Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A New Inter-American Commission on Human Rights...in Buenos Aires?

The Guayaquil, Ecuador meeting on proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) yesterday saw mixed success for Ecuador and other countries seeking to limit the IACHR’s independence. After the meeting, the representatives of the 23 countries that have ratified the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights released a joint agreement that lays out eight proposed changes to the commission. El Universo has a copy of the statement.

Diario Hoy notes that the agreement does not address Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s main criticism of the commission, its authority to recommend that states take “precautionary measures” to protect those whose rights it deems are at risk of being violated.

The agreement also fails to address another aspect of the commission which human rights advocates see as its main strong point: the fact that, unlike the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it can directly receive petitions from individuals and organizations throughout the region, without going through their respective governments.

Still, the end agreement includes measures which, if approved by the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, could have a major impact on the human rights watchdog.  

According to El Comercio, the eight-point document features a proposal to relocate the commission from its current office in Washington DC to a country which, unlike the United States, has ratified the American Convention. Correa had previously nominated Buenos Aires as the new seat of the commission, but the new location was not specified in the agreement.

The agreement also includes language which would prevent countries which have not ratified the Convention from financing the IACHR. As the U.S. is the largest source of funding for the commission, this could potentially cut back on the commission’s funding, although the AFP reports that Correa has offered to pick up the bill.

The proposals will be presented alongside the recommendations of the OAS Permanent Council, made up of ambassadors from all OAS member states, and voted on in an upcoming March 22 OAS General Assembly meeting.

News Briefs
  • The results of the Falkland Islands referendum on the archipelago’s political status are in. The BBC reports that of the 1,672 British citizens eligible to vote in the two-day referendum, 90 percent (1,517) took part. Of these, 1,513 votes were cast in favor of the islands remaining a UK territory, and only three votes were against. After the vote was tallied, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on the Argentine government to “take careful note” of the vote and respect the will of the residents. According to La Nacion, Argentina recognizes the British nationality of Falklands residents, but maintains that the territory itself is Argentine nonetheless.
  • In the latest round of dialogue between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the FARC have presented a list of eight proposals for land reform and land restitution, which they maintain should be part of an eventual peace treaty. The proposals, which have been posted on the FARC’s peace process blog, are geared towards ensuring the inclusion of women and minorities in land reform, as well as allowing restituted and redistributed land to be owned collectively.
  • Colombia’s El Espectador reports that the country’s second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), is getting closer to entering into peace talks with the government after the group’s release of two German hostages on Friday. The ELN is also said to be organizing the release of a Canadian hostage who has been held captive since January. According to the paper, the Canadian’s release and a formal renunciation of the practice of kidnapping civilians are the likely next steps before the government will consider peace negotiations with the group.
  • Venezuelan Interim President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles registered their candidacy with the country’s national election commission yesterday along with six other presidential hopefuls, El Universal reports. Caracas Chronicles profiles a few of the fringe candidates, including Reina Sequera of the Poder Laboral party, who made a splash during the most recent elections by promising $1 million to every single Venezuelan. Iñaki Sagarzazu of WOLA’s Venezuela Politics and Human Rights blog describes the likely electoral strategies of Chavismo and the opposition, predicting that the former will work to maximize voter turnout on April 14 while the latter will focus on distancing Maduro from Chavez’s legacy as much as possible.
  • Globovision, the openly anti-Chavez Venezuelan television channel, will be sold after a costly legal battle with the government. The channel is expected to maintain its editorial slant until after the upcoming election, El Nacional reports.
  • The New York Times has an interesting report on divisions in the Venezuelan military. Although the leadership of the Bolivarian Armed Forces has sworn fealty to Chavez’s political project, Maduro likely has limited support from some factions in the military.
  • Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma, published a long interview with U.S. Consul General Timothy Roche yesterday, an unusual move for the state-run daily. In the full-page article, Roche answers questions on the requirements for obtaining a U.S. visa, and about U.S. migration policy in general. As the AP notes, it is the first time in years that local media have published an extensive interview with a U.S. diplomat.
  • The Washington Post takes a look at the ongoing international speaking tour of Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez. Sanchez is currently in Prague, and is slated to visit New York’s Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on Thursday, followed by a visit to Washington next week.
  • According to the Associated Press, U.S. federal budget cuts are taking a toll on drug enforcement efforts in Latin America.
  • On Monday Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled a plan to reform the telecommunications sector, which critics say is dominated by a handful of major companies, Milenio and Animal Politico report. The reforms would open the sector up to more foreign capital, and give the government the ability to require monopolies who resist competition to sell their assets. The AP notes that the move is a direct challenge to the wealthiest man in the world, the multibillionaire Carlos Slim. The Financial Times describes the plan as a product of agreements among the three main parties, and points out that Peña Nieto is the first Mexican president since Carlos Salinas de Gortari to demonstrate such executive power.
  • The AP reports that Zocalo, a Mexican newspaper in the northern state of Coahuila, has announced that it will no longer cover drug or crime-related news, out of concern for its workers’ safety. The paper’s staff has reportedly received numerous threats of late.
  • A new campaign is underway in the Dominican Republic to establish a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses committed under the 1930-1961 dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Luisa de Pena, the director of the National Museum of the Dominican Resistance, announced yesterday that her organization has obtained some 15,000 signatures in support of the creation of a truth commission, and hopes to obtain thousands more before the petition is presented to the government this December.

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