Les droits humains région par région

Indigenous people at judicial proceedings for Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala City, January 2012.

© REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

The widespread human rights violations of the past, and the failure to hold those responsible to account, have cast a long shadow over many countries in the region. However, key prosecutions in 2012 in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay marked further important advances in the quest for justice for violations committed during past military governments. Nevertheless, for some, the struggle for meaningful access to justice and an end to impunity continued. In Haiti, for example, proceedings against former President Jean-Claude Duvalier remained stalled in the courts. And in the USA, little progress was made in holding to account those responsible for abuses committed as part of the CIA’s programme of secret detentions during the Bush administration.

Social conflict over natural resources continued and, for many, attacks on their rights intensified. However, recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples received a boost as court rulings reaffirmed their right to free, prior and informed consent to development projects affecting them. In June, for example, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling in favour of the Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku and found Equador guilty of violating their rights. 

The Inter-American human rights system itself came under renewed criticism by a number of governments in the region in response to its decisions. Venezuela went so far as to officially give notice that it was withdrawing from the American Convention on Human Rights. 

There was some progress in ending the use of the death penalty in the region. In the USA – the only country in the region that continued to execute people – Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty. And while death sentences continued to be imposed in the countries of the English-speaking Caribbean, there were no executions during the year.

In Colombia, the first formal peace talks in over a decade raised expectations that the armed conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) could finally come to an end after almost 50 years.

Throughout the region, people continued to challenge entrenched patterns of discrimination and violence against women and to campaign for sexual and reproductive rights. However, for millions of women in the region the right to make free and informed decisions, without coercion or discrimination, about when to have children and how many, remained elusive. In countries such as Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, women and girls pregnant as a result of rape or for whom continued pregnancy posed a threat to health or life, continued to be denied access to safe, legal abortions. The impact of this denial of human rights was particularly acute for young girls and women from disadvantaged groups 

Journalists continued to play a vital role in exposing human rights violations, often at great personal cost. Some faced direct repression from the government, while in other countries they were targeted by armed gangs and criminal networks. Again and again, human rights defenders, often living in precarious and difficult situations, continued to face down attempts to silence them through vilification, misuse of the courts and violence. Through their actions they showed just how strong and deep-rooted the human rights movement has become, and the hope that it inspires in millions throughout the region.