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OAS Human Rights Watchdog Keeps Teeth


Mexican students protest in Mexico City. (file) The defense and promotion of human rights is a founding principle of the OAS.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been "founding pillar" of regional human rights architecture."

Latin America has registered enormous progress over the past quarter century. Most repressive regimes have gone; voices advocating change, once stifled, now help push their societies forward; economies are flourishing; and the continent almost entirely moved toward democracy.

“In a single generation, our hemisphere transformed from an exception to an example of the worldwide embrace of democratic values,” said Deputy Secretary William Burns before the Organization of American States:

“At the core of this transformation was our regional architecture. The Organization of American States played a leading role – from settling border disputes, to rolling back coups, encouraging economic development, and fighting corruption. And so did the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – a founding pillar of our regional human rights architecture and an example for the world.”


“For more than five decades, the Commission has served as the hemisphere’s moral conscience,” said Deputy Secretary Burns. “No government should place itself beyond international scrutiny when it comes to the protection of basic human rights and civil liberties. This conviction drives us to continue to try to perfect this institution.” Because “while our progress in defending and advancing human rights is significant, it also remains incomplete and uneven,” said Deputy Secretary Burns. “This is why a stronger and more capable Commission is in all our interests.”

So, when a handful of nations attempted to undermine the Commission’s ability to hold governments – including the United States - accountable by proposing changes that would erode the Commission’s autonomy and independence,” the United States and the vast majority of OAS members joined to reject all such proposals. “We must be vigilant against efforts of some to weaken the Commission under the guise of reform,” said Deputy Secretary Burns.

As State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “The defense and promotion of human rights is a founding principle of the OAS. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights impacts thousands of lives in the hemisphere through the issuance of decisions and recommendations to OAS member states to improve the human rights conditions in their countries. The United States is committed to sustaining the Commission’s work and its role in advancing the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the Americas.”
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