US spying allegations to be reviewed by Americas commission

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on Monday it will review allegations of US spying in detail during its next period of hearings, which starts next week.

The sessions by the Washington-based body come amid fresh controversy caused by former US security contractor Edward Snowden.

France and Mexico angrily demanded swift explanations Monday about Snowden's latest leaks, alleging that the United States had spied on millions of phone communications.

Allegations of US spying on foreign individuals and governments in the past year "have been of enormous concern" for the commission, said IACHR executive secretary Emilio Alvarez.

The allegations have even breached once-strong ties between the United States and Brazil, with President Dilma Rousseff even postponing a long-planned visit to Washington over the matter.

IACHR, an independent body of the Organization of American States, will hold its 149th session from Oct 28 to Nov 1, hearing 52 of the 217 cases requested.

Including its March session earlier this year, the commission will have held 114 hearings in 2013, the highest number in the last six years.

"We see it as a sign that the system is strengthened and the participants are reaffirming their confidence in the system, as far as the hearing mechanism is concerned," Mr Alvarez told reporters.

The commission will also weigh in on the prisoner situation at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay after hunger strikes there, US immigration reform and judicial independence in Latin America.

Other sessions will focus on use of drones, refugee cases in the Americas and freedom of expression in Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil.

Colombia will have the most hearings with five cases, mainly over allegations of repression against indigenous people and other groups during social protests. Venezuela, Mexico and the United States each have four cases.