Last Wednesday, March 16, a public hearing was held before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to address the situation of judicial independence in El Salvador. In it, the petitioning organizations presented to this international body a reading of various decisions, facts and arbitrary reforms that occurred in 2021, as a strategy to capture the justice system, executed with the deliberate aim of neutralizing its ability to control power and protect human rights.
The State, for its part, deployed an opposite narrative: all these acts would have obeyed, rather, to the objective of «strengthening and modernizing» a justice system «inefficient and conducive to widespread impunity». In this note, I intend to answer some of these arguments to demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds to consider that the state’s commitment to judicial independence is not sincere or, even, that there is a manipulation or appropriation of the discourse in defense of judicial independence, for purposes contrary to those stated.
As a starting point, it is worth briefly summarizing the civil society approach. It was argued that the Salvadoran justice system -which includes both the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Office- has been the object of a strategy of capture by the political power currently in government, executed in various stages.
Versión en español aquí. Originally published in Proceso.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Venezuela for the second time in three years. In my last visit in December 2018, I recall witnessing disturbing food and medicine shortages. This time round, I experienced a different Venezuela, but in a worse situation.
Despite the heartbreaking situation, Venezuela overflows with humanity and affection. While talking to Venezuelans, it is impossible not to think of the destruction wrought upon the democracy and institutions in the country. In its 2020 report, The International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, created by the United Nations Human Rights Council, noted that serious human rights violations have been committed since 2014. The Mission also identified patterns and «highly coordinated crimes in accordance with State policies and part of a widespread and systematic course of conduct that constitutes crimes against humanity.»
In less than 48 hours more than 650 organizations, Venezuelan and from other countries, agreed to sign a communiqué rejecting the obligation to register in the Caribbean country before a counter-terrorism office, handing over data of the people they serve. This represents the latest decision of the government of Nicolás Maduro to close the civic space in Venezuela.
Last March 30, Administrative Ruling number 001-2021 appeared in the Official Gazette, the state publication that disseminates laws and regulations approved in Venezuela, by means of which the regulations for the Unified Registry of Obligated Parties before the National Office Against Organized Crime and Financing of Terrorism were dictated. This very long name fulfilled the prophecy that human rights organizations such as Provea had made months ago: 2021 would be a period of governmental offensive against civil society, after they had managed to erode the voice and cohesion of the political leadership of the country. By imposing the quarantine of silence on the opposition parties, the persecution would be focused against the rest of the society with the capacity to document and denounce, at a time when the international oversight on the human rights situation could escalate mechanisms of pressure on Miraflores.
According to one of the latest speeches of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, held before the Human Rights Council, the current situation in the world is alarming: conflicts in the Middle East, famine in Africa, treatment of migrants seeking to reach Europe, are just a few examples. During the first three years of his tenure, he says, the world has become «darker and more dangerous».
International media report a country which seems to be going in the other direction, moving towards peace after more than 50 years of conflict: Colombia. Obviously, the picture is not all bright in this vast Andean country of South America (about twice the size of France): the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC encounters many obstacles, the negotiation process between the government and the ELN appears to be stagnating or even regressing, and the activities of armed groups and criminal gangs, as well as the increase in the killings of human rights defenders, show that the country is far from having reached peace. But a process is under way and the Colombian population affected by the conflict hopes to be able to benefit little by little.
Exceptional times require extraordinary measures; however, there are places in Colombia where the lack of essential services would make any extraordinary measure be considered meager given the marginality and the historical backwardness in the country. The negligence of the central government is the common denominator of the formerly called territorios nacionales, but only in the Department of Chocó this feature is epitomized in absolute terms.
Seen in the light of the ability to cope with a virus as deadly as COVID-19, which to date has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people worldwide, the forecasts in the department of Chocó are terrifying. To this date, the people of Chocó lack the readiness and the human, technical, and financial resources necessary to face an epidemiological event of this kind.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR published its report «Protest and Human Rights» in December 2019. It appears timely when massive demonstrations are being held in the streets and squares across the region. The reasons behind the demonstrations vary, but the response of most governments is common: repression and human rights abuses. Peaceful protest remains a misunderstood right. This report aims to correct this situation by defining the inter-American standards applicable to protest and denouncing the criminalization of protest as an anti-human rights process.
It has been several decades since the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) began to address the situation of indigenous peoples in the region. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), since the mid-1980s, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, since the beginning of the 2000s, have adjudicated complaints and addressed the historical problems faced by indigenous peoples, especially in claims related to their lands, territories, and natural resources. The decisions of both bodies have created solid standards, especially on the subject of indigenous peoples’ property, with a level of detail that has been incorporated into other international human rights systems.
But never, until now, had the IAHRS looked beyond the state borders that separate these peoples, to adopt a comprehensive view of the biogeographic regions that they share, as is the case of the Pan-Amazon region. Such an approach is key because within this territory they share elements of their history and cosmovisión (worldview), as well as a contemporary reality marked by multiple patterns of rights violations that require joint efforts. The Report on the Situation of Human Rights of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Pan-Amazon Region, which the IACHR presented a few days ago in Quito, Ecuador, is therefore both groundbreaking and timely.
When states from across the Americas convene next week for the 49th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), they will face a solemn task: electing four commissioners to the seven-member Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the region’s premier human rights monitoring and protection body. The problem? For the first time in the recent memory, there are not enough qualified candidates to elect. Seguir leyendo →
At first glance, the zero drafts of the Legally Binding Instrument (LBI) and Optional Protocol (OP) raise serious doubts as to whether they add value to the effort of making business enterprises accountable for human rights abuses. The draft LBI establishes the “effective access to justice and remedy to victims of human rights violations in the context of business activities” as one of its main purposes. However, the OP addresses enforcement mostly through national implementation mechanisms and an international committee of experts, both of which have weak oversight and monitoring powers.
Publicado originalmente en inglés en Opinio Juris. [i][ii]
El proyecto “zero” de uno de los tratados internacionales de derechos humanos más importantes de los últimos años, un instrumento sobre las empresas y los derechos humanos, acaba de ser presentado en Ginebra por el Embajador de Ecuador en calidad de Presidente del proceso. El «borrador cero» se enfoca fuertemente en la cuestión clave del acceso a la justicia y la reparación para aquellos que alegan daño por parte de una empresa comercial y es probable que complazca a muchos y disguste a otros, pero seguramente contribuirá a un cambio de tono y carácter de las deliberaciones que hasta ahora se han centrado principalmente en consideraciones políticas y de procedimiento. En este artículo llevamos a cabo un análisis preliminar de los elementos principales del borrador del tratado.