Nº 3/01  

1.       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“the Commission” or “the IACHR”) formally commenced its 110th regular session with an inaugural meeting today in the Permanent Council of the OAS.  The outgoing Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Hélio Bicudo, took the floor, as did the Representative of Chile to the OAS, Ambassador Esteban Tomic Errázuriz, in his capacity as Chair of the Permanent Council. 

2.       The Commission elected its new board of officers, comprising Dean Claudio Grossman, President; Dr. Juan E. Méndez, First Vice-President; and Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice-President.  Other members of the Commission are:  Dr. Hélio Bicudo, Professor Robert K. Goldman, Dr. Peter Laurie and Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo. 

          3.       The President, Claudio Grossman, is a Chilean lawyer.  He graduated at the University of Chile and did his doctorate at the University of Amsterdam, Holland.  He is Dean of the Law Faculty of American University, a recognized expert on the inter-American human rights system, and the author of numerous specialized publications.  He has been a member of the IACHR since 1994. He chaired it in1996 and was re-elected as a Commissioner in 1997.  The new President of the IACHR has acted in several cases as delegate to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  He has also participated actively in on-site visits and in numerous friendly settlement proceedings.  In addition, he has been Rapporteur for Women’s Rights and he is currently Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  His work at the Commission has been characterized by a concern to promote several initiatives aimed at consolidating legal certainty in proceedings.  

          4.       The First Vice-President, Juan E. Méndez, is an Argentinean lawyer, who has been a member of the Commission since January 1, 2000.  He was Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1996 to 1999 and is currently a law professor and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.  He has also lectured in human rights at other universities, such as Oxford University, England, and Georgetown and Johns Hopkins in the United States, and has held senior professional and management positions in human rights organizations.  Apart from his work as rapporteur for several countries in the Hemisphere, Dr. Méndez is also Rapporteur for the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.  

5.                 The Second Vice-President, Marta Altolaguirre, is a Guatemalan lawyer and notary public, who has been a member of the Commission since January 2000.  One of her principal specific responsibilities in the IACHR is to be Rapporteur for Women’s Rights. Ms. Altolaguirre was elected by the Guatemalan Congress to the First Council of the Office of the Attorney General.  Before joining the IACHR, she chaired the Presidential Commission responsible for Coordinating Human Rights Policy in Guatemala (COPREDEH). In that capacity, she represented her country in the inter-American system of human rights and in United Nations bodies responsible for human rights issues.  In addition to her other responsibilities, Ms. Altolaguirre has been Chair of the Guatemalan Journalism Chamber and a professor teaching “Government and the Press” at the University of Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.  She has published over 500 articles in newspapers and journals, several of which deal with human rights and freedom of expression.  

6.       The IACHR is the principal organ in the OAS Charter responsible for promoting the observance of human rights in all states in the Hemisphere.  It comprises seven jurists, who are independent experts elected in their individual capacity by the member states of the Organization.  During the period of sessions, the Commission will analyze draft reports on violations of human rights at different procedural stages: admissibility, merits of the case, friendly settlement, and lawsuits brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The IACHR will also evaluate the human rights situation in various states of the OAS and will conduct over 40 hearings with individual petitioners and representatives of the states.


Washington, D.C., February 21, 2001