Human Rights Plan of Action for the Americas:
A continental challenge, a collective undertaking
Summary of proposals
Plan of action
Need to dialogue
Introspective exam by member States
Dual structure of the system: Commission and Court
Providing resources to the system
Improve the fact finding process
Elections of members of the commission and the court
Procedure rules should be revised
Need to strengthen decision of the commission and court
Broaden access to the court
Executive Summary of Proposals by Human Rights Organizations
The next Summit of the Americas to be held in Canada should adopt a Human Rights Plan of Action for the Americas, containing the concrete and specific proposals for changes needed to perfect the inter-American system. The Summit of the Americas is the preferred forum for providing solid political backing to the goal of strengthening of the inter-American system, because it brings together the Presidents and Heads of State from the entire hemisphere. The General Assembly of the OAS in Windsor should mandate that the Permanent Council, through its Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs, create task forces to prepare the proposed plan of action. The task forces should be comprised of representatives from all States, commissioners and judges, independent experts and representatives of civil society.
It is important to maintain an open, permanent, public and democratic dialogue on the inter-American system. Any discussion and debate that seeks to form a consensus to strengthen the system, in the intermediate and long terms, must involve each and every actor related to the system. With this goal in mind, it is essential that the process of evaluation and perfection of the system is not restricted to certain States. A system of opportune and effective consultation, as well as the possibility for civil society to participate in all debates, must be established.
The first step in any process of reflection on the inter-American system must be directed toward the internal affairs of countries, and raise the question of the degree of respect and current regard for human rights in each of the member States.
The dual structure including a Commission and a Court must be maintained. The Commission must keep its current functions of processing individual cases, conducting on-site visits, preparing country reports and facilitating friendly settlements. The Commission's on-site visits and country reports continue to be indispensable, covering needs that individual case decisions cannot meet. An Inter-American Court by itself will be unable to resolve structural human rights problems that exist in the region. The current structure of two organs with differentiated abilities permits each and every member State of the OAS to be subjected to minimal control by the Commission and allows every inhabitant of our hemisphere access to the supranational system.
The inter-American system must make progress toward the establishment of a Commission and Court which function in a permanent manner.
The Commission should develop a special mechanism which will allow it to monitor the human rights of women, especially in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, including the observance of human rights in militarized or occupied areas.
The coordination between the Commission and the Court does not require both organs to function in the same city. If a consensus nonetheless develops regarding the importance of having both organs function in the same city, this should take place in Washington. Washington provides the headquarters to the OAS and all of its principal political organs. In addition, all member States have a permanent mission in Washington.
The system must be endowed with sufficient financial and human resources. The OAS should establish the goal of doubling the budget of the Commission and the Court over the next three years.
It is necessary to improve the fact-finding phase of cases before the Commission and the Court, assuring independence, efficiency, expediency and non-duplicative procedures. The Commission must improve its procedure for compiling evidence and determining the facts in the cases it processes. The Court must change its procedures in order to grant legal value to the fact-finding proceedings and conclusions of the Commission. This change in the procedures of the Commission and the Court is more effective and desirable than implementing the proposal to create a special investigative or prosecutorial body linked to the Court, which would rely on domestic judicial and prosecutorial bodies and other national authorities to investigate cases.
The selection of independent, qualified and competent members of the Commission and judges of the Court must be guaranteed by a public and transparent process. The States should submit all candidates to strict public scrutiny in order to determine whether they fulfill the conventional requirements of independence, competency and moral authority. In addition, the States should ensure that the candidates have experience in the analysis of human rights questions from a gender perspective.
All procedural questions should be included in the Rules of the Commission and the Court. The Rules must guarantee the clarity, juridical certainty and publicity of the procedure, as well as equality between the parties. The Rules constitute an integral part of any process of reform and their modification should not come before the decisions which are made regarding the broader changes necessary in the system. To the contrary, these decisions must be a reflection of such modifications. It is not advisable that the Statutes define the procedures of the Commission and the Court instead of the Rules.
It is necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of the decisions of the bodies of the inter-American human rights system through the following changes:
- Facilitate the implementation of the binding decisions of the supervising bodies by forming stronger links between the inter-American system and national systems. Specifically, in a period of three years, the countries of the Americas should adopt all legislative or other measures necessary to give the decisions of the Commission and the Court binding value domestically and to permit their execution.
- Strengthen the role of the Commission and the Court in supervising compliance with their decisions. The Rules of both bodies must establish a contradictory or adversarial procedure for supervising compliance with their decisions and recommendations. The annual reports of the Commission and the Court should include graphs indicating the status and degree of compliance with their decisions and recommendations.
- Strengthen the role of the States as collective guarantors of compliance with Commission and Court decisions. The political organs of the OAS should adopt a mechanism for incrementally increasing intervention to ensure compliance. This mechanism should operate as a complement, rather than as a detriment, to the Convention-based power of the Commission and the Court to supervise compliance with their own decisions. In particular, the Charter of the OAS should be modified following the model of General Assembly Resolution 1080 and the Washington Protocol, to give the General Assembly the ability to suspend the membership of a State that repeatedly and systematically fails to comply with the resolutions of the system's bodies. The Commission and the Court must be allowed recourse to the Permanent Council when States fail to comply with provisional measures dictated by the Court during times when the General Assembly is not in session.
The category of actors which may send cases to the Court should be broadened. Petitioners should be allowed direct access to present their cases before the Court.
The criteria for remittance of cases to the Court should be clarified. The Commission should modify its Rules to make submission of cases to the Court mandatory in all situations where the procedure set forth in Articles 48 to 50 of the Convention has been exhausted without achieving State compliance with the Commission's recommendations. During such time as this proposal is impossible to implement due to the scarcity of resources, the Rules should establish that the Commission must consider the victim's arguments and position in reaching its decision regarding the submission of a case to the Court. The Commission should establish clearly, in its Rules, the criteria it will consider in making the decision on the submission of a case to the Court
The States should adopt domestic legislation which would require them to comply with the recommendations included in the final decisions of the Commission (Article 50 of the Convention) within the period established or, in case of disagreement with those recommendations, to send the case to the Court.
Victims must be granted direct representation before the Court. The Commission must act before the Court in the manner of a public ministry. The Court must reform its Rules in order to provide for independent representation for victims.
Human Rights Plan of Action for the Americas.A continental challenge, a collective undertaking
The human rights organizations signing this document have engaged in a process of extensive discussion, including hundreds of organizations in the region, over the past few years. This debate has led us to develop a set of recommendations that we make public in this document.
The inter-American human rights system has been the area that has given the Organization of American States (OAS) the greatest projection and prestige, inside and outside the hemisphere. This prestige was achieved through the serious, professional, committed and constant work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, carried out over 40 years, and of the Inter-American Court, executed over the last 20 years. All this labor has saved lives, brought justice to victims, and advanced the cause of human rights in the region.
Ironically, during the age of dictatorships, where the massive and systematic violation of human rights was state policy, the General Assembly of the OAS paid the greatest attention to the annual reports and country reports that the Commission presents in observance of its mandate. By contrast, during the current democratic era in the hemisphere, the attitude of many States, as well as of the political bodies of the system (the Permanent Council and the General Assembly), has turned indifferent. Some of the country reports have not even been analyzed and discussed by the States or by the political bodies. Nor are there debates in the OAS about the repercussion of the decisions of the Court or about the status of compliance with those decisions. The year 1999 will be remembered as the one of greatest moments of complicit indifference and silence at the OAS. The General Assembly did not react when, as the General Assembly met in Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago put to death an individual under the protection of provisional measures dictated by the Court. Nor was the Peruvian Government's decision to remove itself, with immediate effects, from the contentious jurisdiction of the Court opposed politically by the Assembly or Permanent Council.
Although, in principal and in abstract, all member States accept the idea and the existence of a basic system of protection of human rights, when this system adopts decisions against specific States, the remaining member States opt for indifference or silence. Meanwhile, many States, when singled out by the Commission or Court in their decisions, tend to adopt an attitude of criticism toward the proceedings followed in the case, the reasoning of the supervisory body's decision, or the Government's ability to comply. Even more seriously, these States sometimes strike out against the very legitimacy and purpose of the bodies of the system. These States perceive the actions of the Commission and of the Court as threats to their "interests," their image or their international reputation, and as part of a campaign of denunciation against them by the different bodies of the system. States obviously have the right to contest the decisions or proceedings of the Commission and the Court. However, the problem arises when they come to the point of questioning the system's legitimacy and disqualifying the Commission and the Court. Such negative tactics affect the independence of the Commission and has a negative impact on compliance by the member States of the OAS with the decisions issued by the supervisory bodies. This impact becomes even more pernicious when the criticisms are accompanied by proposals to reform the inter-American system which, disguised as efforts to strengthen the system, are intended to limit the capacity of action of the system's bodies.
Similarly, in the political bodies of the OAS, there are frequent suggestions that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the "allies," when not the "bosses," of the system's bodies. Many State representatives perceive the NGOs as advocates for the interests of superpowers, of covert agents of terrorism, of guerilla movements, of drug traffickers, of political opposition groups, or of spurious economic interests. Rarely do these States accept NGOs as the legitimate representatives of the victims of human rights abuses or as the channels by which the demands of civil society are transmitted. Although this description may not apply to the majority of Governments, the impact of those that assume this attitude is felt in the political bodies of the OAS and in the work of the Commission and the Court.
In this context of resistance, ambivalence, problems and tensions, the inter-American system has been subjected to analysis by various movements for reform over the past few years. Currently, the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council is spearheading a dialogue on strengthening and reforming the system. Even more recently, the Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegation, while meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, resolved to form an Ad-Hoc Task Force, with the goal of elaborating a "plan of action for the strengthening and development" of the inter-American system.
We recognize that serious problems continue in the inter-American system, weakening the protection of human rights and endangering the credibility of the Commission and the Court. These problems include, among others: 1) the endemic shortage of resources; 2) the lack of compliance with the Court's verdicts and the Commission's recommendations; 3) the failure of some States in the region to ratify the basic human rights treaties; 4) the delays and the lack of capacity of the supervisory bodies to process the enormous volume of registered complaints; 5) the lack of clarity in some procedures. The recognition of these and other problems should lead to a serious, profound, open, transparent, public and democratic reflection, which includes all the actors in the system. This debate should lead to a consensus which allows for adoption of a package of reforms reflecting the concerns and demands of the majority. We propose that the next Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Canada adopt a human rights plan of action for the Americas. This plan should contain concrete and specific proposals to perfect the inter-American system. The Summit of the Americas is the preferred forum for providing solid political backing to the goal of strengthening of the inter-American system, because it brings together the Presidents and Heads of State from the entire hemisphere. The General Assembly of the OAS in Windsor should mandate that the Permanent Council, through its Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs, create task forces to prepare the proposed plan of action. The task forces should be comprised of representatives from all States, commissioners and judges, independent experts and representatives of civil society.
The proposals which we have developed reflect the basic and essential points that are shared by the human rights organizations signing this document. We present these proposals as a basis for the discussion which could lead to the adoption of a plan of action for the Americas next year in Canada. We hope that our proposals will lead to the development of a human rights protection system for our hemisphere that is agile, transparent, flexible and effective, with clear, precise and fair rules. We believe that such a system will serve as the best guarantee for the protection of the human rights of the men and women of the Americas.
1. The need to maintain an open, permanent, public and democratic dialogue
No one can deny that the Commission and the Court are essential, indispensable and irreplaceable actors in the development and functioning of the inter-American system for the protection of human rights. Meanwhile, the Secretary General and the political bodies of the OAS have been the architects of the institutional profile of the inter-American system. Civil society, human rights defenders, legislators, judges and academics have also contributed in a significant manner, from their respective functions and roles, to the development of the inter-American system.
Any discussion and debate that seeks to form a consensus to strengthen the system, in the intermediate and long terms, must involve each and every actor related to the system. With this goal in mind, it is essential that the process of evaluation and perfection of the system is not restricted to certain States, their representatives before the OAS and their foreign ministers. Non-governmental organizations, the three branches of the State - the executive, the legislative, and the judicial -, the bodies of the system, ombudsmen, academics and civil society all have a crucial role to play in strengthening the system.
The States of the region must encourage an extensive debate that includes all the relevant actors in the protection of human rights. Efforts made to open the dialogue will bring new ideas and perspectives and will help eliminate mistrust. The member countries must give clear signs of their interest in transparency and of their commitment to the participation of civil society by establishing a system of opportune and effective consultation. They should guarantee that civil society will be asked to participate in the discussion of the Ad Hoc Group as well as in other fora that are created, including the proposed task forces. It is essential that this same extensive, public and democratic debate regarding the system takes place not just in Washington or in San Jose but in ever member country of the OAS.
2. The first step - an introspective exam by member States
The process of reflection regarding the inter-American system must necessarily begin with an analysis of the current situation of civil liberties in the countries of the region. With the advent of governments elected democratically, the situation of human rights in the region has improved in many respects. Specifically, the majority of countries do not suffer from policies of serious violations planned by an apparatus of the State. However, impunity continues to be one of the constants in our region. Omissions in the investigation and punishment of extrajudicial executions, torture and other violations make States internationally responsible for human rights violations. In some countries, special penal codes fail to guarantee adequate due process rights. Other countries maintain discriminatory legislation or practices against women, indigenous people, migrant workers or ethnic and racial minorities. Violence against women is a serious problem throughout the region. Police violence and inhuman conditions of incarceration are also a constant. Deficiencies in the functioning of the judiciary are present in the vast majority of our countries. In addition, human rights defenders in many countries continue to be subjected to persecution and harassment in the region. Finally, massive and systematic violations of social and economic rights are a reality in our hemisphere.
With this reality before us, the entire process of reforming the system must focus itself directly and exclusively on achieving the effective protection of the rights of the inhabitants of our continent, as recognized in the American Convention, the Declaration, and a series of inter-American and universal treaties. The first step in any process of reflection regarding the inter-American system must be directed toward the internal affairs of countries. The analysis must raise the question of the current degree of respect for human rights in each of the member States. Once this question has been answered, the next question will be how to model an inter-American system that will allow the States to vanquish the identified problems while, at the same time, providing a remedy to the victims of human rights violations.
The deep introspective exam by member States will permit the creation of an appropriate environment favoring a discussion that is serene and free of hostilities and prejudices. Such a free discussion is indispensable to reaching the necessary decisions which will endow the OAS system for the protection of human rights with the greatest effectiveness and efficiency. This analysis will facilitate joint and coordinated work between the States and the bodies of the system.
