Media Center

Press Release


  November 12, 2009

A panel of experts on Human Rights protection debated Wednesday at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) on the challenges and future of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, in a round table introduced by the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza.

Within the Framework of the 50th anniversary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the 40th of the American Convention and the 30th of the Inter-American Court on the issue, Secretary General Insulza said that the hemisphere is “proud” of a Human Rights System “unique in the world.”

The panelists praised the work developed so far by the institutions belonging to the System, and expressed their ideas to improve it towards the future.

Juan Méndez, Special Advisor on Prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and former President of the IACHR, highlighted four topics where more work is needed: “Fight against impunity, preventing Human Rights violations, fight against poverty and protection of the Rule of Law.”

Armstrong A. Wiggins, Director of the Washington, DC office of the Indian Law Resource Center, expressed his desire that “the OAS improves the mandate of the IACHR, perhaps making its decisions binding to Member States”. “The Commission needs to find new ways to promote Human Rights,” he added.

Helen Mack, founder and President of the Myrna Mack Foundation Guatemala, said that “the greatest challenge for the Inter-American System of Human Rights is implementation of resolutions and sentences.” In that sense, she insisted on the need for the damages caused by Human Rights violations to be repaired, a goal not necessarily achieved through a monetary compensation. Myrna Mack was killed in Guatemala in 1990 for being a Human Rights activist, and her case was subject to resolutions and sentences from the Inter-American Human Rights System.

Likewise, Douglas Cassel, Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame Law School, stressed that “all the world’s Human Rights entities praise the Inter-American System as a pioneer.” “The Court’s and Commission’s most important contribution is creating a culture in the continent by which whenever there is a problem, Human Rights are always considered.”

Juan Pablo Olmedo, lawyer and President of the Chilean Transparency Council, user of the Human Rights System, underscored the necessary condition of “uncomfortable” applied to the System. “If one day the Commission and the Court cease being uncomfortable in front of the power of a State, we will have lost the ultimate raison d’etre in the fight for Human Rights,” he added.

The panelist’s presentations were followed by a question and answer session where, among other issues, the financial difficulties of the institutions within the Inter-American System were debated.

Prior the roundtable, all panelists, together with both presidents of the Commission and the Court, Luz Patricia Mejía and Cecilia Medina, and both executive secretaries, Santiago Cantón and Pablo Saavedra, were met by Secretary General in his office.

Reference: E-379/09