The Inter-American System of Human Rights

The Inter-American System of Human Rights

The Inter-American System of Human Rights

The Inter-American System of Human Rights

Synopsis

This book, which can be used as a text for teaching purposes, gives a fascinating, and authoritative treatment both the rights protected by the Inter-American system and of the way in which its institutions work. An important part of the book is a thorough, article by article account of the guarantee 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 many 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. The book will be invaluable to all those interested in the protection of human rights in the Americas and international human rights law generally.

Excerpt

In the 1970s and 1980s central and latin America was synonymous with some of the world's worst human rights violations. Much of the region was in a state of civil war or under the rule of brutal military dictatorships. Incommunicado detentions, torture and extra judicial killings were frequent. A new phenomenon among human rights violation, the 'disappeared person', emerged in this region in this period. In the past decade, with the transition to democratic rule in much of the region, new challenges have arisen. Peace agreements or transition arrangements have raised the issue of what human rights guarantees are required and how they should be given effect to, the legacy of amnesties for human rights violations have posed the question of what should be done about such violations committed by past regimes and the claims of indigenous peoples have become ever more difficult to ignore.

At the centre of all of these issues has been the inter-American human rights system, represented primarily by the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights. In the first half of the 1980s this system, which was established and funded by the region's states, struggled to fashion a response to the wave of gross human rights violations which swept across the continent. However since the Commission's path breaking country report on Argentina in 1979 and the Court's recognition and condemnation of the phenomenon of disappearances in the Velasquez Rodriguez case in 1988 it has played an increasingly prominent role. Rulings on issues such as fundamental guarantees in states of emergency and the validity of amnesty laws passed by previous regimes have set precedents for human rights lawyers throughout the world. The system's innovative mechanisms such as the country report have excited the interest of human rights lawyers well beyond the Americas, as has the rule by which a petitioner's factual assertions are accepted as true in the absence of contradiction by the state.

As human rights lawyers in Europe we are aware of some of these developments but not of their detail. Perhaps too struck by the rapid development of our own regional human rights system in the past twenty years and the lack of material (particularly English language material) on the inter-American system, we felt that lawyers in this part of the world had failed to pay as much attention as they should have to such an important and developing regional system. To this end the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham organized a conference on the inter-American system in London in November 1995. The conference was exceptionally well attended. Testimony both to the interest in the topic among human rights . . .

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