N° 03/06



1.       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights began its 124th regular session.  Pursuant to its Rules of Procedure, this being its first session in 2006, the IACHR elected its officers, as follows: Evelio Fernández Arévalos, President; Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, First Vice President; and Florentin Meléndez, Second Vice President.  The IACHR also comprises the following commissioners: Clare K. Roberts, Freddy Gutiérrez Trejo, Víctor Abramovich and Paolo Carozza.  The Executive Secretary of the IACHR is Dr. Santiago A. Canton.


          2.       The President of the IACHR, Evelio Fernández Arévalos, is Paraguayan.  He is an attorney, with a degree in philosophy, and a professor of Constitutional Law, Philosophy of Language, and Linguistics.  Since he joined the Inter-American Commission in January 2004, Commissioner Fernández Arévalos has played a very active part in issues proper to his remit and has appeared on several occasions before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a delegate pleading individual cases in which the IACHR found that human rights had been violated.  Prior to that, he was a thrice-reelected Senator in his country and a two-term President of the National Congress.  Among the many positions he has held in his career, he was a member of the Judicial Council, Chair of the Foreign Relations and International Affairs Committee of the Senate, and Member of the Constitutional Convention; in this last capacity, he was a member of the Commission Responsible for Drafting the National Constitution in effect in Paraguay since 1992.  It is worth mentioning, also, that he was a student leader at the National University of Asunción and then a journalist, as well as being the author of numerous published works on topics related to the Constitution, international law, politics, and the philosophy of language.


          3.       The First Vice President, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, is Brazilian.  His tasks in the Inter-American Commission include being Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, a job he was assigned when he joined the Commission in January 2004. Commissioner Pinheiro is also a United Nations Special Rapporteur for Myanmar. He was appointed an Independent Expert of the UN Secretary-General to prepare a study on violence against children and, until 2004, he was a member of the UN Subcommittee to Promote and Protect Human Rights, not to mention numerous other missions and research work for the United Nations in previous years.  Prior to that, he was Secretary of State for Human Rights of Brazil and his academic record includes teaching in a number of universities in his country, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.


4.       The Second Vice President of the IACHR, Florentín Meléndez, is from El Salvador and, like the other officers, joined the IACHR in January 2004.  His activities in the Commission include being Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty in the Americas. In that capacity, he prepared the Draft Declaration of Principles on the Protection of Persons Deprived of their Freedom, which is being studied for submission for approval by the IACHR. He has also visited several countries in the course of his work and research.  Commissioner Meléndez has so far been Rapporteur of the IACHR for Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.  He also appeared on several occasions as a delegate of the IACHR before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  His extensive academic career includes a doctorate in international human rights law and a Master’s in human rights of the Universidad Complutense in Spain, as well as a bachelor’s degree in legal sciences from the National University of El Salvador.  He teaches courses and conducts seminars on human rights, international law, and constitutional law, and he is a guest lecturer at several universities in the Hemisphere.  During his professional career, Commissioner Meléndez has worked at the United Nations and in public and private institutions in his country on human rights-related topics. He has also published books, studies, and collections of works on human rights.   


5.       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 composed of seven jurists, who are independent experts elected in a personal capacity by the member states of the Organization.  During its period of 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 62 hearings with individual petitioners and representatives of States.


Washington, D.C., February 27, 2006