Press Release

IACHR Announces Work System during COVID-19 Pandemic

March 19, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - Given the seriousness of the situation currently affecting Latin America and the Caribbean and the world as a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is announcing the exceptional measures it is adopting regarding its operations in response to recommendations from national and international health organizations.

The IACHR will continue to carry out its core functions regarding the petition and case system, precautionary measures, and the monitoring of human rights situation in the region, while complying strictly with measures to contain the virus, in accordance with the following guidelines:

1. The IACHR Executive Secretariat team is working remotely as per the decision made by the Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The purpose of this measure is to safeguard the health of each of the people who work at the IACHR and the people who use its mechanisms to protect and defend human rights and thus to watch over the health of the general public.

2. Precautionary measures that are granted as a result of serious, urgent situations in which people are at risk of suffering irreparable harm will be processed as usual. Any other situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. During this period, the IACHR will not deactivate any precautionary measures due to a lack of information having been presented by the parties, as per Resolution 3/18.

3. Regarding the petition and case system, the IACHR hereby notifies all users that deadlines will be put on hold from March 19 up to and including April 21, 2020, after which they will be extended to respect the original timeframes, with the following exceptions:

i. The timeframe set out in Article 46b of the American Convention, which establishes a six-month limit for filing petitions, which will be evaluated in each specific situation if parties allege that a given petition cannot be filed;

ii. The timeframe established in Article 51 of the American Convention shall only be suspended if states submit a request for an extension to the IA Court containing a clause that expressly waives the filing of a preliminary objection to the expiry of this timeframe.

4. To ensure the continuity of its work, the IACHR will continue to communicate with parties regarding the processing of petitions, cases, and friendly settlements, the deadlines for which will be interrupted and extended as described above.

5. The IACHR deems that all parties have been duly notified of these changes to deadlines and timeframes through this press release.
Working meetings on friendly settlements will be rescheduled.

6. The activities planned as part of the IACHR’s calendar for 2020—including working visits, public hearings, and promotional activities—have been canceled to comply with the measures to prevent the spread of the virus and protect both the organization's technical team and the populations it works with. These activities will be rescheduled as soon as is feasible.

7. Similarly, as was announced on March 11, 2020, the 176th Period of Sessions, which was to be held in May, has been canceled. However, the requests for hearings and working meetings that were submitted in connection with this remain in force. The deadline for submitting new requests will be announced when the new location and date of the period of sessions are confirmed.

8. The IACHR will continue to assist users online, and requests can be sent to the following email address [email protected]. The IACHR invites users to visit the individual petition system portal to submit information on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures.

These exceptional approaches to the IAHCR’s work will be constantly reviewed and any changes will be announced publicly in response to developments in the current health crisis to ensure that all necessary efforts are made to enable the IACHR to continue to perform its functions fully. To this end, the IACHR commissioners continue to go about their work remotely and are in constant communication with one another to ensure that the Executive Secretariat continues to operate effectively under these exceptional circumstances.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 059/20