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Template:Infobox Organization

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:

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 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 IACHR also has a Unit on Defenders on Human Rights (website in Spanish: and a Press and Outreach Office (


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.


Clare K. Roberts, President 2005

Current Commissioners (2009)

Name State Position Elected Term
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).

Past Commissioners


José Zalaquett, President 2004

Year State Commissioners President (post-2001)
Chairman (pre-2001)
1960–1963 Template:Country data Venezuela Rómulo Gallegos
1960–1964 Template:Country data El Salvador Reynaldo Galindo Pohl
1960–1968 Template:Country data Ecuador Gonzalo Escudero
1960–1972 Template:Country data Chile Ángela Acuña de Chacón
1960–1972 Template:Country data USA Durwood V. Sandifer
1960–1972 Template:Country data Chile Manuel Bianchi Gundián
1960–1979 Template:Country data Mexico Gabino Fraga
1964–1968 Template:Country data Uruguay Daniel Hugo Martins
1964–1983 Template:Country data Brazil Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches
1968–1972 Template:Country data Peru Mario Alzamora Valdez
1968–1972 Template:Country data Uruguay Justino Jiménez de Arechega
1972–1976 Template:Country data Argentina Genaro R. Carrió
1972–1976 Template:Country data USA Robert F. Woodward
1972–1985 Template:Country data Venezuela Andrés Aguilar
1976–1979 Template:Country data Guatemala Carlos García Bauer
1976–1979 Template:Country data Costa Rica Fernando Volio Jiménez
1976–1983 Template:Country data USA Tom J. Farer
1976–1978 Template:Country data Colombia José Joaquín Gori
1978–1987 Template:Country data Colombia Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra
1980–1987 Template:Country data El Salvador Franciso Bertrand Galindo
1980–1985 Template:Country data Mexico César Sepúlveda
1980–1985 Template:Country data Costa Rica Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro
1984–1988 Template:Country data USA R. Bruce McColm
1984–1987 Template:Country data Bolivia Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas
1984–1991 Template:Country data Brazil Gilda Maciel Correa Russomano
1986–1989 Template:Country data Argentina Elsa Kelly
1986–1993 Template:Country data Venezuela Marco Tulio Bruni-Celli
1986–1993 Template:Country data Barbados Oliver H. Jackman
1988–1991 Template:Country data USA John Reese Stevenson
1988–1995 Template:Country data Honduras Leo Valladares Lanza
1988–1995 Template:Country data Jamaica Patrick Lipton Robinson
1990–1997 Template:Country data Argentina Óscar Luján Fappiano
1992–1995 Template:Country data USA Michael Reisman
1994–1997 Template:Country data Trinidad and Tobago John S. Donaldson 1997
1998–1999 Template:Country data Barbados Henry Forde
1992–1999 Template:Country data Colombia Álvaro Tirado Mejía 1995
1996–1999 Template:Country data Venezuela Carlos Ayala Corao 1998
1996–1999 Template:Country data Haiti Jean-Joseph Exumé
1994–2001 Template:Country data USA Claudio Grossman 1996
1998–2001 Template:Country data Brazil Hélio Bicudo 2000
1999–2001 Template:Country data Barbados Peter Laurie
2002–2002 Template:Country data Peru Diego García Sayán
1996–2003 Template:Country data USA Robert K. Goldman 1999
2000–2003 Template:Country data Guatemala Marta Altolaguirre Larraondo 2003
2000–2003 Template:Country data Argentina Juan E. Méndez 2002
2000–2003 Template:Country data Ecuador Julio Prado Vallejo
2002–2005 Template:Country data Peru Susana Villarán
2001–2005 Template:Country data Chile José Zalaquett 2004
2004–2007 Template:Country data Paraguay Evelio Fernández Arévalos 2006
2004–2007 Template:Country data Venezuela Freddy Gutiérrez
2002–2009 Template:Country data Antigua and Barbuda Sir Clare Kamau Roberts
2004–2009 Template:Country data El Salvador Florentín Meléndez
2006–2009 Template:Country data Argentina Víctor Abramovich
2006–2009 Template:Country data USA Paolo Carozza 2008

Human rights violations investigated by the Inter-American Commission

External links

Template:International human rights organizations

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

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