Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Human Rights Hearings in Guatemala

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Human Rights Hearings in Guatemala

Article excerpt

WHEN THE INTER-AMERICAN Commission on Human Rights convened a special session in Guatemala City, people from around the country and the neighboring region--victims, advocates, and defenders--came to make their voices heard.

Around 175 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) sent representatives to meet with the Commission or to testify during two days of public hearings. Some spoke on behalf of particular segments of society, such as children, indigenous women, prisoners, or farm workers; others talked about such issues as the environment, domestic violence or the impact of trade policies on human rights.

Although the Commission has traveled to countries around the hemisphere to conduct on-site visits, undertake fact-finding missions, or attend special events, this was the first time it had held hearings outside OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

"The fact that we were able to hold this session in Guatemala opened the process to many people who otherwise would not have had access to the inter-American human rights system," said Santiago Canton, the Commission's executive secretary. "This is an experience that we would like to repeat in other regions of the Americas, provided we can find sufficient funding. …

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