Inter-American Human Rights System

1. What is the Inter-American Human Rights System?

It is a regional system for the promotion and protection of human rights, and it is made up of two bodies: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("IACHR" or "Commission") and the Inter-American Human Rights Court ("I/A Court H.R.") which monitor compliance by the member states of the Organization of American States ("OAS") with the obligations contracted.

2. What is the Inter-American Human Rights Commission?

The Commission is a principal and autonomous body of the OAS created in 1,959, whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter. The Commission is made up of seven independent members, experts in human rights, who do not represent any country and are elected by the OAS General Assembly. A permanent Executive Secretariat headquartered in Washington DC, United States, gives professional, technical and administrative support to the Commission.

3. What is the Inter-American Human Rights Court?

The Inter-American Court, installed in 1979, is an autonomous judicial body of the OAS, whose mandate stems from the American Convention. The I/A Court H.R. has its headquarters in the city of San José, Costa Rica and is composed by seven judges, elected in a personal capacity, by the OAS member states. The Inter-American Court's objective is to interpret and apply the American Convention and other Inter-American human rights treaties through the issuance of judgments on cases and advisory opinions.

4. Can I present a petition/case directly before the Inter-American Human Rights Court?

Only the States Parties and the Commission can submit a case to the Inter-American Court. People cannot go directly to the Inter-American Human Rights Court and must first file their petitions before the Commission and complete the procedural stages provided for before it.

5. Against which States could the Commission refer a case to the Inter-American Human Rights Court?

The Commission may, when appropriate, refer cases to the Inter-American Court only with respect to States that have ratified the American Convention and have previously recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, unless a State expressly accepts jurisdiction for a specific case. The States that have recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court are: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic Dominican Republic, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

General Questions

1. How can I find out about or receive information on the activities the IACHR conducts (visits, sessions, press releases, etc.)?

To stay informed about the activities conducted by the IACHR, we invite you to subscribe to our informative distribution list, through the following link: /en/iachr/media_center/subscribe.asp

2. Where can I find information on the work and pronouncements of the IACHR related to a country or issue?

To fulfill its mandate, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission performs different functions, we invite you to subscribe to our informational mailing list through the following link: /en/iachr/mandate/functions.asp

The most relevant pronouncements of the IACHR can be found at the following links:

To learn more about the most relevant activities of the IACHR, consult the following links:

3. How can I file a petition or a precautionary measure?

The Individual Petition System Portal of the IACHR (the Portal) is the main and most recommended channel for submitting petitions or precautionary measures.

The Portal is a free, fast, and secure platform that was created to facilitate the presentation of petitions and precautionary measures before the IACHR, and access to relevant information on the procedures of these processes.

If the petition or a precautionary measure is sent through the Portal, it will issue an automatic acknowledgment of receipt. When the petition or the precautionary measure is registered by the IACHR, you will receive another email with the information of the number assigned to your petition or precautionary measure. Another advantage of the Portal is that it allows you to attach a significant number of files at once, with a limit of 40MB per document. For each submission of information, you will receive an acknowledgment of receipt, thus ensuring that your information was received by the IACHR.

If, for any reason, you are unable to create an account on the Portal, please contact us for guidance.

4. Is it necessary to go to the IACHR offices in person in Washington, DC, to file a petition, request precautionary measures, provide additional information on a matter already registered, or find out the status of it?

It is not necessary. The submission and processing of petitions and precautionary measures before the IACHR is free and does not require the personal appearance of the parties or sending documents in paper format. For all purposes, the IACHR recommends the use of the Individual Petition System Portal.

It is important to mention that your personal appearance at the IACHR offices does not have any procedural effect on the processing of your petition or precautionary measure. If, for any reason, you cannot create an account on the Portal, please contact us for guidance.

5. How can I inform the IACHR of possible human rights violations that are occurring in my country, but without the intention of presenting a petition or requesting precautionary measures?

If your intention is solely to inform the IACHR of a general situation of human rights violations, you can do so via email to [email protected].

In fulfilling its mandate, the IACHR observes and monitors the general human rights situation in the OAS Member States, publishing special reports on the situation in a specific State, when it deems it is pertinent. Likewise, the IACHR conducts country visits to analyze in depth the general human rights situation and/or to investigate a specific situation.

The IACHR stimulates public awareness with respect to human rights in the Americas. To this end, the Commission publishes reports on specific topics.

Finally, the IACHR contributes to the protection of human rights on the continent through exercising its power to issue recommendations to the OAS Member States for the adoption of measures that contribute to the protection of human rights.

For detailed information on the mandate and functions of the IACHR, visit /en/iachr/mandate/functions.asp

6. Are you receiving documentation in paper format or mailings during the pandemic?

Currently, the team of the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR is carrying out its work remotely, observing the sanitary measures adopted by the Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) of the United States for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the OAS buildings are closed.

In general, we strongly advise you do not incur in expenses for sending documents in paper format. Instead, we invite you to use the Individual Petition System Portal of the IACHR to submit a petition or request for precautionary measures, to send additional information, as well as to follow up on your case before the IACHR. Keep in mind that the use of the Portal speeds up the handling and processing of your petition, case, or precautionary measure.

7. Do I need to send more documents or information after I have filed a petition or precautionary measure?

Generally, no. The fundamental thing is the filing of your brief or initial request, however, and to the extent that it is strictly necessary, you can attach documents or additional information that you consider relevant to support arguments related to: a) the existence of human rights violations, b) compliance with the admissibility requirements (petitions), and c) the existence of conditions of severity and urgency that could result in irreparable damage is committed (precautionary measures).

The former will be sufficient for the IACHR to carry out a preliminary examination of your case. If deemed necessary, the requesting party may subsequently send additional information when it is really relevant to complement that which was initially sent. For example, if new events have occurred, new resolutions or decisions have been issued at the internal level, or any other change that could be important, bring it to the attention of the IACHR.

During this phase, the IACHR may formulate any requirement in case it deems it pertinent. Hence the importance of keeping your contact information updated and having an account in the IACHR's Individual Petition System Portal.

Having a Portal account will facilitate the exchange of information with the IACHR, it will allow you to keep track of what has been sent and receive automatic acknowledgments of receipts. Any other form of sending information (postal mail or e-mail), does not generate a record or automatic acknowledgment of receipt.

8. How can you report human rights violations during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Within the IACHR mandate is the power to recommend to the Member States of the OAS the adoption of measures that contribute to the protection of human rights in the countries on the continent. In the exercise of this mandate and in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Resolution 1/20 includes the standards of the Inter-American Human Rights System and formulates a set of recommendations to the States of the region to address the confrontation with the COVID-19, from the human rights approach. /en/iachr/decisions/pdf/Resolution-1-20-en.pdf

The IACHR issued these recommendations as the main and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), with the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights and in exercise of article 106 of the OAS Charter, article 41.b of the American Convention on Human Rights and article 18.b of its Statute.

If you observe that human rights violations are taking place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can make use of the Individual Cases and Petitions System, filing a complaint, or requesting a precautionary measure before the IACHR against a member country of the OAS, using for these purposes the Individual Petition System Portal of the IACHR.

Likewise, you can email information for the general monitoring of the human rights situation in the region, with a focus on vulnerable or at-risk populations, to [email protected]

Petitions and Cases

1. What are the procedural stages in the Petition and Case System? How long does each one take?

  • Initial Study

    It goes from the moment the petition is received by the IACHR until a decision is made regarding its processing and, in the event that it is decided to open it for processing, until the petition is transferred to the State. At this stage, as it has already been indicated, the petition is analyzed to determine whether the petition meets the requirements established in Articles 28 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure and it may take a little over a year to be notified on the IACHR's decision from the date of filing the petition.

  • Admissibility

    The procedural stage of admissibility starts from the time the petition has been opened for processing (when the petition is notified to the State), until a public report of admissibility or inadmissibility is adopted, where after a more detailed analysis of compliance with the admissibility requirements, the IACHR decides whether the petition meets these requirements.

    During this stage, the Commission will ask the State for its first response, which will be forwarded to the petitioner(s) for their knowledge. Once the first response is received from the State, the petition is considered procedurally ready, and awaits the adoption of the report on the admissibility of the matter.

    You need to keep in mind that the IACHR is working on drafting admissibility reports in chronological order. Currently, the Commission is analyzing, mainly, those petitions filed between the years 2010 and 2014.

    Informative Brochure

  • Merits

    The merits procedural stage begins from the moment the admissibility report is notified to the parties. With the notification of the report, the IACHR also notifies the petitioner(s) the change of the petition number, which happens to be registered with a case number. At this stage, observations about the merits or background of the matter are requested from both parties, first from the petitioning party and then from the State. Once the observations have been received, the case is considered procedurally ready and awaits the writing of the merits report.

    It is necessary that you keep in mind that the IACHR is working on writing merit reports in chronological order. Currently, the Commission is processing case reports that were received in the years 2001-2002.

    Informative Brochure

  • Friendly Settlements

    This process can be initiated at any stage of the proceedings before the IACHR. Once the Commission notifies the opening of a petition for processing or the admissibility report, the parties may request the Commission's good offices to advance in a friendly settlement process, at any time until before the issuance of the merit report. In the event that there is interest of any of the parties to accept this mechanism, it must be communicated in writing to the Commission, which will be in charge of sending the offer to the counterparty and only in the event of acceptance of the offer by the counterparty, the friendly settlement process can be initiated. If only one of the parties wishes to advance in a negotiation, it is not understood that the procedure has started.

    The Commission may terminate its intervention in the friendly settlement procedure if it observes that the matter cannot be resolved in this way, or if one of the parties does not consent to its application, decides not to continue with it, or does not show the will to reach a friendly solution based on respect for human rights.

    If a friendly settlement is achieved, the Commission will approve a report with a brief statement of the facts and the agreed solution, it will transmit it to the parties and then it will be published, and depending on the particular scenario of each case, the friendly settlement follow-up phase begins to promote and verify full compliance with the approved agreement.

    If a friendly settlement is not reached, the Commission will continue with the processing of the petition or case and the matter will return to the phase in which it was before the initiation of a friendly settlement procedure (admissibility or merits).

    For more information on the friendly settlement procedure, you can consult the following links:

  • Follow-up of Recommendations

    The IACHR deploys the function of following up on recommendations, so the decisions issued through its different mechanisms are mutually reinforced and the maximum potential is utilized looking to achieve their effective implementation.

    To analyze the status of compliance with its recommendations, the IACHR applies the categories of total compliance; substantial partial compliance; partial compliance; pending compliance and non-compliance. It is worth highlighting that these categories are not applicable to decisions relating to precautionary measures. Likewise, the IACHR evaluates the level of compliance of the case or of the report as a whole, according to categories of total compliance, partial compliance, and pending compliance.

    For more information visit: /en/iachr/activities/follow-up/default.asp

2. Can the IACHR be requested to process a petition or case with priority?

Article 29 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure contemplates this possibility for petitions that are in the study stage, as long as they deal with one of the issues specifically defined in that provision. These criteria are not extensive to the rest of the stages of processing a petition.

3. Can I file a petition and request confidentiality of my identity?

Yes. If you have asked the IACHR to keep the identity of one or more alleged victims confidential (protect identity), it is important that you take into account that the IACHR Rules of Procedure require, to start processing a complaint, that the IACHR inform the State the identity of the alleged victim, so the petition cannot be processed in any other way. However, in exceptional cases, and upon request stating reasons, the Commission may decide to keep the identity of the alleged victim confidential from the general public by referring to that person in its reports by their initials or a pseudonym. Given the foregoing, if you want the identity of the alleged victim to be kept confidential from the general public, indicate the reasons for your request.

If you are a petitioning party, but not one of the alleged victims, and you have requested that your identity not be revealed to the State, the Commission may grant your request under the terms of Article 28.2 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, but for this, it is necessary that you provide the reasons that justify the request. If your request is granted and the Commission decides to process your petition, only the name of the alleged victim will be communicated to the State. However, keep in mind that in order for the Commission to keep your identity as petitioner confidential, you must ensure that the content of the communications you send to the IACHR does not reveal your identity as such.

