STATUTE OF THE
INTER
-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 Approved by Resolution N 447 taken by the General
Assembly of the OAS at its ninth regular session,
held in La Paz, Bolivia, October 1979

 

 

I.  NATURE AND PURPOSES 

 

Article 1 

 

          1.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an organ of the Organization of the American States, created to promote the observance and defense of human rights and to serve as consultative organ of the Organization in this matter. 

 

          2.          For the purposes of the present Statute, human rights are understood to be: 

 

              a.     The rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the States Parties thereto; 

 

              b.     The rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, in relation to the other member states.  

II.  MEMBERSHIP AND STRUCTURE 

 

Article 2 

          1.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights shall be composed of seven members, who shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights. 

 

          2.          The Commission shall represent all the member states of the Organization. 

 

Article 3 

 

          1.          The members of the Commission shall be elected in a personal capacity by the General Assembly of the Organization from a list of candidates proposed by the governments of the member states. 

 

          2.          Each government may propose up to three candidates, who may be nationals of the state proposing them or of any other member state of the Organization.  When a slate of three is proposed, at least one of the candidates shall be a national of a state other then the proposing state.  

 

Article 4 

 

          1.          At least six months prior to completion of the terms of office for which the members of the Commission were elected,[1] the Secretary General shall request, in writing, each member state of the Organization to present its candidates within 90 days.

 

          2.          The Secretary General shall prepare a list in alphabetical order of the candidates nominated, and shall transmit it to the member states of the Organization at least thirty days prior to the next General Assembly. 

 

Article 5 

 

          The members of the Commission shall be elected by secret ballot of the General Assembly from the list of candidates referred to in Article 4(2).  The candidates who obtain the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the member states shall be declared elected.  Should it become necessary to hold several ballots to elect all the members of the Commission, the candidates who receive the smallest number of votes shall be eliminated successively, in the manner determined by the General Assembly. 

 

Article 6 

 

          The members of the Commission shall be elected for a term of four years and may be reelected only once.  Their terms of office shall begin on January 1 of the year following the year in which they are elected. 

 

Article 7 

 

          No two nationals of the same state may be members of the Commission. 

 

Article 8 

 

          1.          Membership on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is incompatible with engaging in other functions that might affect the independence or impartiality of the member or the dignity or prestige of his post on the Commission. 

 

          2.          The Commission shall consider any case that may arise regarding incompatibility in accordance with the provisions of the first paragraph of this Article, and in accordance with the procedures provided by its Regulations. 

 

          If the Commission decides, by an affirmative vote of a least five of its members, that a case of incompatibility exists, it will submit the case, with its background, to the General Assembly for decision. 

 

          3.          A declaration of incompatibility by the General Assembly shall be adopted by a majority of two thirds of the member states of the Organization and shall occasion the immediate removal of the member of the Commission from his post, but it shall not invalidate any action in which he may have participated. 

 

Article 9 

 

          The duties of the members of the Commission are: 

 

          1.          Except when justifiably prevented, to attend the regular and special meetings the Commission holds at its permanent headquarters or in any other place to which it may have decided to move temporarily. 

 

          2.          To serve, except when justifiably prevented, on the special committees which the Commission may form to conduct on-site observations, or to perform any other duties within their ambit. 

 

          3.          To maintain absolute secrecy about all matters which the Commission deems confidential. 

 

          4.          To conduct themselves in their public and private life as befits the high moral authority of the office and the importance of the mission entrusted to the Commission. 

 

Article 10 

 

          1.          If a member commits a serious violation of any of the duties referred to in Article 9, the Commission, on the affirmative vote of five of its members, shall submit the case to the General Assembly of the Organization, which shall decide whether he should be removed from office. 

 

          2.          The Commission shall hear the member in question before taking its decision. 

 

Article 11 

 

          1.          When a vacancy occurs for reasons other than the normal completion of a member's term of office, the Chairman of the Commission shall immediately notify the Secretary General of the Organization, who shall in turn inform the member states of the Organization. 

 

          2.          In order to fill vacancies, each government may propose a candidate within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the Secretary General's communication that a vacancy has occurred. 

