This blog is the second in our Dejusticia Blog Series: Politics, Challenges & Opportunities of the Inter-American Human Rights System. You can view part one here.
Here, in Mexico City, the only thing people are talking about is the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the report from its expert group on the death of the Ayotzinapa students. IACHR are the initials on the lips of people in the street and the parents that have been denouncing for a year what the Commission has just ratified: that their 43 children are still disappeared, and the government lied when it said that they were burned to death.
Thanks to the rigorous investigation of the experts, Peña Nieto’s administration was forced to abandon its version of the story and let the IACHR continue its task of clarifying the facts.
Having not even completed the Ayotzinapa case, the IACHR was called to respond to anther serious human rights violation: the illegal expulsion of Colombian citizens in Venezuela. Those of us that shared a panel with members of the Commission regarding the release of a book that Dejusticia and other regional organizations wrote (Desafíos del sistema interamericano de derechos humanos), were witness to the hurried trip to the Colombian-Venezuelan border, together with the Assistant Executive Secretary of the Commission, and the Commissioner responsible for Venezuela and the rights of migrants.
Watching the two tasks of the IACHR in the same week and in two of the most sensitive legal and political situations in the region, it is inevitable to note the paradoxes of the moment. The first is that the current governments of Mexico and Colombia, whose tepidness has allowed others, such as the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan governments, to move forward with their campaign to weaken the IACHR, now see the Commission as the only credible and independent body to address cases such as these. This tepidness is reflected in numbers: the extra allocations the Santos government has provided the IACHR budget are less than a fourth of the 700.000 USD that Uribe’s government provided (who, as it is known, was seriously against the IACHR and international human rights).
The second paradox is that, even with a miserly budget, the IACHR does much more than domestic bodies (such as ombudsman’s) or other international bodies (such as the International Criminal Court) that have more resources. The de-financing of the IACHR is not an accident, but rather the most effective method of governments to block it or avoid its decisions. This is the strategy of antagonistic governments such as Ecuador (which has voluntarily contributed the laughable sum of 1,500 USD during Correa’s administration) and even of more friendly governments, such as the Mexican, Brazilian, or Colombian.
This is why we must support the IACHR’s timely visit to the border. It is a propitious occasion for the Colombian Foreign Ministry to change its policy regarding the IACHR and international human rights mechanisms. Rather than momentary political convenience, or deliberate ambiguity that have guided it, the Ministry’s policy should be marked by staunch support, translated into public and financial support.
Welcome, Inter-American Commission.
* César Rodríguez Garavito is a founding member of the Center for the Study of Law, Justice, and Society (Dejusticia)