CEJIL expresses concern about the erosion of the IACHR's autonomy
Autonomy and independence are fundamental pillars for the Inter-American system and are expressed through the IACHR's ability to elect its own Executive Secretary
26.August.2020

Buenos Aires, San José, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, D.C., August 26, 2020 - The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is a regional human rights organization that works for equality, dignity, justice and democracy with the tools provided by international human rights law. With this purpose, we represent more than ten thousand victims of human rights violations before the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights and seek to strengthen the capacity of the international system in the defense of human rights.

For 29 years, we have followed the evolution and contributed to the development of the Inter-American System on Human Rights (ISHR) to ensure that it fulfills its purpose of defending the rights of all who inhabit our continent. This is evidenced by our participation in consultation processes or regulatory or procedural reforms, in national and international forums and in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), among others.

Yesterday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the General Secretariat of the OAS published a volley of alarming press releases.  In them, the Secretary General indicated that he will not renew the contract of the Executive Secretary of the IACHR. This measure, which would leave the IACHR without its selected official to head the Commission's work team, has serious consequences for the independence of this regional human rights mechanism.

Autonomy and independence are fundamental pillars for the Inter-American system and are expressed through the IACHR's ability to elect its own Executive Secretary. Since the administration of OAS Secretary General César Gaviria in the 1990s, the Executive Secretaries of the IACHR have been appointed on the proposal of the IACHR. Article 21.3 of the IACHR's Statute and Article 11 of its Rules of Procedure describe the process of selection, appointment, and removal of the Executive Secretary. This position of confidence of the Commission is fundamental to guarantee that the institution´s administrative development is in line with the guidelines generated by the protection organ, based on Inter-American regulations. Without the ability to elect and remove its Executive Secretary, the IACHR loses a fundamental power to ensure its independence, as well as the direction of its work. We note that the regulations provide for cases of removal that are subject to a procedure that, according to publicly available information, would not have been carried out.

Finally, the news stories published yesterday point to serious questions about the role played by the organs of the OAS and the IACHR with regards to the resolution of administrative and disciplinary complaints within the OAS and the IACHR for alleged irregularities (including workplace harassment and questioning of hiring processes), as well as the guarantees of the rights of those involved (as complainants or respondents). These complaints must be resolved quickly and thoroughly, through independent processes that ensure the protection of the rights of those involved, transparency in public management and the effective functioning of the IACHR.

In conclusion, we reiterate our alarm at the measures adopted that endanger the independence and function of the Inter-American system for the protection of human rights.  We call for respect for the principles of independence, equality, effectiveness, and defense of the rights of victims that require regional protection.