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The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights: what is the IACHR?


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is one of two bodies in the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, DC. The other human rights body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, located in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The inter-American human rights system was established with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in Bogota Colombia in April of 1948. The American Declaration was the first international human rights instrument of a general nature. The IACHR was created in 1959 and held its first session in 1960. Between 1960 and 2011, the Commission held 143 sessions, some of them at its headquarters, others in different countries of the Americas.

By 1961, the IACHR had begun to carry out on-site visits to observe the general human rights situation in a country or to investigate specific situations. Since that time, the IACHR has carried out 92 visits to 23 member states. Based on these visits, the IACHR has published 60 special country reports to date.

In 1965, the IACHR was expressly authorized to examine complaints or petitions regarding specific cases of human rights violations, and it began to receive thousands of petitions. The IACHR has processed 19,423 cases to date. The final published reports of the IACHR regarding these individual cases may be found in the Annual Reports of the Commission or independently by country.

The American Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1969, and it went into effect in 1978. It has been ratified by 24 countries: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Convention defines the human rights which the ratifying states have agreed to respect and ensure. The Convention also creates the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and defines the functions and procedures of both the Commission and the Court. The IACHR also possesses additional faculties which pre-date and are not derived directly from the Convention, such as the processing of cases involving countries which are still not parties to the Convention.

Thematic Rapporteurships

In 1990, the Inter-American Commission began creating thematic rapporteurships in order to devote attention to certain groups, communities, and peoples that are particularly at risk of human rights violations due to their state of vulnerability and the discrimination they have faced historically. The aim of creating a thematic rapporteurship is to strengthen, promote, and systematize the Inter-American Commission's own work on the issue. The IACHR had the same goal in mind when it created the Unit for Human Rights Defenders hi 2001, which in 2011 was transformed into a Rapporteurship.

In the IACHR Rules of Procedure approved in 2008, the Inter-American Commission reformed Article 15 on "Rapporteurships and Working Groups" and introduced for the first time in that instrument the concept of the "thematic rapporteurship."

The current Rules of Procedure, approved in 2009, establish that offices of rapporteurs "may function as thematic rapporteurships, assigned to a member of the Commission, or as special rapporteurships assigned to other persons designated by the Commission."

Generally, thematic rapporteurs are designated by the IACHR during its first session of the year, but under the Rules of Procedure, these appointments may be made "whenever necessary." The Rules of Procedure also establish the parameters used to designate special rapporteurs, who serve for a three-year term, which may be renewed once.
 Year of Creation
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous                     1990
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women                          1994
* Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression               1997
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant. Workers
  and their Families                                            1997
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child                      1998
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Human Rights                   2001
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived
  of Liberty                                                     2004
* Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants
  and against Racial Discrimination                              2005
* Unit on the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, Trans,
  Bisexual, and Intersex Persons                                 2011
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Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Organization overview
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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