The future of the Western Hemisphere's independent human rights body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), has been called into question in recent days at the 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which concluded yesterday in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Several different reform proposals were considered at the summit, the push for which was initiated by Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua—all members of the ALBA bloc. Even more moderate nations such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico had also called for the IACHR to be "modernized." These reforms would give OAS member states the power to delay IACHR reports for up to one year, severely blunting their impact.
Opponents of the IACHR insist that the human rights body is a foreign policy tool of the United States and does not respect national sovereign decisions related to politics and economic decision-making. Leading that charge has been Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who was the only head of state to be present in Cochabamba other than Bolivian President Evo Morales. Correa was roundly criticized by the IACHR in 2011 for successfully prosecuting officials of the El Universo paper on the charge of libel when they gave him unfavorable coverage. He pardoned them in February of this year.
Correa said yesterday to TeleSUR, "If it's necessary to abandon the OAS and create our own system, then we have to do it."
Although some believed that the reform proposals would be put to a vote this week, assembly attendees managed to table the debate to next year's permanent council meetings—challenging OAS member states to prepare concrete proposals before next year's convention in Guatemala.
AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini commented, "This is a very dangerous precedent—vesting a body of executives with the authority to recommend reforms to an independent judicial institution and the crown jewel of the inter-American system, the IACHR."
Below is a brief Americas Quarterly resource guide on the IACHR: