03.21.13

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On A Threat to Free Speech in the Americas

Mr. President, there is much at the Organization of American States that needs to be reformed, but the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is not among them.  Yet that is what the Government of Ecuador, and some other Latin American governments, purport to be calling for when the OAS general assembly meets this coming Friday. 

In reality, it is not about reform at all, but a concerted effort to severely weaken the IACHR, the one institution in the Americas that has been a consistent, strong defender of free expression and other fundamental human rights that have been too often denied by those same governments.

I have spoken previously about the courageous work of Colombian lawyer Dr. Catalina Botero, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.  I have also spoken about the efforts by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa to intimidate and control what remains of an independent press in his country.  So I will not repeat myself here. 

But the United States is the largest contributor to the OAS and we have provided additional funds in recent years to support the critically important work of the IACHR.  I want to be sure Senators are aware of what is happening, as it could have serious consequences for our future support for the OAS.  I ask unanimous consent that an article in today’s Washington Post by Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, former President of Colombia and Secretary General of the OAS, be printed in the Record.  

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