Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
PurposeHuman rights monitoring in the Americas
Region served
(ACHR signatories,
OAS members)
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
Executive Secretary
Mexico Tania Reneaum
Parent organization
Organization of American States

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the IACHR[1] or, in the three other official languages – Spanish, French, and Portuguese – CIDH, Comisión Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos, Commission Interaméricaine des Droits de l'Homme, Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The separate Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution based in the city of San José, Costa Rica. Together the Court and the Commission make up the human rights protection system of the OAS.


The IACHR is a permanent body, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., United States,[2] and it meets in regular and special sessions several times a year to examine allegations of human rights violations in the hemisphere.[3]

Its human rights duties stem from three documents:

History of the Inter-American human rights system

The inter-American system for the protection of human rights emerged with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by the OAS in April 1948 – the first international human rights instrument of a general nature, predating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by more than six months.[6][7]

The IACHR was created in 1959. It held its first meeting in 1960, and it conducted its first on-site visit to inspect the human rights situation in the Dominican Republic in 1961.[7]

A major step in the development of the system was taken in 1965 when the commission was expressly authorized to examine specific cases of human rights violations. Since that date the IACHR has received thousands of petitions and has processed in excess of 12,000 individual cases.[7]

In 1969, the guiding principles behind the American Declaration were taken, reshaped, and restated in the American Convention on Human Rights. The Convention defines the human rights that the states parties are required to respect and guarantee, and it also ordered the establishment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It is currently binding on 24 of the OAS's 35 member states.[6]

The commission's performance has not been always welcomed. Among others, Venezuela has accused[when?] the Commission of politicization. Others criticize the commission's stress on certain issues over others. These criticisms have given rise to what was called the "Strengthening Process of the Commission". This process began in 2011, led by the States belonging to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.[8][9]


IACHR representatives meeting with President Dina Boluarte during the 2022 Peruvian political protests

The main task of the IACHR is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas.[10]

In pursuit of this mandate it:

Rapporteurships and units

The IACHR has created several thematic rapporteurships and two special rapporteurships to monitor OAS states' compliance with inter-American human rights treaties in the following areas:[12]

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights [es] are full-time dedicated positions.[12] The former was created in 1997, while the latter was established in 2017, with Soledad García Muñoz of Argentina as the first holder of the office.[20][21] The other rapporteurships are in the hands of the commissioners, who have other functions at the IACHR and also their own jobs in their home countries, since their work as commissioners is unpaid.

Rapporteurships are initially established by the commission as thematic units prior to being upgraded to rapporteurships.

The IACHR also has a Press and Outreach Office.[22]


The Commission processes petitions lodged with it pursuant to its Rules of Procedure.

Petitions may be filed by NGOs or individuals. Unlike most court filings, petitions are confidential documents and are not made public. Petitions must meet three requirements; domestic remedies must have already been tried and failed (exhaustion), petitions must be filed within six months of the last action taken in a domestic system (timeliness), petitions can not be before another court (duplication of procedure).

Once a petition has been filed, it follows the following procedure:[10]


The IACHR's ranking officers are its seven commissioners. The commissioners are elected by the OAS General Assembly, for four-year terms, with the possibility of re-election on one occasion, for a maximum period in office of eight years. They serve in a personal capacity and are not considered to represent their countries of origin but rather "all the member countries of the Organization" (Art. 35 of the convention). The convention (Art. 34) says that they must "be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights". No two nationals of the same member state may be commissioners simultaneously (Art. 37), and commissioners are required to refrain from participating in the discussion of cases involving their home countries.

Current commissioners (2023)

Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR President
Name State Position Elected Term
Margarette May Macaulay  Jamaica President 2015 2016–2023
Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño  Panama First Vice-President 2015 2016–2023
Roberta Clarke  Barbados Second Vice-President 2021 2022–2025
Julissa Mantilla Falcón  Peru Commissioner 2019 2020–2023
Edgar Stuardo Ralón Orellana  Chile Commissioner 2019 2020–2023
Carlos Bernal Pulido  Colombia Commissioner 2021 2022–2025
One seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Joel Hernández García of Mexico on 3 August 2023.[23]
Source of IACHR Composition.[24]

Past commissioners

José Zalaquett, President 2004
Year State Commissioners President (post-2001)
Chairman (pre-2001)
1960–1963  Venezuela Rómulo Gallegos 1960
1960–1964  El Salvador Reynaldo Galindo Pohl
1960–1968  Ecuador Gonzalo Escudero
1960–1972  Costa Rica Ángela Acuña de Chacón
1960–1972  USA Durward V. Sandifer
1960–1972  Chile Manuel Bianchi Gundián [es]
1960–1979  Mexico Gabino Fraga
1964–1968  Uruguay Daniel Hugo Martins
1964–1983  Brazil Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches
1968–1972  Peru Mario Alzamora Valdez
1968–1972  Uruguay Justino Jiménez de Arechega
1972–1976  Argentina Genaro R. Carrió
1972–1976  USA Robert F. Woodward
1972–1985  Venezuela Andrés Aguilar
1976–1979  Guatemala Carlos García Bauer
1976–1979  Costa Rica Fernando Volio Jiménez
1976–1983  USA Tom J. Farer
1976–1978  Colombia José Joaquín Gori
1978–1987  Colombia Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra [es]
1980–1987  El Salvador Francisco Bertrand Galindo
1980–1985  Mexico César Sepúlveda
1980–1985  Costa Rica Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro [es]
1984–1988  USA R. Bruce McColm
1984–1987  Bolivia Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas
1984–1991  Brazil Gilda Maciel Correa Russomano
1986–1989  Argentina Elsa Kelly
1986–1993  Venezuela Marco Tulio Bruni-Celli
1986–1993  Barbados Oliver H. Jackman
1988–1991  USA John Reese Stevenson
1988–1995  Honduras Leo Valladares Lanza
1988–1995  Jamaica Patrick Lipton Robinson
1990–1997  Argentina Óscar Luján Fappiano [es]
1992–1995  USA Michael Reisman
1994–1997  Trinidad and Tobago John S. Donaldson 1997
1998–1999  Barbados Sir Henry de Boulay Forde
1992–1999  Colombia Álvaro Tirado Mejía [es] 1995
1996–1999  Venezuela Carlos Ayala Corao 1998
1996–1999  Haiti Jean-Joseph Exumé
1994–2001  Chile Claudio Grossman 1996, 2001
1998–2001  Brazil Hélio Bicudo 2000
1999–2001  Barbados Peter Laurie
2002–2002  Peru Diego García Sayán
1996–2003  USA Robert K. Goldman 1999
2000–2003  Guatemala Marta Altolaguirre [es] 2003
2000–2003  Argentina Juan E. Méndez 2002
2000–2003  Ecuador Julio Prado Vallejo
2002–2005  Peru Susana Villarán
2001–2005  Chile José Zalaquett 2004
2004–2007  Paraguay Evelio Fernández Arévalos 2006
2004–2007  Venezuela Freddy Gutiérrez
2002–2009  Antigua and Barbuda Sir Clare Kamau Roberts
2004–2009  El Salvador Florentín Meléndez
2006–2009  Argentina Víctor Abramovich
2006–2009  USA Paolo Carozza 2008
2004–2011  Brazil Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro
2008–2011  Venezuela Luz Patricia Mejía 2009
2009–2011  El Salvador María Silvia Guillén
2010–2013  Colombia Rodrigo Escobar Gil
2010–2013  USA Dinah Shelton
2008–2015  Chile Felipe González Morales 2010
2012–2015  Saint Lucia
 Trinidad and Tobago
Rose-Marie Belle Antoine 2015
2012–2015  Jamaica Tracy Robinson 2014
2012–2015  Paraguay Rosa María Ortiz
2017–2019  Colombia Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva [es]
2016–2019  Peru Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli
2018–2021  Chile Antonia Urrejola Noguera
2018–2021  Brazil Flávia Piovesan
2018–2023  Mexico Joel Hernández García

Executive Secretaries

The staff of the IACHR comprise its Secretariat, which is led by an Executive Secretary, who serves for what have recently been four-year, renewable contracts.

In August 2020, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro announced that he would not renew Paulo Abrão's contract as Executive Secretary of the IACHR, citing 61 personnel complaints by staff of the organization.[25] The Commissioners of the IACHR had unanimously approved the contract extension in January 2020,[25] and expressed their "profound rejection" of Almagro's action "whose refusal to renew this contract breaks with a 20-year practice of respecting the IACHR's decision to appoint its own Executive Secretary and thus makes it difficult to obtain truth, justice, and reparation for those whose labor rights have been affected." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Human Rights Watch, and the Mexican government have also objected to Abrão's removal.[26][27]

Tania Reneaum, a Mexican, was appointed as the new Executive Secretary in 2021.[28]

Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Name Country Term Notes
Luis Reque Bolivia Bolivia 1960 – June 1976
Charles D. Moyer United States United States January – August 1977 Interim Executive Secretary.
Edmundo Vargas Carreño Chile Chile September 1977 – March 1990
David J. Padilla United States United States March – June 1990 Interim Executive Secretary.
Edith Márquez Rodríguez Venezuela Venezuela May 1990 – February 1996
David J. Padilla United States United States January – May 1996 Interim Executive Secretary.
Jorge Enrique Taiana Argentina Argentina March 1996 – July 2001
Santiago Cantón [es] Argentina Argentina August 2001 – June 2012
Emilio Álvarez Icaza Mexico Mexico August 2012 – August 2016
Paulo Abrão Brazil Brazil August 2016 – August 2020
María Claudia Pulido Colombia Colombia 17 August 2020 – June 2021 Acting Executive Secretary.
Tania Reneaum Panszi[29] Mexico Mexico June 2021 – present
Source: OAS, Former IACHR Executive Secretaries.

Human rights violations investigated by the Inter-American Commission


  1. ^ "Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Individual Petition System Portal". OAS. August 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  2. ^ Hansel, Mary (8 August 2022). "There's a Way to Appeal Dobbs. It's Worth Trying". Slate. Available from NewsBank: America's News – Historical and Current. Archived from the original on 9 August 2022.
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  4. ^ OAS
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  12. ^ a b "Rapporteurship Distribution". OAS. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  13. ^ a b Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  14. ^ Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women
  15. ^ Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families
  16. ^ Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child
  17. ^ Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders
  18. ^ Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination
  19. ^ "OAS :: IACHR :: Rapporteurship on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual, and Intersex Persons :: Rapporteurship on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual, and Intersex Persons".
  20. ^ "Soledad García Muñoz es la primera Relatora Especial sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales, Culturales y Ambientales (DESCA) – Codehupy". Retrieved 6 April 2023.
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  22. ^ "Contact the IACHR Press Office". OAS. Archived from the original on 6 October 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
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  26. ^ "Luis Almagro reafirma que no renovará a Paulo Abrao en la CIDH". El Espectador. Bogotá, Colombia. 28 August 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
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  29. ^ Padilha, Saulo (27 January 2023). ""We will continue to make progress in strengthening the Commission and in our mission to secure and protect human rights in the region"". Sur - International Journal on Human Rights. Retrieved 29 March 2024.
  30. ^ (in Spanish) La masacre de Trujillo fue escogida por la CNRR como eje de su informe sobre crímenes emblemáticos
  31. ^ "Report No. 20/99". IACHR. 23 February 1999.
  32. ^ "Report No. 56/98". IACHR. 8 December 1998.
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  38. ^ "Mexico: Expert report on Ayotzinapa disappearances highlights government's incompetence". Amnesty International. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015. A new report by a group of experts from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on the investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, uncovers the authorities' utter incompetence and lack of will to find the students and bring those responsible to justice, said Amnesty International.
  39. ^ Cole, Diana Morita (27 September 2018), "Civil Rights Champion – Art Shibayama", Discover Nikkei
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