ORIGIN AND LEGAL BASES OF THE IACHR
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was created under
Resolution VI of the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of
Foreign Affairs (Santiago, Chile, 1959).
Part II of that resolution provided that the Commission was to be
composed of seven members selected, in a personal capacity, from slates
presented by the governments; the purpose of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights would be to "promote respect for such
The then Council of the Organization approved the Statute of the
Commission on May 25, 1960. Under
the provisions of the Statute (Article 2) the Commission was established
as an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States.
Human rights were understood to be those spelled out in the
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Bogota, 1948).
Pursuant to that Statute, on June 29, 1960 the Council elected
the members of the Commission. It
is important to note that the members of the Commission represent all
the member states of the OAS and act in its name.
The Commission's first session was held in Washington, D.C., from
October 3 through 28, 1960. Since
that first session, the Commission has held eighty-three (83) sessions,
some of them at its headquarters in the General Secretariat, others in
various member states of the Organization.
The Second Special Inter-American Conference (Rio de Janeiro,
1965) amended the Commission's Statute.
The amendments were in the form of additions and changes intended
to make the Statute stronger and as effective as possible in assisting
the Commission perform its functions.
It was further recognized (Resolution XXII) that the IACHR had
"performed valuable service in carrying out its mandate."
The 1960 Statute was amended as follows:
i) it authorized the Commission to pay "particular
attention" to the observance of the human rights referred to in
Articles I, II, III, IV, XVIII, XXV, and XXVI of the American
Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; ii)
it authorized the Commission to examine communications sent to it
and any other information available, to address
the government of any member state "for information deemed
pertinent, and to make recommendations to it, in order to bring about
more effective observance of fundamental human rights," and iii) it
requested the Commission to present an annual report to the then Inter-American
Conference or the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign
Affairs, so that the progress accomplished and the protection of human
rights could be examined at the ministerial level.
When discharging its mandate, the IACHR should first ascertain
whether a member state's legal procedures and remedies have been
properly applied and exhausted.
Later, at the Third Special Inter-American Conference (Buenos
Aires, 1967), the Protocol of Amendment to the Charter of the Organization
of American States was signed. That
Protocol of Amendment added important provisions to the Charter that
concerned the Commission in particular and human rights in general,
thereby establishing a quasi-conventional structure on the subject matter.
On the one hand, the Commission became one of the organs through
which the Organization accomplishes its purposes (Article 51.e of the
Charter); on the other hand, the Commission was instructed to continue to
monitor for the observance of human rights until the American Convention
on Human Rights entered into force (Article 150, transitory).
On November 22, 1969, the Inter-American Specialized Conference on
Human Rights, convoked by the Council of the OAS (San Jose, Costa Rica),
approved the American Convention on Human Rights, which entered into force
on July 18, 1978, when Grenada deposited the eleventh instrument of
At its ninth regular session (La Paz, Bolivia, 1979), the General
Assembly of the OAS approved the Commission's new Statute.
Articles 6 and 8 were later amended at the tenth regular session of
the General Assembly (Washington, D.C., 1980).
Article 1 of the Statute defines the IACHR as "an organ of the
Organization of American States, created to promote the observance and
defense of human rights and to serve as consultative organ of the
Organization in this matter." Human
rights were defined as the rights set forth in the American Convention on
Human Rights, for the States Parties thereto, and as the rights set forth
in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, for the other
member states. As with the
previous Statute, the membership of the Commission, defined in Article 2,
continued to be seven members, who represent all the member states of the
OAS. Under Article 3, the
members of the Commission are to be elected in a personal capacity by the
General Assembly. Under
Article 6, they are elected to a term of four (4) years and may be
reelected only once.
The Commission's functions and powers with respect to all the
member states are spelled out in Article 18 of the Statute; those it has
with respect to the States Parties to the American Convention are
enumerated in Article 19. Its
powers in relation to member states that are not yet parties to the
Convention are set forth in Article 20.
RELATIONS BETWEEN THE IACHR AND THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF
During the period to which this report refers the Commission
continued to maintain close cooperative relations with the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights, as described in Chapter II of this report,
particularly as regards hearings concerning the Court's advisory and
contentious jurisdiction in matters submitted to it by the Commission.
RELATIONS WITH SPECIALIZED ORGANIZATIONS OF THE OAS
Between 1991 and 1992 the Commission has kept up its cooperative
relations with the Specialized Organizations of the OAS in matters having
to do with human rights. These
organizations include the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM); the
Inter-American Children's Institute; and the Inter-American Indian
Institute. As part of this cooperation, there has been an exchange of
publications and working papers that, because of their nature, may be of
RELATIONS WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH
The Commission also continued to cooperate with the United Nations
agencies charged with protecting and promoting human rights, such as the
Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Committee provided for in the
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights of the United Nations and, in particular, with the Commission's
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in order to shed
light on certain cases of the kind reported to the Commission.
It would also be worthwhile mentioning the close cooperative
relations that the Commission has kept up with the Inter-American
Institute of Human Rights.
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The States Parties are as follows: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil,
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El
Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago,
Uruguay, and Venezuela. Of
these, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela
have recognized the competence of the Commission to receive interstate
communications in accordance with Article 45 of the American
Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala,
Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname,
Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela have
recognized the mandatory jurisdiction of the Inter‑American
Court of Human Rights under Article 62 of the Convention.
OEA/Ser.A/16, No. 36, Treaty Series.
 For additional information, see "Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter‑American System" (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.82, doc. 6 rev. 1, July 1º 1992) updated to July 1st, 1992.