Press Release

IACHR Implements Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit for COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis Management

March 28, 2020

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Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced that it has implemented a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit for the COVID-19 pandemic crisis (SACROI COVID-19) to strengthen the IACHR’s institutional capacities for protecting and defending fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially the right to health and other environmental, social, cultural, and environmental rights (ESCERs).

The implementation of the SACROI is part of the strategy that the IACHR has already put in place to monitor and follow up on how the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is impacting the human rights of vulnerable people and groups. When the virus began to spread in the Americas, the IACHR issued guidelines for the comprehensive protection of human rights and health in response to the pandemic through the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (OSRESCER) (PR 060/20). It also issued recommendations for strengthening the free circulation of information during the crisis through the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, in partnership with the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (PR R58/020). The IACHR has also adapted its work processes and announced certain exceptional measures to keep its essential operations around the petition and case and precautionary measure system running during the pandemic and minimize the impact of this on users (PR 059/20) while continuing to monitor the human rights situation in the region as a whole.

IACHR president Commissioner Joel Hernández stated that “the IACHR has the institutional strength to provide support for countries in the Americas around protecting and defending human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, including by establishing a dedicated SACROI to provide timely responses.” He went on to say: “We wish to express our utmost solidarity with the people of the Americas and are stepping up actions to monitor impacts on human rights during the pandemic.”

Specifically, the SACROI will closely monitor the human rights situation in the Americas during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular emphasis on comprehensive, crosscutting responses. It will take a human rights-centered approach to collecting evidence on the impact of the pandemic; monitoring response actions taken by states in the region; identifying urgent cases within the petition and case and precautionary measures system to ensure timely responses to these; proposing lines of action to the IACHR concerning member states to protect and defend human rights in the context of COVID-19; identifying opportunities for providing technical assistance to develop state policies and initiatives with a human rights focus; following up on recommendations; implementing outreach and capacity-building activities; and deepening dialogue and coordination with specialist international organizations and civil society organizations. SACROI COVID-19 will operate through a crisis response team that will be coordinated by the Executive Secretary and will include the special rapporteurs and other personnel assigned by the Executive Secretary as needed, who will provide support for the process of preparing a methodology, collecting and systematizing information, and articulating and drafting proposals for decision-making within the IACHR.

The Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, noted that: “SACROIs are a pre-existing part of the IACHR’s strategy that focus on developing preventive mechanisms for addressing situations that could impact human rights in the region.” He added: “the specialist task force that will be responding to this crisis will put forward instruments to help all areas of the IACHR to coordinate an appropriate institutional response and protect human rights during the pandemic.”

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. 063/20