The Inter-American system for the protection of human rights was created with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in 1948. The human rights system was established under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS), which comprises 35 Member States from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. All Member States must comply with the rights contained in the American Declaration.
All Member States are parties to the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS Charter), adopted in 1948. See OAS Charter ratification, declaration and reservation details.
Article 53 of the OAS Charter established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which was created in 1959.
The American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) (adoption in 1969 and entry into force in 1978) defines the human rights which the ratifying States have agreed to respect and ensure. Currently, 25 OAS Member States have ratified the Convention - see States' ratification status, declarations and reservations. Article 33(b) of the Convention created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Convention defines the functions and procedures of both the Inter-American Commission (Chapter VII) and the Court (Chapter VIII).
The Commission and Court interpret and apply several regional human rights instruments. The Commission's Basic Documents page includes the declarations, conventions, and protocols that describe the mandate and functions of the organs of the system -the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights - and the human rights obligations of the OAS Member States. The Basic Documents page includes the text of the documents, the Travaux préparatoires, and signatures and ratification status by OAS Member States.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights plays a unique ‘dual role’, which reflects its origin as a Charter based body and later transformation into a treaty body when the American Convention on Human Rights came into force. As an OAS Charter organ the Commission performs functions in relation to all 35 OAS Member States (Article 41 ACHR) and as a Convention organ its functions are applicable only to States that have ratified (are parties to) the Convention.
The supervisory functions of the Commission include:
The Commission has established several thematic Rapporteurships (Special Mechanisms) to more closely monitor certain human rights themes or the rights of specific communities. The rapporteurships report their activities to the Commission. In its Annual Reports to the OAS General Assembly, the Commission provides an account of the rapporteurships’ activities.
The Commission’s website includes:
The two main functions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are to:
The Court is only able to hear and decide cases that:
The Court's decisions are binding and cannot be appealed.
The Court’s website includes:
In SUMMA (formerly the Inter-American Human Rights Caselaw Analyser) (from the open access HURIDOCS) you can search or browse the decisions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights individually, or search them simultaneously by, for example, instrument, country or process.
In WorldCourts, you can search or browse the decisions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights individually, or search them simultaneously using keywords / topics. Please note that WorldCourts has not been updated since 2014.
The Inter-American Commission’s Reports on Cases webpage contains reports on admissibility, merits, cases in court, friendly settlements, and archive decisions.
The Inter-American Court's Jurisprudence Finder database can be browsed or searched for Decisions and Judgments, Provisional Measures, Compliance with Judgments, and Advisory opinions. The Decisions and Judgments are available in full text (in Word and PDF, and in English and Spanish), and case files, separate judicial opinions, and 'technical data' (useful procedural details, litigation history, summaries and analysis) are provided.
The Loyola of Los Angeles Inter-American Court of Human Rights Project database and journal publishes detailed summaries of cases decided by the Inter-American Court. Summaries include descriptions of cases’ facts, procedural history, merits, and states’ compliance with the Inter-American Court’s judgment. Summaries are accessible via the journal and database. The Project also compiles data for each case. The basic and advanced search options allow users to search all of the Inter-American Court's decisions by case name, date of judgment, country, Judge, and Separate Opinion, as well as specific violations of the Inter-American conventions.
The following articles are freely available from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN):