On December 7, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) will hold two Extraordinary Sessions with civil society and users of the Inter-American Human Rights System to discuss proposed, controversial reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights‘ mandate and procedures. The sessions will be held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC and will be preceded by a coordination meeting among civil society organizations to be held at OAS headquarters on December 6. Civil society organizations wishing to participate must inform the OAS Secretary General on or before the Monday, November 19 deadline.
The Sessions will focus specifically on the recommendations of the Report of the Special Working Group to Reflect on the Workings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a View to Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System which was adopted by the OAS General Assembly earlier this year. Human rights groups have voiced concern over the reform process noting that countries that have criticized the Commission in the past were members of the Special Working Group. These groups also argued that some of the reforms will weaken the Commission, particularly those relating to procedures for filing precautionary measures and the work of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.
Civil society organizations wishing to participate in the Sessions are required to give advance notice. Organizations currently registered with the OAS should send a letter to the Secretary General stating their desire to participate. All other organizations are required to send a letter of intent to the Secretary General along with the organization’s constitution or articles of incorporation, statutes, and most recent annual report. Letters should indicate which chapter(s) of the Report of the Special Working Group the organization intends to address. This information must be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax (202) 458-6319 no later than November 19.
Organizations that comply with the above requirement may attend the sessions and make oral statements. Organizations previously registered with the OAS may also submit videos to be shown during the meeting and present written documents provided they do not exceed 2,000 words.
The Sessions are being held in accordance with the Work Plan For Implementation of Resolution AG/RES. 2761 (XLII-O/12), “Follow-Up on the Recommendations Contained in the Report of the Special Working Group to Reflect on the Workings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights”.
In the past, civil society has criticized the reformation process for a lack of transparency and inadequate engagement with civil society and victims of human rights violations, in addition to the clear possibility that the Commission will be weakened as a result. The reform process will be completed in March, 2013 at the latest, when the OAS General Assembly will adopt some or all of the proposed reforms. Last month, the Inter-American Commission submitted its response to the reforms, after widespread consultation with civil society and States.
For additional information, see IJRC’s instructional video and advocacy manual on the Inter-American System, in addition to a recent IJRC news post and Inter Press Service news article on the reform process.