doc. 6 rev.
13 April 1998
Original: Spanish  







          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 these matters.


          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 exhausted.


          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.[1]


          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.[2]


          The Commission is further governed by its Rules of Procedure, approved in 1980 and subsequently amended in 1985, 1987, 1995 and 1996.



           HUMAN RIGHTS


          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.





          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.




          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.



           HUMAN RIGHTS


          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.

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    [1] 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.

    [2] For additional information, see "Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System" (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.92, doc. 31 rev. 3, updated to May 1996).