N° 84/09




Washington, D.C., December 9, 2009 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) publishes today its new Rules of Procedure, based on reforms approved during the 137th Period of Sessions that took place in October and November 2009. The new Rules of Procedure will enter into force on January 1, 2010.


The central objective of these reforms is to further strengthen the Inter-American system through the enhancement of: participation by victims, guarantees to harmonize procedural participation of the parties and enhance the publicity and transparency of the system, as well as the adoption of other necessary adjustments after the 2001 reform. These modifications involve four essential components of the system for the protection of human rights: the mechanism of precautionary measures, the processing of petitions and cases, the referral of cases to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, and the holding of hearings on the situation of human rights in the Member States.


The first critical component of the reform involves the codification of the principles and practices related to the precautionary measures mechanism, which was first introduced in the Rules adopted in 1980. For almost three decades, this mechanism has contributed to the protection of thousands of persons at risk in all of the Member States of the OAS.  The amendment seeks to reflect the elements taken into account by the IACHR when considering requests for precautionary measures as well as the principles that guide the proceedings for granting, following up and lifting of such measures.


The second significant component of the reform relates to the processing of petitions and cases on alleged violations of the American Declaration, the American Convention or other applicable instruments.  Among the more prominent amendments in this area is the new practice permitting the production of testimony before one or more members of the Commission during in loco observations; the extension of time limits to file allegations on the merits; and the introduction of a provision establishing parameters for the archiving of petitions and cases.


The third important area of the reform addresses the review of proceedings and the applicable parameters after the adoption of reports on the merits in cases involving the alleged responsibility of States, who are party to the American Convention and have accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The main aspects of the reform are the introduction of a provision that codifies in detail the practice governing the suspension of the time limit provided for in the American Convention to refer cases to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, and changes to the provision governing the referral of cases to that jurisdiction once proceedings before the Commission have been exhausted.  This last amendment, which is the outcome of a dialogue held with the Inter-American Court, allows for the referral of the report issued pursuant to Article 50 of the American Convention accompanied by a referral note and other elements relating to the processing of the case before the Commission.  This provision also establishes that, once a case has been referred to the jurisdiction of the Court, the Commission shall make its merits report public.


The fourth significant area of the reform is the introduction of guidelines on participation in public hearings on the situation of human rights in the Member States of the OAS.


The amended text is the result of the debate and decision of the IACHR members during three periods of sessions and an open and transparent process.  All aspects of the reform relating to the processing of petitions and cases that may eventually reach the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights were the subject of dialogue and successive exchanges with that organ.  During its debates, the IACHR considered extensively the comments made by an important number of OAS Member States, civil society organizations, academics and citizens of the entire continent, in response to the open consultations on the preliminary draft of the amendments, which took place between May and August 2009.  The IACHR takes this opportunity to thank the valuable contribution of those who participated in these consultations.


These reforms are complemented by the recent decision of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) to create a Legal Assistance Fund to offer financial support to the victims of human rights violations in the region, to help finance the cost of the legal process before the Commission and the Court.


The creation of the Legal Assistance Fund and the reforms of the rules of procedure, approved on the 50th anniversary of the IACHR’s creation and the 30th anniversary of the IA Court HR, aim to reinforce the important progress achieved in the last decades by the inter-American system of human rights, so that it is better prepared to face the challenges in the decades to come.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.


Useful links

New Rules of Procedure (also available in Spanish, Portuguese and French)

Applications filed by the IACHR to the IA Court HR

IACHR Web site




Read this press release in Spanish / Lea este comunicado de prensa en español


Press contact: María Isabel Rivero
Tel. (202) 458-3867


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