REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
ORIGIN AND LEGAL BASES OF THE
According to the Charter of the OAS, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights is a principal organ of the Organization with the primary
function of promoting the observance and protection of human rights.
It also serves as the consultative organ of the Organization in
The Commission was created by 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 panels of
nominees presented by the governments of the OAS member states, and that its
purpose would be to promote respect for human rights.
The 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 set 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 their 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 ninety-seven (97) 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 in
the performance of 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 must first ascertain whether a member
state's legal procedures and remedies have been properly invoked and
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 which were of particular concern to the Commission, and to human rights in general, and which established 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); and was instructed to continue to monitor 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 ratification.
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 a consultative organ to 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 by the General Assembly to terms of
four (4) years, and may be reelected once (Article 6).
The Commission's functions and powers with respect to all the member
states are spelled out in Article 18 of its Statute and those that apply 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.
The Commission is further governed by its Rules of Procedure, approved in
1980 and subsequently amended in 1985, 1987, 1995 and 1996.
RELATIONS BETWEEN THE IACHR AND THE
INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF
During the period to which this report refers the Commission brought
three cases before the Court and continued its relations with the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as described in Chapter II of this
report, particularly with regard to hearings concerning the Court's advisory and
contentious jurisdiction in matters submitted to it by the Commission.
JOINT MEETING OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT AND
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN
The Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a joint
meeting at the seat of the Court in San Jose, Costa Rica on September 6-7, 1997.
The details of this meeting are likewise in Chapter II.
RELATIONS WITH SPECIALIZED ORGANIZATIONS OF THE OAS
The Commission has continued its cooperative relationship with the
specialized organizations of the OAS in matters pertaining to 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 mutual interest.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH
The Commission also continued to cooperate with the United Nations
agencies charged with protecting and promoting human rights.
These include 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, that Committee's
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
Such cooperation will assist the Commission in dealing with similar cases
that are referred to it.
The Commission continues to maintain a close cooperative relationship
with the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.
The States Parties are as follows: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia,
Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, 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 Convention.
Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa
Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, 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.