Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
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 other being the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica. The IACHR is based in Washington, D.C. and its mandate is laid down in the American Convention on Human Rights. It represents all of the member countries of the Organization of American States.
The IACHR provides protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Americas in a variety of ways, including requesting information from States on their situation, issuing press releases, holding public hearings (see below), preparing reports on the situation of defenders and adopting precautionary measures in cases of emergency where the HRD is under serious threat (see below).
Each of the 7 members of the IACHR (the commissioners) is a rapporteur who has particular responsibility for a number of countries as well as one or more human rights issues. Human rights violations can be reported directly to them (contact details are at the bottom of each page on the link below).
See full list of rapporteurs.
Precautionary measures and petitions
Two formal procedures for the protection of HRDs and the rights they defend are precautionary measures for emergency situations and the petition system which is a longer-term process. The IACHR has produced a brochure which provides information on how to apply for them. The form and contact details are the same for both and available here:
It is also possible for organisations to present testimony or information to the IACHR on human rights issues that concern them at the IACHR's regular public hearings, which generally take place in Washington DC. At most such hearings, a number of organisations working on the same theme will collaborate and make a joint presentation of their case to the hearing (see Article 66 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure for more details of how to apply). They are an important means of drawing attention to human rights issues and for calling states publicly to account.
CEJIL (Center for Justice and International Law) was founded to provide greater access to the Inter-American System for victims of human rights violations. It provides support for individuals and organisations presenting cases to the IACHR, with a particular focus on HRDs at risk and emblematic cases. See also its Pro Bono Guide for a list, by country, of organisations willing to provide free legal advice for representation before the Inter-American System.
The IACHR also operates a Legal Assistance Fund where the person who has submitted a petition and/or the victim does not have the means to meet the expenses of the case, such as the cost of gathering evidence and attendance at hearings of the IACHR.
Guides to the Inter-American System
There are a number of guides, for example: