Throughout its 25-year history, CEJIL has worked to establish fundamental rights in the Inter-American System for issues like asylum, migration, forced internal migration, statelessness and the protection of the rights of people living at the interstices of all situations that involve human mobility.
It is worth noting that, in the early 90’s, the work of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding asylum, migration, forced internal migration, access to nationality and the eradication of statelessness was very limited and focused mainly on the United States and Canada.
Back then, part of the human rights community entrusted the work on these issues to specialized agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a result, due to the lack of cases and resources, the Inter-American Court did not play a major role on this issue.
However, since its first years, CEJIL has worked along with grassroots organizations —some of them located along the US-Mexico and Mexico-Guatemala border— and dealt with cases having to do with people who´s rights were violated because of their migratory status, forced displacement or asylum seeking status.
In the mid 90’s, we started working on the issue of displacement. Some of the cases had to do with the context of aggression faced by human rights defenders and civilians in situations of conflict. That is how, for the first time, the right to not being displaced was mentioned.
At that time, Arthur Helton -one of the leading figures of refugees rights in the United States- gave us the chance to work in the Bahamas documenting the claims of asylum seekers of the Carmichael Road Detention Center. Because of this work, we developed the rights and guarantees of asylum seekers. Since then, CEJIL has underscored the need for establishing systems of shared responsibility among countries in the Americas with regards to refugees.
At the end of the 90’s, as a result of the consolidation and expansion of paramilitaries in Colombia and the forced displacement of people along the borders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, we strengthened ties with some of the organizations working directly within these regions, including the Borders Program of the Project Counseling Service (PCS), the Jesuit Refugee Service -both in Ecuador and Venezuela-, as well as some vicars and asylum seekers.
In turn, we worked in guaranteeing basic rights for refugees, migrants, and stateless people, as well as access to education in countries like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
Due to the violent attacks of paramilitary forces in the bordering region of Catatumbo and the lack of protection to civilians by the Colombian State, in June 1999, an exodus of more than 3000 Colombians on the way to Venezuela ⎯coming from La Gabarra, Norte de Santander⎯ began. At least 20000 people were forced to leave the region and were categorized as forcibly displaced. CEJIL along with the SJT and the Vicar of Machiques demanded preventive measures that were able to protect about 500 people. Those were the first measures of its kind.
In December 2002, we represented Wayne Smith from Trinidad and Tobago deported from the United States and separated from his family. Through this case, we determined that a migratory policy must guarantee the right to life, physical, mental and family integrity of the people subject to deportation.
In April 2003, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights granted preventive measures for asylum seekers in the Darien region of Panama to avoid repatriation of afro-descendants of Colombian origin fleeing violence and the separation of their families. The IACHR requested the right of non refoulement and the prohibition of expulsion to be guaranteed without respective process guarantees being respected. Thus, rights such as that of children must be protected during parental expulsion procedures.
In August 2003, human rights defense lawyer Joe Castillo was shot by two assailants while driving his car with his family, which was severely injured. CEJIL saw the need to establish a line of work related to the protection and response to human rights defenders that work with refugees. We began to support organizations like Minga and CODHES and to strengthen protection mechanisms through seminars, together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in which we taught the use of tools from the Inter-American System for Human Rights protection.
In August 2005, CEJIL, the International Clinic of Human Rights of the Berkeley University and the organization of Dominican-Haitian women of Dominican Republic Women’s Movement (MUDHA) of the Dominican Republic, succeeded in getting the IHRC to develop broader standards in the field of prevention and eradication of statelessness with the case of the girls Yean and Bosico against that country.
In November 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights delivered a judgement from the first contentious case on the rights of migrants in the continent. The judgemet found Panama responsible for the violation of rights to personal liberty, judicial guarantees, rule of law and personal integrity of Jesús Tranquilino Vélez Loor.
In August 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights reviewed the arbitrary deprivation of nationality in the Dominican Republic and also went forward in the prohibition of collective expulsions, family separations and prohibition of the expulsion of its citizens in the case of Dominicans and Dominicans of Haitian descent expelled from that country.
The Network of the Americas on Nationality and Statelessness (ANA Network) is a network of civil society organizations, academic initiatives and independent experts committed to the issue of statelessness in the Americas.
The network raises awareness about the current situation of statelessness in the region, identifies the affected people and advocates for the recognition and respect of their rights.
Sponsored by CEJIL in November 2014, the ANA Network grown to over 70 members since its inception throughout Latin America.
The Inter-American System widened the standards of protection in matters of human mobility through various advisory opinions, issued by the Inter-American Court, about the right to have consular assistance and protect the rights of migrant children.
In 2013, CEJIL accompanied -in a public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)- a coalition formed by different parts related to the issue of human mobility, to ask the United States to fulfill its international obligations through a comprehensive immigration reform.
The following year, CEJIL ⎯along with lawyers, activists and other members of civil society⎯ proposed recommendations before the IACHR to the United States Government on the humanitarian crisis that unaccompanied migrant children face when they reach the southern border. That was the first hearing in the IACHR about migrant children.
In addition, at a regional level, CEJIL participated in the coalition talks regarding the Cartagena +30 process that led to the Brazilian Action Plan, creating alliances with other organizations and participating in decisions that boost progress of policies on different aspects of the human mobility on the continent, as well as the issue of statelessness.
During 25 years of history, CEJIL has stood firm against repressive policies that affect people in the countries across the region, who have been forced to migrate, forcibly move or seek asylum, and has worked to guarantee their rights.
In 2002, CEJIL made public a protest against an official of the Panamanian Ministry of Migration, due to discriminatory declarations against migrants, and in 2010 condemned a new law approved in Arizona that violated the fundamental rights of US citizens and migrants.
More recently, CEJIL commented against the immigration policies announced in the United States, as they were contrary to the obligations of the State under international law, and also denounced the Government of Argentina before the IACHR after a change of the Law on Migrations, in February of 2017.
CEJIL continue to help people who have been stripped of their rights due to the implementation of regressive policies, the lack of state will to guarantee them or the lack of effective implementation of regional measures agreed between the States of the Americas.
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional · Center for Justice and International Law · Centro pela Justiça e o Direito Internacional · Centre pour la Justice et le Droit International · Pemonton Kowantok Wacüpe Yuwanin Pataset