The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the IACHR or, in the three other official languages – Spanish, French, and Portuguese – CIDH, Comisión Interamerican de los Derechos Humanos, Commission Interaméricain des Droits de l'Homme, Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Along with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it is one of the bodies that comprise the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The IACHR is a permanent body, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., United States, and it meets in regular and special sessions several times a year to examine allegations of human rights violations in the hemisphere.
Its human rights duties stem from three documents:
- the OAS Charter
- the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
- the American Convention on Human Rights
- 1 History of the inter-American human rights system
- 2 Functions of the Inter-American Commission
- 3 Rapporteurships and Units
- 4 Petitions
- 5 Composition of the Inter-American Commission
- 6 Human rights violations investigated by the Inter-American Commission
- 7 External links
History of the inter-American human rights system
The inter-American system for the protection of human rights emerged with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in April 1948 – the first international human rights instrument of a general nature, predating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by more than six months.
The IACHR was created in 1959. It held its first meeting in 1960, and it conducted its first on-site visit to inspect the human rights situation in an OAS member state (the Dominican Republic) in 1961.
A major step in the development of the system was taken in 1965, when the Commission was expressly authorized to examine specific cases of human rights violations. Since that date the IACHR has received thousands of petitions and has processed in excess of 12,000 individual cases.
In 1969, the guiding principles behind the American Declaration were taken, reshaped, and restated in the American Convention on Human Rights. The Convention defines the human rights that the states parties are required to respect and guarantee, and it also ordered the establishment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It is currently binding on 24 of the OAS's 35 member states.
Functions of the Inter-American Commission
The main task of the IACHR is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas.
In pursuit of this mandate it:
- Receives, analyzes, and investigates individual petitions alleging violations of specific human rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights.
- Works to resolve petitions in a collaborative way that is amiable to both parties.
- Monitors the general human rights situation in the OAS's member states and, when necessary, prepares and publishes country-specific human rights reports.
- Conducts on-site visits to examine members' general human rights situation or to investigate specific cases.
- Encourages public awareness about human rights and related issues throughout the hemisphere.
- Holds conferences, seminars, and meetings with governments, NGOs, academic institutions, etc. to inform and raise awareness about issues relating to the inter-American human rights system.
- Issues member states with recommendations that, if adopted, would further the cause of human rights protection.
- Requests that states adopt precautionary measures to prevent serious and irreparable harm to human rights in urgent cases.
- Refers cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and litigates those same cases before the Court.
- Asks the Inter-American Court to provide advisory opinions on matters relating to the interpretation of the Convention or other related instruments.
Rapporteurships and Units
The IACHR has created several Rapporteurships and one Special Rapporteurship to monitor OAS states' compliance with inter-American human rights treaties in the following areas:
- Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers and their Families
- Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women It was the first Rapporteurship created by the IACHR (in 1994)
- Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child
- Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (no Website in English, Spanish: http://www.cidh.org/Indigenas/Default.htm)
- Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty (no Website in English, Spanish: http://www.cidh.org/PRIVADAS/default.htm)
- Rapporteuship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination (no Website)
- Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression It is the only Special Rapporteurship of the IACHR, meaning that it has a Rapporteur dedicated full-time to the job. The other Rapporteurships are in the hands of the Commissioners, who have other functions at the IACHR and also their own jobs in their home-countries, since their work as Commissioners is unpaid.
The Commission processes petitions lodged with it pursuant to its Rules of Procedure.
Petitions may be filed by states, NGOs or individuals. Unlike most court filings, petitions are confidential documents and are not made public. Petitions must meet three requirements; domestic remedies must have already been tried and failed (exhaustion), petitions must be filed with in six months of the last action taken in a domestic system (timeliness), petitions can not be before another court (duplication of procedure).
Once a petition has been filed, it follows the following procedure:
- Petition is forwarded to the Secretariat and reviewed for completeness; if complete, it is registered and is given a case number. This is where the state is notified of the petition.
- Petition reviewed for admissibility.
- The Commission tries to find a friendly settlement.
- If no settlement is found, then briefs are filed by each side on the merits of the case.
- The Commission then files a report on the merits, known as an Article 50 report from relevant article of the Convention. This is a basically a ruling by the Commission with recommendations on how to solve the conflict. The Article 50 report is sent to the state. This is a confidential report; the petitioner does not get a full copy of this report.
- The state is given two months to comply with the recommendations of the report.
- The petitioner then has one month to file a petition asking for the issue to be sent to the Inter-American Court (only applicable if the State in question has recognized the competence of the Inter-American Court).
- The Commission has three months, from the date the Article 50 report is given to the state, to make either publish the Article 50 report or to send the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Alternatively, the Commission can also choose to monitor the situation. The American Convention establishes that if the report is not submitted to the Court within three months it may not be submitted in the future, but if the State asks for more time in order to comply with the recommendations of the Article 50 report, the Commission might grant it on the condition that the State signs a waiver on this requirement.
Composition of the Inter-American Commission
The IACHR's ranking officers are its seven commissioners. The commissioners are elected by the OAS General Assembly, for four-year terms, with the possibility of reelection on one occasion, for a maximum period in office of eight years. They serve in a personal capacity and are not considered to represent their countries of origin but rather "all the member countries of the Organization" (Art. 35 of the Convention). The Convention (Art. 34) says that they must "be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights". No two nationals of the same member state may be commissioners simultaneously (Art. 37), and commissioners are required to refrain from participating in the discussion of cases involving their home countries.
Current Commissioners (2009)
|Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero||Template:Country data Venezuela||Commissioner||2007||2008–2011|
|Felipe González Morales||Template:Country data Chile||Chair||2007||2008–2011|
|Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro||Template:Country data Brazil||First Vice Chair||2003
|María Silvia Guillén||Template:Country data El Salvador||Commissioner||2010||2010–2011|
|Rodrigo Escobar Gil||Template:Country data Colombia||Commissioner||2010||2010–2013|
|Dinah Shelton||Template:Country data USA||Second Vice Chair||2010||2010–2013|
|Jesús Orozco Henríquez||Template:Country data Mexico||Commissioner||2010||2010–2013|
|Source: IACHR elects officers (16 March 2009). See also: IACHR distributes rapporteurships (4 March 2008).|
Human rights violations investigated by the Inter-American Commission
- Massacre of Trujillo (Colombia)
- Barrios Altos massacre (Peru)
- Lori Berenson (Peru)
- La Cantuta massacre (Peru)
- El Caracazo (Venezuela)
- Deaths in Ciudad Juárez (Mexico)
- Antoine Izméry (Haiti)
- Plan de Sánchez massacre (Guatemala)
- Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) 
de:Interamerikanische Kommission für Menschenrechte es:Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos fr:Commission interaméricaine des droits de l'homme gl:Comisión Interamericana de Dereitos Humanos pt:Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos yo:Inter-American Commission on Human Rights