3. Maintaining the dual structure of the system: moving toward a permanent Commission and Court
Various proposals have suggested that it would be better to have only a single judicial body in the inter-American system, specifically the Inter-American Court. These proposals suggest that the Commission and the Court be merged into a single tribunal following the European model. Our human rights organizations propose that the dual structure of a Commission and a Court must be maintained. Specifically, we believe that the Commission must continue to carry out its current functions, including the processing of individual cases as well as the execution of on-site visits, the preparation of country reports and the mediation of friendly settlements. These current functions, which should be maintained, also include the formulation of general recommendations and the development of proposals for new legal instruments. The Court, for its part, must maintain its current functions in deciding contentious and advisory matters.
Historically, the system has been structured into two principal bodies with differentiated and complementary roles. The differences in the functions attributed to the Commission and the Court have allowed the system to adapt itself to the demands of the divergent realities existing in the hemisphere. The different tools at the disposition of the Commission and the Court facilitate their response to multiple and varied realities. The system intelligently has attributed to the Commission quasi-judicial, political and diplomatic functions while giving the Court judicial functions alone. These separate functions permit the bodies of the system to enter into different types of dialogue with the member States, helping to advance the cause of human rights.
Commission on-site visits and country reports continue to be indispensable in the current context of the hemisphere, covering needs that individual case reports and decisions alone do not satisfy. The educational, preventive, promotional and protective effects of the visits and the reports continue to be important. The visits and reports therefore should not disappear as some countries have proposed. An inter-American Court by itself would be unable to resolve structural human rights problems that exist in the region. The resolution of a few cases each year by the Court would hardly have an impact on situations such as police brutality, inhuman conditions of incarceration, marginalization of the indigenous population, discrimination and violence against women. The impact that the Commission's on-site visits and country reports have had, in countries like Argentina or Nicaragua where they opened doors for democratic transitions or the end of dictatorships, cannot be achieved through the judicial resolution of a few cases, necessarily limited in their number and impact. The existence of a Court alone presupposes the existence of independent, efficient, and strong judicial systems that lamentably do not dominate in the region. Thus, any reform of the system must maintain the current structure of two organs with differentiated and complementary functions. Instead, the capability of the Commission to carry out on-site visits and to produce country reports and special reports, such as the one produced by the Special Rapporteur on Women in the Americas, should be strengthened.
We understand that the current structure of two bodies with differentiated abilities permits each and every member State of the OAS to be subjected to minimal control by the Commission and gives every inhabitant of our hemisphere a body to which he may appeal. The Inter-American Commission can study the human rights situation in all of the member States of the OAS and can carry out on-site visits, prepare country reports and process individual cases in relation to all of those countries. The Commission has this ability in virtue of its position a principal organ of the OAS and by application of its statutory norms as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Any proposal to reform the system must serve to extend the level of protection and supervision by the system's bodies. As a fundamental element of strengthening the inter-American system, each and every member State must ratify the American Convention, as well as its Protocols and related instruments. All countries should also accept the contentious jurisdiction of the Court. This important goal should nevertheless not obscure the importance of the minimal and universal protection and supervision currently guaranteed by the existence of the Commission. If the Commission and the Court are merged into one permanent body, the inhabitants of 10 countries in the hemisphere, including Cuba, the United States, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, will be left without any protection since the governments of these countries have not ratified the Convention. The inhabitants of four other countries, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Jamaica, would also remain without protection, since their governments have ratified the Convention but have not accepted the jurisdiction of the Court.
Many of the participants in the debates relating to the inter-American system in recent years have looked to the European system when searching for proposals, especially in relation to the proposal for the establishment of a single Court. Although our human rights organizations consider that many European experiences can be useful for our hemisphere, we believe that we must be cautious in importing ideas and mechanisms into a very different context. Any comparison with the European system will be notoriously inappropriate if it does not take into consideration these differences. Although the central objective of the European system is the same as that of the inter-American system - the protection of human rights - the American context differs in significant ways from the European one. Without analyzing all of these differences, it is sufficient to point out that the European system has not been forced to struggle against massive and systematic violations; nor has it dealt with frequent states of exception. In addition, the domestic judicial systems of the European countries have generally functioned in an effective manner. Finally, the European countries comply fully in most cases with the decisions of the Court.
Even if the OAS were to believe it necessary to imitate the European Protocol 11 model -- a single Court with direct access for the victims --, the degree of development of the European system at the time of its reform and the additional measures that were taken should be considered. The transformation of the European system came about after the European Court had functioned for more than 35 years, resolving more than 700 cases. Individuals had enjoyed direct access to the Court for several years, and all the member States of the European Council had accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the Court. It also should not be forgotten that the European Commission was different in nature from its inter-American counterpart. The European Commission possessed no powers of promotion; nor was it authorized to prepare general reports or undertake on-site visits. In fact, when Protocol 11 was adopted and the European Commission was set to disappear, an Independent Expert Committee and a Government Committee were established. These Committees were set up to require member State reporting and to supervise the enforcement of the European Charter of Social Guaranties. A European Committee for the Prevention of Torture was also created with the capacity to undertake visits to member States and to prepare reports as a way of supervising the implementation of the obligations assumed under the European Convention against Torture. Finally, a European Commission against Racism and Intolerance was formed to examine the measures adopted by the European countries in this regard and to determine their effectiveness in combating racism, intolerance and xenophobia. Thus, the disappearance of the European Commission did not mean that the Court was left as the sole and exclusive human rights supervisory organ. To the contrary, other bodies kept or took on essential functions such as conducting site visits, preparing country reports or formulating recommendations to the States. Perhaps the European approach demonstrates that the multiple tasks assigned to the Inter-American Commission present a model to follow, rather than to eliminate.
While maintaining its current structure, the inter-American system should advance toward the establishment of a Commission and a Court that operate on a permanent basis. The numerous functions that the States have given to these organs, as well as the greater number and complexity of the cases that they must resolve, require that the Commissioners and Judges be present permanently during their tenure. Recent Commission chairpersons have adopted the practice of assuming their position full time at the Commission's headquarters and there the number of staff lawyers working for both bodies of the system has increased in recent years. However, these improvements have not been sufficient to resolve the delays and excess work burden. Therefore, it is necessary that the Court and the Commission become fully permanent. The OAS will need to provide sufficient resources to make this change possible.
The necessary coordination between the Court and the Commission in a dual system can be achieved through periodic meetings between the two bodies, at least twice a year. At the same time, the chairpersons of both organs should maintain joint meetings with the Secretary General of the OAS, the Chair of the Permanent Council and the Chair of the commission on Juridical and Political Affairs. This coordination does not require both bodies to operate in the same city --either Washington or San José--, as some governments have suggested. Technological advances have made fluid communication between the two bodies possible without their being in the same city. Moreover, moving the Commission to San José would require distancing it from important political bodies at the inter-American system, with which it works constantly, such as the Secretary General, the Permanent Council, the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs and the various countries' permanent missions to the OAS. It should not be forgotten that the Commission, unlike the Court, is a principal organ of the OAS. As such, it ought to have its headquarters together with the Organization. Even if a consensus developed in favor of having both organs operate in the same city, it would be preferable that Washington be chosen. The OAS is headquartered there along with its principal political organs and the permanent missions of all the member states.
Finally, and in relation with the functioning of the Commission, our organizations propose that the Commission should develop a special mechanism which will allow it to monitor the human rights of women, especially in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, including the observance of human rights in militarized or occupied areas.
4. Providing sufficient financial and human resources to the system
It is a common observation that the Commission lacks the necessary infrastructure and resources to confront the magnitude of its tasks. The work of the Commission and the Court has expanded significantly over the last several years, but their access to resources has not grown apace. The OAS must decisively confront the chronic deficiency of resources which faces the system. If the OAS truly wishes to construct a human rights system that meets the demands of the societies of the hemisphere, it must resolve this crucial financial issue. The fact that the Commission and the Court depend on the generous voluntary contributions of a certain member state of the OAS and on the philanthropic spirit of various Western European countries to finance their implementation of vital parts of their mandates should be a cause for worry and shame for the member states of the OAS.
It will be impossible to perfect or strengthen the inter-American system without major new financial support from the OAS for the Commission and the Court, in order to augment their human, technical and administrative resources, to extend their coverage and to accelerate their investigations and decisions. The OAS should set, as a goal, that the budget of the Commission and the Court should be doubled over the next three years. We recognize the limitations on resources that exist in the OAS. Understanding these realities, our proposal nonetheless suggests that the OAS should increase the percentage of overall funds assigned to the human rights bodies. An increase in the percentage assigned to human rights by the organization would demonstrate a renewed commitment to this cause by the member States.
In a related proposal, we suggest that both bodies must obtain complete administrative and financial autonomy. This measure, already largely achieved by the Court, would assure the proper independence and impartiality of both bodies.
With the goal of improving the transparency of the financial situation of both bodies, the Commission and the Court should follow the practice of the International Court of Justice, which publishes a chapter referring to "Finances of the Court" in its annual reports, or that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which publishes the budget assigned each year on its web page. The Commission and the Court should include, in their annual reports and web page updates, the budget assigned by the OAS, the voluntary contributions received from member countries, the donations from third countries, as well as information regarding expenditures. This measure would facilitate the transparency of the financial situation of the system.
5. Improve the fact-finding process before the Commission and the Court: ensure the independence, publicity and efficiency of the process.
There is a consensus in the inter-American system that the Commission should improve its procedures for gathering evidence and determining the facts of cases before it. However, it should be recognized that the possibility of achieving these improvements is unavoidably tied to other reforms in the inter-American system which are proposed in this paper. First, the Commission must have greater resources if it is to investigate cases properly, including through hearings, with witnesses where necessary, and through on-site visits for the investigation of the facts. Second, the Commission must enjoy complete independence and impartiality to engage in proper fact finding. To achieve this, the victims must have independent representation before the Court. Only in this way will the Commission be relieved of its current dual role as judge in the first instance and party in the second. Third, the Commission should reform its Rules to ensure transparency, clarity and equality between the parties in the proceedings leading to the Commission's conclusions on the facts.
As these changes in the Commission's fact-finding procedures are implemented, the Court should simultaneously change its own procedure to grant validity to the proceedings and findings of fact of the Commission. The Court should modify its Rules of Procedure to establish that the Court will accept the findings of fact of the Commission, except where an obvious and serious error has been committed or where new evidence has been produced which would alter the Commission's conclusions. This change would eliminate the current duplication of proceedings which takes place. As the proceeding is currently configured, the Commission conducts a lengthy fact-finding process and then reaches its conclusions. Then, the process is repeated in its entirety before the Court in those cases that reach that jurisdictional body. The Secretary General of the OAS and other experts have emphasized the importance of allowing the Court to focus on its central task of preparing decisions and analyzing questions of law, rather than on fact-finding. This goal can be achieved by granting full validity to the Commission's fact-finding process.
This new procedure would improve the Commission's fact-finding process and would allow for a more efficient use of limited resources. Currently, the States often refrain from full participation in the fact-finding process before the Commission. All too frequently, the States debate only those issues related to the admissibility of the case, especially the requirement of exhaustion of domestic remedies, throughout the proceeding before the Commission. The States often continue to argue these points even after the Commission issues its decision on admissibility and, in some cases, even after the Commission reaches its decision on the merits. In these cases, the State does not controvert the facts alleged by the petitioners and offers no evidence relevant to a determination on the merits of the case. This approach is understandable, in some ways, because the State is aware that a new opportunity to argue questions of fact and to present evidence, even evidence that existed when the case was before the Commission, will be granted if the case is eventually brought before the Court. The possibility of a negative decision from the Court is the only outcome that truly concerns most States, given the current limitations on the enforcement of Commission decisions.
The minimal or null participation of States in the fact-finding process at the Commission level makes it difficult for that process to end in an acceptable determination regarding the facts. A true contradictory process is always the most effective for establishing the truth. Yet, the current system provides no incentive for full litigation of the facts before the Commission. A system in which the Commission's investigation and analysis of the facts and final decision would be final and unappealable, except in extraordinary circumstances, would provide such an incentive.
This suggested reform to Commission and Court proceedings would be more effective and desirable than implementation of the Secretary General's proposal to create a form of prosecutorial office attached to the Court, which would depend on judges, prosecutors and other domestic authorities to investigate cases. The Secretary General's proposal does not eliminate the duplication of proceedings which currently exists and, instead, creates new problems.
The proposal for the creation of a prosecutorial office ignores the nature of the domestic legal systems and of the cases which reach the inter-American system for the protection of human rights. The endemic ineffectiveness and partiality of domestic prosecutors and courts, multiplied in cases of human rights violations, is one of the most serious problems currently facing the citizens of the Americas. The vast majority of cases reaching the Commission and the Court deal, at least in part, with alleged violations of due process. They demonstrate the impunity which is prevalent throughout the hemisphere and which is the partial or complete responsibility of those authorities charged with administering justice. The very reason the inter-American system plays such a central role lies in the fact that domestic judicial systems do not protect the population. It would be a serious error, therefore, to return cases involving violations of human rights to those same authorities that, through their inefficiency and partiality, forced the victims to seek redress, as a last resort, before a supranational system.
To support his proposal, the Secretary General mentions precedents in which the Court asked well-known individuals in different countries to assist in the investigation of cases. However, the experience of the Court was not altogether positive in those cases. In some of the cases mentioned, problems relating to the lack of independence of the named persons arose. These difficulties led the Court to change its proceedings to ensure that, in the future, any fact-finding proceedings taking place outside of headquarters will be conducted by the Court's own judges or staff.
6. Ensure the election of independent, appropriate and competent members of the Commission and the Court through an open and public process.
In proposing candidates, the States have not always shown true commitment to the independence, appropriateness and competence of the members of the Commission and the Court. Specifically, some judges and commissioners, nominated and elected by the States, acted simultaneously as ambassadors or high government authorities. Such a situation compromises the independence and impartiality necessary to preserve the moral authority of the international protection bodies. The requirement of "recognized competence in the field of human rights" (articles 34 and 52 of the Convention) is an indispensable element, which the States must analyze when they propose or vote on candidates for such important positions. However, this criterion has also been ignored in some cases. Finally, the Convention imposes the requirement that the members of the Commission and the Court have "high moral character." This is a requirement which is difficult to analyze objectively, but which should not be forgotten nor easily considered to be fulfilled, as has frequently been the case. The States should seriously scrutinize all candidates for the Commission and the Court to determine whether they fulfill the conventional requirements relating to independence, competence and moral authority.
