Why we must save the IACHR

This week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced a severe financial crisis that could lead to their collapse if funding or donation commitments are not received before June 15, 2016. The announcement provoked a wave of fear, anger and solidarity from civil society organizations, academics, international bodies and other human rights defenders from across the Americas region. Social media networks continue to be filled with the hashtags #IACHRinCrisis and #SavetheIACHR. The situation is a sad reflection of the lack of State commitment to the respect and fulfillment of human rights. The reduction in IACHR staff as a result of the crisis will no doubt have a significant impact on access to justice for the many victims of serious human rights violations that are seen throughout the region. Dismanteling of the IACHR will equal the loss of important mechanisms to monitor, report and fight against human rights violations–including the violation of the right to personal liberty.

‘We demand that governments and the Organization of American States (OAS) respond to the IACHR’s financial crisis with serious, structural proposals. Weakening of the IACHR will have a negative impact on the human rights situation in the countries of the region.’ –Joint statement from civil society organizations and networks in more than 20 countries

The IACHR’s leadership and strength in advocating for alternatives to immigration detention are essential to the construction of migration management policies that guarantee and protect people’s rights in the context of human mobility. The IACHR helped to increase visibility of the issue of immigration detention, from a regional perspective at a thematic hearing held in October 2014. The hearing was requested by the IDC in collaboration with 162 networks, organizations and experts from 24 countries. Since, the IACHR has issued numerous recommendations to States to eliminate the use of detention as central to migration policy and develop alternatives to detention. The IACHR has also addressed the need for alternatives to detention in their on-site visits (see Mexico 2016), precautionary measures (Bahamas 2015), in their thematic reports (seeHuman Rights of Migrants and Other Persons in the Context of Human Mobility in Mexico, 2014; and Refugees and Migrants in the United States: Families and Unaccompanied Children, 2015) and also in their country reports on the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Mexico (2016).

“The Commission has also contributed to raising awareness within public opinion and providing tools to local organizations, victims and States to aid them in guaranteeing respect for human rights” -Press release from Mexican civil society organizations (original in Spanish)

But what is perhaps most worrisome is that the IACHR’s financial crisis is the product of a lack of interest and commitment from its own member States. For many years now, the American States have not taken responsibility for their own human rights system. While the IACHR has survived thanks to voluntary contributions from primarily European countries, Latin American and Caribbean countries have ignored their obligations to ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to the Inter-American Human Rights System;1 and instead have contributed to the Commission’s gradual demise.

The IACHR has been a leader in the promotion of human rights in the Americas and today more than ever, we need the Commission in order to work together to protect the right to personal liberty and guarantee the rights of all people in the region. We urgently call on governments to prove their commitment to human rights, make voluntary contributions to the Commission, and in the next OAS General Assembly, adopt a decision to increase the Commission’s regular budget and allocate the necessary resources for the IACHR to fulfill its mandate.

1 These obligations are upheld by articles 33 and 40 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and in articles 13, 18 section H, and 21 of the Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Dichas obligaciones tienen como fundamento los artículos 33 y 40 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos; y el artículo 13, 18 inciso H y 21 del Estatuto de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos;and as affirmed in the 45th General Assembly of the OAS, held on June 15 and 16, 2016.