Remarks to the 42nd OAS General Assembly
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
As the United States has stated on numerous occasions over the past year, we strongly support the autonomy and independence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the court and their role in addressing particular human rights situations in particular countries.
The Commission has been, and remains, an important voice in addressing human rights situations in all countries of the hemisphere, including the United States.
Established by the OAS Charter, the Commission can address human rights issues in every OAS member state, regardless of their positions on the American Convention on Human Rights. There is no single country in our hemisphere that the Commission cannot reach in its efforts to improve human rights in our region, including the United States.
We have heard in the past that the IACHR does not go after the United States. That is not the case; they do, and we address them with the appropriate authorities and with the Commission. We don’t just run to the press, screaming and yelling.
All of us are concerned about the fate of the Commission. For our part, we take pride in the Commission’s role, historically and today, as an independent entity that is respected throughout the world for its steadfast commitment to promoting and defending human rights throughout the Americas, even in the face of the harshest criticism.
During this General Assembly it was unfortunate to have to listen to numerous attacks on the Commission by some of the very same parties that, not long ago, turned to the these bodies as their last line of defense when their human rights were violated by governments then in power.
We have heard in the past that this General Assembly was to put international bureaucrats in their place. Mr. Chairman, these international bureaucrats are in their place.
Our position has always been that it is up to the Commission to consider and implement, as it sees fit, these non-binding recommendations in a manner that strengthens its work.
The United States supports an open, constructive dialogue on how to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) and believes the Commission should be given the appropriate amount of time to respond to the recommendations.
In preparation for these deliberations, we will insist on the full participation of the human rights organs of the Inter-American System and with representatives of civil society.
We take very seriously their involvement and commitment to human rights in the Americas.
I will quote from a statement sent to all of you by 350 NGOs:
“Ministers, we hope that the region’s democracies reaffirm their commitment to advancing human rights and that the countries of the OAS understand that they will never be global leaders without a real commitment to human rights for all the inhabitants of the Americas. The States present at this Assembly must reaffirm the principles of independence and autonomy for the Human Rights organs. Today this means that principles cannot be trampled on for short term purposes.”
Further, we would emphasize that the Commission has undertaken a serious process to review the recommendations, including a seminar on May 30. We believe this was a strong indication of the importance the Commission places on these recommendations and their willingness to dialogue with member states, civil society and others on strengthening the system.
Nevertheless, we will shortly be sending a footnote to the Secretariat soon. We remain concerned that this resolution may serve as an invitation by some member states to weaken the hard-won authority and legitimacy of the human rights organs of the inter-American system.
This concern, Mr. Chair, will be the guiding principle of our participation in the discussions in Washington to follow-up on this resolution we are adopting today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.