The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved today at a regular session, the Report of the Special Working Group to Reflect on the Workings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with a View to Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS).
The document, to be submitted for consideration by the Foreign Ministers of Member Countries, is the product of the deliberations made during the last six months by the Working Group established for this purpose within the Permanent Council. The report contains an assessment of the operation of the Inter-American System and makes recommendations on: its challenges and objectives, precautionary measures, procedural matters, criteria for the development of Chapter IV of the Annual Report of the IACHR, friendly settlements, promotion of human rights, and financial strengthening of the System.
In terms of challenges the report identified, among others, the need to achieve universality of the IAHRS; ensure full compliance with the recommendations and decisions of its organs; achieve a better balance between promotion and protection of all human rights; increase efficiency and expediency in the processing of petitions and cases, and move toward greater transparency in the management of the IACHR.
In that sense, the Working Group recommended preparation of a report on the impact of the non-universality of the Convention on Human Rights and its related instruments and urged member states that are not yet parties to consider the signing and ratification of the Convention and to recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.
On the issue related to the system of precautionary measures, the report suggests, among others, to refine the procedural aspects of this system and to ensure the strict observance of the regulatory framework of the IACHR. It also recommends that the Commission "define objective criteria or parameters for determining serious and urgent situations and the imminence of the harm, taking into account the different risk levels." Also, to state and give reasons for the legal and factual elements considered for granting, reviewing, and, extending or lifting precautionary measures, and improve the mechanisms for determining and individually identifying beneficiaries of precautionary measures.
In regard to the friendly settlement, the Working Group considered that “other proposals could be explored to give the IACHR a more active role in friendly settlement procedures, to promote and facilitate them through its conciliation and monitoring function." And in terms of financial strengthening of the System, the countries suggested measures to “gradually increase the resources allocated to the IAHRS organs from the Regular Fund of the OAS, in a manner commensurate with the needs and priorities identified,” and to assign adequate, sufficient, and balanced resources to all its rapporteurships, working groups, and units, as well as an efficient and transparent management of those resources.
The full text of the approved report is available here.
At the session, the delegations of Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Canada, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Unites States, and Dominica spoke, as well as the President of the Working Group that produced the report, the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS, Joel Antonio Hernandez.
In his speeches, delegates agreed on the importance of autonomy and independence of the IACHR to maintain its credibility, legitimacy and efficacy. They highlighted specific issues of the report, particularly those related to the strengthening of precautionary measures, independence and autonomy of the Commission, the procedures for dealing with individual cases and petitions, the Commission's role to promote and protect human rights, and the need for a greater efficiency and agility in the processing of petitions and cases, among others.
Representatives of Member Countries considered the adopted report, as an example of a process of open, transparent, and multilateral dialogue, and advocated for the recommendations to be implemented and to serve to strengthen the observance of human rights on the continent. They also defended the establishment of a more open and frequent dialogue between the Commission and the Member Countries and to make effective the principle of universality of the system.
The ambassadors also noted that the financial strengthening of the IAHRS needs necessary and urgent attention, and made a strong call to take measures to ensure its long-term financial viability through the appropriate allocation of resources that ensure the independence, sustainability and planning of their activities.
Following the debate, the Chair of the Commission, Dinah Shelton, thanked the delegates of the countries and especially the Working Group for the report, calling it "very valuable." "We welcome the recommendations, especially those that support the independence and autonomy of the Commission," said Commissioner Shelton, who said that the Commission is considered an organ of universal jurisdiction. "Our legitimacy depends upon transparency, fairness, justice and adherence to the law," she said, and concluded by announcing that the Commission will give "high priority" to study all recommendations approved today.
The statement of the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, on this issue is available (in Spanish)here.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.