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NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT ern Roce Ft Me ae LP (aie rect Brg 9 Febeuary 19,2018 Poe 3047 ee ecto Mall & Dele Teh sortaseosse0 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “=wonsrebssticon (Organization of American States 1889 F Stet, NW. ‘Washington, D.C. 20006 Aatesion ‘Hon, Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Commission President ‘Hon. Margarette May Macaulay, Commission First Vice-President ‘+ Hon, Esmeralda Arosemena de Tito, Commission Second Vice-President '+ Hon. Luis Emesto Vargas Silva, Commissioner Hon, Joel Hernéndez Garcia, Commissioner Hon. Antonia Ueejla, Commissioner + Hon. Flivia Piovesan, Commissioner + Me Paulo Abrao, Executive Secretary ‘Ms Elizabeth AbieMershed, Assistant Executive Secretary Million US. ‘and Assistant Executive Secretary, | write on behalf ofthe petitioners in the above-referenced case for the folowing five 1. follow up again on the government of Puerto Rico's invitation tothe Commission to conduct an onsite investigation in the island, to which invitaion—despite our best efforts, the Commission has regrettably not yet responded: 2. tw express our disappointment with what we believe was an inadequate press release conceming Puerto Rico issued by the Commission on Janusry 18, 2018; ‘ver-American Commission on Hunan Righs AorToN ROSE FULBRIGHT February 19,2018 Page? 3. inquire into the United Sates’ submission on the merits, which (unless extended) was due February 12,2018; 4, to request that the Commision hold a soon as posible this year hearing ‘on petitioners’ case; and 5. to take this opportunity to congratulate the three newly appointed Commissioners and to encourage them, and the whole Commission, to strongly call on the United States to fully extend the franchise atthe federal level a5 a matter of fundamental human rights to petitioners and all other US, citizens of Puerto Rico. The PR. zenment’s Invitation A response 10 the government of Puerto Rico's invtationfrst made over five months ago—is long overdue. ‘As the Commission is aware, on September 12, 2017, the Govemor of Puerto Rico ‘Ricardo Rossell6 Nevares), Puerto Rico's Resident ‘Commissioner (Jennifer Gonzilez ‘Colén), the President ofthe Puerto Rico Senate (Thomas Rivera Schatz} and the Speaker of ‘he Puerto Rico House of Representatives (Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nie) invited the ‘Commission t0 invoke Article 39 of its Rules of Procedure and conduct an onsite investigation in Puerto Rico concerning the issues raised inthe petitionen' case. ‘On October 10, 2017—only a few days after the most devastating huricane in Puerto Rico's history hit the island, with the vast majority of its residents lacking water and ‘letrcty, and demonstrating the high esteem upon which the government holds this ‘Commission and the importance it places on such an onsite investigation, the government ‘ofPuerto sent its Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor (Luis Rivera Marin) to formally "present, along with petitioners and undersigned counsel, the governmet’s invitation to the ‘Commission during a mecting held at its headquarters with its Assistant Executive Secretary ‘Gizabeth AbieMershed); its Case Section Coordinator (Silvia Serraro Guzen); and its Human Rights Specialist (Prick Acta). ‘A month later, on November 9, 2017, with the Commission having not responded 0 the governments invitation, undersigned counsel wrote to the Commission. The Commission did not respond. ‘A month aller that, on December 10, 2017, we followed up again asking the Commission to respond to the governments invitation. The Commision, again, didnot respond. ‘Then on December 20, 2017, we followed up fora third time afer we leaned tha, in a hearing held during the 166! Period of Sessions to address various esonomic, social, and ‘environmental challenges being faced by Puerto Ric, the Commission s Rapporteur forthe United States and First Vice-President, Commissioner Margarete May Macaulay, orally Inter-American Commission on Human Rights NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT February 19, 2018 Page 3 notified the United States ofthe Commission's intention to conduct an onsite investigation in Puerto Rico. ‘To this day, however, the Commission has slll not responded to the government of Puerto Rico's invitation no to any of ous letters, ‘To our knowledge it was petitioners in the Rosselé case, and the government of Puerto Rico itel, who fit invited the Comminsion to hold sich an onsite investigation Dest its serious economic and fiscal challenges, the government of Puerto Rico has even offered the Commission its “full aid and support . . . in conducting its on-site investigation.” Respectfully it seems to us not only proper but also helpful for the Commission to formally respond t the government of Puerto Rico's invitation, “This is now the fourth time we write asking the Commission fora response, ‘We ask the Commission again to please respond to the invistion and to do so now, ‘without any further delay. ‘The Press Release On January 18, 2018, the Commission issued a press release expressing concer about the human-rights situation in Puerto Rico. In its press release, the Commission righlly ‘mentioned the two recent and devastating hurricanes, the shortages in basic services, the ‘ongoing économic and fiscal crises, and the need for additional and expedited humanitarian assistance from the U.S, federal government. Commissioner Macaulay is quoted in the press release cemmendably stating: “The State is duty-bound to adopt comprehensive measures to ensure thit Puerto Ricans are treated the same as other US, citizens” For this, the petitioners in the abovereferenced case, undersigned counsel for pettorers, and (we can also confidenty expect) the government and the people of Puerto Ric, express our appreciation and most sincerely thank the Commission However, we feel compelled to point out how inadequate this press release was (and shall Teate aside how very disappointing it was for us—and, we imagine too, for the ‘govemment of Puerto Ricoto learn fist through public comments atthe hearing previously referenced and then theough this press release, thatthe Commision i indeed looking 10 conduct an onsite investigation in Puerto Rico, rather than hearing directly from the ‘Commission on this important mater). In ts press release, the Commission completely ignored the politcal inequality and indignity within the greater U.S. politieal framework that the citizers residing in Puerto Rico suffer. That framework is one in which he citizens of US, teritories-—Puerto Rico being the largest bath geographically and in population—have no right whatsoever to vote for their President or Viee President or for voting members in ether the Senate or the House of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT February 19, 2018 Page 4 Representatives in the US. Congress, despite the fact that federal law fully applies in these jurisdictions. ‘We hive made this point previously (and numerous times) 19 the Cemmission: te United States Congress’ unequal treatment of its fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the resulting economic and fiscal crises are only the symptoms of the disease. The disease is the second-class nature of « U.S. citizenship tha deprives these citizens of any right 10 vote at the federal level, which isthe subject ofthe petitioners" case. ‘That the Commission completely ignored in its press release this inequality and Aisrimination is very dseppointing and, frankly, frustrating. Its particulary disappointing tnd frustrating because petitioners have for the past 11 years been attempting to focus the CCommission’s attention on this problem. By now, the Commission should have known and done better, ‘The United Staes* Submission on the Merits The Commission transmitted petitioners’ merits submission to the United States on October 11, 2017, and asked the United States to present any additional obsrvations within four months. Those four months expired this past Februaey 12, 2018, If the United Staes met tis deadline, we respectfully ask thatthe Commission forward {o us its submission as soon as possible so we may review it and, if necessary epy tit 1K, however, the United States did not meet the deadline, we respectfully ask the Commission whether the United States requested an extension of time under Aticle 37 ofthe Commission's Rules of Procedure, which could entitle ito aa extension until April 1T®, In that ease, we ask too tthe Commission please forward to us the United States’ extension request and the Commission's decision regarding the same If the United Sues has not requested an extension of time, we then ask that the (Commission consider ‘he briefing on the merits closed, “presume[] to be tte” the facts as alleged by petitioners es required by Article 38 of the Commission's Rules o Procedure, and proceed to "convene the parties for a hearing” as provided for in Article 37.5 and Chapter VI Of the same Rules of Procedure More than 11 years have passed since petitioners fits filed their pation with this ‘Commission, In that period, three Presidential elections and six