Press Release

IACHR Chooses Pedro José Vaca Villarreal As Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

September 15, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced today that it has autonomously and independently chosen Pedro José Vaca Villarreal as its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The Commission sent the name of its nominee to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), who agreed with the decision. According to Article 15 of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure, Pedro Vaca will be appointed with a three-year mandate that can be renewed once. He is set to take the position on October 6, 2020.

The Inter-American Commission based its decision on the nominee’s professional qualities and experience, taking into special consideration his technical expertise, his leadership skills, and his ability to work effectively with States, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders in the Inter-American Human Rights System. The Commission further considered the broad backing that Vaca obtained during the consultation process with civil society organizations from many countries around the Americas.

Pedro José Vaca Villarreal is a Colombian citizen and graduated as a lawyer from the National University of Colombia. He also specialized in constitutional law and obtained a master’s degree in law from the National University of Colombia. He has more than 12 years of relevant professional experience, working in the fields of human rights and freedom of expression. Vaca also has experience as a lawyer in cases involving serious violations of freedom of the press. He has vast knowledge of the instruments available in the Inter-American System. He currently serves as the Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP, by its Spanish acronym) in Colombia. Vaca has considerable experience in organizational management and fundraising. Through his work at FLIP, he has also led regional processes for the defense of freedom of expression. He is a member of the Global Governing Council of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). He has delivered training on the fight against impunity for judges in Bolivia, Mexico, and Colombia. He is the rapporteur for Freedom House’s chapter on freedom of the press.

Pedro Vaca was nominated in a broad, open, transparent, and participative process. The call for candidates for this position was published on January 13, 2020. The Commission thanks the 81 individuals who came forward as candidates for their interest.

During an internal session held on April 29, 2020, the IACHR selected 10 finalists and posted their CVs and videos on the Commission website. In keeping with Article 15.4 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR then issued a call for observations concerning these finalists, which had to be received between April 30 and June 15, 2020. Over this period, the Commission received more than 380 letters with observations from Member States of the OAS and from civil society.

After receiving these observations, the Commission shortlisted—during its 176th Period of Sessions, held remotely on July 6–10, 2020—five of these candidates, who advanced to the interview stage.

The IACHR interviewed the five shortlisted candidates on September 14. The Commission acknowledges the excellent professional profiles of all shortlisted candidates, which was again evident in the high quality of these interviews. The IACHR thanks all finalists for taking part in this process.

Edison Lanza will remain in office as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression until his second mandate ends, on October 5, 2020. The Commission wishes to acknowledge the work that Edison Lanza has done and continues to do to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression, and his contribution to progress made in the Americas through effective leadership in this area. The IACHR wishes him all the best in his future professional undertakings.

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. 218/20