August 8, 2012
Following in the footsteps of Deisy Ventura, a professor at the International Relations Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP), who challenged the Brazilian government over the attacks on the Inter-American Human Rights System of the Organization of American States (OAS) in a video published on the internet this week, similar criticisms have now been leveled by Flávia Piovesan, a professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law at the Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP) and also a member of the OAS Working Group whose mandate is to monitor the Protocol of San Salvador.
The two academics – together with Juana Kweitel, program director at Conectas – penned an op-ed in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper on August 7, warning of the risks of weakening the Inter-American Human Rights System.
In this video, Piovesan says she is “concerned about the movement that is seeking to undermine and weaken” the system. She claims that Brazil is one of the “protagonists in this process” threatening an essential body that defends the rights of citizens of the American continent against aggression by their states.
“What exactly is Brazil hoping to achieve with this project to reform the system? Is Brazil perhaps calculating the real commitment of the system?” asked Piovesan. In her opinion, the Brazilian position has created the conditions for other countries – “that do not have clean records of respect for human rights” – to seize this window of opportunity to “restrict the potential and the capacity of the system”.
Piovesan also said that “if Brazil defends the Inter-American System, it should do so by supporting an independent and autonomous system, and respecting its decisions”.
Shift in attitude
“After Belo Monte, the government adopted an extremely aggressive attitude, attacking the system. Obviously, Brazil can be critical. However, since it has agreed to play by international rules, it must observe them in good faith,” said the professor.
“We cannot let [Brazil’s] dissatisfaction with a case turn into a malicious and perverse attempt to destroy or erode an entire system that is extremely valuable – the most important international human rights protection system for Brazil and for our region,” she said.
Piovesan also recalled that the region has an “enormous debt of gratitude to the Inter-American System, which has saved countless lives in the fulfillment of its extraordinary function of democratizing our region and consolidating the rule of law and the regime of human rights”.
The OAS was founded in 1948 to serve as a multilateral forum for the integration of its 35 member states, and it has recently come under fire from some countries. One of the main problems caused by this process is the risk of weakening the Inter-American Human Rights System, which consists of the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court. These are the organizations responsible for promoting and protecting human rights on a regional level, by issuing decisions involving citizens from the American continent whose rights have been violated by states.
In January, the OAS Permanent Council approved the final report of the Special Working Group to Reflect on the Workings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a view to Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System. At the time, Conectas and a number of other civil society organizations publicly expressed their concern since many of the recommendations could end up weakening the system.
At the OAS General Assembly in Cochabamba, Bolivia, member states decided to reopen the discussion and the OAS Permanent Council is now debating the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group that extensively reviewed the issue. An Extraordinary Assembly is expected to be convened to address this topic either later this year or early in 2013.
Drawing on Brazil’s new Freedom of Information Law, Conectas requested access to the official telegrams of the Ministry of Foreign Relations that contained the orientation given by Brasília for its diplomatic mission in the OAS. Conectas wanted to learn what the real position of the Brazilian government was in this process of “weakening” the system. The information was denied and the organization is now calling for a response via the Office of the Inspectorate-General (CGU).
“The Inter-American System is under attack,” says Deisy Ventura, of the University of São Paulo’s International Relations Institute
Conectas calls for a clear position from Brazil in the debate on regional human rights protection mechanisms
Conectas appeals to Inspectorate-General to obtain documents from the Ministry of Foreign Relations
Drawing on Brazil’s new Freedom of Information Law, Conectas wants to understand Brazil’s position on the process of strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System of the OAS
Conectas and Latin American organizations express renewed concerns over the direction of the Inter-American Human Rights System
In a letter sent to the Secretary General of the OAS, 27 organizations highlight the importance of the independence and autonomy of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights