The Role of Inter-American Commission for Human Right in Americas

By Peter Reat Gatkuoth

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood” Martin Luther King, Jr.

May 29, 2012 (SSNA) — Over past decades, some of American states were politically unstable in the region-wide. The region had experienced unusual political differences and political turmoil, littered with civil wars, political conflicts and coups for decades. This conflict within some states had caused many death and disappearance of political members and human rights activists which resulted into a great human rights violation. This human right abuse and disappearance of political figures in some countries resulted into continent wide concerns which led to the formation of human rights organizations. “The need and the desirability of a regional Commission for the Americas were based on the existence of the body of American international law, built up in accordance with the specific requirements of the countries of this hemisphere”(Goldman, 865). That need and desirability also followed from “the close relationship that exists between human rights and regional economic development and integration in accordance with the statements of the Chiefs of States made at the meeting in Punta del Este” (Goldman, 865).

It worthy acknowledging that “the persistent intervention of the United States into the domestic affairs of its Latin American neighbors in the early part of the twentieth century influenced and stimulated Latin American efforts to accept a regional system based on the principles of non-intervention and the sovereign equality of states” (Goldman, 857). In many countries, some Scholars and other intellectuals in the Caribbean and Latino communities tried harder, criticizing the issue of human right abuse and violations in the region. Some also argued that the problems that led to many conflict within Latino and Central America was because the countries were divided politically by the hidden parties and therefore, political interests and differences began downing on them.

Although there were a great misunderstanding and challenges in some states in order to accept and implement a democratic policy that aim to promote justice, and protect individuals within the system, many leaders and scholars within the North America, South America and Central America struggled strongly to accept the reality that human rights system should be promoted region-wide to encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. In April 1948, “the inter-American human rights system was born with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man which had resulted into a public great aspiration of having an instrument to govern a regime of human right” (Ledesma, 27).

As the system proceeds with great expectation, the IACHR was created and held its first session in 1960 and started to observe the general human rights situation in all American States (North America, Central America and South America). Therefore, this analytical article will argue that the Inter-American Commission for Human rights plays a very functional legitimate role of strongly promoting and encouraging public awareness, investigating individuals’ petition alleging violation and the protection of human rights. The objective of the commission was to tackle and handle injustice through the court process while ensuring harmony and mutual understanding between the people within the American community at large (North America, Central America and South America).

The rise of globalized culture of human rights and democracy system around the world had helped many systems globally to be successful as many global citizens were more willingly to adapt to the standard system of universal human right systems. Inter-American Human Right Commission had found its easiest ways to mobilized all community to defense human right discourse within the institutions and nongovernmental organizations. These rights and concepts were meant for the well-being of individuals, the public at large and for the promotion of the understanding of the importance of human rights discourse through teaching, research and public awareness in all parts of the American continents. Some criticism emerged in between as to whose ideas are those universal rights but to the best interest of the American people and Inter American Commission for Human Rights in particular; they fully managed to promote a full awareness to what it means for individuals to be free from injustices, discrimination and denial of certain rights. They provide independent research and assistance to the victims of deliberately killings; and work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment while encouraging mutual understanding between the members of the communities.

Despite inherent limitations, the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court have proven to be courageous and principled allies of the victims, civil society, and states alike, as “transitional justice initiatives have both stumbled and succeeded over the years” (Dulitzky et al, 4). This process came into the reality because the Inter American Commission for Human Rights has taken a bold decision of mobilizing the public while using victim-centered approach and justice for national reconciliation in the areas where people are torn apart because of the violent within society. Most victims within the American communities usually felt that the government and the community had not done much steps to acknowledge the pain they had gone through or heal the wound caused by the perpetrators through violent ways; however, Inter-American Commission for Human Rights has assured the doubt hereinafter.

The victims only became successful in pursuing their rights when the Inter-American Commission for human rights was established. The community lauded this Intern America Commission for Human rights approach model because it is one of the motivational factors for them which emphasize the need for bespoke situation and assist conflicted societies to come to term with “violent past and to different transition rather than off-the-shell model” (McGregor, 2). This initiatives has help the victims who wanted their voice to be heard first because most of the time, the national court system usually reveals a shared disquiet that the voice of those affected are not always heard or accorded an adequate weight once the wheels of the national or domestic justice begin to turn (McGregor, 2).

During the December 1996 Peace Accord in Guatemala, many states within the American State accepted the role of the Inter American commission for Human Rights to visit and investigate the cases of forced disappearance and individual petition alleging violation. The interest of many states at that time “began shifting dramatically when the Alfonso Portillo government decided to admit responsibility in a large number of the cases then before the Commission and the Court. This resulted into acceptability and cooperation by some States to pledge a more cooperative attitude, raising hopes for a new era of accountability and justice” (Dulitzky, 7).

Subsequently, the Inter America Commission has held many cases of forced disappearance and torturing in many parts of Central and South America especially the case of Peru in which “the commission admitted many cases and determined that the Peruvian government is responsible for the extrajudicial execution of some of the victims and the forced disappearance of all others. The Commission opened each of the cases and processed them individually, keeping with the provisions of the American Convention and the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.” This step was one of the functional steps that marks an effective investigation and punishment of the individuals responsible for the violation of human right abuses and forced disappearance.

In a number of instances, the inter-American Commission for Human rights had also fought harder to bring many cases of indigenous community to justice and most of the appeals were successful such as the case of “the Mayagna Indian Community of Awas Tingni on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast”(Conaway, 1). This community fought for many years to regain their land rights, resources and environmental concern but the national government of Nicaragua has never accept the appeal of “the Mayagna Indian Community of Awas Tigni” until when the Inter-American Commission for human Rights has stepped in to investigate the case. After the investigation and hearing, the Court found that the Nicaragua violated the community land rights and property rights “by granting concessions to a foreign company to log on traditional Mayagna lands without Awas Tigni’s consultation” (Conaway, 1). The court decision at the time made the indigenous peoples to live freely on their own lands and to preserve their cultural heritage without any other interruption but the process was quite difficult and long because the government was not willing to accept the appeal and the real claim made by the indigenous society.

Although the process is quiet long as usual in legal system, most experts and scholars in these particular communities, where political unrest ruins the lives of the people; agreed that the role of Inter-America Commission for Human right is very legitimate in term of protecting of the individual rights and investigation of hidden human right abuse and issues in the conflicted society. In most cases, “the commission issued many resolutions and recommendations as well as requests for precautionary measures to protect the people against the threats or imminent danger to the lives of indigenous persons associated with systematic violations, committed against indigenous persons and communities particularly in the cases that occurred in Guatemala and Peru.”

The Inter American Commission for Human Rights’ role was acknowledged in “many cases of alleged violations of rights of indigenous people who have been harmed or killed by agents of the state in the course of the repression of dissident movements.” This allowed the commission to give a strong recommendation to “the respective governments in order to clarify the matter while provided compensation to the families and adopt adequate legislative measures in some countries such as in Guatemala and Peru.” This policy of protection was approved and reviewed many times in the Conferences and most of the states signed the declaration especially during Inter-American Conference, held in Caracas. The American states whole-heartedly “approved the resolutions on Racial Discrimination, Universal Suffrage, and the Strengthening of the System for the Protection of Human Rights.” The groups went on to condemn any violations hereafter which include “the practice of forcible recruitment in conditions of servitude to form self-defense patrols, imposed on rural and indigenous populations in several countries during periods of conflict against subversive groups” (Goldman, 861). 

Even though some major delays and procrastination usually occurred in the process of many cases, Inter American Commission for human rights has done a very significant and important role to “save the lives of many persons who were under serious threat of harm from state agents, their proxies and other violent actors”(Goldman, 876). It has helped the victims by issuing a numerous precautionary measures, “requiring the government to take concrete actions to protect hundreds of human rights defenders, labor union leaders and Journalist reporters as well as members of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities” (Goldman, 876). This role of Inter-American Commission for human rights clarifies the doubt to many people in the region-wide, by indicating that the organization has taken an appropriate step, needed in the continents-wide “to develop an awareness of human rights among the peoples of Americas”(Goldman, 862). It always give a strong “recommendations to the governments of the member states general for the adoption of progressive measures in favor of human rights within the framework of their domestic legislation and in accordance with their constitutional precept to further the faithful observance of those rights” (Goldman, 862). Therefore, it worth to say that Inter-American system of human rights has strongly promoted and encouraged the public understanding of human right system while investigating individuals’ petition alleging violation. The objective of the commission has come to reality until these days to tackle and handle injustice through the court process while ensuring harmony and mutual understanding between the people within the American community at large.

The author of this article has attended few court cases in Inter-America Court of Human Rights at San Pedro such as the case of prisoners who had burned into prison in Honduras. He is still living in Central America until the first week of June. You can reach him at [email protected] for any clarification or questions.

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