so charged, through negotiation of a new hemispheric agreement or new arrangements within existing frameworks for international cooperation.

2. Actions by the OAS

Actions taken by the Organization, on the basis of the mandate it received, led to the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, on March 29, 1996, in Caracas, Venezuela. This convention can be considered as the "new hemispheric agreement" referred to by the presidents and heads of government. It entered into force on March 6, 1997, 30 days after the second ratification. Inasmuch as the Convention takes "a hemispheric approach to acts of corruption," it contains an article on the punishment of transnational bribery, which was the first category of actions mentioned. As of the date of this document, 23 states have signed the Convention and eight have ratified it.

On the basis of the Convention, the states have made progress on improving the provisions illicit enrichment and transnational bribery and have entrusted the Inter-American Juridical Committee with formulating model legislation on these offenses. The Committee should present the results of its deliberations in March. The Secretariat for Legal Affairs has prepared background material to assist the Inter-American Juridical Committee in discharging its mandate (OAS/Sec.Gral.CJI/doc.16/97 rev. 1, July 14, 1997).

The Inter-American Convention against Corruption contains program-related provisions pertaining to the adoption of measures by the states, nationally and within the sphere of international cooperation. To set in motion the machinery that would lead to the adoption of domestic and international measures to combat corruption, the representatives of the member states drafted the Inter-American Program for Cooperation in the Fight against Corruption, which was adopted by the General Assembly in Lima (1997).

The Program includes measures to enhance legal instruments to combat corruption, consolidate institutions responsible for combating this scourge, strengthen ties with international organizations, and promote the participation of civil society in this endeavor. The General Assembly entrusted the Secretariat for Legal Affairs with implementation of the Program, under the supervision of the Permanent Council.

The General Secretariat, through the Secretariat for Legal Affairs and the Secretariat of the Permanent Council, provided the technical and operational assistance needed by the Working Group on Probity and Public Ethics, which did the work leading to the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and the Inter-American Program for Cooperation in the Fight against Corruption.

3. Considerations

a. With its adoption, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption is the only international instrument of its kind.

b. The General Secretariat, through its Secretariat for Legal Affairs, has a documentation center with copies of the legislation of various countries of the Hemisphere on corruption.

c. The dynamics of the Convention have been positive and have led the states to request the Inter-American Juridical Committee to propose model legislation on illicit enrichment and transnational bribery so that they might develop and improve the respective provisions of the Convention. There dynamics have also been apparent in the adoption of the Inter-American Program for Cooperation in the Fight against Corruption, which lays the foundation for the development of concrete action in this area.

d. In all these activities, the Secretariat for Legal Affairs has provided the technical support required by the OAS bodies.

Hemispheric Security

1. Mandate

Mutual confidence-building is the topic associated with hemispheric security that the Plan of Action of the Summit of the Americas considers as one of the aspects of the topic "Preserving and Strengthening the Community of Democracies of the Americas." In this connection, item 8 on building mutual confidence says:

The expansion and consolidation of democracy in the Americas provide an opportunity to build upon the peaceful traditions and the cooperative relationships that have prevailed among the countries of the Western Hemisphere. Our aim is to strengthen the mutual confidence that contributes to the economic and social integration of our peoples.

Governments will:

Support actions to encourage a regional dialogue to promote the strengthening of mutual confidence, preparing the way for a regional conference on confidence-building measures in 1995, which Chile has offered to host.

2. Actions by the OAS

The Regional Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures was held in Santiago, Chile, from November 8 to 10, 1995. The Declaration of Santiago on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures is the result of work carried out in the Organization since 1991, first in a Permanent Council working group and then in the Special Committee on Hemispheric Security.

In addition to reaffirming the validity of the principles of international law set forth in the Charter of the Organization, the Declaration of Santiago mentions 11 confidence- and security-building measures: gradual adoption of agreements regarding advance notice of military exercises; participation of member states in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the Standardized International Reporting of Military Expenditures; exchange of information concerning defense policies and doctrines; limitation and control of conventional weapons; invitation of observers to military exercises and other routine operations as well as the exchange of civilian and military personnel for regular and advanced training; prevention of incidents and increased security for transport by land, sea, and air; cooperation in the event of natural disasters; communications among civilian or military authorities of neighboring countries; seminars and courses on mutual confidence- and security-building measures; special security concerns of small island states, including the holding of a high-level meeting; and programs of education for peace. The Declaration of Santiago also refers to the need for follow-up and periodic evaluation of the implementation of these measures, to be handled by the Committee on Hemispheric Security, with the General Assembly responsible for deciding on the convocation of a regional conference to follow up on the agreements of the Santiago conference. The Regional Follow-up Conference has been scheduled for February 1998 in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Mention should also be made of the Special Meeting of the Committee on Hemispheric Security on the Special Security Concerns of Small Island States, held in Washington, D.C., on October 17 and 18, 1997, and the incorporation of the topic into the aforementioned Regional Follow-up Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.

The General Secretariat has lent the technical support needed by the initial Permanent Council working group, the Special Committee on Hemispheric Security, and the current Committee on Hemispheric Security. With regard to the Santiago meeting on confidence- and security-building measures, the Secretariat prepared the document "The Hemisphere's Contributions to International Security: Pertinent Inter-American Legal Instruments" (COSEGRE/doc.3/95 add. 1).

Special reference should be made to resolution AG/RES. 1500 (XXVII-O/97), "Mutual Confidence in the Americas," in which the General Assembly instructs the Permanent Council "to consider, through the Committee on Hemispheric Security, the desirability of approving a legal framework on the issue of advance notification of major arms acquisitions covered by the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, as a means to achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest possible amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states." Pursuant to this resolution, if the Permanent Council decides that such a framework is desirable, it will "draft it with the goal of adopting it at the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in Santiago."

3. Considerations

The actions taken by the OAS in this area show that the Organization has been an appropriate forum for the member states to consider and adopt specific measures to help to bring about the objectives of peace and security sought by the countries of the Hemisphere.

The follow-up work carried out by the Committee on Hemispheric Security on confidence- and security-building measures has made it possible to identify the operational aspects of fulfilling the mandates received on the exchange of information and the participation of member states in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the Standardized International Reporting of Military Expenditures.

The General Secretariat was given the mandate to be the depositary of the information on the complete, integrated register of antipersonnel land mines, whose implementation is already under way. It is also participating actively in the preparation of a peace program, in support of the work of the expert contracted for this project.

Terrorism

1. Mandate

In the Declaration of Principles of the Summit of the Americas condemned terrorism in all its forms and pledged to use all legal means to combat terrorist acts anywhere in the Americas with unity and vigor. In the Plan of Action, they said that national and international terrorism constituted a systematic and deliberate violation of the rights of individuals and an assault on democracy itself. They also said that actions by governments to combat and eliminate that threat were essential elements in guaranteeing law and order and maintaining confidence in government, both nationally and internationally. Specifically, governments pledged to carry out three specific actions:

a. Promote bilateral and subregional agreements with the aim of prosecuting terrorists and penalizing terrorist activities within the context of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

b. Convene a special conference of the OAS on the prevention of terrorism.

c. Reaffirm the importance of the extradition treaties ratified by the states of the Hemisphere, and note that these treaties will be strictly complied with as an expression of the political will of governments, in accordance with international law and domestic legislation.

2. Actions by the OAS

Under its mandates, the Organization convened the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism. To that end, the Permanent Council, through its Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, held a preparatory meeting in Washington, D.C., on February 27 and 28, 1996, to examine the preliminary draft agenda for the Conference and the preliminary draft Declaration and Plan of Action, which would be submitted to the Conference for its consideration.

The Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism was held in Lima, Peru, from April 23 to 26, 1996. It adopted the Declaration of Lima to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism and the Plan of Action on Hemispheric Cooperation to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism. The Conference recommended that appropriate means and mechanisms be found to ensure follow-up of the measures recommended in the Declaration and the Plan of Action. On the basis of those recommendations, the General Assembly, meeting in Panama, requested the Permanent Council to consider convening the meeting of government experts referred to in the Plan of Action.

The Meeting of Government Experts to Examine Ways to Improve the Exchange of Information among the Member States in order to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism was held in Washington, D.C., on May 5 and 6, 1997. Subsequently, the General Assembly, meeting in Lima, Peru, instructed the Permanent Council to study the recommendations and proposals made at the Meeting and to continue considering appropriate means and mechanisms for follow-up of the measures recommended in the Lima Plan of Action. It also requested the Inter-American Juridical Committee to continue its study of the topic "Inter-American Cooperation to Confront Terrorism" in light of the documents adopted at the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism, held in Lima, Peru. The Secretariat for Legal Affairs provided the relevant technical support to all actions taken by the member states.

3. Considerations

The Organization has made progress in all the mandates entrusted to it by the Summit in this area. However, the OAS, through the Inter-American Juridical Committee, is continuing to consider the matter, particularly its international legal aspects.


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