Nº 9/02


The IACHR elects officials and begins its regular session


1.                 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the IACHR”) formally began its 114th regular session with an inaugural meeting held today at the Permanent Council of the OAS.


2.                 The following officers were elected to the Commission’s new Bureau:  Dr. Juan E. Méndez, President; Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, First Vice-President; and Dr. José Zalaquett Daher, Second Vice-President.  Other members of the IACHR are Professor Robert K. Goldman, Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo, and Dr. Clare Kamau Roberts.  Dr. Diego García-Sayán, who was elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in 2001, resigned from office on February 13, 2002.  The vacancy will shortly be filled by the Permanent Council of the Organization, in conformity with the procedure laid down in the American Convention on Human Rights and the Statute of the IACHR.  The Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission is Dr. Santiago A. Canton.


3.                 The President, Juan E. Méndez, an attorney of Argentine nationality, has been a member of the IACHR since January 1, 2000.  He was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1996 to 1999 and is a professor of law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, USA.  He has also taught courses in human rights in other universities, including Oxford, in Great Britain and Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, in the United States, and held senior professional and executive posts in Human Rights Watch in the period from 1982 to 1996.  In addition to his responsibilities as Rapporteur for several countries in the Hemisphere, Dr. Méndez is Rapporteur for the rights of migrant workers and their families.


4.                 The First Vice-President, Marta Altolaguirre, is Guatemalan and has also been a member of the Commission since January 2000.  Her specific responsibilities in the IACHR include her work as Rapporteur for the rights of women.  Ms. Altolaguirre, an attorney and notary, was a member of the Council of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of her country.  She was also the Chair of the Presidential Commission of Human Rights in Guatemala (COPREDEH) and represented Guatemala in this capacity in the Inter-American human rights system and in organs concerned with human rights in the United Nations system.  Among other responsibilities, she has been President of the Guatemalan Chamber of Journalists and taught the course “Government and the Press” at the University Francisco Marroquín, in Guatemala.  She has published more than 500 articles in newspapers and reviews, several of them on the subject of human rights and freedom of expression.


5.                 The Second Vice-President, José Zalaquett Daher, is a Chilean citizen who is well known as a jurist and professor of human rights.  His background includes teaching in numerous universities in the Hemisphere, particularly in Chile and the United States of America.  He has held executive or advisory posts in various human rights organizations and organizations concerned with international humanitarian law and international relations.  Of particular note are his activities in the Vicaría de la Solidaridad of Chile and in such organizations as Amnesty International, Washington Office for Latin America, the International Commission of Jurists, etc.






The IACHR is the principal organ under the Charter of the OAS, with responsibility for ensuring respect for human rights in all states of the American continent.  It is comprised of seven jurists, independent experts, who are elected in their individual capacities by the member states of the Organization.  During its sessions, the Commission will consider draft reports on human rights violations in the procedural stages of admissibility, merits, friendly settlement, and complaints filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The IACHR will also review human rights situations in various member states of the OAS and will hold 56 hearings with individual petitioners and state representatives.



Washington, D.C., February 25, 2002