Expert Panel Urges Members of Organization of American States to Act on Transparency at Human Rights Commission and Court

Expert Panel Urges Members of Organization of American States to Act on Transparency at Human Rights Commission and Court

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON DC—A group of five leading regional human rights experts has called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen its stated commitment to a more transparent selection of judges and commissioners to the Inter-American System on Human Rights.

In a report presented on June 5 in Washington DC, the members of the 2017 Independent Panel on the Election of Inter-American Commissioners noted that despite some improvements in the process, OAS member states have yet to take action on a number measures to promote greater transparency in nomination and election processes with the aim of ensuring that only the very best candidates are nominated:

  • That states should issue public calls for nominations spelling out the criteria and processes for the nomination and election of candidates.
  • That states create a formal, independent and non-political body at the national level to publicly assess and interview candidates, and ensure that they satisfy the nomination criteria.
  • That states should nominate a minimum of two candidates for election, at least one of them a woman.
  • That states should consider the Commission’s need to have a wide range of experiences amongst its members, including different and complementary skills, when nominating candidates for election.
  • That the OAS set up its own Consultative  Committee responsible for reviewing and ensuring the suitability of all nominated candidates, a model now embraced by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Panel’s recommendations were included in its independent assessment of the six nominees standing for election this month to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Member states of the OAS will vote for three new commissioners during the OAS General Assembly, which will be held in Cancun from June 19 to 21.

The Panel is part of an ongoing effort by civil society groups to push for more transparent and rigorous nomination and election processes in the Inter-American System. It was convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Due Process of Law Foundation, and has been endorsed by human rights groups, non-governmental organizations, and universities throughout the region. A similar Panel evaluated the candidates for both the Commission and Court during the 2015 elections.

The 2017 Panel’s assessment included a review of publicly available information, together with their responses to a questionnaire submitted to each candidate by the Panel, seeking their views on current issues facing the Commission and the Inter-American system more broadly. Five candidates responded to the questionnaire request in full. Furthermore, all of the candidates participated in two events on May 5 to promote transparency: a conversation with civil society at the Washington DC-based Inter-American Dialogue, and a presentation before the OAS Permanent Council “to describe in greater detail their vision, proposals, and the initiatives they would undertake if elected.”

The Independent Panel on the Election of Inter-American Commissioners is composed of five renowned academics with recognized expertise in human rights and the Inter-American system—Nienke Grossman (United States), Miguel Gutiérrez (Costa Rica), Cecilia Medina (Chile), Elizabeth Salmón (Peru) and Miguel Sarre (Mexico). 

The panel’s final report is now available in Spanish; an English version will be released on Monday, June 12.