Representatives from Brazil, Mexico and the United States will join the four existing members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), following their election Thursday during the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Dr. José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez of Mexico was re-elected in the first round of voting with 22 votes, and will be joined by Stanford law professor and U.S. candidate James L. Cavallaro, who won 20 votes. Cavallaro will serve for four years before being eligible to seek a one-off re-election.
Receiving 18 votes each in the first round, Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi from Brazil and Colombia’s Dr. Rodrigo Escobar Gil faced a second round run-off, which the Brazilian won with 19 votes to Escobar Gil’s15 votes. Also defeated was Ecuadorian candidate Dr. Erick Roberts Garcés, whose ties to the Ecuadorian government and outspoken criticism of the IACHR likely affected his popularity. Roberts Garcés narrowly missed out on the run-off, with 17 votes in the first round. The Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de Nuestra America (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—ALBA), a group of countries that includes Ecuador and Venezuela, has been calling for reforms to the IACHR since 2011. Earlier in the evening, Venezuelan representative Roy Chaderton Matos forcefully expressed his indignation at being singled out in the Annual Report of the IACHR, which listed his country as one of the worst human rights violators in the Americas. He also conveyed his disappointment over the commission’s reaction to the deaths of 11 Venezuelans who were killed in electoral violence on April 15.
The Colegio De Especialistas de Derechos Humanos Del Ecuador (College of Human Rights Specialists of Ecuador) has called upon the IACHR to reform itself along the lines of the European human rights system and to allow individual citizens to bring their cases in front of the commission. Doctor Franklin Moreno Quezada of the Colegio released a press release in May suggesting a number of reforms.
In addition, countries including Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador are actively looking at joining Trinidad and Tobago in removing themselves from the commission. Bolivia, also a member of ALBA, has expressed its displeasure at the perceived politicization of the IACHR.
In an extraordinary session of the OAS in March, the ALBA countries’ proposal to limit the role of IACHR and bar the commission from seeking extra funding was tabled for future debate. Given that the OAS is itself in considerable debt, those plans would have effectively paralyzed the IACHR.
With funding and legitimacy issues to deal with, the IACHR faces one of the most challenging periods in its 54-year history as states react to the commission’s judgments against them and continue to press for reforms. The immediate future does not look any easier, as more human rights violations—such as those in the Efraín Ríos Montt case in Guatemala—come to trial.