The prestige and reputation of the protection bodies depends on the confidence that they inspire in users -- both victims and States. The confidence of these actors will depend on the quality and independence of the members of the bodies. The system's ability to function well also depends on the quality of the members of the Commission and the Court. The history of these two bodies has shown that the inter-American system is able to achieve lofty goals, leading to the effective protection and promotion of human rights in the context of the realities of our continent. However, this potential is only realized only when the members of the bodies have strong backgrounds, are committed to the protection of human rights and are sensitive to specific types of discrimination.
The procedure for proposing and electing candidates is not open to public discussion. Nor are there specific mechanisms to verify compliance with the conventional requirements. In recent years, civil society organizations have begun to contribute to the selection process, studying the qualifications of the candidates and making known our positions in this regard. However, this ad hoc supervision is not sufficient. The States and the political bodies of the OAS should commit themselves more actively to an appropriate selection process.
As a means of contributing substantially to the transparency of the process, States should present their candidates publicly, announcing the reasons for their presentation as candidates and the qualifications and conditions which led them to conclude that the candidates fulfill the conventional requirements. In this way, civil society organizations will have the opportunity to express opinions regarding the candidates, and the States will have the chance to evaluate objectively the different candidates. In this same spirit, the States should make public information regarding all candidates they will support as well as their opinions regarding the qualifications of those candidates.
In addition, the Permanent Council and the General Assembly should adopt a public interview procedure which would require that the candidates present their positions and which would allow civil society organizations and the States to hear them. The members of the Permanent Council or the General Assembly should question the candidates regarding their credentials, interests, background, time availability for work on the Commission or Court, etc. The States should also examine the candidates' sensibility to gender issues. Such an interview system would lead to greater transparency in the selection process and would allow the States to make an informed decision before voting.
7. The procedure of the Commission and the Court should be included in their own Rules. These Rules should be revised.
We propose a reform of the Rules of the Commission and of the Court to ensure greater clarity, juridical certainty, publicity and equality between the parties in the proceedings. The petitioners and victims, as well as the States, recognize this need and have supported the Commission in its current efforts to reform its Rules. Nonetheless, we believe that the new discussion regarding the possibility of a broader reform to the system means that the Commission should not issue its new Rules until the debate on the broader reforms is completed. The Rules of the Commission and Court necessarily constitute an integral part of any reform process and their reform should not come before the decisions which will be taken on the need to make broad changes to the system. Rather, the reform of the Rules should reflect the consensus on the broader reforms to be made.
In regard to the necessity to improve the procedure and the formal Rules of the Commission and the Court, the Secretary General has suggested the possibility of including the procedures of the inter-American system in the statutes of the Commission and the Court. Such a change would mean that the States, rather than the Commission or the Court, would decide the procedures to be followed before those two bodies. This proposal diverges from almost all, if not all, precedents at the international level. It is a universally accepted principle that the bodies of an international system determine their own procedures.
It would not be advisable to define the procedures of the Commission and the Court in their Statutes rather than in their Rules of Procedure. The procedure for reforming the Statutes requires the vote of the States and is therefore burdensome and time-consuming. Such a procedure deprives the bodies of the system of the flexibility needed to change details of their procedures in order to reflect the ever-changing realities they face. For example, it should not be necessary to obtain a vote from the States to limit the number of briefs which the parties must exchange and thereby shorten the proceeding before the Commission, as was achieved by a modification in the Commission's Rules adopted in 1996.
The political bodies of the OAS also lack the day-to-day experience with the handling of cases by the Commission and the Court which is necessary to ensure that any procedure adopted is appropriate. For example, the States will always have difficulty in evaluating the quantity of time that will be required to be dedicated to each case before the system under one possible procedure or another.
8. The need to strengthen the implementation of the decisions of the Commission and the Court.
The move to consolidate democracies and the renewed concern with the rule of law in the Americas, which have been so important over the last twenty years, have not led to greater interest in ensuring compliance with the decisions of the bodies of the inter-American system. The American States have created mechanisms for collective action to protect democracy (for example General Assembly Resolution 1080). However, in the area of human rights, the States have not only failed to design better mechanisms for supervision of compliance with the decisions of the relevant bodies, but they have repeatedly failed to comply with the decisions of the Commission and have complied only partially and discretionally with those of the Court. In addition, the States of the hemisphere have acted collectively with even greater reticence in their role as collective guarantors of human rights in this period of democratically elected governments.
The human rights organizations that sign this document propose an analysis of three areas related to strengthening the enforcement of the decisions of the inter-American human rights system: a. Improve ties between the inter-American system and domestic systems in order to facilitate the implementation of the binding decisions of the bodies of supervision; b. Strengthen the role of the Commission and the Court in supervising compliance with their own decisions; and c. Strengthen the role of the States as collective guarantors of compliance with Commission and Court decisions.
Improve ties between the inter-American system and domestic systems in order to facilitate the implementation of the binding decisions of the bodies of supervision
A crucial aspect of deepening the American States' commitment to human rights lies in the establishment of mechanisms which facilitate and "depoliticize" the implementation of the decisions of the international human rights protection bodies. The Convention only establishes expressly a mechanism for the implementation of the Court's decisions in relation to the portion of reparations which encompass economic compensation. However, full reparations also often include non-economic components -- for example, a change in the law or the release of a person in prison, etc. Article 68 provides only that "the part of a judgment that stipulates compensatory damages may be executed in the country concerned in accordance with domestic procedure governing the execution of judgements against the State". Of course, the State is nonetheless obliged to comply with all portions of decisions against them, pursuant to the first part of this same article. This same duty extends to the recommendations of the Commission as was clarified by the Court when it held that a State party to the American Convention has the obligation to apply its best efforts to comply with the recommendations of a protection body, such as the Commission. (Loayza Tamayo Case).
We believe that the States have the responsibility to establish domestic procedures which will make possible compliance with the decisions of the bodies of the system, including both the Commission and the Court. These mechanisms should include means for compliance with those aspects of reparation for which the execution procedure is not specifically established in the Convention. For example, they should include procedures for the release of a person convicted in a final judicial decision or for the modification of legislation which has been found not to conform to the Convention, etc. The lack of such legislative or judicial compliance mechanisms creates de facto difficulties for Governments who wish to comply with their international obligations. Eventually, such a lacuna may lead to a situation of crisis between international protection bodies and national institutions.
Our organizations would like to highlight the special internal mechanisms or norms developed by several American States (such as Costa Rica and Colombia) to facilitate compliance with the decisions of the Commission and the Court. These efforts are limited to a few countries but lead in the right direction. Over the next three years, all countries in the Americas should adopt those legislative or other measures which may be necessary to grant domestic legal force to the decisions of the Commission and the Court and to ensure their execution. To facilitate this process, the Commission should prepare model legislation relating to the implementation of recommendations and decisions of the inter-American bodies.
b. Strengthen the role of the Commission and the Court in supervising compliance with their decisions
The role of the Court and the Commission in supervising compliance with their own decisions should be expanded and strengthened. Beginning with its first cases, the Court has repeatedly held that it will supervise compliance with its decisions and will only treat a case as concluded upon full compliance, pursuant to Article 65 of the Convention. In recent years, the Commission has included, in a few decisions, a clause providing that it will evaluate compliance by the State with its final recommendations. It has included this clause in only some of its final decisions in a relatively random fashion. Moving in this same direction, the Commission has also established, upon occasion, an ad hoc follow-up mechanism for supervision of compliance with the recommendations it issues in individual cases and general country reports. We note, however, that the Commission has faced great resistance and obstruction from some States, who have publicly stated their opposition to the establishment of any follow-up mechanism which would allow for supervision of compliance with the Commission's decisions.
