RULES OF PROCEDURE  OF THE 
INTER
-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
 

TITLE I
ORGANIZATION OF THE COMMISSION

CHAPTER I
NATURE AND COMPOSITION
 

Article 1.  Nature and Composition

 

          1.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an autonomous organ

of the Organization of American States whose principal functions are to promote the observance and defense of human rights and to serve as an advisory body to the Organization in this area.   

          2.          The Commission represents all the member states of the Organization.   

3.          The Commission is composed of seven members elected in their individual capacity by the General Assembly of the Organization.  They shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.   

 

CHAPTER II
MEMBERSHIP
 

Article 2.  Duration of the Term of Office 

          1.          The members of the Commission shall be elected for four years and may be re-elected only once.   

          2.          In the event that new members of the Commission have not been elected to replace those completing their term of office, the latter shall continue to serve until the new members are elected.   

Article 3.  Precedence 

          The members of the Commission shall follow the President and Vice-Presidents in order of precedence according to their seniority in office.  When there are two or more members with equal seniority, precedence shall be determined according to age.   

Article 4.  Incompatibility 

          1.          The position of member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is incompatible with the exercise of activities which could affect the independence or impartiality of the member, or the dignity or prestige of the office.   

          2.           The Commission, with the affirmative vote of at least five of its members, shall decide whether a situation of incompatibility exists.   

          3.          The Commission, prior to taking a decision, shall hear the member whose activities are claimed to be incompatible.   

          4.          The decision with respect to the incompatibility, together with all the background information, shall be sent to the General Assembly, through the Secretary General of the Organization, for the purposes set forth in Article 8(3) of the Commission's Statute.   

Article 5.  Resignation   

The resignation of a member of the Commission shall be submitted to the President of the Commission in writing.  The President shall immediately notify the Secretary General of the OAS for the appropriate purposes. 

 

CHAPTER III
BOARD OF OFFICERS OF THE COMMISSION
 

Article 6.  Composition and Functions 

          The Commission shall have as its board of officers a President, a First Vice-President and a Second Vice-President, who shall perform the functions set forth in these Rules of Procedure.   

Article 7.  Elections   

          1.          Only members present shall participate in the election of each of the officers referred to in the preceding article.   

          2.          Elections shall be by secret ballot.  However, with the unanimous consent of the members present, the Commission may decide on another procedure.  

          3.          The affirmative vote of an absolute majority of the members of the Commission shall be required for election to any of the positions referred to in Article 6.   

          4.          Should it be necessary to hold more than one ballot for election to any of these  positions, the names receiving the lowest number of votes shall be eliminated successively.   

          5.          Elections shall be held on the first day of the Commission's first session of the calendar year.  

Article 8.  Duration of Term of Officers 

          1.           The term of office of the officers is one year.  The term runs from the date of their election until the elections held the following year for the new board, pursuant to Article 7, paragraph 5.    The members of the board of officers may be re-elected to their respective positions only once during each four-year period. 

2.          In the event that the term of office of a Commission member expires, and he or she is President or Vice-President, the provisions of Article 9, paragraphs 2 and 3 of these  Rules of Procedure shall apply.   

Article 9.  Resignation, Vacancy and Replacements 

1.       If a member of the board of officers resigns from that position or ceases to be a member of the Commission, the Commission shall fill the position at the next period of sessions for the  remainder of the term of office. 

          2.          The First Vice-President shall serve as President until the Commission elects a new President under the provisions of paragraph 1 of this article. 

          3.           In addition, the First Vice-President shall replace the President if the latter is temporarily unable to perform his or her duties.  In the event of the absence or disability of the First Vice-President, or if that position is vacant, the Second Vice-President shall serve as President.  In the event of the absence or disability of the Second Vice-President, the member with the greatest seniority according to Article 3 shall serve as President. 

Article 10.  Powers of the President 

          1.      The powers of the President shall be:   

a.       to represent the Commission before the other organs of the Organization and other institutions;   

b.       to convoke sessions of the Commission in accordance  with the Statute and these Rules of Procedure;   

c.       to preside over sessions of the Commission and submit to it for consideration all matters appearing on the agenda of the work program approved for the corresponding session; to decide the points of order raised during the deliberations; and to submit matters to a vote in accordance with the applicable provisions of these Rules of Procedure; 

d.       to give the floor to the members in the order in which they have requested it;  

e.       to promote the work of the Commission and oversee compliance with its program-budget;   

f.       to present a written report to the Commission at the beginning of its period of sessions on what he or she has done during its recesses to carry out the functions assigned to him or her by the Statute and these Rules of Procedure;   

g.       to seek compliance with the decisions of the Commission;   

h.       to attend the meetings of the General Assembly of the OAS and other activities related to the promotion and protection of human rights; 

i.        to travel to the headquarters of the Commission and remain there for as long as he or she considers necessary to carry out his or her functions;  

j.        to designate special committees, ad hoc committees and subcommittees composed of several members to carry out any mandate within his or her area of competence; and,  

k.       to perform any other functions that may be conferred upon him or her in these Rules of Procedure  or other tasks entrusted to him or her by the Commission.  

                    The President may delegate to one of the Vice-Presidents or to another member of the Commission the powers specified in paragraphs (a), (h) and (k).         

 

CHAPTER IV 
EXECUTIVE SECRETARIAT
 

Article 11.  Composition 

          The Executive Secretariat of the Commission shall be composed of an Executive Secretary and at least one Assistant Executive Secretary, with the professional, technical and administrative staff needed to carry out its activities.  

Article 12.  Powers  of the Executive Secretary 

          1.       The powers of the Executive Secretary shall be:   

a.       to direct, plan, and coordinate the work of the Executive Secretariat;   

b.       to prepare, in consultation with the President, the draft program-budget of the Commission, which shall be governed by the budgetary provisions in force for the OAS, and with respect to which he or she shall report to the Commission; 

c.       to prepare the draft work program for each session in consultation with the President;   

d.       advise  the President and members of the Commission in the performance of their duties;   

e.       to present a written report to the Commission at the beginning of each period of sessions on the activities of the Secretariat since the preceding period of sessions, and on any general matters that may be of interest to the Commission; and,  

f.       to implement the decisions entrusted to him or her by the Commission or its President.   

2.          The Assistant Executive Secretary shall replace the Executive Secretary in the event of his or her absence or disability.  In the absence or disability of both, the Executive Secretary or the Assistant Executive Secretary, as the case may be, shall designate one of the specialists of the Executive Secretariat as a temporary replacement.  

3.          The Executive Secretary, Assistant Executive Secretary and staff of the Secretariat must observe the strictest discretion in all matters the Commission considers confidential.   

Article 13.  Functions of the Executive Secretariat 

The Executive Secretariat shall prepare the draft reports, resolutions, studies and any other work entrusted to it by the Commission or by the President.  In addition, it shall receive and  process the correspondence, petitions and communications addressed to the Commission.  The Executive Secretariat may also request that interested parties provide any information it deems relevant, in  accordance with the provisions of these Rules of Procedure. 

 

CHAPTER V 
FUNCTIONING OF THE COMMISSION
 

Article 14.  Periods of Sessions 

          1.          The Commission shall hold at least two regular periods of sessions per year for the duration previously determined by it and as many special sessions as it deems necessary.   Prior to the conclusion of each period of sessions, the date and place of the next period shall be determined. 

2.          The sessions of the Commission shall be held at its headquarters.  However, the Commission may decide to meet elsewhere, pursuant to the vote of an absolute majority of its members and with the consent or at the invitation of the State concerned.   

          3.          Each period of sessions shall consist of the number of sessions necessary to carry out its activities.  The sessions shall be confidential, unless the Commission determines otherwise. 

4.          Any member who because of illness or for any other serious reason is unable to attend all or part of any session of the Commission, or to fulfill any other function, shall notify the Executive Secretary to this effect as soon as possible.  The Executive Secretary shall so inform the President and ensure that those reasons appear in the record. 

Article 15.  Rapporteurships and Working Groups 

          1.          The Commission may create rapporteurships to better fulfill  its functions.  The rapporteurs shall be designated by the vote of an absolute majority of the members of the Commission and may be Commission members or other persons. The Commission shall determine the characteristics of the mandate entrusted to each rapporteurship. The rapporteurs shall periodically present their work plans to the plenary of the Commission. 

          2.          The Commission may also create working groups or committees to prepare its periods of sessions or to carry out special programs or projects.  The Commission shall constitute working groups as it sees fit. 

Article 16.  Quorum for Sessions 

          The presence of an absolute majority of the members of the Commission shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.  

Article 17.  Discussion and Voting 

          1.           The sessions shall conform primarily to the Rules of Procedure and secondarily to the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Procedure of the Permanent Council of the OAS.  

2.          Members of the Commission may not participate in the discussion, investigation, deliberation or decision of a matter submitted to the Commission in the following cases:   

a.       if they are nationals of the State which is the subject of the Commission's general or specific consideration, or if they were accredited or carrying out a special mission as diplomatic agents before that State; or, 

b.       if they have previously participated in any capacity in a decision concerning the same facts on which the matter is based or have acted as an adviser to, or representative of any of the parties interested in the decision.   

