The Other Side of the IACHR Reform Debate
|Written by Dan Beeton|
|Friday, 22 March 2013 08:26|
The Organization of American States (OAS) is set to take up proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today at 11:00am EDT (live feed here). While arguments against the reforms have received column space in major U.S. media outlets, little attention has been granted to some of the criticisms laid out by the Ecuadorean government, which has been leading the effort for IACHR reform.
In a presentation [Spanish PDF here; English PDF here] to OAS members in Guayaquil on March 11, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa pointed out that Ecuador is one of seven countries to have “subscribed in absolute terms” to all of the Inter-American human rights instruments, noting that:
Correa noted that only 24 of 34 states have ratified the “fundamental document” of the American Convention on Human Rights – the “San Jose Pact” that led to the creation of two bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Consequently, he states, only for those 24 countries are the organizations’ decisions binding.
Correa pointed out a number of contradictions within the Inter-American system, such as that the Inter-American Commission is based in “a country that is not a part of the Inter-American Human Rights System, and that has ratified none of the inter-American human rights instruments” – the United States.
He also asked:
Correa argues that the institution’s current funding mechanisms have allowed non-signatories of the “San José Pact” to determine what human rights issues are prioritized within the IACHR. For instance, the Commission’s Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech receives much more funding than the other eight human rights Rapporteurs (on women, indigenous peoples, LGBT issues, etc.) and, says Correa
Correa also pointed out that the embargo against Cuba goes against the OAS Charter and in particular articles 1, 15, 19 and 20. He denounced this as “undoubtedly the greatest outrage to international law and human rights in our continent, but which does not even appear in IACHR annual reports.” He also mentioned torture in the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay as another example of human rights abuse that is not discussed.
Correa proposed several reforms:
In a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday denouncing these proposed reforms, former president of Colombia and former OAS Secretary General César Gaviria Trujillo wrote, “One proposal would prevent the commission from obtaining funds from outside the region, effectively putting a financial stranglehold on the panel. As of this year, about a third of the commission's budget comes from Europe.” But it is unclear why countries in the Americas would not be able to fund the commission themselves.
Gaviria Trujillo also wrote:
But as Correa points out:
The host country of the Commission [the U.S.] is only subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission in [its] capacity as member of the OAS; therefore, it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Human Rights nor the Commission when acting as organ of the American Convention on Human Rights. [Emphasis in the original.]
Gaviria Trujillo does not explain why the U.S. and Canada have not ratified the convention nor what would prevent them from doing so in the future.
Several of Ecuador’s recommendations have been adopted by a majority of OAS members – and signatories to the American Convention, as an OAS press release stated:
With a majority of Latin American and Caribbean states poised to make changes to the IACHR over the objections of the U.S. and Canada, the U.S. and Canada will be further isolated in the region.