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Inter-American Human Rights Network » Background and Development
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Background and Development

Abramovich, V. (2009) ‘From massive violations to structural patterns: new approaches and classic tensions in the inter-american human rights system’, Sur. Revista Internacional de Direitos Humanos, vol. 6, no. 11, pp. 6-39.

This article examines the ways in which the IAHRS has influenced the internationalisation of legal systems in various Latin American countries, and traces the increasing application of IAHRS jurisprudence in national courts. It also presents an overview of strategic discussions about the role of the IAHRS in the regional political sphere. It suggests that the IAHRS should intensify its political role, by focusing on the structural obstacles that affect the meaningful exercise of rights by the subordinate sectors of the population. To achieve this, the article recommends that the system should safeguard its subsidiary role in relation to the national justice systems, and ensure that its principles and standards are incorporating not only the reasoning of domestic courts, but the general trend of the laws and governmental policies.

Buergenthal, T. (2004) ‘New upload-Remembering the early years of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics,vol. 37, pp. 259-280.

This paper, the reflections of the last surviving member of the first group of IACtHR judges, discusses the evolution of the Court from an under-funded institution with few contentious cases to a well-established institution with a full docket. However, despite significant progress, the article argues that the Court still has a long way to go to gain the acceptance and prestige in the Americas that the European Court enjoys in its region. The 2001 change in the rules of procedure of the Court – requiring the Commission to refer to the Court all cases of non-compliance by States may prompt national legislatures and courts to pay greater attention to the judgments of the Inter-American Court. The effect of these changes is not yet known and the future of the Inter-American Court remains wide open.

Cerna, C. M. (2004) ‘The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights’, Florida Journal of International Law, vol. 16, pp. 195-212.

The analysis in this article is divided into four sections. The first examines and explains what the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights actually entails. The second analyses the history of the system to draw conclusions about its future development. The third looks in more detail about the issues of compliance and non-compliance with the judgements of the Court, and the last section makes recommendations as to how teaching regarding the IAHRS could be improved.

Davidson, S. (1997) The Inter-American Human Rights System, Ashgate: Dartmouth.

This book describes and analyses the structure, procedure, practice and early jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The form and functions of the Court are considered in the context of the Inter-American system as a whole, and the development of its contentious and advisory jurisdictions is discussed in detail. Particular attention is devoted to the Court’s contribution to the corpus of international human rights law, in which parallels are drawn with other analogous institutions. Finally, an attempt is made to identify the ideological assumptions which influenced the Court’s early jurisprudence and an assessment is made of the Court’s future prospects.

Drucker, L. (1988) ‘Governmental Liability for Disappearances: A Landmark Ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’, Stanford Journal of International Law vol. 289, pp. 289-323.

This article examines the case of Velásquez Rodríguez v. Honduras; the first in which the Court made full use of its contentious jurisdiction, and punished a state for crimes committed by paramilitary groups allied to state officials. The procedural history of the case is discussed, along with the implications of the court’s ruling that Honduras violated several articles of the American Convention on Human Rights by its actions. The second half deals with the evidence presented to the Court in this case and discussed procedural mechanisms that would facilitate future forced disappearance cases.

Engstrom, P. (2011) ‘A Anistia e o Sistema Interamericano de Direitos Humanos’ in Payne, L., Abrão, P. and Torelly, M. (eds.), A Anistia na Era da Responsabilização: o Brasil em perspectiva internacional e comparada, Oxford: Oxford University Latin America Centre, pp. 102-139.

This paper reviews the contribution of the IAHRS to regional transitional justice trends in Latin America through an examination of the case studies of Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The analysis is divided into three main sections. The first presents the development of IAHRS and demonstrates how the evolution of the system was shaped by transitional justice issues. It situates the IAHRS in its relevant regional context and identifies key features of institutional and regulatory development. The second, analyses the evolution of the IAHRS approach towards the appropriateness of amnesties. The final section provides an analytical framework to evaluate the relative impact of the IAHRS and its ability to shape the ‘post-transitional justice’ debates.

Farer, T. (1997) ‘The Rise of the Interamerican Human Rights Regime: No Longer a Unicorn, Not yet an Ox’, Human Rights Quarterly vol. 19, pp. 510-546.

This article, written by a former member of the Commission, traces the development of the body from its original ill-defined and limited mandate, to an agency routinely involved in the investigation of alleged human rights violations and making a tangible impact in this field. It also discusses the difficulties of conducting such work, which often occurred in countries lacking effective judiciaries or other independent institutions, and where national governments held the conviction that human rights violations were a regrettable but necessary component of their rule. To highlight the challenges faced by the Commission, and latterly the Court, the author also compares the evolution and context of these two bodies, with that of their European counterparts.

Forsythe, D. (1991) ‘Human Rights, the United States and the Organization of American States’, Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 66, pp. 75–76.

