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Secretary General Insulza Inaugurates Seminar on Inter-American System of Human Rights

  May 30, 2012

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said that the debate on strengthening the Inter-American System of Human Rights should settle the controversy regarding the "legal certainty" and "clear procedures" of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and said he would like to see the commission hold an "open dialogue with governments."

"Many are hoping for a long, intense and profound discussion at the next General Assembly and I do not think it can happen that way. Surely there will be discussion, but it will continue after the Assembly, because (in the General Assembly) there will not be time to finish this debate, "said Secretary General Insulza, who opened a Seminar on Strengthening the Inter-American System of Human Rights at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

The Secretary General said, "reforms are needed, in at least three senses”; first indicating there was a "problem of juridical certainty," because "it’s about knowing exactly who has what rights and how they should be applied." In this regard, he mentioned the debate regarding the granting of precautionary measures, "there are some who believe that states should only follow them if they come from the Inter-American Court (of Human Rights)," while others believe states should follow them "although they do not come from the Court, " he said, referring to precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "There will always be an uncertainty, which is not good for either the Commission or for governments," he said.

Second, the chief representative of the OAS said that "we should have clear procedures on what is urgent, I say it frankly. The basic rule that the system works when you run out of internal processes seems to have a very relative value."

Third, Secretary General Insulza said that "friendly solutions in direct dialogue with governments" should be taken into account. "The Inter-American Commission is not a court," he said, and continued: "Why can’t the Chair or the Executive Secretary of the Commission go to countries to promote solutions?" As an example, the OAS Secretary General said, "if there is a problem with a dam somewhere, why will not the President or the Secretary of the commission and say 'we have a problem?’ Why don’t we find some way to address it before having to make measurements? Why must we communicate only by letter with governments or by making statements without listening (to the governments)," he questioned, adding his belief the organization must “be much more flexible. "

In this context, Insulza warned "autonomy does not mean putting aside dialogue, engagement and ongoing interaction with the democratic governments of the hemisphere, who precisely because they are democratic, expect it."

At another point in his speech, and referring to the budget issue, Secretary General Insulza said, "we all want the Commission to be sustainable; this means that we want to have the necessary resources." "This is a goal that we have as an organization,” Insulza continued, “I will soon submit the report the Working Group requested of me. Having said that, this is a difficulty we have with all the most relevant activities of the organization."

On his part, the Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, José de Jesus Orozco, said "this is the perspective from which we address this issue, the real strengthening of the Inter-American System of Protection of Human Rights, which illuminates the horizon and marks the course for our discussions. It is from the recognition of our own history and the present challenges, even in democracy, that we should reflect on which measures we should adopt to strengthen the protection of rights and the people of the Americas, and which, however, would lead to its weakening."

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director of Human Rights Watch, expressed differences with some statements contained in the Report of Secretary General Insulza and said that, in his opinion, these change "the terms of the discussion." According to Vivanco, the report refers to "the need to fundamentally reform the statute of the Commission." Vivanco also said that there is a "campaign promoted by some governments, not all, who seek to weaken" the Commission.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-194/12