OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77 rev.1
doc. 7
17 May 1990
Original:  Spanish








The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was established by Resolution VI of the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Santiago, Chile, 1959), Part II of which provided that the Commission would be composed of seven members chosen, in a personal capacity, from a list of candidates proposed by the governments … and would have the responsibility to “promote respect for such rights.”


The then Council of the Organization approved the Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on May 25, 1960.  In conformity with it (Article 2) the Commission was established as an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States, and human rights were understood to be those set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Bogota, 1948).


In further conformity with that statute, the Council elected the members of the Commission on June 29, 1960.  It is worth pointing out that the Members of the Commission represent all the member countries of the OAS and act in its name and serve in their individual capacity.


The Commission’s first regular session was held in Washington, D.C., between October 3 and 28, 1960.  Since then the Commission has held seventy-six (76) regular sessions, some at its headquarters in the General Secretariat and some in different member states.


The Second Special Inter-American Conference (Rio de Janeiro, 1965) amended the statute of the Commission, expanding and strengthening it so that it could effectively perform its functions, and further recognizing (Resolution XXII) that the Commission had “performed valuable service in carrying out its mandate.”  The 1960 Statute was amended as follows:  i) it authorized it to pay “particular attention” to the observance of rights referred to in Articles I, II, III, IV, XVIII, XXV, and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; ii) it authorized it to examine communications submitted to it and any other available information, to address the government of any member state “for information deemed pertinent …, and to make recommendations to it …, in order to bring about more effective observance of fundamental human rights;” and, iii) it requested it to submit an annual report to the Inter-American Conference or the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, so that the progress achieved and the protection of human rights could be examined at the ministerial level.  In exercising the functions set forth in its mandate, the Commission should first ascertain whether the domestic legal procedures and remedies of a member state have been duly pursued and exhausted.


Subsequently, during the Third Special Inter-American Conference (Buenos Aires, 1967), the Protocol of Amendments to the OAS Charter was signed.  Among the amendments there were several important provisions referring to the Commission, in particular, and to human rights, in general, and establishing in this way a quasi-conventional structure.  On the one hand, the Commission became one of the bodies through which the Organization accomplishes its purposes (Article 51 e. of the Charter), and on the other hand, it instructed the Commission to keep vigilance over the observance of human rights until the American Convention on Human Rights entered into force (Article 150, transitory).


On November 22, 1969, the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human Rights, convoked by the OAS’ Council (San Jose, Costa Rica) approved the American Convention on Human Rights which entered into force on July 18, 1978, when Grenada deposited the eleventh instrument of ratification.1


At its Ninth Regular Session, the OAS General Assembly (La Paz, Bolivia, 1979) approved the new Statute of the Commission, and at its Tenth Regular Session (Washington, D.C., 1980) it amended Article 6 and 8.  Article 1 of the Statute defines the Commission as an organ of the OAS “created to promote the observance and defense of human rights and to serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in these matters,” human rights” to be understood as those defined in the American Convention on Human Rights, for the States Parties to the Convention, and those contained in the American Decla5ration of Rights and Duties and Man, for the other member states.  As in the previous Statute, the Commission was to be composed of seven members who represent all the member states of the OAS (Article 2).  According to Article 3, members of the Commission shall be elected for a term of four (4) years by the General Assembly, and may be re-elected only once (Article 6).


According to the Statute, the Commission has functions and duties to discharge with respect to all the member states of the OAS (Article 18); with respect to the States Parties to the American Convention (Article 19) and with respect to those member states of the OAS that are not Parties to the American Convention (Article 20).2





The Commission has continued its cooperative relations with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  Likewise, it maintained is cooperative relations with those Specialized Organizations of the OAS related to the human rights field, such as the Inter-American Commission on Women (CIM), the Inter-American Children’s Institute, and the Inter-American Indian Institute, exchanging publications and working documents that, due to their nature, might be of common interest.




The Commission also continued its cooperation with the United Nations’ organs in charge of the promotion and defense of human rights, such as the Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Committee provide for in the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, in particular, with the Working Group on Forced Disappearances, in order to clarify some cases of the same nature reported to the Commission.


Members of the Executive Secretariat attended seminars sponsored by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the “Inter-American Seminar on Human Rights for the staff of Latin American Ministries of Foreign Affairs” held in Brasilia on December 407, 1989, and the “Past and Future of Economic Rights in Latin America” held in Buenos Aires on December 11-14, 1989.

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1.  The State Parties are:  Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.  Among them, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela have recognized the Commission’s jurisdiction to consider inter-State complaints in conformity with Article 45 of the American Convention.  Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela have also recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in conformity with Article 62 of the Convention.  OEA/Ser.A/16, No, 36, Treaty Series.


2.  For more information see “Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.71, doc.6 rev. 1, March 1, 1988).