If you are both, the petitioner and the alleged victim, and you have requested that your identity be kept confidential, the Commission can only keep your identity as the petitioner confidential, and you must inform the State of your identity as the alleged victim. In this scenario, you must provide the reasons for your request for confidentiality and ensure that all communications you send to the IACHR are written in the third person so that the State cannot identify you as the petitioning party (for example, "the alleged victim states" instead of "I was a victim of").

4. How can I check the status of my matter?

If you submit your petition or request for precautionary measures through the IACHR Individual Petition System Portal, you can check its processing status by logging into your account. For more information, we recommend reviewing the "User Manual for Petitioners and/or tutorials", specifically the section "How to view my petitions, cases and precautionary measures?"

If you submitted your petition or request for precautionary measures by means other than the Portal and, subsequently, opened an account on the Portal, you will have the possibility of checking the status of your matter, as long as the email provided to receive notifications is the same with which you opened your account in the Portal.

If you opened your account on the Portal with a different email than the one you provided to receive notifications from the IACHR, you will not be able to check the status of your matter. In this case, you will have to send an email to [email protected], requesting that your data be updated in the system and provide all the information that allows the IACHR to corroborate your identity, in order to verify you are considered an authorized party (petitioner and/or alleged victim) to access the system.

5. Why has my petition's acknowledgment of receipt not been sent to me?

If you filed your complaint through the IACHR Portal, you should have received an automatic acknowledgment of receipt. Verify your form has been sent and has not been saved as a draft. Likewise, check your spam folder, junk mail or unwanted mail.

If you have submitted your petition by other means, you will receive confirmation of its receipt until the moment the ICHR notifies you the results of the study or initial review of your petition. This can take approximately up to a year.

6. How long will it take for the IACHR to make a decision on my petition (study stage or initial review)?

Petitions are analyzed in chronological order. Currently, the IACHR does not take more than one year, from the date of submission, to carry out the initial study or review of a petition. This stage, which is the first of the process, goes from the moment the petition is submitted until the petitioner is notified of the first decision adopted regarding the complaint.

7. I have sent several emails with additional information. Why have I not received acknowledgments of them?

If you want an automatic receipt acknowledgment of the information sent, it is suggested to use the Individual Petition System Portal of the IACHR.

Due to the large number of communications that the IACHR receives daily, the Executive Secretariat does not acknowledge receipt of additional information sent by email or postal mail, unless it has been formally requested by the Commission. Likewise, it is important that you take into account that communications whose attached documents exceed the limit of 15 MB cannot be received by our email box; consequently, the IACHR will not be aware of any failed attempt to share information with it.

8. Why was my petition not opened for processing? I do not understand the content of the letter of non-opening for processing.

Based on the information in the file, the IACHR decided that the petition did not meet the requirements mandated by its Rules of Procedure and other applicable instruments. In this regard, we advise you to read articles 26 and subsequent articles of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.

In this initial stage, unlike the admissibility and merits stages, the Commission does not make a statement through a public report. Instead, the Commission informs the petitioner, by letter, the reason why it is not possible to process the petition.

9. What are the premises of non-opening for processing in initial study?

The fundamental requirements that must be met for a petition to be open for processing are established in Articles 28, and 31 to 33 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. It should be noted that these requirements are the same as those that will subsequently be analyzed in the admissibility stage, if the petition is opened for processing.

The premises for the non-opening for processing are the following:

  • When information expressly required in the minimum requirements for submitting petitions is omitted (art.28.)
  • Non-exhaustion or undue exhaustion of domestic remedies (art. 31).
  • Late submission of a petition (art. 32).
  • Duplication of procedures, lis pendens or international res judicata, (art. 33).
  • Lack of jurisdiction of the IACHR.
  • Lack of characterization or prima facie existence of human rights violations (art. 34).

It is suggested to consult the following links:

10. Can my petition be re-evaluated?

If you do not agree with the decision adopted by the IACHR to not open your petition for processing, you may request that it be re-examined, complying with the requirements established in Resolution 1/19 and its annex. This is an exceptional procedure in which the IACHR will review whether the previous decision not to open the process was correct, in accordance with the applicable standards and criteria.

