Washington -- Numerous important advances
in human rights have been made in the Americas, says a human
rights commission of the Organization of American States
In a March 11 statement, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights said the advances include the
launch of a comprehensive, national program on human rights
in Mexico and approval of constitutional reforms in Brazil
aimed at modernizing the judicial system in order to combat
impunity for human rights violations. In addition, Chile,
Argentina and Paraguay were reported to have undertaken
efforts to investigate and punish those responsible for
serious human-rights violations, while Honduras signed an
agreement regarding cases of forced disappearance.
However, the region faces many human-rights
challenges, including such longstanding problems as impunity
in cases of serious human-rights violations, arbitrary detention,
attacks in some countries on independent and impartial judiciaries,
and inhumane conditions of detention in prisons. The region
also faces "rising public insecurity" due to an
increase in criminality.
The commission issued its findings in a
new report after holding hearings since February 22 on the
human rights situation in the Americas. The Washington-based
commission is one of two bodies charged with promoting and
protecting human rights within the inter-American system.
The other human-rights body is the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights, located in San José, Costa Rica.
The U.S. State Department issued its own
report February 28 assessing the human-rights situation
in the Americas and around the world. In its "Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices -- 2004," the State
Department said that the majority of governments in the
Western Hemisphere respect the rights of their citizens.
A few nations in the region, however, received poor marks
from the State Department for their human-rights practices,
in particular Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and
The OAS commission's analysis found that,
in Cuba, there has been no significant change in the situation
of "systematic repression" of dissidents, human
rights defenders, and independent journalists. Generalized
violations of public freedoms persist, especially with respect
to the right to political participation and freedom of expression.
The commission reiterated the need for elections
in Cuba, which it said must be "periodic, free, fair,
plural, and based on universal and secret suffrage, as the
expression of the will of the people."
Venezuela has an "endemic problem"
regarding provisional judges, the commission found. Since
2004, 436 prosecutors in Venezuela have been appointed provisionally.
The commission said the high percentage of provisional judges
and prosecutors "seriously affects the right to an
adequate justice system, and has a negative effect on the
rights of magistrates and prosecutors to stability in their
This "worrisome tendency" in Venezuela
"contradicts international human rights protection
standards and the case-law of the inter-American system,"
said the commission, which also reiterated its concern regarding
the situation of "risk and stigmatization" suffered
by human-rights defenders in Venezuela.
The commission expressed its "deep
concern" with what it called the "institutional
fragility" of the rule of law in Ecuador, saying that
Ecuador's political system has been one of the most unstable
in the region in recent years.
The average duration of Ecuador's governments
has been less than two years, which has been "aggravated"
in the last few months by the removal of five of the nine
members of the Constitutional Tribunal, the members of the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and all 31 justices of the Supreme
Court. The commission said that independence and impartiality
of the judiciary are essential elements in the protection
of human rights and the rule of law.
In Haiti, the commission said it remains
extremely concerned about the "apparent lack of control"
by the Haitian transitional government over security throughout
the country and the continuing threat that members of the
former military, gangs and other illegal armed groups pose
to the civilian population and the future stability of the
The commission renewed its call for the
Haitian government and the international community to take
all "urgent measures necessary, consistent with applicable
human rights standards, to ensure the security of the people
of Haiti and create conditions conducive to general elections"
scheduled for the latter part of 2005.
The full report on the commission's findings
are available online at: http://www.cidh.org./Comunicados/English/2005/8.05.htm.
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: