The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) comes to a close today in Antigua, Guatemala, with a vote for three new members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) scheduled for this afternoon. The elections, which will take place during the 3:00 p.m. (CST)/5:00 p.m. (EDT) plenary session, will replace three of the seven commission members from a pool of six candidates—each representing a different member nation.
The IACHR vote comes at a moment when several member states are calling for reform of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, putting the future of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in jeopardy. The most vigorous criticism has come from members of Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de Nuestra America (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—ALBA), which includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2012, the bloc initiated the discussion of a series of reforms that would drastically limit the role of the IACHR and bar the commission from seeking extra-regional financial support. Debate on the reforms has been set aside for now, but it remains on the agenda.
In the meantime, the General Assembly will consider candidates to the IACHR from Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and the United States.
Erick Roberts Garcés, from Ecuador, recently served as director of human rights for Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office. Roberts’ close ties to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s administration—as well and his outspoken criticism of the IACHR—have raised questions about Roberts’ impartiality and sparked concern that, if elected, he could threaten the commission’s independence and use his position to push forward reforms that Ecuador supports. Mexico’s incumbent candidate, Dr. José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, has served on the IAHCR since 2010. Previously, he served for 16 years as a magistrate in Mexico’s highest electoral courts—first in the central chamber of the Federal Electoral Court, and then in the higher chamber of the Electoral Court of the Judiciary.
Another incumbent, Dr. Rodrigo Escobar Gil of Colombia, was a member of the Constitutional Court of Colombia from 2001 to 2009, and president of that body from 2007 to 2008. Additionally, he has served as legal counsel and attorney to a variety of private companies and government entities.
Javier de Belaunde López de Romana of Peru is an attorney who has served on a number of commissions and boards, most recently the consultative committee of the Comisión de Justicia y Derechos Humanos (Justice and Human Rights Commission) in Peru.
Paulo Vanucchi of Brazil served from 2005 to 2011 as secretary of human rights in Brazil. More recently, he has served as director of the Instituto Lula, a think tank founded by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The United States’ candidate, James Cavallaro, is the founder and director of Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and the Global Justice Center, a leading Brazilian human rights non-governmental organization. He hopes to encourage the United States to sign the American Convention on Human Rights and to strengthen the Caribbean’s voice in the IACHR. He has authored a number of papers on international human rights.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the General Assembly this week, where he pushed for an overhaul of the OAS to refocus its mission on the defense of democracy and human rights, while promoting security and development. He also lobbied on behalf of Cavallaro’s IACHR candidacy.