It is recommended that the re-study request be concise and focus on explaining why, at the time, the petition met that requirement for which it was indicated that it was not open for processing.

11. How long does it take to open a petition for processing?

Once the petition has been evaluated in the initial study stage and the Commission has determined that it meets the requirements set forth in Articles 28 et seq. of the Rules of Procedure, it will await transmission to the State in question.

Due to the large number of petitions at this stage, transmission to the State – action that starts the admissibility stage– takes several months. Transmissions to the State are done in chronological order.

However, users may contribute to their requests being processed more quickly by observing the following criteria:

  • To send electronically the petition through the portal of petitions and cases.
  • To send all the supporting documents of the complaint in the original language of the member country denounced.
  • If there is identity confidentiality from the alleged victim or petitioners, the Commission could request that it be lifted, in order to open it for processing and notify the State (see answer to question 3 in this section).
  • To send only the information and attached documents mentioned in the requirements for the initial study of the petition, as well as the additional information that is pertinent for this purpose. Consequently, you must only send the necessary documents to establish the facts that are reported as violating human rights and that which is pertinent to support that the petition meets the other admissibility requirements. It is not necessary to send copies of all the file volumes of the internal judicial processes. At most, if applicable, the main judicial decisions and a copy of the notification of the last judicial decision should be sent.
  • In case of sending attachments, identify them correctly, explain their relevance or the reason why they are provided. Likewise, do not submit documents through photographs taken with a cell phone.
  • Do not send large numbers of follow-up communications on matters unrelated to the subject of the petition or repetitive information that has already been submitted. All of this can cause confusion and delay the processing your matter. It should be noted that the fact of sending communications compulsively does not produce the effect that your petition is prioritized or attended to more quickly.

12. Can petitions be accumulated or separated/divided?

Combination. If two or more petitions are based on similar facts, involve the same people, or if they reveal the same pattern of conduct, the Commission may combine them and process them in the same file.

Separation or division. If the petition exposes different facts, or if it refers to more than one person or to alleged violations without connection in time and space, the Commission may divide it and process it in separate files under different numbers of petitions, if they meet the requirements of Article 28 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.

13. What happens if my report is inadmissible? Is there a way to appeal?

The decision adopted by an inadmissibility report is final and unappealable. It closes the procedure before the IACHR.

14. What happens if the State does not respond or takes a long time to send its observations in any of the procedural stages?

If the State does not submit its first response to the petition within the period established in Article 30.3 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, the Executive Secretariat will reiterate to the State the request. If the lack of response persists, the Resolution 1/16 On measures to reduce procedural backlog, could be applied, which authorizes the deferral of the admissibility examination to the merits stage. The application of Resolution 1/16 is notified to both parties.

15. Is it possible for a petition to have a merits report, but not an admissibility report?

In exceptional circumstances, and after having requested information from the parties in accordance with the provisions of Article 30 of these Rules of Procedure, the Commission may open a case but defers the admissibility analysis until the debate and decision on the merits. The decision shall be adopted by a reasoned resolution of the Commission, which will include an analysis of those exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances that the Commission shall consider are the following:

  1. When the consideration of the applicability of a possible exception to the requirement of exhaustion of domestic remedies would be inextricably tied to the merits of the matter;
  2. In cases of seriousness and urgency, or when the Commission considers that the life or personal integrity of a person may be in imminent danger; or
  3. When the passage of time may prevent the useful effect of the decision issued by the Commission.

16. Suspension of deadlines due to COVID-19

The suspension of deadlines, due to the pandemic, ended on May 21, and lasted two months. In this regard, it is suggested to consult the following press release 83/20.

For more information on the admissibility stage see the link below


1. What can I do if I have problems with my Portal account?

Any problem, doubt or inquiry of a technical nature regarding the use of the IACHR Portal should be sent by email, to [email protected]. Ideally, the email should explain in detail the problem or technical failure and provide a screenshot or "Print Screen".

The aforementioned account is not for submitting petitions or requests for precautionary measures, sending additional information, or inquiries other than those indicated in the first paragraph.