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Guide: IACHR Reform Vote at the OAS

IACHR at OAS

Commissioners from the IACHR meet in Washington. (Image: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS)

March 21, 2013

On March 22, the Organization of American States will hold a special General Assembly session to consider reforms to the inter-American human rights system. The process began in June 2011, when a working group started considering ways to strengthen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). However, many observers say the reforms will, in fact, weaken the Commission, undermine its autonomy, and allow governments to limit freedom of speech.

One of the reforms would limit the IACHR’s ability to issue precautionary measures. These measures allow the OAS to call for immediate action in member countries in cases of human rights abuses. The changes would also restrict the Commission’s ability to address individual human rights complaints, as well as slowing the process to evaluate petitions. In addition, reform proposals would prevent the IACHR from publishing comprehensive reports on freedom of expression in the region.

Another element of the reform involves funding for the IACHR. Those in favor of reform say funding should only come from within the region. This however, could limit the Commission’s finances, since about a third of its budget comes from Europe. The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, which protects press freedoms in the Americas, could lose nearly its whole budget. In addition, Ecuador wants member states to finance the general OAS fund, rather than individual rapporteurships. The Andean country supports equal funding for all rapporteurships, though the Freedom of Expression group currently receives more funding than others.

AS/COA Online provides a guide to primary sources, Americas Quarterly and AS/COA coverage of the reforms, and additional resources.

Coverage from AS/COA and Our Policy Journal Americas Quarterly

  • See Americas Quarterly’s IACHR Reform In Depth portal with coverage of the process from the press. CHECK IN: Live blog posts from the March 22 vote will be available on Friday.  
  • Follow @AmerQuarterly for live tweeting of the March 22 vote.
  • Watch a video and read a summary from AS/COA’s February panel with journalists, human rights activists, and experts from throughout the Americas to discuss the reforms’ implications.  
  • Watch videos from Voice of America and CNN, which feature AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini discussing the upcoming vote and what it will mean for human rights in the region. 

  • Watch an Americas Quarterly Q&A with José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, and Gustavo Mohme, director of Peruvian newspaper La República, who explain their views on the IACHR reforms.
  • Read two AQ Web Exclusives on the IACHR reforms, one by Nelson Camilo Sánchez, a researcher at Dejusticia, and by Carlos Lauría, Americas Senior Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Primary Sources

News and Analysis