 

          3.          The Secretary General shall prepare an alphabetical list of the candidates and shall transmit it to the Permanent Council of the Organization, which shall fill the vacancy. 

 

          4.          When the term of office is due to expire within six months following the date on which a vacancy occurs, the vacancy shall not be filled. 

 

Article 12 

 

          1.          In those member states of the Organization that are Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, the members of the Commission shall enjoy, from the time of their election and throughout their term of office, such immunities as are granted to diplomatic agents under international law.  While in office, they shall also enjoy the diplomatic privileges required for the performance of their duties. 

 

          2.          In those member states of the Organization that are not Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, the members of the Commission shall enjoy the privileges and immunities pertaining to their posts that are required for them to perform their duties with independence. 

 

          3.          The system of privileges and immunities of the members of the Commission may be regulated or supplemented by multilateral or bilateral agreements between the Organization and the member states. 

 

Article 13 

 

          The members of the Commission shall receive travel allowances and per diem and fees, as appropriate, for their participation in the meetings of the Commission or in other functions which the Commission, in accordance with its Regulations, entrusts to them, individually or collectively.  Such travel and per diem allowances and fees shall be included in the budget of the Organization, and their amounts and conditions shall be determined by the General Assembly. 

 

Article 14 

 

          1.          The Commission shall have a Chairman, a First Vice-Chairman and a Second Vice‑Chairman, who shall be elected by an absolute majority of its members for a period of one year; they may be re-elected only once in each four-year period. 

 

          2.          The Chairman and the two Vice-Chairmen shall be the officers of the Commission, and their functions shall be set forth in the Regulations. 

 

Article 15 

 

          The Chairman of the Commission may go to the Commission's headquarters and remain there for such time as may be necessary for the performance of his duties.

III.  HEADQUARTERS AND MEETINGS 

 

Article 16 

 

          1.          The headquarters of the Commission shall be in Washington, D.C. 

 

          2.          The Commission may move to and meet in the territory of any American State when it so decides by an absolute majority of votes, and with the consent, or at the invitation of the government concerned. 

 

          3.          The Commission shall meet in regular and special sessions, in conformity with the provisions of the Regulations. 

 

Article 17 

 

          1.          An absolute majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum. 

 

          2.          In regard to those States that are Parties to the Convention, decisions shall be taken by an absolute majority vote of the members of the Commission in those cases established by the American Convention on Human Rights and the present Statute.  In other cases, an absolute majority of the members present shall be required. 

 

          3.          In regard to those States that are not Parties to the Convention, decisions shall be taken by an absolute majority vote of the members of the Commission, except in matters of procedure, in which case, the decisions shall be taken by simple majority.  

 

IV.  FUNCTIONS AND POWERS 

 

Article 18 

 

          The Commission shall have the following powers with respect to the member states of the Organization of American States: 

 

          a.          to develop an awareness of human rights among the peoples of the Americas; 

 

b.       to make recommendations to the governments of the states on the adoption of progressive measures in favor of human rights in the framework of their legislation, constitutional provisions and international commitments, as well as appropriate measures to further observance of those rights; 

 

c.       to prepare such studies or reports as it considers advisable for the performance of its duties; 

 

          d.          to request that the governments of the states provide it with reports on measures they adopt in matters of human rights; 

 

e.       to respond to inquiries made by any member state through the General Secretariat of the Organization on matters related to human rights in the state and, within its possibilities, to provide those states with the advisory services they request; 

 

f.       to submit an annual report to the General Assembly of the Organization, in which due account shall be taken of the legal regime applicable to those States Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights and of that system applicable to those that are not Parties; 

 

g.       to conduct on-site observations in a state, with the consent or at the invitation of the government in question; and 

 

h.       to submit the program-budget of the Commission to the Secretary General, so that he may present it to the General Assembly. 

