GENEVA (27 August 2020) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged the Organization of American States (OAS) to take prompt steps to end its impasse with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over the Commission’s executive leadership, stressing the importance of ensuring that the IACHR’s well-established independence, autonomy and effectiveness are not undermined.
The mandate of the current IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão officially expired on 15 August, after the OAS Secretary-General declined to renew it for a further four years, as requested unanimously by the IACHR’s seven Commissioners last January. Bachelet urged OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro and the Inter-American Commission to act on their stated offers to resolve the issue through dialogue.
“The Inter-American Commission is a most effective and widely trusted impartial body, whose work is held in highest regard,” Bachelet said. “It has provided vital recourse for victims of human rights violations in the Americas, and has played an important role in advocating the rights of vulnerable groups.”
“Its robust role, and that of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, have made them both unpopular with certain governments at various points in their history,” the High Commissioner added. “This is to some extent inevitable if they take their role seriously and remain truly independent and autonomous, including from the OAS itself – as mandated by the Commission’s status under the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Statute of the Inter-American Commission.”
The High Commissioner noted that her own Office had been steadily strengthening its relationship with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in recent years, and said it continued to enjoy the full support of the UN Human Rights Office.
“This is a very damaging situation which risks undermining the independence and proven effectiveness of the IACHR,” she said. “It is also causing damage to the reputation of the OAS, so I hope it can be resolved soon. This should not be about personal reputations, or political allegiances, or loss of face – it should be about working to protect the human rights of hundreds of millions of people all across the Americas during a time of massive crisis.”
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