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1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights began its 106th session today. The inaugural session was held at OAS headquarters and attended by representatives of OAS member states. Speaking at the opening ceremony were the Chairman of the OAS Permanent Council, Ambassador James Murphy of Belize; the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Christopher Thomas; and the outgoing Chairman of the IACHR, Prof. Robert K. Goldman.

2. At its first meeting, the following officers were elected: Dr. Hélio Bicudo, Chairman; Dean Claudio Grossman, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Juan E. Méndez, Second Vice Chairman The other members of the Commission are Dr. Marta Altolaguirre, Prof. Robert K. Goldman, Dr. Peter Laurie, and Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo.

3. Commission Chairman Hélio Bicudo is a Brazilian national and has been a member since 1998. He serves as rapporteur on various countries and was appointed rapporteur for the rights of the child, given his interest in and knowledge on this subject. Dr. Bicudo is known for his work in the promotion and protection of human rights, including efforts in the parliamentary arena. In 1995, he received Brazil's National Human Rights Award as a tribute to his outstanding commitment in this area.

4. Dr. Claudio Grossman, First Vice Chairman and a Chilean national, is Dean of the Washington College of Law at American University. He is known for his experience in the inter-American human rights system and is the author of numerous publications. Dean Grossman, former Chairman of the Commission, has been a member since 1994. He has acted as its delegate for numerous cases brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and in on-site visits. He also serves as rapporteur for women's rights and member of the working group on freedom of expression.

5. Dr. Juan E. Méndez, Second Vice Chairman and an Argentine national, was Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1996 to 1999. Dr. Méndez is a professor of law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, U.S.A. He has taught courses in human rights at other universitieis, such as Oxford in Great Britain and both Georgetown and Johns Hopkins in the United States. He has also held high-level professional and managerial posts at human rights organizations.

6. The IACHR is the foremost institution charged by the OAS Charter with monitoring the observance of human rights in all states of the Hemisphere. It is composed of seven autonomous experts, elected in their individual capacity by the member states of the Organization. During its meetings, the Commission will examine draft reports on admissibility, substantive questions, friendly settlements, and decisions to refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission will also assess the status of human rights in various OAS member states and will hold 40 hearings with individual petitioners, representatives of the states, and civil society representatives.


Washington, D.C., February 22, 2000