          3.       If a member considers that he or she should abstain from participating in the study or decision of a matter,  that member shall so inform the Commission, which shall decide if the disqualification is warranted.   

          4.       Any member may raise the issue of the  disqualification of another member  on the basis of the grounds set forth in paragraph 2 of this article.   

          5.        When the Commission is not meeting in regular or special session, the members may deliberate and decide on matters within their competence by the means they consider appropriate.  

Article 18.  Special Quorum to take Decisions 

1.          The Commission shall decide the following matters by an absolute majority vote of its members: 

a.       election of the  board of officers of the Commission;   

b.       interpretation of the application of these Rules of Procedure; 

c.       adoption of a report on the situation of human rights in a specific state; and,  

d.       for matters where such a majority is required under the provisions of the American Convention, the Statute or these Rules of Procedure. 

          2.          In respect of other matters, the vote of the majority of the members present shall be sufficient. 

Article 19.  Explanation of Vote 

          1.          Whether or not members agree with the decision of the majority, they shall be entitled to present a written explanation of their vote, which shall be included following the text of that decision.   

          2.          If the decision concerns the approval of a report or preliminary report, the explanation of the vote shall be included following the text of that report or preliminary report.  

          3.          When the decision does not appear in a separate document, the explanation of the vote shall be included in the minutes of the meeting, following the decision in question.  

Article 20.  Minutes of the Sessions 

1.       Summary minutes shall be taken of each session.  They shall state the day and time at which it was held, the names of the members present, the matters dealt with, the decisions taken, and any statement made by a member especially for inclusion in the minutes.  These minutes are confidential internal working documents. 

2.          The Executive Secretariat shall distribute copies of the summary minutes of each session to the members of the Commission, who may present their observations to the Secretariat prior to the  period of sessions at which those minutes are to be approved.  If there has been no objection as of the beginning of that period of sessions, the minutes shall be considered approved.

Article 21.  Compensation for Special Services 

Pursuant to the approval of an absolute majority of its members, the Commission may entrust any member with the preparation of a special study or other specific work to be carried out individually outside the sessions.  Such work shall be compensated in accordance with the funds available in the budget.  The amount of the fees shall be set on the basis of the number of days required for the preparation and drafting of the  work.  

TITLE II
PROCEDURE
 

CHAPTER I
GENERAL PROVISIONS
 

Article 22.  Official Languages 

          1.          The official languages of the Commission shall be Spanish, French, English and Portuguese.  The working languages shall be those decided on by the Commission every two years, in accordance with the languages spoken by its members.   

          2.          Any member of the Commission may  dispense with the interpretation of debates and preparation of documents in his or her language.  

Article 23.  Presentation of Petitions 

          Any person or group of persons or nongovernmental entity legally recognized in one or more of the member states of the OAS may submit petitions to the Commission, on  their own behalf or on behalf of third persons, concerning alleged violations of a human right recognized in, as the case may be, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Additional Protocol in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, and/or the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, in  accordance with their respective provisions, the Statute of the Commission, and these Rules of Procedure.  The petitioner may designate an attorney or other person to represent him or her before the Commission, either in the petition itself or in another writing.  

Article 24.  Consideration Motu Proprio 

          The Commission may also, motu proprio, initiate the processing of a petition which, in its view, meets the necessary requirements. 

Article 25.  Precautionary Measures 

          1.          In serious and urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the information available, the Commission may, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that the State concerned adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons. 

2.          If the Commission is not in session, the President, or, in his or her absence, one of the Vice-Presidents, shall consult with the other members, through the Executive Secretariat, on the application of the provision in the previous paragraph.  If it is not possible to consult within a reasonable period of time under the circumstances, the President or, where appropriate, one of the Vice-President shall take the decision on behalf of the Commission and shall so inform its members. 

          3.          The Commission may request information from the interested parties on any matter related to the adoption and observance of the precautionary measures. 

          4.          The granting of such measures and their adoption by the State shall not constitute a prejudgment on the merits of a case.  

 

CHAPTER II
PETITIONS REFERRING TO THE AMERICAN CONVENTION 

ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OTHER APPLICABLE INSTRUMENTS
 

Article 26.  Initial Review 

1.       The Executive Secretariat of the Commission shall be responsible for the study and initial processing of petitions lodged before the Commission that fulfill all the requirements set forth in the Statute and in Article 28 of these Rules of Procedure.   

