Groups oppose OAS reforms to human rights system

Hunger strike by Guantánamo detainees enters its second month

Madrid -

Activism groups have expressed their concern over the past week in a series of sessions before the Organization of American States (OAS) over proposed reforms to the system to monitor human rights.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been holding a series of hearings over the past week on diverse cases in member states as it prepares to present a series of proposed reforms for the OAS general assembly meeting later this month.

As a hunger strike over conditions by a group of detainees at Guantánamo entered its fifth week, rights groups on Tuesday demanded that the OAS strongly reiterate its call for the detention center to be closed down.

“Our clients report that most of the men at the prison are now in the fifth week of a mass hunger strike to peacefully protest worsening prison conditions, religious provocation, and the crushing reality that after 11 years of indefinite detention, there is no end in sight to their suffering,” said Omar Farah, attorney for the Center of Constitutional Rights. “In light of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at Guantanamo, it is indefensible that the US government has failed to answer the Commission’s simple questions about how it plans to close the prison camp.”

Certain Latin American countries, such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Brazil, are calling on the OAS to make changes in the decision-making process regarding what constitutes human rights violations. Some nations, such as Venezuela, believe that the Inter-American System of Human Rights (SIDH) policy drafted in 1948 should be eliminated given that military dictatorships are a thing of the past.

But rights organization believe that if these reforms are made, many citizens will suffer throughout the region.

“For decades, defenders of human rights who use the SIDH, along with lawyers and families, have represented thousands of victims who could never find justice in their own countries,” said Viviana Krsticevic, executive director of Washington-based Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) who spoke on Thursday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The full OAS body is expected to vote on the proposed reforms on March 22.

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