Both bodies have discussed, over the last year, ideas for an appropriate follow-up mechanism to supervise compliance with their decisions. The Commission as well as the Court opened, on several occasions, adversarial proceedings designed to determine the degree of compliance which had been achieved in various cases. In response to Peru's failure to comply with its decision in the Maria Elena Loayza and Castillo Petruzzi cases, the Court concluded an evaluation of compliance with a formal resolution. The Commission has still not determined how its follow-up proceedings should conclude.
In order to strengthen the supervision capability of both bodies, their Rules should specifically establish an adversarial or contradictory procedure for supervision of compliance with their decisions and recommendations.
In order to achieve greater publicity, efficiency and awareness among the political bodies of the OAS, the annual reports of the Commission and the Court should include graphs indicating the status and degree of compliance with their decisions and recommendations.
c. Strengthen the role of the States as collective guarantors of compliance with Commission and Court decisions
The bodies of the inter-American system have traditionally looked to the States of the region to assist in ensuring compliance with their decisions and, more generally, in ensuring greater observance for human rights. This tradition has been developed despite the fact that the Convention does not specifically foresee a role for the States in ensuring compliance with those decisions issued by the Commission. There were a few notable moments in the mid-70s and at the end of the 80s, when the General Assembly adopted a number of resolutions regarding problematic human rights situations pointed out by the country reports of the Commission, including those which formed part of its annual reports and those which were prepared independently. However, in general, the response of the political bodies of the OAS has been indifferent when not deficient. As regards the Court, that body has often gone to the political bodies of the OAS to ensure the execution of its decisions. It has done so by invoking Article 65 of the Convention, which specifically permits the Court to submit cases of noncompliance by States with its decisions to the General Assembly and to make recommendations for further action. However, the Court has not obtained adequate support from the General Assembly, even in critical situations. In 1999, the Peruvian Government's announcement that it would not comply with two Court decisions and decision of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to execute individuals under the protection of Court provisional measures were not met with any effective reaction by the States. In those cases, the States failed to act as collective guarantors for the inter-American system, although a few leaders, such as the President of Costa Rica, did express concern. This lack of response creates serious concern regarding the real commitment of the States to the protection of human rights. It also highlights the need to strengthen the role of the States as collective guarantors of compliance with the decisions of the bodies of the system, in a manner which would complement the Commission and Court's conventionally granted authority to supervise compliance.
There currently exists a gap in regard to the role that the General Assembly and the Permanent Council should play, in the context of the OAS, in ensuring compliance with the decisions of the Commission and the Court. This normative lacuna should be filled in a way which allows the political bodies of the OAS to complement the work of the Commission and the Court in supervising compliance. Specifically, a mechanism should be developed which would allow for the political bodies of the OAS to become incrementally more involved in a case as needed to ensure compliance with the decisions of the Commission and Court. This mechanism could include, among other measures, diplomatic exchanges for the purpose of analyzing the capability of a State to comply with its obligations or adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution calling a State's attention to its failure to comply in a specific case. The OAS Charter should be modified along the lines of General Assembly Resolution 1080 and the Washington Protocol, in order to give the General Assembly the power to suspend the OAS membership of any State which systematically and repeatedly fails to comply with the decisions of the human rights bodies. The General Assembly should also have the power to initiate other actions and emit recommendations against the member States to ensure compliance with Commission and Court decisions. For example, the Assembly should be able to assess economic sanctions, condition project funding by the Inter-American Development Bank on compliance with the decisions of the Commission or Court, etc.
The interaction between the human rights bodies and the political bodies of the OAS should not be limited to the actions by the Commission and the Court before the General Assembly during its regular period of sessions. Rather, this interaction should be extended to other political bodies of the OAS, with special emphasis on the Permanent Council. We suggest that the relevant changes should be made to allow the Commission and Court to come before the Permanent Council in cases of noncompliance with the Court's provisional measures decisions when the General Assembly is not in session. In addition, we support the Secretary General's proposal to ensure greater compliance with decisions through more active participation by the Permanent Council. Without usurping the Court's own supervisory functions, the Permanent Council should engage in intense administrative supervision of compliance at the national level. For this purpose, the Permanent Council should require States, which have not fully complied with decisions, to provide periodic information about the progress toward compliance that they have achieved. We would like to reiterate and emphasize that none of these proposals should, in any way, weaken the authority of the Commission and the Court, derived from the Convention itself, to ensure compliance. Rather, these new mechanisms should strengthen the ability of those bodies to demand compliance with their decisions.
9. Broaden access to the Court.
Broaden the category of actors which may send cases to the Court
The Convention provides that only the Commission or the States may submit cases to the Court. In other words, the Convention does not grant the petitioners or the representatives of the victims direct access to the Court. These actors cannot submit a case to the contentious or adversarial jurisdiction of the Court. In practice, this rule limits the access that victims have to the Court. For example, in 1996, out of 16 cases decided by the Commission which could have been sent to the Court, only four cases were submitted to the jurisdictional body. In 1997, of 58 cases with final Commission decisions relating to countries that have accepted the mandatory jurisdiction of the Court, only five cases were sent to the Court. In 1998, out of 19 cases that could have been sent to the Court, only four were submitted to that body. As a result of the decision not to send cases on to the Court, the ability of victims to obtain an adequate resolution of their cases is restricted and, in most cases, nullified. The current very poor level of compliance by States with the recommendations of the Commission often means that no resolution can be obtained if a case is not sent to the Court.
In order to address this problem, the States should adopt a protocol to the Convention, similar to Protocol 9 adopted in the European human rights system, which allowed petitioners to present cases directly before the Court. Until such time as this change is made, the Commission should establish, in its Rules, a mechanism for granting special or even determinant weight to the petitioners' wishes regarding the need to send a case to the Court. A clause of this nature would eliminate the paternalistic nature of the current process. It would also elevate the victims to equal status with the States as regards this crucial juncture in the proceedings, when the decision is made regarding the submission of a case to the Court.
b. Clarify the criteria for sending cases to the Court
Currently, the Commission or the States may decide, at their own discretion, whether a case should be submitted to the Court. This situation surrounds the decision regarding submission of a case to the Court with great uncertainty and a lack of clarity.
Until such time as a protocol to the Convention allowing petitioners to submit cases directly to the Court is adopted, the Commission should modify its Rules to make submission of cases to the Court mandatory in all cases where the procedure set forth in Articles 48 to 50 of the Convention has been exhausted without achieving State compliance with the Commission's recommendations. This measure would resolve the problem of the discretionary nature of the Commission's decisions. It would also eliminate the perception of some States that the Commission only sends cases involving a few specific countries to the Court.
