LEGAL ORIGIN AND BASES OF THE IACHR
In its resolution on human rights, the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Santiago, Chile, 1959) established an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to “promote respect for such rights.”
The Council approved the Statute of the Commission on May 25, 1960, and elected its seven members on June 29 of that year.
On February 27, 1967, the Protocol of Amendments to the OAS Charter was signed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Article 112 of the Protocol calls for an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, with the primary function of promoting the observance and defense of human rights and serving as an organ of consultation for the OAS in this field. It also raised the Commission to the rank of a principal organ subject to a future convention on human rights (Article 112, last part), and provided that in the interim period between the entry into force of the Protocol and the entry into force of the Convention, the IACHR, established by the Fifth Meeting of Consultation, “shall keep vigilance over the observance of human rights” (Article 150).
Finally, on November 12, 1969, the American Convention on Human Rights was signed in San José, Costa Rica, and entered into force almost nine years later on July 18, 1978, when the eleventh instrument of ratification was deposited by the member State of Grenada. As of the date of approval of this Report the Convention has eighteen state parties: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
At its ninth regular session (La Paz, Bolivia, October 1979), the OAS General Assembly approved the new Statute of the Commission. At the following regular session of the General Assembly, held in November 1980, in Washington, D.C., Articles 6 and 8 of the Statute were amended. Pursuant to Article 112 of the OAS Charter and Article 1 of the Commission’s Statute, the Commission is: “An organ…created to promote the observance and defense of human rights and to serve as consultative organ of the Organization in this matter.”
At its 49th session (April 1980), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted new Regulations.
During its first twenty-five years the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held sixty-two sessions, most at its headquarters, some abroad. The Commission has carried out many activities both during its sessions and between them in the protection and the promotion of human rights.
These activities and tasks have consisted mainly in hearing and deciding individual cases, and in examining the situation regarding human rights in various countries, in relation to which, in some cases, the Commission prepared special reports. Among the countries that have been the subject of such reports we may cite Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Uruguay.
Another important activity of the Commission has been the on-site visits to study, in the field, the human rights situation in the countries whose governments invited it or gave it consent to do so. In relation to those on-site trips, which have been of increasing importance in the last few years, the Commission, within the limits of its competence, made various recommendations, which in some cases led to an improvement of the human rights situation and in others, to the settlement of serious questions. Among them, the Commission made a contribution to the solution of the problem raised by the take-over of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Colombia by a group of insurgents with a considerable number of diplomatic hostages, should be mentioned for its importance.
In addition to presenting its annual reports to the General Assembly, many of which have contained specific recommendations on the protection of human rights, the Commission has adopted various resolutions dealing with the protection of those rights or taking up specific matters that require special treatment because of their special importance.
In the field of promotion of human rights, the Commission has issued several publications on human rights; it has awarded the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship; and organized or co-sponsored seminars and meetings for research and diffusion of knowledge on matters related to the observance of human rights.
The Commission has also given particular importance, especially since 1978, to certain topics it has considered of the highest interest for achieving respect for, and effectiveness of human rights, and at the same time has suggested specific measures for advancing toward their full observance.
Especially important among these topics have been the disappearance of persons after detention; torture; the problems of refugees in the Americas; and economic, social, and cultural rights.
Finally, the Commission wishes to point out that a more detailed explanation of its origin and its legal bases, and the text of the instruments governing it are contained in the document “Handbook of Existing Rules Pertaining to Human Rights” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.60, doc. 28, July 26, 1983.)
RELATIONS OF THE IACHR WITH THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT
OF HUMAN RIGHTS
During the period covered by this report, the IACHR continued to cooperate with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. During its 61st regular meeting, the Commission welcomed the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Dr. Pedro Nikken, the Vice-President, Prof. Thomas Buergenthal, and the Secretary, Dr. Charles Moyer. An important conversation was held with these gentlemen to strengthen the ties of cooperation and coordination between these two organs.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER AGENCIES OF THE
In 1983-1984, the Commission continued to cooperate in the human rights field with the Inter-American Commission of Women, the Inter-American Children’s Institute and the Inter-American Indian Institute, which are specialized organs of the OAS.
RELATIONS WITH WORLD AGENCIES OF THE SAME TYPE
Likewise, during that time the Commission continued to strengthen its cooperative ties with the United Nations’ Commission and Committee on Human Rights and the European Commission on Human Rights, through an exchange of documents and information. Worthy of special note was the visit of the Chairman of the IACHR, Ambassador César Sepúlveda, to the United Nations Human Rights Center in Geneva, Switzerland, in February 1984.