Protecting Human Rights Workers. (OAS)

Article excerpt

THE STRENGTHENING of democracy in the Americas should bring respect for the work of human rights defenders, yet those who protect people's most basic rights continue to be vulnerable to intimidation, physical attacks, and even murder, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported at the close of its recent session.

"The available information indicates that a vast majority of these attacks are carried out with impunity," Chairman Juan Mendez said. During its three-week session in October, the Washington, D.C.-based Commission met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations concerned about human rights defenders.

Terrorism was also on the agenda, according to Mendez, who said the Inter-American Commission was preparing a report on terrorism and human rights. He underscored the Commission's condemnation of terrorist acts as well as its conviction that the fight against terrorism must be waged within the rule of law.

"The purpose of any effective measure against terrorism must ensure the preservation of fundamental rights and the democratic institutions that terrorist actions seek to weaken and eventually destroy," he said.

"The world has changed much since September 11 of last year," Mendez said. "Unfortunately," he added, "the exclusion of the vast majority of the population in the hemisphere from the effective enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights remains among the factors that have not been altered."

Mendez noted the socioeconomic crisis affecting many countries of the region and told reporters that measures undertaken to confront the crisis had left many people vulnerable, "with sometimes disastrous results. …