Friday, March 22, 2013

Human Rights Defenders Under Siege

Under Siege.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, long a watchdog for the region, is under attack.

The Commission has criticized Colombia numerous times for faults in human rights issues. But it is the region's leftist governments which want the CIDH defanged, if not shut down.

The CIDH was created in 1959 by the Organization of American States with the mission to "promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere." It regularly issues reports on issues such as prison conditions, the situations of women and minorities and modern-day slavery. it receives and evaluates the cases of people who say they've been persecuted by their governments. Its criticis say that it's biased because it is based in Washington D.C. (the capital of El Imperio) and point out that the United States has never even signed The American Convention on Human Rights. But whatever the CIDH's possible faults, the region, with its history of authoritarianism, dictatorships, tortures and massacres, is certainly better off with it than without it.

The nations of the ALBA, led by Ecuador, proposed that the CIDH be barred from receiving financial contributions from outside the region, forcing it to rely completely on the Organization of American States for its budget. That, said CIDH director José de Jesús Orozco, would "strangle" the organization. It would definitely mean the closing of the CIDH's office on press freedom, said another CIDH official.

That might please some of the region's leftist governments, including Ecuador and Venezuela, which have used legalistic means to intimidate critical independent media. Venezuela recently denied a crucial digital broadcasting license to, Globovision, the only remaining television station critical of the government. Soon after, the station was sold to a businessman friendly to the government.

Backing the CIDH are the United States, Mexico, Chile and Colombia. After a meeting today, several governments announced new contributions to the CIDH, apparently saving it for the time being.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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