INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The Inter-American Commission is a quasi-judicial, quasi-political body established by the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights . It is based in Washington DC, USA.
The Commission is composed of seven members (Article 34 ACHR ).
- Commission members must be ‘persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights’ (Article 34 ACHR).
- They are elected in their personal capacity (Article 36 ACHR).
- No two nationals of the same state may be members of the Commission (Article 37(2) ACHR).
Who may file a complaint?
Article 44 ACHR: ‘Any person or group of persons, or any non-governmental entity legally recognized in one or more member states of the Organization, may lodge petitions with the Commission containing denunciations or complaints of violation of this Convention by a State Party.’
Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Article 46 ACHR and Article 31 Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission. Admission by the Commission of a petition or communication requires that ‘the remedies under domestic law have been pursued and exhausted in accordance with generally recognized principles of international law’. According to Article 46(2), this rule is not applicable ‘when: (a) the domestic legislation of the state concerned does not afford due process of law for the protection of the right or rights that have allegedly been violated; (b) the party alleging violation of his rights has been denied access to the remedies under domestic law or has been prevented from exhausting them; or (c) there has been unwarranted delay in rendering a final judgment under the aforementioned remedies.’
Time period: Article 46 ACHR. The petition or communication must be lodged ‘within a period of six months from the date on which the party alleging violation of his rights was notified of the final judgment’.
Duplication of procedures at the international level: Article 46 ACHR. Admission by the Commission of a petition or communication requires ‘that the subject of the petition or communication is not pending in another international proceeding for settlement’. According to Article 47, the Commission shall consider any petition or communication inadmissible if ‘the petition or communication is substantially the same as one previously studied by the Commission or by another international organisation’.
Article 47 ACHR. The Commission shall consider any petition or communication inadmissible if: ‘(a) any of the requirements indicated in Article 46 has not been met [see above]; (b) the petition or communication does not state facts that tend to establish a violation of the rights guaranteed by this Convention; (c) the statements of the petitioner or of the state indicate that the petition or communication is manifestly groundless or obviously out of order; [?]’.
Article 48(1)(f) ACHR: ‘The Commission shall place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in this Convention.’
Article 25(1) Rules of Procedure: ‘In serious and urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the information available, the Commission may, its own initiative or at the request of a party, adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons.’
Address for submitting petitions/communications
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F St., NW, Washington, D.C., USA 20006.
Telephone: (202) 458-6002
Fax: (202) 458-3992
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is a part-time, non-permanent judicial bodyestablished by the American Convention on Human Rights. It is based in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The Court is composed of seven judges:
- National judges: Article 55 permits judges who are nationals of states parties to sit on cases involving their own countries
- Ad hoc judges: Article 55(3) ACHR and Article 18 Rules of Procedure
- Gender representation: no specific provisions
Who may file a complaint?
Article 61(1) ACHR. Only a state party and the Inter-American Commission have the right to submit a case to the Court. Individuals may, however, submit cases to the Inter-American Commission (see below). In cases before the Court, alleged victims are allowed to participate in the proceedings submitting their pleadings, motions and evidence, autonomously, throughout the proceedings. They may also request the adoption of provisional measures (Articles 23 and 25 Rules of Procedure).
Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Articles 46 and 47 ACHR. Admission by the Commission requires ‘that the remedies under domestic law have been pursued and exhausted in accordance with generally recognised principles of international law’. This rule shall not be applicable when ‘(a) the domestic legislation of the state concerned does not afford due process of law for the protection of the right or rights that have allegedly been violated; (b) the party alleging violation of his rights has been denied access to remedies under domestic law or has been prevented from exhausting them; or (c) there has been unwarranted delay in rendering a final judgment under the aforementioned remedies’.
Time period: Article 46 ACHR. Admission by the Commission requires ‘that the petition or communication is lodged within a period of six months from the date on which the party alleging violation of his rights was notified of the final judgment’.
Duplication of procedures at the international level: Article 46 ACHR. Admission by the Commission requires ‘that the subject of the petition or communication is not pending in another international proceeding for settlement’.
Article 63(2) ACHR: ‘In cases of extreme gravity and urgency, and when necessary to avoid irreparable damage to persons, the Court shall adopt such provisional measures as it deems pertinent in matters it has under consideration. With respect to a case not yet submitted to the Court, it may act at the request of the Commission.’
Article 63(1) ACHR: ‘If the Court finds that there has been a violation of a right or freedom protected by this Convention, the Court shall rule that the injured party be ensured the enjoyment of his right or freedom that was violated. It shall also rule, if appropriate, that the consequences of the measure or situation that constituted the breach of such right or freedom be remedied and that fair compensation be paid to the injured party.’
- Binding force: Article 68 ACHR. ‘1. The States Parties to the Convention undertake to comply with the judgement of the Court in any case to which they are parties. 2. That part of a judgment that stipulates compensatory damages may be executed in the country concerned in accordance with domestic procedure governing the execution of judgments against the state’
- Execution of judgements: The Convention does not establish any institutional role for the political organs of the Organisation of American States to supervise enforcement of the Court’s rulings. There is no counterpart, for example, to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. In the American Convention, only one article refers to the enforcement of judgements. According to Article 65, the Court is obliged to submit an Annual Report to each regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS for its consideration. In this report, the Court ‘shall specify, in particular, the cases in which a state has not complied with its judgments, making any pertinent recommendations.’
Amicus curiae briefs
The Court receives amicus curiae briefs regularly although there is no specific provision regulating their submission.
Article 45(4) Rules of Procedure. The Court may at any stage of the proceedings ‘[c]ommission one or more of its members to hold hearings, including preliminary hearings, either at the seat of the Court or elsewhere, for the purpose of gathering evidence.’
Article 54 Rules of Procedure: ‘When the parties to a case before the Court inform it of the existence of a friendly settlement, compromise, or any other occurrence likely to lead to a settlement of the dispute, the Court may strike the case from its list.’
Article 64 ACHR: ‘1. The member states of the Organisation may consult the Court regarding the interpretation of this Convention or of other treaties concerning the protection of human rights in the American states. Within their spheres of competence, the organs listed in Chapter X of the Charter of the Organisation of American States , as amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires , may in like manner consult the Court. 2. The Court, at the request of a member state of the Organisation, may provide that state with opinions regarding the compatibility of any of its domestic laws with the aforesaid international instruments.’
Written and oral proceedings. Official and working languages are set out in Article 20 Rules of Procedure: ‘1. The official languages of the Court shall be those of the OAS, which are Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. 2. The working languages shall be those agreed upon by the Court each year. However, in a specific case, the language of one of the parties may be adopted as a working language, provided it is one of the official languages.’
It should be stressed that only states parties and the Inter-American Commission may submit cases to the Court.