Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights

people seated in long tables before giving testimony before the IACHR

Advocates speak before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Credit: IACHR.

Human rights in the Americas are at risk from a growing variety of threats, as development increases rapidly and more transnational companies move in with their eye on the region's rich resources. The Inter-American System is the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States charged with the promotion and protection of human rights in the American hemisphere. The System is made up of two principal and autonomous organs: the Commission and the Court.

While the Court hears and rules on specific cases brought before it by the Commission, and issues opinions on matters of legal interpretation, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also holds public hearings and special sessions to examine allegations of human rights violations in the hemisphere. Our human rights attorneys submit reports and cases before the Commission, and participate in hearings on behalf of victims and affected communities. We advocate for the Commission to act on our recommendations, submitted on a case-by-case basis, and urge States to respond to the human rights violations occuring within their borders. 

Hearings before the Commission:

Reports of Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders who Oppose Hydroelectric Projects in Guatemala - March 20, 2017

A coalition of communities and organizations denounced human rights violations against traditional and indigenous communities in Guatemala. Because of their opposition to large hydroelectric projects, the human rights defenders have been threatened, assaulted, treated as criminals, and assassinated.

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States, Corporations, and Human Rights in South America - June 7, 2016

The asymmetry of power between companies and affected people, among other factors, makes access to justice difficult in the Americas. In a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, civil society organizations demonstrated, through emblematic cases in South America, that this is a problem that happens throughout the region.

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Human Rights & Water in the Americas - October 23, 2015

In a hearing before the Commission, alongside more than 20 organizations, we explained how extractive activities, especially mining and energy projects, restrict individual and community water use. We also documented the failure of states to protect the right to water and effectively control companies and projects that affect this right. 

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Human Rights Situation of Defenders of the Environment in the Context of Extractive Industries in America - October 19, 2015

We submitted testimony alongside a coalition of 39 civil society organizations highlighting the role of extractive industries in committing human rights violations against defenders working on the rights of land, territory and the environment. The accompanying report, which covers 17 countries, broadly documents the elevated risks faced by that specific class of defenders, who are often subject to criminalisation, surveillance, kidnap and even murder by both State and business actors. The report provides more than 40 recommendations to prevent attacks and to ensure a safe and enabling environment.

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Corporations, Human Rights, and Prior Consultation in the Americas - March 17, 2015

In a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, civil society organizations requested that the Commission provide renewed attention to the problem, increasingly experienced in the hemisphere, of human rights violations committed by corporations.

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Reports of Forced Displacement and Development Projects in Colombia - October 27, 2014

Organizations and social movements requested that the international body urge the Colombian State to recognize that forced displacement caused by the implementation of "development" projects is a human rights violation that must be prevented. They also asked that the Commission verify this grave situation with a visit to the affected areas.

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Hearings before the Court

Consultative Opinion Raised by Colombian Government - March 23, 2017

AIDA had been invited by the Court to comment on the consultative opinion raised by Colombian government on the link between environmental degradation and human rights. The basic question was: If a megaproject damages the marine environment in the Greater Caribbean and, as a result, human rights are threaten or violated, should the State implementing the project be held accountable under international human rights law? 

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Read our Observations (in Spanish)