6 February 2012

Campaigns and Advocacy

Civil society organisations calls for careful evaluation of OAS Working Group recommendations


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(IFEX-ALC/IFEX) - In an open letter, the IFEX-ALC and the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information called for a careful evaluation of recommendations put forth by an OAS Working Group, and only adopt those that would strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

6 February 2012

Office of the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States
Mr. José Miguel Insulza

Dear Mr. José Miguel Insulza,

The Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information and the Regional Alliance of organisations of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange in Latin America and the Caribbean IFEX-ALC previously made public their concern regarding a series of decisions that were made at the heart of the Organisation of American States (OAS) by the "Special Working Group to Reflect on the Workings of the IACHR with a view to Strengthening the IAHRS" which could weaken the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

In a 25 January 2012 meeting, the OAS Permanent Council approved the decisions adopted by the Working Group, which were the subject of public concern, to be sent, in the form of recommendations, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the primary OAS body responsible for defining the rules that govern the work of the Special Rapporteur).

At the same meeting, however, an overwhelming majority of States indicated that the document submitted to the Inter-American Commission simply contained non-compulsory recommendations that should be evaluated by the Commission, relying on its autonomous status, and should be adopted only if they would lead to a genuine strengthening of the system in place to protect human rights and the work of the Special Rapporteur.

Likewise, the input provided by the majority of the member States took into consideration the work of the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) and clearly stated that under no circumstances would they be in agreement with reforms that would weaken this historic work. In particular, they made it clear that respect for freedom of expression should be a continent-wide priority and, as such, the work of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression should be supported and strengthened. In this sense, the contributions of the Honourable Representatives from States such as Costa Rica, Uruguay and Panama were particularly notable for their clarity and firmness in vehemently rejecting any functional, financial or other types of reforms that could weaken the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

It is now the responsibility of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) to evaluate the proposals, taking into account the previously mentioned input from member States. As indicated by the representatives from Canada, Chile and Argentina, among others, the recommendations are only admissible if they strengthen the system for protection of human rights and the work of the Special Rapporteur, not if they weaken it. In this sense, the positions of some States that have been questioned for their decisions regarding freedom of expression and which necessitated a consensus with respect to weakening the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression were clearly in the minority.

We express our support for the IACHR and encourage the esteemed Commissioners to carefully evaluate the recommendations brought forward by the Working Group, only adopting those that do not negatively affect the System itself, or potential victims or users of the IAHRS.

We, the civil society organisations working in the region, have been key players in the protection of the rights of all people, and in the construction and consolidation of our democracies. In this democratic spirit, we are willing to provide input on the debate on these recommendations, based on our experience and expertise.

As such, we invite the IACHR to conduct an open and fluid dialogue that will permit the various perspectives that should be evaluated to be taken into consideration before any decision is made that could affect the rights of the inhabitants of the Americas.

We believe that we stand before a tremendous opportunity. On Wednesday, 25 January 2012, the IAHRS received significant political support from the most democratic States in the region. As members of civil society, we also express our support for the advancement of effective mechanisms for protection of the human rights of the citizens of the Americas.

Karina Banfi
Executive Secretary
Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information

Anne Game
Executive Director
IFEX

Cc: Executive Secretary of the IACHR
Mr. Santiago Cantón

Cc: IACHR Chair
Dinah Shelton

Cc: IACHR First Vice-Chair
José Jesús de Orozco Henríquez

Cc: IACHR Second Vice-Chair
Rodrigo Escobar Gil

Cc: IACHR Commissioner
Felipe González

Cc: IACHR Commissioner
Rose-Marie Belle Antoine

Cc: IACHR Commissioner
Rosa María Ortiz

Cc: IACHR Commissioner
Tracy Robinson

Cc: Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Catalina Botero

The Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information is a network of 24 organisations based in 18 countries in the Americas


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