2.          If a petition or communication does not meet the requirements called for in these Rules of Procedure, the Executive Secretariat may request that the petitioner or his or her representative satisfy those that have not been fulfilled.    

3.          If the Executive Secretariat has any doubt as to whether the requirements referred to have been met, it shall consult the Commission.   

Article 27.  Condition for Considering the Petition 

The Commission shall consider petitions regarding alleged violations of the human rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments, with respect to the member states of the OAS, only when the petitions fulfill the requirements set forth in those instruments, in the Statute, and in these Rules of Procedure.   

Article 28.  Requirements for the Consideration of Petitions 

          Petitions addressed to the Commission shall contain the following information: 

a.       the name, nationality and signature of the person or persons making the denunciation; or in cases where the petitioner is a nongovernmental entity, the name and signature of its legal representative(s);    

b.       whether the petitioner wishes that his or her identity be withheld from the State; 

c.       the address for receiving correspondence from the Commission and, if available, a telephone number, facsimile number, and email address; 

d.       an account of the act or situation that is denounced, specifying the place and date of the alleged violations;  

e.       if possible, the name of the victim and of any public authority who has taken cognizance of the fact or situation alleged;  

f.       the State the petitioner considers responsible, by act or omission, for the violation of any of the human rights recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments, even if no specific reference is made to the article(s) alleged to have been violated;   

g.       compliance with the time period provided for in Article 32 of these Rules of Procedure; 

h.       any steps taken to exhaust domestic remedies, or the impossibility of doing so as provided in Article 31 of these Rules of Procedure; and, 

i.        an indication of whether the complaint has been submitted to another international settlement proceeding as provided in Article 33 of these Rules of Procedure. 

Article 29.  Initial Processing 

          1.          The Commission, acting initially through the Executive Secretariat, shall receive and carry out the initial processing of the petitions presented as follows: 

a.       it shall receive the petition, register it, record the date of receipt on the petition itself and acknowledge receipt to the petitioner; 

b.       if the petition does not meet the requirements of these Rules of Procedure, it may request that the petitioner or his or her representative complete them in accordance with Article 26(2) of these Rules ; 

c.       if the petition sets forth distinct facts, or if it refers to more than one person or to alleged violations not interconnected in time and place, the claims may be divided and processed separately, so long as all the requirements of Article 28 of these Rules of Procedure  are met; 

d.       if two or more petitions address similar facts, involve the same persons, or reveal the same pattern of conduct, they may be joined and processed together; 

e.       in the situations provided for in subparagraphs c and d, it shall give written notification to petitioners. 

          2.          In serious or urgent cases, the Executive Secretariat shall immediately notify the Commission. 

Article 30.  Admissibility Procedure 

          1.          The Commission, through its Executive Secretariat, shall process the petitions that meet the requirements set forth in Article 28 of these Rules of Procedure . 

          2.          For this purpose, it shall forward the relevant parts of the petition to the State in question. The identity of the petitioner shall not be revealed without his or her express authorization.  The request to the State for information shall not constitute a prejudgment with regard to any decision the Commission may adopt on the admissibility of the petition. 

          3.          The State shall submit its response within two months counted from the date the request is transmitted. The Executive Secretariat shall evaluate requests for extensions of this period that are duly founded.  However, it shall not grant extensions that exceed three months from the date of the first request for information sent to the State. 

          4.          In serious or urgent cases, or when it is believed that the life or personal integrity of a person is in real or imminent danger, the Commission shall request the promptest reply from the State, using for this purpose the means it considers most expeditious. 

          5.          Prior to deciding upon the admissibility of the petition, the Commission may invite the parties to submit additional observations, either in writing or in a hearing, as provided for in Chapter VI of these Rules of Procedure. 

          6.          Once the observations have been received or the period set has elapsed with no observations received, the Commission shall verify whether the grounds for the petition exist or subsist.  If it considers that they do not exist or subsist, it shall order the case archived. 

Article 31.  Exhaustion of Domestic Remedies 

1.          In order to decide on the admissibility of a matter, the Commission shall verify whether the remedies of the domestic legal system have been pursued and exhausted in accordance with the generally recognized principles of international law. 

          2.      The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not apply when:   

a.       the domestic legislation of the State concerned does not afford due process of law for protection of the right or rights that have allegedly been violated;    

b.       the party alleging violation of his or her rights has been denied access to the remedies under domestic law or has been prevented from exhausting them; or, 

       there has been unwarranted delay in rendering a final judgment under the aforementioned remedies.    

