IACHR Calls on States to Protect Democratic Institutions and Ensure Free Elections

September 15, 2022


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Washington, D.C. – On the International Day of Democracy, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stresses that democracy is essential for the exercise of human rights and calls on States to protect and strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law.

By adopting the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, States have committed to consolidating democracy and recognized that it is necessary to achieve stability, peace, and development in the region. These instruments note that the essential elements of democracy include respect for human rights, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.

Many countries in the Americas have held continuous periodic elections and strengthened their democratic institutions in recent decades. This has supported the consolidation of democracy and enabled social controversies to be channeled through institutions that foster and protect human rights.

In recent years, however, some sectors who are unhappy with the results issued from the polls have made moves to discredit democratic institutions. These moves have been used to create instability and to promote impeachment and other actions aimed at dismissing individual holders of elected positions, without respecting the legality principle or ensuring due process. In some countries, this has also affected the independence of the different branches of government, to enable the perpetuation of a given political organization.

Both situations directly impact checks and balances, since they undermine citizens' trust in institutions, in election processes, and in the rule of law. Further, these changes have led to increased social conflict and polarization, heightening the risks faced by democratic systems and therefore by human rights.

In order to preserve democracy and prevent human rights violations, it is essential to ensure respect for periodic, free, and fair election processes based on universal suffrage through secret ballots, as an expression of the people's sovereignty. These processes must involve broad political participation, without discrimination based on gender, sex, ethnic-racial origin, or any other factors.

All election fraud allegations must be reported to the authorities of competent jurisdiction—which must be independent and impartial—and resolved in keeping with the legality principle and the requirements of due process. It is also crucial for the authorities (and anyone seeking to hold elected positions) to refrain from attacking State institutions.

The IACHR stresses that democracy inspires, promotes, and guides the implementation of the American Convention on Human Rights and other instruments of the Inter-American System. All States in the region must therefore preserve and strengthen it.

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. 203/22

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