Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

What is the Inter-American Commission?

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or the Commission) 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 Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Convention on Human Rights.

The IACHR represents all 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 does the Commission do?

The Commission's main function is to monitor compliance with and defence 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 with their obligations regarding these conventions, such as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

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. For information on when these IACHR sessions take place, visit the IACHR website or CRIN’s calendar.

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.

Rights violations - how does the Commission 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 own country. The Commission brings together the petitioner and the State to 'explore a friendly settlement'. If such an outcome 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 displaced persons, and on freedom of expression, and more.

Further information:

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

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