Asylum and International Crimes 


Asylum is an institution that provides for the protection of individuals whose life or liberty is threatened or endangered by acts of persecution or violence stemming from the acts or omissions of a State.  One form, political asylum, has been especially well-developed in Latin America.  States have accepted that there are limits to asylum, based on several sources of international law, including that asylum cannot be granted to persons with respect to whom there are serious indicia that they may have committed international crimes, such as crimes against humanity (which include the forced disappearance of persons, torture, and summary executions), war crimes, and crimes against peace. 

According to article 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, the States have an obligation to prevent, investigate, and punish any violation of the rights recognized therein.  The IACHR has stated previously that the evolution of the standards in public international law has consolidated the notion of universal jurisdiction, whereby any State has the authority to “prosecute and sanction individuals responsible for such international crimes, even those committed outside of a State’s territorial jurisdiction, or which do not relate to the nationality of the accused or of the victims, inasmuch as such crimes affect all of humanity and are in conflict with public order in the world community.”[1] The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons expressly provide that a State party should take the measures necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the crimes provided for in those instruments when the alleged offender is within its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him/her. 

Based on the foregoing considerations, the Inter-American Commission should note that the institution of asylum is totally subverted by granting such protection to persons who leave their country to elude a determination of their liability as the material or intellectual author of international crimes.  The institution of asylum presupposes that the person seeking protection is persecuted in his or her state of origin, and is not supported by it in applying for asylum. 

In view of the foregoing considerations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in the exercise of the power conferred on it by Article 41(b) of the American Convention, hereby recommends to the Member States of the OAS that they refrain from granting asylum to any person alleged to be the material or intellectual author of international crimes. 


Approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at its 108º regular sessions,
on October 20, 2000 

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[1] IACHR, Recommendations on Universal Jurisdiction and the International Criminal Court, Annual Report 1998, Ch. VII.