          3.           When the petitioner contends that he or she is unable to prove compliance with the requirement indicated in this article, it shall be up to the State concerned to demonstrate to the Commission that the remedies under domestic law have not been previously exhausted, unless that is clearly evident from the record.  

Article 32.  Deadline for the Presentation of Petitions 

          1.          The Commission shall consider those petitions that are lodged within a period of six-months following the date on which the alleged victim has been notified of the decision that exhausted the domestic remedies.  

2.          In those cases in which the exceptions to the requirement of prior exhaustion of domestic remedies are applicable, the petition shall be presented within a reasonable period of time, as determined by the Commission.  For this purpose, the Commission shall consider the date on which the alleged violation of rights occurred and the circumstances of each case.   

Article 33.  Duplication of Procedures 

          1.      The Commission shall not consider a petition if its subject matter: 

a.       is pending settlement pursuant to another procedure before an international governmental organization of which the State concerned is a member; or, 

b.       essentially duplicates a petition pending or already examined and settled by the Commission or by another international governmental organization of which the State concerned is a member.   

          2.       However, the Commission shall not refrain from considering petitions referred to in paragraph 1 when:    

a.       the procedure followed before the other organization is limited to a general examination of the human rights situation in the State in question and there has been no decision on the specific facts that are the subject of the petition before the Commission, or it will not lead to an effective settlement; or, 

b.       the petitioner before the Commission or a family member is the alleged victim of the violation denounced and the petitioner before the other organization is a third party or a nongovernmental entity having no mandate from the former.    

Article 34.  Other Grounds for Inadmissibility 

          The Commission shall declare any petition or case inadmissible when: 

a.       it does not state facts that tend to establish a violation of the rights referred to in Article 27 of these Rules of Procedure; 

b.       the statements of the petitioner or of the State indicate that it is manifestly groundless or out of order; or, 

c.       supervening information or evidence presented to the Commission reveals that a matter is inadmissible or out of order. 

Article 35.  Desistance 

          The petitioner may at any time desist from his or her petition or case, to which effect he or she must so state in writing to the Commission. The statement by the petitioner shall be analyzed by the Commission, which may archive the petition or case if it deems this appropriate, or continue to process it in the interest of protecting a particular right. 

Article 36.  Working Group on Admissibility 

          A working group shall meet prior to each regular session in order to study the admissibility of petitions and make recommendations to the plenary of the Commission. 

Article 37.  Decision on Admissibility 

          1.          Once it has considered the positions of the parties, the Commission shall make a decision on the admissibility of the matter.  The reports on admissibility and inadmissibility shall be public and the Commission shall include them in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the OAS. 

          2.          When an admissibility report is adopted, the petition shall be registered as a case and the proceedings on the merits shall be initiated.  The adoption of an admissibility report does not constitute a prejudgment as to the merits of the matter. 

          3.          In exceptional circumstances, and after having requested information from the parties in keeping with the provisions of Article 30 of these Rules of Procedure, the Commission may open a case but defer its treatment of admissibility until the debate and decision on the merits.  The case shall be opened by means of a written communication to both parties. 

Article 38.  Procedure on the Merits 

          1.          Upon opening the case, the Commission shall set a period of two months for the petitioners to submit additional observations on the merits.  The pertinent parts of those observations shall be transmitted to the State in question so that it may submit its observations within two months. 

          2.          Prior to making its decision on the merits of the case, the Commission shall set a time period for the parties to express whether they have an interest in initiating the friendly settlement procedure provided for in Article 41 of these Rules of Procedure.  The Commission may also invite the parties to submit additional observations in writing. 

          3.          If it deems it necessary in order to advance in its consideration of the case, the Commission may convene the parties for a hearing, as provided for in Chapter VI of these Rules of Procedure. 

Article 39.  Presumption 

          The facts alleged in the petition, the pertinent parts of which have been transmitted to the State in question, shall be presumed to be true if the State has not provided responsive information during the maximum period set by the Commission under the provisions of Article 38 of these Rules of Procedure, as long as other evidence does not lead to a different conclusion.   

Article 40.  On-site Investigation-site Investigation 

          1.          If it deems it necessary and advisable, the Commission may carry out an on-site investigation for the effective conduct of which it shall request and the State concerned shall furnish all pertinent facilities.  

          2.          However, in serious and urgent cases, only the presentation of a petition or communication that fulfills all the formal requirements of admissibility shall be necessary in order for the Commission to conduct an on-site investigation with the prior consent of the State in whose territory a violation has allegedly been committed.   

continued...

 

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