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ORIGINAL IN SPANISH
In defense of the Inter-American System of Human Rights
The Inter-American System of Human Rights (IAS) is currently facing great challenges. A number of governments have questioned the jurisdiction, powers, procedures, practices and decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights. Whilst it is necessary to increase the effectiveness and broaden the scope of the System, the debate that has been developing within the Organization of American States (OAS) reflects the intention of some Member States to limit the capacity and reduce the mandate of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
In recent years the IAS has played a significant role in promoting democracy by holding States and governments accountable and contributing to the preservation of human dignity, promoting plurality and defending fundamental rights.
Its capacity to protect victims and prevent impunity has been brought to light in the context of the military dictatorships in the Southern Cone, the armed conflicts in Central America, and during times of democratic rupture in part of the region. The achievements of the System are tangible. They include the overturning of amnesty laws, the abolition in some countries of systematic practices of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, torture and other crimes against humanity, as well as the prosecution and sanction of a number of high-ranking officials responsible for these crimes. Its relevance in these areas remains significant in our region today, such as in establishing guidelines on military jurisdiction.
Additionally, the IAS sets standards regarding the rights to equality and non-discrimination as reflected in its contribution toward eradicating slave labor and to the protection of groups in vulnerable situations. Thanks to these internationally recognized efforts, the Americas have developed a framework for the protection of indigenous peoples, as well as mechanisms for the protection of women from all forms of violence, and have recognized the rights of various groups that have historically been discriminated against, including children and adolescents, the prison population, LGBTI groups, displaced persons, refugees, migrants and Afro-descendants.
The IAS plays an important role in strengthening democracies and the Rule of Law. Indeed, it has excelled in its ability to draw attention to shortcomings in the administration of justice, to provide guidance regarding public policies of prevention and protection of fundamental rights, and to defend freedom of expression.
The contributions made by the IAS are significant, but they still fall short of the region´s needs. Latin America has the least equitable regional income distribution, and high levels of inequality persist in the access to healthcare and social services. Some of the world´s highest homicide rates are found in Latin America, and the continued existence of an internal armed conflict in turn causes some of the highest recorded rates of internally displaced persons. Furthermore, new challenges to democracy, freedom and human rights continue to emerge; both in terms of new forms of rupture to the Rule of Law and the eruption of violence rooted in organized crime.
These facts reaffirm the legitimacy of the Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights and the need to improve rather than weaken the System´s efficacy. The region needs strong and decisive protection mechanisms which support citizen commitment to dignity, plurality, security, equality, participation and democracy.
In virtue of the above and in light of the debate initiated by the OAS Member States, the undersigned citizens of the Americas declare our support for the Inter-American System of Human Rights. We therefore demand that:
- The debate initiated in the OAS be transparent, democratic and inclusive of society and peoples in the Americas.
- Special consideration be given to the voices and experience of the victims whom the System is intended to protect and who should benefit from its strengthening.
- The debate be focused on the nature of the IAS as a strong and effective mechanism for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights, which upholds the dignity of those who inhabit this continent. The first step is to ensure that the proposals which are made elicit categorical, effective and immediate responses by the IACHR, regarding current human rights violations and erosions to democracy.
- The independence and autonomy of the IAS be respected in practice and enshrined in law.
- A strong System of country and thematic rapporteurships be preserved, thus allowing the IACHR to prioritize and act with determination.
- The ability of the IACHR to position itself be encouraged, particularly regarding critical events and situations which violate the political, civil, cultural, economic and social rights included in the regulatory framework of the OAS.
- States support a full-time working commitment from Court and IACHR members.
- The selection processes for members of the Court and IACHR be perfected to ensure that real guarantees of transparency exist, both at the national and regional level. The criteria of diversity, equality, competence and commitment to human rights must also be considered for those who aspire to form part of these organizations.
- The IAS receive the financing required to provide adequate and timely responses to the thousands of victims who annually denounce grave human rights violations. Whilst States have recognized this need, the promises made to adequately increase the contributions made to the IAS have not been fulfilled.
- The States of the region ratify the Inter-American conventions on human rights as a clear demonstration of their political will to support the IAS. Furthermore, we urge the government of the United States of America to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights and demand that the Venezuelan government abstain from denouncing said convention, maintaining an integral and active role in the IAS.
- States use the three branches of government to implement all necessary measures to ensure full compliance with the decisions and rulings of the Commission and Court, in recognition of the guarantees that the IAS offers in terms of human rights and in fulfillment of its international commitments.
While recognizing the diversity and difference of our positions, we are launching this continental citizen initiative from the city of Bogota on September 11, 2012. The OAS originated in Bogota in 1948, and as such, the location serves to reaffirm the significance of the IAS; recognizing the contribution that it must continue to make in order to provide an effective response when faced with alleged human rights violations and any attempt to infringe upon democracy. We accept the present challenge with the generations of the future in mind.
- César Gaviria, Former President, Colombia
- Alejandro Toledo, Former President, Peru
- Andrés Pastrana, Former President, Colombia
- Rodrigo Borja, Former President, Ecuador
- Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota, Colombia
- Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, President of SERPAJ AL, Argentina. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
- Juan Gelman, poet, Argentina
- Gioconda Belli, writer, Nicaragua
- Sergio Ramírez Mercado, writer, Nicaragua
- Padre Ernesto Cardenal, poet, Nicaragua
- Sylvia Steiner, Former Judge of the Federal Court of Appeals, Brazil. Judge of the International Criminal Court
- Susana Villarán, Mayor of Lima, Peru. Former Commissioner of the IACHR and former Member of the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child.
- Jorge Taiana, Director of the International Center of Political Studies, National University of San Martín (CIEP-UNSAM). Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Argentina
- Belisario dos Santos Júnior, lawyer, Brazil. Member of the International Commission of Jurists
- Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes, Brazil. Her case before the Inter-American Commission originated the law that combats domestic violence in Brazil and was the first case in which the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction, and erradicate Violence against Women was applied
- Fabio Konder Comparato, Professor Emeritus of Law of the University of Sao Paulo and Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Coimbra, Brazil
- João Pedro Stedile, leader of the Landless Workers Movement (MST), Brazil. Member of the Peasants’ Way
- Raúl Vera López, O.P. Bishop of Saltillo and president of Fray Juan de Larios, Mexico
- Elena Azaola, professor and researcher, Mexico
- Javier Sicilia, poet and leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Mexico
- León Carlos Arslanián, lawyer, former member of the Tribunal that brought the military juntas to justice, Argentina
- Soledad Villagra, professor of the University of the Andes,
- Susana Chiarotti Boero, lawyer, Director of the Institute on Gender, Law, and Development, Rosario, Argentina. Member of the Expert Committee of the Monitoring Mechanism of the Convention Belem do Pará.
- Mario Coriolano, Public Defender before the Superior Courts of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vice-President of the United Nations Subcommittee against Torture
- Mariclaire Acosta, Former Assistant Secretary on Human Rights and Democracy of the Department of Foreign Relations, Mexico. Human Rights Defender, Mexico
- Stella Maris Martínez, Public Defender of the Nation, Argentina. Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF), Secretary General
- Silvia Pimentel, Co-founder and Member of the Consultative Council of CLADEM, Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights.
- Vernor Muñoz, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Education, Costa Rica
- José Miguel Vivanco, Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
- Gustavo Gallón, Director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, Colombia
- Salomón Lerner Febres, former President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
- Sofía Macher, former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Peru
- Julieta Montaño, Director of the Legal Office for Women of Cochabamba, Bolivia
- Helen Mack, President and founder of the Myrna Mack Foundation, Guatemala
- Benjamín Cuéllar, founder and former executive secretary of the Center for Human Rights Fray Francisco de Vitoria, and current director of the IDHUCA, El Salvador
- Victória Lavinia Grabois, President of the Group Tortura Nunca Mas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants, Director of the International Center for the Rights of Migrants- Costa Rica (CIDEHUM) and member of the Executive Committee of the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for migration (PROCM)
- Helio Bicudo, jurist, Brazil. Former President of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
- Iván Cepeda Castro, Chamber Representative for the Polo Democratico Alternativo, and the spokesperson of the Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE), Colombia
- Francisco Soberón, Executive Director of the Association Pro Human Rights (APRODEH), Peru, President of the National Association of Centers, Delegate of the International Human Rights Foundation before the OAS
- Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, President of the Nicaraguan Center on Human Rights (CENIDH), Nicaragua
- Roger Rodríguez, journalist, Uruguay
- Alberto Bovino, Professor, Law Faculty, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Roberto Cañas López, prominent leader of the Salvadoran left, member of the Negotiation Commission that signed the Peace Accords in 1992, El Salvador
- Vidaluz Meneses, poet and president of the Nicaraguan Writer’s Association, Nicaragua
- Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, singer-songwriter, Nicaragua
- Ana Colchero, activist and actress, Mexico
- Ricardo Funari, photojournalist, Brazil
- Karla Lara, singer-songwriter, Honduras
- Carlos Ríos Espinosa, professor and researcher, Mexico. Member of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations
- Rolando Ames Cobián, ex commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
- Alberto Morote Sánchez, ex commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
- Carlos Tapia García, ex commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
- Enrique Martín Bernales Ballesteros, ex commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru
- Claudio Nash, scholar, University of Chile
- Elba Nuñez, Paraguay, Regional Coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM)
- Juan Fernando Cristo, senator, Liberal Party, Colombia
- Padre Ismael Moreno, S.J., director of Progress Radio and of the Jesuit Reflection, Communication and Research Team (ERIC), Honduras
- Sister Consuelo Morales Elizondo, C.S.A. director of Citizens in Support of Human Rights, C.A., Mexico
- Luis González Placencia, president of the Human Rights Commission Mexico City, Mexico
- Father Fernando Cardenal, Jesuit priest and theologian of liberation, Nicaragua
- Dora María Téllez, prominent leader of the Sandinista Revolution, historian and politician, Nicaragua
- Carlos Tunerman Bernheim, scholar, Nicaragua
- Ana Juanche, Latin American Coordinator of SERPAJ, Uruguay
- Jorge Freyre, Executive Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Network on the Defense of the rights of Children and Adolescents, REDLAMYC (regional)
- Lorena Fries Monleón, lawyer, Chile
- Hugo Cañón, president of the Buenos Aires Provincial Memory Commission's, Argentina
- Roberto Saba, scholar. Professor of Constitutional Law and Human Rights at the Universities of Palermo and Buenos Aires. Dean of the law faculty at the University of Palermo, Argentina
- Carlos Quesada, Director of the Program for Racial and Ethnic Equality, Global Rights
- Flávia Piovesan, professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo and member of the working group of the OAS on the San Salvador Protocol
- Tales Castelo Branco, member of the Truth Commission of the Brazil Bar Association, Sao Paulo section
- Rubens Naves, former president of the Abrinq Commission, Brazil
- André Luis Machado de Castro, president of the National Association of Public Defenders of Brazil
- Antonio José Maffezoli Leite, vice-president of the National Association of Public Defenders of Brazil and Inter-American Public Defender
- Mónica Pinto, Dean of the law faculty, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Frei Xavier Plassat, coordinator of the National Campaign of the Pastoral Land Commission for the prevention and fight against Slave Work, Brazil
- Miguel Sarre, scholar and member of the United Nations subcommittee against Torture of the, Mexico
- Jorge Rojas, private secretary for the Mayor’s office of Bogotá, Colombia
- Martin Böhmer, scholar. Law professor, University of Buenos Aires, University of San Andrés, Argentina.
- José Gualinga, president of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, Ecuador
- Marcelo Tas, journalist and social commentator, Brazil
- Isabel Mignone del Carril, lawyer and human rights advocate, Argentina
- Mario Sérgio Duarte Garcia, former president of the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB). President of the OAB Truth Commission Sao Paolo, Brazil
- Macarena Gelman, her case before the Inter-American Human Rights Court resulted in the inapplicability of the amnesty law of Uruguay
- Gabriel Mazzarovich, journalist, Uruguay
- Jose Henrique Torres, president of the Association of Judges for Democracy, Brazil