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A missed opportunity for human rights - Amnesty

Summit of the Americas: A missed opportunity for human rights


* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

25 April 2001 AMR 01/004/2001 72/01

The 34 leaders who attended the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada, April 20-22, failed to take decisive steps towards stronger human rights protection in the region, Amnesty International said today.

"The challenge to address the region's outstanding human rights concerns remains a pressing need," the organization added.

Amnesty International welcomed the commitment to democracy at the centre of the Summit=s closing declaration.

"However, the proposal for an Inter-American Democratic Charter does not in itself address the formidable human rights barriers which exist throughout the Americas," the organization said. "It is clear that in the region 'democracy' and human rights abuses continue to co-exist."

"In the aftermath of the Summit, continental leaders must go further in their understanding of democracy and truly commit themselves to meaningful human rights reform, both nationally and regionally."

As a concrete initial step, Amnesty International today called on all states who attended the Quebec meeting to sign on to all of the region=s human rights treaties and protocols. In addition to the overarching American Convention on Human Rights, five other regional conventions and protocols exist, dealing with social and economic rights, the death penalty, torture, "disappearances" and violence against women.

At present states have only entered less than 50% of the ratifications needed for these instruments to be fully operational. Some, notably Canada and the United States, have failed to ratify any of the documents.

"The Summit=s Plan of Action urges states to consider ratification, but the time for consideration is long past," Amnesty International said. "Now is the time for commitments."

Amnesty International remains concerned as well that the need to reform and strengthen the human rights institutions of the Organization of American States, a crucial piece in ensuring strong rights protection in the Americas, continues to receive insufficient attention at the highest levels of political leadership. Leaders mandated the upcoming OAS General Assembly to consider an increase in resources and to otherwise move to improve the OAS human rights system.

"The people of the Americas have waited a long time for such improvements. They can wait no longer," Amnesty International said, urging states to act now to provide those institutions with financial resources and visible, unconditional political support. "The OAS General Assembly, which will meet in Costa Rica in June 2001, must ensure that the wait is over," the organization added.

Amnesty International welcomed the opening by the Canadian government of a groundbreaking, if limited, opportunity for an exchange of views between some sectors of civil society and the region=s governments. The organization is now urging Argentina, the next Summit host, to maintain and build on this important first step, in keeping with the Summit Declaration=s acknowledgment of the importance of the contribution of civil society.

"There is still ample room for improvement in the way civil society is consulted," Amnesty International said, noting that the process of consultation in Québec was restricted, that the selection process was unclear to many and that there was limited time for an exchange with ministers and no audience with leaders themselves.

Background

In the lead-up to the Summit Amnesty International released a new report, Americas: Putting human rights on the agenda, highlighting the wide range of serious human rights concerns which exist in the region. The report is available on the web at

http://www.web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/index/amr010012001.


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