Updated June 7, 2001
Second Summit of the Americas:
At the Santiago Summit, the Governments of the Hemisphere ratified the mandates from Miami on these issues, going further by deciding to implement the following:
Define and develop, with the participation of civil society, comprehensive policies aimed at promoting and protecting human rights at a domestic level, in accordance with relevant international norms and principles, and incorporating those policies into national human rights plans and programs.
Guarantee that all individuals have the right to due process of law, the presumption of innocence, the right to trial within a reasonable period of time. Governments will adopt measures ensuring that no person awaiting trial shall be detained for a period longer than permitted by law, taking fully into account the rights of the accused, the protection of society, crime prevention, the promotion of respect for the law, the rights of victims and other relevant considerations. Governments will continue their efforts to improve conditions of detention and enhance human rights education for the respective officials involved in the administration of justice.
Promote a review of their respective national legislation in order to eliminate or amend those provisions which may lead to any type of discrimination, for any reason, in contravention of their international commitments. In particular, they will seek to attain legal equality between men and women by the year 2002. In this context, priority should be given to the rights to equal treatment in the workplace, property, inheritance and child custody, as well as combating domestic violence.
Promote, through the strengthening of international cooperation mechanisms, the adoption of legal, educational, and social measures , to combat the physical and sexual abuse of children, traffic in minors, child prostitution, and child exploitation and pornography.
Promote the signature, ratification, and accession to international human rights instruments to which member States are not party.
Strengthen and reinforce the institutional structure of the Inter-American Human Rights System through concrete initiatives and measures paying particular attention to the Inter-American Human Rights Institute.
Give support to the activities of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in order to strengthen the exercise of and respect for all human rights
Promote programs of cooperation that concern human rights , through the use of advanced information technology and with the support of the international institutions that deal with the administration of justice. The specific areas touched upon include:
Training of police and correctional officers;
Necessary steps to remedy inhumane conditions in prisons and reduce drastically the number of pre-trial detainees; and
Enhancing human rights education for judges, magistrates and other court officials
Human Rights Resolutions at the XXIX OAS General Assembly
In June 1999, the XXIX OAS General Assembly, held in Guatemala, adopted a number of resolutions to strengthen and improve the inter-American human rights system:
Strengthening the Freedom of Expression and Thought
With respect to the Summit mandate referring to strengthening the freedom of expression and thought, a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression was created. The Rapporteurs mandate involves the following activities of promotion and protection:
Reporting on the status of the right to freedom of expression in the Americas, to be considered by the Commission for approval and inclusion in its Annual Report to the OAS General Assembly
Preparing special and thematic reports as requested by the Commission
Bringing to the immediate attention of the Commission any serious situations that would call for the IACHR to take precautionary measures in the face of violations or threats against the right to freedom of expression.
To fulfill these mandates, the Special Rapporteur has done the following:
The Special Rapporteur has traveled to several States, including Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Panama, Chile and Argentina, to foster dialogue about freedom of expression and to collect information about the status of free expression in each State. A brief summary of what happened in Paraguay and Chile follows:
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights traveled to Paraguay in July, 1999. During the visit, the CIDH met with authorities from the executive, legislative and judicial branches, as well as presumed victims of human rights violations. The Rapporteur accompanied the Commission during the trip and also interviewed various Paraguayan authorities as well as Civil Society representatives in order to initiate a discussion about varous aspects of freedom of expression in Paraguay.
The Rapporteur also went to Chile, on June 23-24, 1999. During this visit, he interviewed several government authorities from the legislative and judicial branches with whom he discussed different issues regarding the status of freedom of expression in Chile. At the same time, he met with many Civil Society representatives and participated in two distinct fora on freedom of expression, which were sponsored by the Universidad Diego Portales and the Universidad de Chile.
In fulfillment of this mandate, the Special Rapporteur has also completed two annual reports, for 1998 and 1999, and is finishing one for the year 2000. These reports focus on different aspects of the status of freedom of expression, from the number of journalists assassinated to the state of internal legislation in each country, and are presented to the OAS Member States for their consideration.
The most recent report prepared by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was published in April, 2000 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Please see the Report). This report, which is the result of over a year of research and analysis, was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and approved during their last set of sessions, on October 19, 2000.
Rapporteur for Childrens Rights
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission also decided to create a Rapporteur for Childrens Rights in order to promote activities which bring to light the plight of children in the Americas. The Rapporteur has begun to study the degree to which laws and practices relating to the rights of minors to fair trial and due process of law conform to those recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is working on modifying its Regulations in order to modernize its formalities and procedures. In order to receive input regarding this reform process from the states and petitioners who make use of the inter-American human rights system, it invited them to put forward their suggestions and ideas.
During the celebration of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the American Convention on Human Rights, "Pact of San José " and the Twentieth Anniversary of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and governmental representatives created an Adhoc Working Group on Human Rights. The Office of the Secretary General of the OAS prepared a document entitled "Financing Inter-American Human Rights" for the Minister's Adhoc Working Group on Human Rights created during this meeting. This group met for the first time on February 10-11, 2000, in San Jose, Costa Rica, and issued, as a result, a series of recommendations (only in Spanish) that refer principally to the universality in the Inter-American System of human rights , as well as the adaptation of the procedural aspects of the activities of the Commission and of the Court.
Dialogue on the Inter-American System for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights
The Chairman of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP), and Mexico’s permanent representative to the OAS, Ambassador Claude Heller, submitted a document entitled "Dialogue on the Inter-American Human Rights Promotion and Protection System" to that body. The Committee discussed the document with a view toward defining an agenda for dialogue on the issue. This document contains the following three discussion points: assessing the system’s instruments and institutions, strengthening and improving the inter-American system, and proposals to the General Assembly.
At a session of the CAJP held on March 6, 2000, representatives of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights as well as civil society organizations such as CEJIL, the International Human Rights Law Group, and Human Rights Watch, presented the Committee their views on the reform and strengthening of the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.
Signing of Treaties and Ratification of Juridical Instruments
In November 1999, Costa Rica ratified the Protocol of San Salvador. This instrument expressly introduced protection of second-generation rights in the inter-American system.
In keeping with the above, the Commission had been examining several issues relating to the procedure for the consideration of individual cases and decided to undertake a reform of its Regulations. To this end, in December 1999 it invited proposals and observations on modification of the Regulations from the member states of the OAS, organizations of civil society, and prominent specialists in the subject. On February 4, 2000, the IACHR sent to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) and to the diplomatic missions accredited to the OAS copies of the observations of the member states as part of this process.
As one of the efforts to strengthen the operation of the system for the protection of human rights, the IACHR and the Inter-American Court have opened an important area for cooperation and coordination. The two organs have continued their practice of holding periodic meetings to examine issues of mutual interest within their respective spheres of competence, particularly relating to procedure in the inter-American system. Exchanges between the two guardian organs have facilitated coordination in compliance with the mandate.
Over the past year, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Mexico accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, thereby bringing 250 million inhabitants under the judicial umbrella provided in the American Convention and other treaties.
On February 8, 2000, Costa Rica ratified the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture which Colombia and Ecuador had respectively signed on January 19 and November 9, 1999. In addition, Nicaragua also ratified the Additional Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty on November 9, 1999 and Venezuela and Bolivia ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons in January and May 1999, respectively.
At its meeting of May 12, 2000, the Permanent Council considered the report of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on the topic "Promotion and Respect for International Humanitarian Law" and agreed to transmit it as a reference document to the General Assembly at its thirtieth regular session. The Permanent Council also presented the "Annual Report of the Inter-American Juridical Committee" to the General Assembly at its thirtieth regular session.
Topics discussed in the Report on the "Promotion and Respect for Humanitarian Law" are:
The "Dialogue on the Inter-American System for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights" is intended to record the opinions expressed by the various participants and thereby facilitate the member state’s work
The report of the Chair, Ambassador Claude Heller, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the Organization of American States, summarizes:
In March, 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International Migration Organization signed an Institutional Cooperation Agreement in order to consolidate and coordinate hemispheric initiatives towards migration more efficiently. These initiatives include the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants.
Other promotional activities that have taken place in 2000 include:
XXX OAS General Assembly
In June 2000, the XXX OAS General Assembly, held in Windsor, Canada, adopted the following resolutions to strengthen and improve the inter-American human rights system:
On October 5, 2000, Guatemala ratified the Protocol of San Salvador. This ratification marks yet another step towards the full incorporation of the Inter-American Human Rights System in the region.
The mandates and initiatives for human rights were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas. For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in the area of human rights, please click here.
Updated June 7, 2001