Children's Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

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More information: Country Reports - Chapters on Children's Rights | State Responses to Commission Reports | Previous Sessions | Useful Documents | Glossary of terms in the inter-American human rights system | Contacts & Links


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General Information about the Inter-American System

What is it?

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is one of two bodies in the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The other human rights body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in San José, Costa Rica.

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). Its mandate is found in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR represents all of the Member States of the OAS. It is composed of seven experts who act independently, without representing any particular country. The members of the IACHR are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS.

What are the functions of the Commission?

The Commission's main function is to monitor compliance and defense of human rights in the Americas. The Commission's powers are derived from the Charter, but other Inter-American human rights conventions and protocols have authorised the Commission to monitor States' compliance of Member States with their obligations regarding these conventions.

When does the Commission meet?

The IACHR meets in ordinary and special sessions several times a year. The ordinary sessions usually last for about two weeks and take place three times a year. During these sessions, the Commission dedicates one week to the hearings and working meetings on various cases and also analyses specific topics or the situation of human rights in a country.

Who participates?

These sessions are important for human rights organisations and advocates because they can provide the Commission with information about a topic and request its intervention in resolving an issue, or appeal for the investigation of a particular situation.

How does it work?

The Commission can consider petitions from individuals who claim their rights have been violated by the state and they have been unable to find justice in their won country. The Commission brings together the petitioner and the state to 'explore' a friendly settlement'. If such an outome is not possible, the Commission may recommend specific measures, or may report the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as long as the state has accepted the Court's authority (see Article 64).

Under certain circumstances, the people who believe they are at particular risk may make an urgent appeal to the Commission, which can call on a state to take 'precautionary measures' to prevent irreparable harm.

The Commission may also undertake on-site visits for assessing and reporting on the human rights situation of a state. It would then issue recommendations.

The Commission may also give priority to certain issues by creating rapporteurships to focus on these areas. Current rapporteurships exist on the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, migrant workers, prisoners and displaces persons, and on freedom of expression.

Children and Young People’s Rights in the Inter-American System: Questions & Answers

What instruments are there in the Inter-American System for protecting and promoting children and young people's rights?

There is no single instrument that deals specifically with children’s rights in the Inter-American System. However, other instruments can be invoked to report violations of children’s rights and to seek reparations for these.

Which other instruments can be invoked to protect and promote children’s rights in the Inter-American System?

  • Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights - Articles 7, 13, 15 and 16;

  • The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty;

  • The Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture;

  • The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons;

  • The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women - Articles 8 and 9;

  • The Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities

The Court has, in addition, issued an Advisory Opinion about "The Legal Status and Human Rights of the Child" (2002).

More information about these instruments is available from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) at http://www.cejil.org

What does the American Convention say about children’s rights?

Article 19 of the American Convention stresses that children have the right to special protection from the State, but it is not specific about what rights children are entitled to or how these should be upheld. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) spells out in more detail what rights children are entitled to and how these should be guaranteed. The Additional Protocol to the American Convention adds that every child has the right to grow up under parental protection and may be separated from his/her mother only in exceptional circumstances. It also enshrines that right of every child to primary education.

Can individual violations of children’s rights be reported to the Inter-American System?

Yes, unlike the UNCRC, the American Convention includes provisions for reporting individual cases in which children’s rights have been breached. Such cases have helped to establish precedents for protecting children’s rights in many countries in the region and States have been ordered to pay compensation to the victims and make other kinds of reparations in addition to changing their legislation.

Read more about the Court's work here.

Is there someone appointed to focus specifically on issues relating to child rights at the Inter-American Commission?

A Special Rapporteurship on Children’s Rights was created in 1998 in response to pressure from NGOs.

What are the duties of the Rapporteur on Children’s Rights?

The Rapporteur carries out studies on issues of concern relating to child rights in the region, undertakes in-country visits, prepares specific chapters on child rights for country and annual reports, and examines individual violations of children’s rights.

Contacts and links

For more information about children's rights at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, contact:

Rapporteurship on Children's Rights
1889 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A
Tel: +1 202 458 6002
Email: relatorianinez@oas.org
Website: http://www.cidh.oas.org/Ninez/default_eng.htm

For more information about children’s rights in the Americas, contact:
The Inter-American Children’s Institute
Av. 8 de Octubre 2904, Casilla de Correo 16212, Montevideo (11600), Uruguay
Tel: +598 (2) 487 2150; Fax: +598 (2) 487 3242
Email: iin@oas.org
Website: www.iin.oea.org


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