By Astrid Puentes Riaño, co-director, AIDA,@astridpuentes
In June, I wrote about how some OAS member states had begun a process to introduce tough reforms on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Human Rights System that would weaken their ability to operate and protect our human rights.
I want to bring you up to date on how the discussions are faring. More importantly, though, I want to ask you to get involved by signing thepetitionto ask the member states to strengthen –not weaken– the Inter-American System. More than 3,000 people have already signed! You can sign too!
The outlook last June was pretty thorny. Seldom has an OAS General Assembly been as tense as the last two, particularly the most recent one when the Inter-American System came under fierce attack and several member states even sought to re-establish it. The Assembly ended with a call to reform the statute at an Extraordinary Assembly, something that’s never happened in the history of the IACHR.
The good news is that the member states appear to have somewhat cooled their clamoring. There are more signs of a willingness to talk. The Representative of Brazil made reference to this change during the Permanent Council’s extraordinary session with civil society representatives, saying the confidence and opportunities for negotiations have improved. He said this process should lead to an outcome in which the underlying question of human rights takes precedence over procedural matters. Watch our video message to the Permanent Council of the OAS (Spanish only)
It’s an honor that the representative quoted us. Now we have to see if this good message gets translated into action by, for example, addressing the IACHR’s requests on Brazil including those regarding the contentious Belo Monte dam. The Brazilian government must respond and give its perspective on the case.
The not so good news is that the process is not yet complete. We’re still waiting for a definition on what the reforms will be and how they will be implemented. For example, part of the reform package proposed by some states is that if the Inter-American Court rejects a request for precautionary measures then the IACHR has to do so too. That, as we have said, fails to recognize the natural differences of the Court and the IACHR and puts them at risk.
The IACHR has committed to producing various reports, which will eat up a lot of its resources and thus could affect its duty to protect, its duty to proceed with cases of human rights violations affecting millions of people in the hemisphere.
It is understood that neither the Inter-American System nor any of those involved are perfect. There is still a lot to improve. But it is essential that this process concludes with recommendations to make the System more effective. That means that AIDA and our colleagues in the hemisphere will continue to lobby the member states, the OAS and the IACHR itself. We will continue to offer our opinions. We will continue to share our experiences as users of the System. We will continue to fight to prevent any weakening of the System.
That is why we ask you to sign TODAY and help us defend the IASHR and, in the process, our human rights.
If you as an inpidual or community member believe that you could use one of the IACHR’s decisions in cases involving dams, mining projects, tourism developments, free speech, the protection of women or anything else, then speak out and sign up now!
If not you, if not us, then who?