Unfortunately, one of the most important factors affecting the commission's ability to submit any greater number of cases to the Court is the lack of human and financial resources available to the Commission and the Court. Until the States significantly increase their contributions to the system, the Commission will be forced to make a careful decision regarding the cases to be submitted. The Commission's decisions in this regard should comply with the Court's jurisprudence, which establishes that the decision should be based on the alternative that will be most favorable for the protection of the human rights established in the Convention." (Advisory Opinion 13/93).
The Commission should establish clearly, in its Rules, the criteria it will consider in making the decision on the submission of a case to the Court. Some of the criteria to be considered could include, for example, a case's importance or complexity, a lack of jurisprudence on the subject matter of a case, or the existence of a strong debate over controversial issues at lower levels -- including when divergent decisions are issued by domestic tribunals or when it is impossible for the Commission to achieve a consensus. Lastly, the Commission should always issue a reasoned decision in relation to any decision it makes not to send a case to the Court. In this regard, it should be noted that the Commission based its decision not to send the case of Diana Ortiz v. Guatemala to the Court, among other things, on the express request of the victim.
The States should also reconsider their practice and contemplate the possibility of sending cases to the Court. Only Costa Rica has thus far attempted, in one case, to submit a matter to the Court's contentious jurisdiction. The remaining States have failed to submit any case to the Court, despite their frequent expressions of disagreement with the conclusions of the Commission when they have been found in violation of the Convention. In order to strengthen the inter-American system, the States should adopt domestic legislation which would require them to comply with the recommendations included in the final decisions of the Commission (Article 50 of the Convention) within the period established or, in case of disagreement with those recommendations, to send the case to the Court.
c. Ensure the independent representation of the victims before the Court
The inter-American system has developed in a way which does not currently allow victims direct representation throughout the proceedings before the Court. As a result, the Commission is obliged to act as the representative of the victim's interests before the Court. Beginning in 1997, the Court's Rules of Procedure grant the victims the right to independent representation in the reparations stage. That change allows the Commission to act as a system body, rather than as the victim's lawyer, in the reparations stage.
To address this problematic situation, the Commission's practice has been to allow the victim's representative to participate actively in all stages of litigation before the Court. In practice, the active role of the representatives of the victim before the Court has not been limited to the reparations stage. To the contrary, the victim's representative has traditionally participated integrally in all aspects of the proceedings, in relation to both procedural and substantive matters. This participation has become established in relation to all stages and aspects of the proceedings, including: the preparation of the complaint to the Court; the debate on preliminary objections; the debate on the merits; the presentation of evidence and briefing, and; the debate in the reparations stage. Thus, in all cases submitted by the Commission to the Court up until the present, the representatives of the victims, a petitioning NGO or NGO and victim advisors have participated in the proceedings. This participation takes place under the supervision and direction of the Commission, the body acting as party before the Court. In general, the Commission has been very willing to hear the arguments of the petitioners and the victim and to consult with them. The current model has ensured that the representatives of the victim, in practice, participate in the proceedings before the Court. The fact that the representatives of the victim provide invaluable support to the Commission in the cases it litigates before the Court is universally accepted.
This ad hoc method has allowed the system to function over the last 15 years. However, it is now showing itself to be inadequate as well as harmful to the legitimacy of the system. The inter-American system, as a whole, and the Commission specifically are affected negatively by this mechanism which requires the Commission to act in dual roles. The Commission changes from judge, ruling on the positions of the victims and the States in the proceedings before it, to lawyer for the victims and adverse party to the State in the proceedings before the Court. This leads to valid questioning regarding the possibility that the Commission may protect its impartiality. The problem does not only arise in those cases that are presented to the Court. The more difficult situation arises when the Commission acts as lawyer to the victim and advocate against States in cases before the Court at the same time that it must impartially handle cases, in its own proceedings, against those same States. In addition, the current system lends credibility to the arguments of some States that the Commission is too close to the NGOs.
To resolve these problems, the Commission must act before the Court in a role which allows it to protect its impartiality, as well as the appearance of impartiality. The Commission must act as an attorney general, with the goal of protecting the integrity of the entire human rights protection system.
From the point of view of the petitioners and the representatives of the victim in the proceedings before the Court, the Court should reform its Rules of Procedure to permit the independent representations of victims before the Court. The Convention does not impose any impediment to granting such independent standing. It is therefore not necessary to reform the Convention, nor is it necessary to adopt a protocol, to allow direct participation. A reform of the Rules of Procedure of the Court permitting direct participation by the victims, their families and their representatives before the Court in the reparations stage proves the viability of this proposal. The examples of direct representation in the reparations stage, occurring thus far, have proven that the victims and their representatives exercise this new right with full seriousness and responsibility.
If independent representation is granted to the victims, the States should consider a few additional points in order to ensure effective access by all victims to the Court. If our proposal suggesting that the Court should not repeat the fact-finding stage already carried out at the Commission level, a special fund should be created to cover the costs of providing evidence and witnesses. In addition, a mechanism to provide legal representation free of cost to victims who do not have representation must be developed. The independent representation of victims before the court should be a factor leading to greater access to the Court and should not serve to restrict that access.
- International Human Rights Law Group
- Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL )
- Derechos Human Rights
- Organizacíon Mundial Contra la Tortura - OMCT
- Human Rights Watch
- Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
National and Regional Networks
- Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM)
- Red de Organismos Civiles de derechos Humanos "Todos los derechos para todos" - México
- Foro por la Vida - Venezuela
- Coordinacion del Proceso Binacional de Comunidades Negras en Ecuador y Colombia
- Plataforma Sudamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo
- Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (Perú)
- Asociación Casa Alianza-América Latina
- Comisión para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Centroamérica (CODEHUCA)
- Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
- Centro de Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente
- Profesora Flavia Piovesan
- Centro de Justiça Global (Global Justice Center), Rio de Janeiro
- Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos
- Human Rights Internet
- International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
- Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
- Proceso de Comunidades Negras en Colombia
- Humanidad Vigente Corporación Jurídica
- Comisión Colombiana de Juristas
- Red Nacional de Mujeres
- Nucleo de Apoyo a la Mujer
- Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA (IDHUCA)
- Defensoría Maya
- Fundación Myrna Mack
- Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHA)
- Fundación Rigoberta Menchú
- Asociación Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos de Guatemala (FAMDEGUA)
- Comité de Derechos Humanos (CODEH)
- Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)
- Academia Jalisciense de Derechos Humanos, AC. (AJDH), Guadalajara, Jalisco.
- Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura (ACAT), México DF.
- Asociación Civil para la Defensa de los Derechos Ciudadanos "Miguel Hidalgo", AC. La Misión, Hidalgo.
- Asociación Jalisciense de Apoyo a los Grupos Indígenas (AJAGI), Guadalajara, Jalisco.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas", AC. San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P.", AC., México DF.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Los Príncipes", Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Miguel Agustín Pro", AC. (PRODH), México DF.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Tepeyac", AC. Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Don Sergio", AC., Cuernavaca, Morelos.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Matías de Córdoba". Tapachula, Chiapas.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña (Tlachinollan, AC.), Tlapa, Guerrero.
- Centro de Derechos Humanos Ñu'u Ji Kandií. AC. Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca
- Centro de Derechos Indígenas "Flor y Canto", AC., Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
- Centro de Derechos Indígenas, AC (CEDIAC). Bachajón, Chiapas.
- Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
- Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, AC. Acapulco, Guerrero.
- Centro Potosino de Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CEPODHAC), San Luis Potosí, S.L.P.
- Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos "Bartolomé Carrasco", AC. Oaxaca, Oaxaca
- Ciudadanía Lagunera por los Derechos Humanos, AC., Torreón, Coahuila.
- Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos, AC. (CADHAC), Monterrey, Nuevo León.
- Colectivo de Educación para la Paz (CEPAZ). San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos "La Voz de los sin voz", Coyuca de Benítez, Guerrero.
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Asamblea de Barrios, México D.F.
- Comisión de Solidaridad y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, AC. (COSYDDHAC), Chihuahua, Chihuahua.
- Comisión Independiente de Derechos Humanos de Morelos, AC., Cuernavaca, Morelos.
- Comisión Intercongregacional "Justicia, Paz y Vida", México DF.
- Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, AC., DF.
- Comisión para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, AC., Jalapa, Veracruz.
- Comisión Regional de Derechos Humanos "Mahatma Gandhi", Tuxtepec, Oaxaca.
- Comité de Defensa de las Libertades Indígenas (CDLI), Palenque, Chiapas.
- Comité de Defensa y Apoyo a Comunidades y Pueblos Indios (CODACPI), Guerrero.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos "Fr. Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada, O.P.", Ocosingo, Chiapas.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos Ajusco, México DF.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Colima (No gubernamental), Colima, Colima.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de la Sierra Norte de Veracruz, AC., Huayacocotla, Veracruz.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Tabasco, AC. (CODEHUTAB),Villahermosa, Tabasco.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos Pueblo Nuevo, AC., DF.
- Comité de Derechos Humanos y Orientación Miguel Hidalgo, AC. (CODHOMHAC), Dolores Hidalgo, Gto.
- Comité Sergio Méndez Arceo Pro Derechos Humanos de Tulancingo, Hidalgo., AC. Franciscans International - México
- Frente Cívico Sinaloense. Secretaría de Derechos Humanos, Culiacán, Sinaloa.
- Grupo Indignación, AC, Mérida, Yucatan.
- Instituto Guerrerense de Derechos Humanos, AC., Chilpancingo, Guerrero.
- Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario, AC. (IMDEC), Area de Derechos Humanos. Guadalajara, Jal.
- Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Iberoamericana, plantel Sta Fe.
- Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos del ITESO, Guadalajara, Jalisco.
- Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos. UIA-León, León, Guanajuato.
- Servicio Paz y Justicia. México. Villahermosa, Tabasco.
- Taller Universitario de Derechos Humanos (TUDH), México DF.
- Amnistía Internacional, Sección mexicana
- Organisacion Afro-Garifuna Nicaragüense (OAGANIC)
- Comité Género, Derechos y Deasarrollo - R.A.A.S.
- Comisión de Andina de Juristas
- Comisión Diocesana de Acción Social de Chachapoyas. Amazonas
- Comisión de Justicia Social de Chimbote. Ancash
- CODISPAS Huaraz. Ancash
- Asociación Nacional de familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Zonas de Emergencia. Ayacucho
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Vicaría de Solidaridad de Celendín. Cajamarca
- Vicaría de Solidaridad de Cajamarca
- Vicaría de Solidaridad de Jaén. Cajamarca
- Asociación por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana. Cusco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Canas. Cusco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Chumbivilcas. Cusco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Espinar. Cusco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Provincias Altas. Cusco
- Movimiento Cristiano Pro Derechos Humanos de Quillabamba. Cusco
- Vicaría de la Solidaridad de Sicuani. Cusco
- Servicios Educativos, Promoción y Desarrollo Rural. Huancayo. Junín
- Oficina Pastoral de Dignidad Humana de Huancayo. Junín
- Asociación Jurídica Pro Dignidad Humana. Huánuco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos Alto Huallaga. Huánuco
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Pachitea. Huánuco
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Ica
- Comisión de Solidaridad, Desarrollo y Justicia. Lambayeque
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Sánchez Carrión. La Libertad
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Tayabamba - Pataz. La Libertad
- Comisión Prelatural de Pastoral Social de Huamachuco. La Libertad
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Taurija. La Libertad
- Servicio Educativo para el Desarrollo y la Solidaridad. La Libertad
- Amnistía Internacional - Sección Peruna. Lima
- Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos. Lima
- Asociación de Familias Desplazadas de Lima
- Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica. Lima
- Centro de Estudios y Acción para la Paz. Lima
- Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social. Lima
- Centro de Asesoría Laboral. Lima
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de El Agustino. Lima
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Huacho. Lima
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Villa El Salvador. Lima
- Comité Nacional de Familiares de Detenidos, Desaparecidos y Refugiados. Lima
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos. Lima
- Equipo de Asesoría Campesina. Lima
- Concilio Nacional Evangélico. Lima
- Fundación Ecuménica para el Desarrollo y la Paz. Lima
- Movimiento Negro Francisco Congo. Lima
- Grupo de Iniciativa Nacional por los Derechos del Niño. Lima
- Instituto de Defensa Legal. Lima
- Instituto Peruano de Educación en Derechos Humanos y Paz. Lima
- Oficina de Protección del Periodista. Lima
- Asociación Paz y Esperanza. Lima
- Vicariato Apostólico de Iquitos. Loreto
- Equipo de Derechos Humanos del Estrecho - Putumayo. Loreto
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Ilo. Moquegua
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Pasco. Pasco
- Centro de Desarrollo Rural "Villa Nazareth" de la Diócesis de Chulucanas. Piura
- Diaconía para la Justicia y la Paz del Arzobispado de Piura. Piura
- Asociación de Defensa Legal y Promoción Social. Puno
- Vicaría de la Solidaridad de Juli. Puno
- Vicaría de Solidaridad de Ayaviri. Puno
- Vicaría de Solidaridad de Puno. Puno
- Comité de Derechos Humanos de Moyobamba
- Organización peruna para la Educación y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos AltoHuallaga-Tocache. San Martín
- Asociación de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos. Tacna
- Comité Vicarial de Derechos Humanos - Pucallpa. Ucayali
- Profesora Carolina Loayza Tamayo
- Profesor Cesar Landa
- Equipo Nizkor - Nizkor International Human Rights Team
- National Lawyers Guild (National Police Accountability Project)
- Comisión de Justicia y Paz de Petare
- Comisión de Justicia y Paz del Secretariado Conjunto de Religiosos y Religiosas de Venezuela (SECORVE)
- Comité de Familiares de Víctimas de los sucesos de Febrero-Marzo de 1989 (COFAVÍC) Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en derechos Humanos (PROVEA)
- Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz
- Vicaría Episcopal de derechos Humanos de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas
- Fundación de Derechos Humanos del estado Anzoátegui
- Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Puerto La Cruz
- Oficina Diocesana de Derechos Humanos "Humanas Dignitas"
- Fundación de Derechos Humanos de los Teques
- Vicaría Episcopal "Derecho y Justicia" de Cumaná
- Centros Comunitarios de Aprendizaje (CECODAP)
- Voluntariado de Trabajo en Establecimientos Penitenciarios de la Universidad Católica "Andrés Bello" (VTEP)
- Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica "Andrés Bello"
- Acción Ciudadana contra el Sida (ACSI)
- Coordinadora No Gubernamental de Mujeres (CONG)
- Defensa de los Niños Internacional (DNI)
- Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Vicariato de Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas
Electronic edition by Nizkor Team 03nov00
Human Rights in the Americas
Published online by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights