Push back on state attempt to undermine inter-American human rights system

Publish Date: 
Monday, May 20, 2019

Earlier this May, over 200 civil society organizations expressed their alarm over recent state actions to debilitate the inter-American human rights system. The organizations, along with several individuals, urged the states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay to not take further action to undermine the efficacy of the system.

Signatories include members Amnesty International, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ), Conectas, Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), Fundar, Justiça Global, Plataforma Dhesca Brasil, and Terra de Direitos.

The civil society statement came in response to April announcements by the governments of Chile and Paraguay that the five states referenced above had delivered a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Executive Secretary emphasizing potential sources of legal restrictions on the system’s power, including the margin of appreciation doctrine, despite its inapplicability in the Americas.

The statement by organizations in the International Coalition of Human Rights Organizations in the Americas (coordinated by CEJIL), along with other civil society groups, noted that all the state “suggestions...are of a restrictive character and lack foundation in the recognized norms and standards of international law.” The signatories further recalled a prior state effort to weaken the system from 2011 to 2014, noting that this latest attempt “occurs in the context of prior efforts intending to add conditions the work and impact of the bodies of the inter-American human rights system, damaging their autonomy and independence.”

“Instead of complying with its resolutions in good faith, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay and Chile are making another blatant attempt to weaken and shackle the Inter-American system,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a separate statement.

More recently, Daniel Cerqueira at DPFL wrote a detailed rebuttal of the states’ “suggestions”, noting the move demonstrated a “lack of legal expertise” as well as “historical insolence and diplomatic incoherence”.

The states’ letter to the inter-American system represents the latest attack on a prominent regional human rights body. In October 2018, members supported a joint statement calling on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to resist state attempts to undermine its independence.