Congressional elections have taken place in which the US. citizens of Puerto Rico have had no demestic right to participate. The next election (another Congressional election) will be held an November 6, 2018; and the next Presidential election will be held on November 3, 2020. Unless this situation is remedied by the United States, the U.S. citizen of Puerto Rico wil again have no domestic right to participate in these elections. ‘This has been the staus quo since 1917 wien Puerto Ricans were fist extended US. citizenship-now more than 100 years ago. How ‘much longer do the American citizens of Puerto Rico need to wait 10 have their Fundamental human rights recognized by the United States or this Commision? beating Inter-American Commission on Human Rights NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT Februaey 19,2018 Page S this year and, soon thereafter, a prompt decision on the merits by this Commission are required Hearing Request We anderstnd tht he Comision i ing thre more sons hi ye (the 168 Period of Sessions, to be held in the Dominican Republic, from May 3":0 May 11"; (2) the 16 Period of Sesion om Seber 278 Oatoer 3 an (3) the 170 Period of ‘Sessions, from December I to December 7*. Petitioners respectfully request that the Comsson patho aesrng ae son a ose his yor. ‘A tearing would provide the Commission with an opportunty to hear diretly from petitioners and other witnesses, likely including representatives of tne government of Puerto Rico, who would describe fis-hand what the deprivation of voting rights atthe federal level ‘means tobe millions of US. citizens residing in Puerto Rico. It would also afford the United States an opportunity to provide its views. And it would allow the Commissioners and other CCommisson representatives to ask any questions they may still have concerning the facts in, or the legal standards applicable o, petitioners’ ease. In short, a heaing would be part ofthe ‘minimum due process required before passing on the merits of this important case. ‘A tearing may also focus the attention of the United State” goverament on Puerta Rico, foes that has been lacking fora Tong time and the most recem evidence of which the world has seen in the US. federal government's inadequate response to the recent natural disasters. Finally, a hearing may’ also generate well-deserved public atention in Puerto Rico, in the mainlnd United States, in the American Hemisphere, and we hope too worldwide on the serious matter of the full disenfranchisement atthe federal level of the US, citizens of Puerto ‘Rico—a situation that has always been unacceptable, but now wel. into the 21" Century is clearly untenable, especially in and by a country that is, and proclaims to be, the global ‘beacon of democracy and the world’s standard bearer of human rights. We respetflly ask that this request be deemed 8 continuing ane until the Commi is able tonccommodate petitioners’ request for such a hearing Conclusion ‘We would be remiss not, and do take this opportunity no, to congratulate and express ‘our good wishes to Commissioners Heméndez, Urtejola, and Piovesan on their recent appointments tothe Commission ‘On petitioners’ behalf, and on behalf of undersigned counsel, please know that we stand ready to tid the new Commissioners and the rest of the Commission any way we can to achieve the important tsk placed upon your collective shoulders bythe General Assembly of ‘the Orgatization of American States, mainly, the promotion and defense of human rights in the Amercas, ‘IverAmerican Commision on Hunan Rights RorTON ROSE FULBRIGHT February 19,2018 Page 6 A very important step in the promotion and defense of human rights in the American Hemisphere would be fr this Commission to recognize—and to do so as soon as possble— strongly, unequivocally, enc loudly—the fundamental human right of petitioners and of all those other millions of US. citizens in Puerta Rico to vote atthe federal level in their own country. Respectilly submited, (feuds EExd I Orlando E Vidal Counsel for Petitioners PEDRO ROSSELLO and THE. UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE, in their individual capacities and on "behalf of approximately THREE-AND-A-HALF MILLION US. CITIZENS RESIDING IN ‘THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO ‘Silvia Serano Guzmén, Case Section Coordinator Brick Acuna Pereds, Human Rights Specialist ++ Aivaro Botero, Monitoring Coordinator for Puerto Rico + Submitted also through the Commission's website as an oficial hearing request. and + Petitioner Gov. Pedro Rossll6 ‘Luis Berrios-Amadso, Esquire (on behalf of Petitioner Committee)