This article aims to address several questions related to an apparent human rights paradox in the Western Hemisphere. How can it be that the same states that violate human rights or are unable to control violation of rights by private parties have agreed to regional standards and even action on human rights? What explains the development of the human rights norms and agencies of the Organisation of American States (OAS)? In seeking to establish the answers to these questions the author adopts a regime dynamics approach in an effort to explain precisely why regimes in the Americas were created as they were, and how they subsequently evolved.

Goldman, R. K. (2009) ‘History and Action: The Inter-American Human Rights System and the Role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’, Human Rights Quarterly vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 856-887.

This article examines the historical origins of the Inter-American human rights system and key achievements of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the past fifty years. It explores the Commission’s use of onsite visits and country reports to expose human rights violations of military governments during the 1970s, and its increased use of the case system since the restoration of democratic rule in the 1990s. The article also notes how shifts in US foreign policy toward the region impacted the Commission’s work. It concludes by highlighting certain obstacles and challenges currently faced by the Commission.

Harris, D., and Livingstone, S. (eds.) (1998) The Inter-American System of Human Rights, London: OUP.

This book provides a comprehensive examination of both the rights protected by the Inter-American system and of the way in which its institutions work. The volume contains an article by article account of the guarantees in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the American Convention on Human Rights of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the light of the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and of the Commission’s country reports on the human rights situation in particular states. There are also chapters on the rights of indigenous peoples, amnesty laws and states of emergencies. The evolution and current methods of work of the Commission and the Court are set out at length and their achievements are critically assessed. The role of non-governmental organisations is also examined in this context.

Lixinski, L. (2010) ‘Treaty interpretation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Expansionism at the service of the unity of international law’, European Journal of International Law vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 585-604.

The article examines the jurisprudence of the IACtHR in areas of adjudication – such as environmental rights, international humanitarian law, and investors’ rights – which initially did not fall under the instrument. In all these areas, the Court has used instruments ‘foreign’ to the Inter-American system as a means to expand the content of rights in the American Convention. As a result, the umbrella of protection of this instrument, and the reach of the Court, is far greater than originally envisaged. After analysing the specific provision on interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights as compared to the equivalent mechanisms in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the article analyses several case studies of expansionism in the case law of the Court. It argues that this exercise in expansionism, albeit imperfect, eventually contributes to the unity of international law.

Medina, C. (1990) ‘The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights and the IACHR: reflections on a joint venture’, Human Rights Quarterly vol. 12, no. 4., pp. 439-464

This article examines how the ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights affected the operation of the IAHRS. The first part of the study deals with the ways in which the Commission operated before the Convention came into force, and then describes the changes the Convention brought. It also includes a discussion of limitations that may impede the system. The second part examines the relationship between the Court and the Commission through the lens of several cases. The article concludes with a discussion of possible future developments of the system, and recommendations as to how it could be improved.

Medina Quiroga, C. (1988) The Battle of Human Rights: Gross, Systematic Violations and the Inter-American System, Martinus Nijhoff: Netherlands.

Medina’s work concentrates on the early evolution, operations and achievements of the Inter-American System, with a focus on the Commission. It frames the achievements of this body in the particular context of Latin America at the time, in which the prevalence of military and authoritarian governments served to greatly complicate the Commission’s efforts to investigate abuses and exercise its mandate. The book highlights the Commission’s role in exposing violations committed by authoritarian governments, and the mechanisms through which this served to delegitimise such regimes and, occasionally, contribute to their collapse. It also provides a thorough analysis of how the Commission acquired and exercised new investigative powers throughout its first three decades of existence and, in its concluding chapter, evaluates the overall effectiveness of the system in mitigating systematic abuses in the Americas.

Melish, T. J. (2008), ‘The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Beyond Progressivity’, in Langford, M. (ed.) Social Rights Jurisprudence: Emerging Trends In Comparative And International Law, Cambridge University Press: New York, pp. 1-61.

This book chapter critically assesses the emerging social rights jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as it has developed to date. It describes the normative framework over which the Court exercises jurisdiction, the complaints procedure it oversees, and the legal obligations that OAS member states assume with respect to the protected rights enshrined in the region’s instruments. It then assesses four of the normative axes on which the Court has jurisprudentially relied in protecting social rights and looks to the Court’s rich jurisprudence on reparation and supervision of compliance with its decisions. The chapter concludes that the Court’s social rights jurisprudence is commendable and requires expansion, but doing so will require the reversal of two troubling, closely-related trends that currently limit the vast potential of the Court to provide full and effective protection for all human rights.

Pasqualucci, J. M. (2012) The practice and procedure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

This book analyses all aspects of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ advisory and contentious jurisdiction and its provisional measures orders. The author examines the Rules of Procedure of the Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, highlighting the important changes the Rules bring about in the inter-relationship of these organs. She also cites the effectiveness of the Convention and the Court’s rulings in the domestic law of States Parties to the Convention.