The principal function of the IACHR is to promote the observance and protection of human rights in the Americas. As Article 106 of the Charter of the Organization provides,

[t]here shall be an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, whose principal function shall be to promote the observance and protection of human rights and to serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in these matters.

An inter-American convention on human rights shall determine the structure, competence, and procedure of this Commission, as well as those of other organs responsible for these matters


In furtherance of its mandate, the Commission:

  1. Receives, analyzes and investigates individual petitions in which violations of human rights are alleged to have been committed either by a Member State of the OAS that has ratified the American Convention or by one that has not.
  2. Observes the general situation of human rights in the Member States and publishes, when it deems appropriate, reports on the situation in a given Member State.
  3. Conducts in loco visits to countries to conduct an in-depth analysis of the general situation and/or to investigate a specific situation. In general, these visits lead to the preparation of a report on the human rights situation observed, which is published and presented to the Permanent Council and to the General Assembly of the OAS.
  4. Develops an awareness of human rights among the peoples of the Americas. To that end, the Commission prepares and publishes reports on specific issues, such as: the measures that must be taken to ensure greater access to justice; the effects that internal armed conflicts have on certain groups; the human rights situation of children, women, and migrant workers and their families, persons deprived of liberty, human rights defenders, indigenous persons, persons of African descent; freedom of expression; citizen security and terrorism, and how they relate to human rights, and so on.
  5. Organizes and holds visits, lectures, seminars and meetings with government representatives, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations and others for the purpose of communicating information and promoting a broad understanding of the work of the inter-American human rights system.
  6. Recommends to the OAS Member States the measures they should take the better to protect human rights in the countries of the hemisphere.
  7. In serious and urgent cases, requests Member States to adopt precautionary measures, in keeping with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, in order to prevent irreparable harm to persons or to the subject matter of the proceedings in connection with a pending petition or case. Furthermore, under Article 63(2) of the American Convention, in cases of extreme gravity and urgency the Commission may request that the Inter-American Court order the adoption of “provisional measures” to prevent irreparable harm to persons, even when the case has not yet been submitted to the Court.
  8. Presents cases to the Inter-American Court and appears before the Court during the processing and consideration of cases.
  9. Requests advisory opinions of the Inter-American Court, pursuant to Article 64 of the American Convention.
  10. Receives and examines communications in which a State party alleges that another State party has committed a violation of a human right protected under the American Convention, pursuant to Article 45 thereof.