 

Article 19 

 

          With respect to the States Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission shall discharge its duties in conformity with the powers granted under the Convention and in the present Statute, and shall have the following powers in addition to those designated in Article 18: 

 

a.       to act on petitions and other communications, pursuant to the provisions of Articles 44 to 51 of the Convention; 

 

b.       to appear before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in cases provided for in the Convention; 

 

c.       to request the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to take such provisional measures as it considers appropriate in serious and urgent cases which have not yet been submitted to it for consideration, whenever this becomes necessary to prevent irreparable injury to persons; 

 

d.       to consult the Court on the interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights or of other treaties concerning the protection of human rights in the American states; 

 

e.       to submit additional draft protocols to the American Convention on Human Rights to the General Assembly, in order to progressively include other rights and freedoms under the system of protection of the Convention, and 

 

f.       to submit to the General Assembly, through the Secretary General, proposed amendments to the American Convention on Human Rights, for such action as the General Assembly deems appropriate. 

 

Article 20 

 

          In relation to those member states of the Organization that are not parties to the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission shall have the following powers, in addition to those designated in Article 18: 

 

a.       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; 

 

b.       to examine communications submitted to it and any other available information, to address the government of any member state not a Party to the Convention for information deemed pertinent by this Commission, and to make recommendations to it, when it finds this appropriate, in order to bring about more effective observance of fundamental human rights; and, 

 

c.       to verify, as a prior condition to the exercise of the powers granted under subparagraph b. above, whether the domestic legal procedures and remedies of each member state not a Party to the Convention have been duly applied and exhausted.  

 

V.  SECRETARIAT 

 

Article 21 

 

          1.          The Secretariat services of the Commission shall be provided by a specialized administrative unit under the direction of an Executive Secretary.  This unit shall be provided with the resources and staff required to accomplish the tasks the Commission may assign to it.

 

          2.          The Executive Secretary, who shall be a person of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights, shall be responsible for the work of the Secretariat and shall assist the Commission in the performance of its duties in accordance with the Regulations. 

 

          3.          The Executive Secretary shall be appointed by the Secretary General of the Organization, in consultation with the Commission.  Furthermore, for the Secretary General to be able to remove the Executive Secretary, he shall consult with the Commission and inform its members of the reasons for his decision.   

 

VI.  STATUTE AND REGULATIONS 

 

Article 22 

 

          1.          The present Statute may be amended by the General Assembly. 

          2.          The Commission shall prepare and adopt its own Regulations, in accordance with the present Statute. 

Article 23 

 

          1.          In accordance with the provisions of Articles 44 to 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Regulations of the Commission shall determine the procedure to be followed in cases of petitions or communications alleging violation of any of the rights guaranteed by the Convention, and imputing such violation to any State Party to the Convention. 

 

          2.          If the friendly settlement referred to in Articles 44-51 of the Convention is not reached, the Commission shall draft, within 180 days, the report required by Article 50 of the Convention. 

 

Article 24 

 

          1.          The Regulations shall establish the procedure to be followed in cases of communications containing accusations or complaints of violations of human rights imputable to States that are not Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights. 

 

          2.          The Regulations shall contain, for this purpose, the pertinent rules established in the Statute of the Commission approved by the Council of the Organization in resolutions adopted on May 25 and June 8, 1960, with the modifications and amendments introduced by Resolution XXII of the Second Special Inter-American Conference, and by the Council of the Organization at its meeting held on April 24, 1968, taking into account resolutions CP/RES. 253 (343/78), "Transition from the present Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the Commission provided for in the American Convention on Human Rights," adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization on September 20, 1979.  

 

VII.  TRANSITORY PROVISIONS 

 

Article 25 

 

          Until the Commission adopts its new Regulations, the current Regulations (OEA/Ser.L/VII. 17, doc. 26) shall apply to all the member states of the Organization. 

 

Article 26 

 

          1.          The present Statute shall enter into effect 30 days after its approval by the General Assembly. 

         

 2.          The Secretary General shall order immediate publication of the Statute, and shall give it the widest possible distribution.

 

 

 

BASIC DOCUMENTS PERTAINING TO HUMAN RIGHTS
IN THE INTER-AMERICAN SYSTEM

[ Table of Contents]


 [1] Modified by AG/RES. 1098 (XXI-0/90).