The Inter-American Human Rights System: Changing times, ongoing challenges

25 Aug 2016

This report, titled The Inter-American Human Rights System: Changing times, ongoing challenges, examines recent intense debate over the rule of the Inter-American Human Rights System. 

At the heart of the discussions was precisely the purpose of international human rights protection and its sometimes conflictual coexistence with the sovereign decisions of democratic States. This led some nations to assert the need for the IACHR to prioritize its role of promotion, rather than its actions for protection and ensuring individual and collective rights. 

In recent years, the group of organizations that authored this report have worked together to safeguard the Inter-American Commission’s essential powers in a situation in which they were at risk, to the detriment of the enforcement of human rights in the region. At the same time, this group actively participated in debates regarding constructive proposals to strengthen the Inter-American system.

This book is the result of the experience gained by this group of human rights organizations, which has extensive in-depth familiarity with problems on the ground and came together in an informal alliance in light of the need to develop new strategies to accompany the so-called “strengthening process” of the Inter-American system. The participants in this initiative were the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS, Center for Legal and Social Studies) from Argentina; Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL, Legal Defense Institute) from Peru; Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), a regional organization; Conectas Direitos Humanos (Conectas Human Rights) from Brazil; Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad (DeJusticia, Center for Studies of Law, Justice, and Society) from Colombia; and Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación (Center for Analysis and Research) from Mexico.

The chapters written by members of these organizations address various issues related to the IACHR’s functioning, topics of work, strategies, and potentialities in the region currently. They include an analysis of its functioning and structure, addressing the financial situation of the Inter-American system, which reveals the mismatch between States’ rhetoric and the system’s budgetary reality. There is also an evaluation made of the current transparency levels of the Commission and the Inter-American Court with regard to, for example, how appointments are made and cases are processed.

At the same time, we examine how the IACHR has performed the main activities that make up the pillars of monitoring, promoting, and protecting human rights, from its founding through to the strengthening process and its outcome. Furthermore, traditional interpretations of the principle of subsidiarity in international law are reviewed, in order to reflect on the role and work of the IACHR in light of the region’s current scenario. In addition, we suggest developing strategies focused on its thematic agenda, its modalities of intervention, and the forging of new grass roots support that may serve to neutralize new scenarios that put its valuable work of protecting human rights at risk.

Additionally, we analyze the intersections between the discussions on the IACHR’s functioning that developed in the last few years and the consolidation of sub-regional fora for integration in Latin America (MERCOSUR and UNASUR, for example), identifying possible paths for achieving a constructive complementarity between these fora and the traditional protection bodies of the Inter-American system, with regard to effective linkages to foster the enjoyment and exercise of human rights in the region.

Read the full report here