Update: On the eve of the review the Nobel Laureates sent an open letter to all leaders of OAS countries urging them to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights system. View the letter and media release here.
On International Women’s Day 2013, women human rights defenders in Latin America are expressing concern about the potential weakened capacity of the Inter-American Human Rights System.
The Inter-American System is comprised of two bodies: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It has proved indispensable in situations when women are denied justice or face undue delays within their national judicial system.
Later this month, a general assembly of the Organization of American States will review recommendations to reform the Inter-American Human Rights System. Activists are concerned that this reform could restrict the System’s power to defend women’s rights and protect women human rights defenders. For example, some countries aim to impose restrictions on the precautionary measures which can be requested by the Inter-American Court.
More than 200 women human rights defenders from Mesoamerica are calling for effective protection from the States at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Activists also held a press conference in Mexico City.
The Nobel Women’s Initiative released a statement in support of the Inter-American Human Rights System, recognizing its important contribution to protecting women’s rights and women human rights defenders.
Find the full text of the statement in English below.
Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Demand Effective Protection and Respect: A call to States during the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos, March 2013.
Inter-American Human Rights System Reform Faces Deadline, Inter Press Service, 1 March 2013.
From Survivors to Defenders: Women Confronting Violence in Mexico, Honduras & Guatemala, Nobel Women’s Initiative and JASS.
As women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, this March 8, 2013, International Women’s Day, we wish to recognize the important contribution of the Inter-American Human Rights System in protecting women’s rights and women human rights defenders.
For more than a decade, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has implemented the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, as well as other inter-American and international treaties, to expose the severity of human rights violations suffered by millions of women and girls on the American continent. The IACHR was a pioneer in recognizing and incorporating the needs and suggestions expressed by the feminist and women’s movement, and in capturing them in protective mechanisms, as well as exposing discrimination against women in legal frameworks and in State practices.
The IACHR and Inter-American Court have also responded to situations of sexual violence, torture, femicide, threats to women human rights defenders, and other forms of violence against women, perpetrated by State agents as well as third parties, in armed-conflict situations and in peace. It has become clear that inequality is at the root of violence against women, and that violence is one of the primary obstacles to advancing democracy on the continent.
Similarly, the Inter-American System has made visible the violence faced by women human rights defenders.
In spite of this, women in the Americas encounter multiple obstacles to fully exercising their human rights. The IACHR recently expressed its concern over persistent discrimination against women and the prevalence of systemic violence against women and girls, high rates of impunity, and formal and practical obstacles to accessing justice. It is for these reasons that we need the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court to be strong, independent, autonomous, and efficient in order to continue responding in a timely manner to human rights violations.
Today, we express our gratitude and our most energetic support for the Inter-American Human Rights System. For many women on the American continent, it continues to be the last hope for achieving their rights. This International Women’s Day, we call on the governments of the Americas to express their unequivocal support for the Inter-American System for its role in defending the human rights of all.
Chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative
Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict