Independent Experts Assess Candidates for Inter-American Human Rights Commission

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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON DC—The six national nominees competing this June for three vacant positions at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be assessed by an independent panel of experts, in a continuing effort by civil society groups to promote a more transparent selection process for the influential regional human rights body.

This year, three new commissioners will be elected to the seven-member IACHR at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which will be held in Mexico City from June 19 to 21.

The Inter-American Commission, established in 1959, is tasked with monitoring human rights across the Americas; in addition to reporting on human rights issues, it can review complaints from individuals, and order governments to take protective measures when rights are threatened. Together with the Inter-American Court, the Commission has played a major role in the improvement of human rights across the region and helped shape the development of international human rights law around the world.

However, the selection and election of commissioners by the OAS has historically lacked transparency, leading to the current effort to throw more light on the process while also offering an independent assessment of the candidates standing for election.

The 2017 panel is composed of five renowned jurists and academics from the human rights community: Nienke Grossman (United States), Miguel Gutiérrez (Costa Rica), Cecilia Medina (Chile), Miguel Sarre (Mexico), and Elizabeth Salmón (Peru). Medina, who formerly served as president of both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee, also served on the independent panel of experts two years ago when it was first convened for the last set of OAS elections. 

Although the OAS passed a resolution in 2016 calling for the public presentation of candidates to the Commission and Court—“to describe in greater detail their vision, proposals, and the initiatives that they would undertake if elected”—it has yet to appoint an independent advisory committee to provide competent, fair, and independent assessments of all nominees, as the 2015 Independent Panel had recommended [PDF]. Similar bodies exist to monitor selection processes to other leading international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

This year’s panel has been convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Due Process of Law Foundation, and the Center for Justice and International Law, with the support of many NGOs, universities, and bar associations throughout the region (see list of initial supporters below). These organizations share a common commitment to strengthening the Inter-American human rights system through the principle of fair, transparent, and inclusive elections, and through the nomination of qualified and independent candidates.  

The six candidates presented are:

  • Antonia Urrejola Noguera (Chile)
  • Carlos Horacio de Casas (Argentina)
  • Joel Hernández García (Mexico)
  • Douglass Cassel (United States)
  • Gianella Bardazano Gradin (Uruguay)
  • Flávia Cristina Piovesan (Brazil)

The three new elected commissioners will replace outgoing IACHR members James Cavallaro (United States), Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil), and José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez (Mexico). A fourth commissioner will also soon be named to replace Enrique Gil Botero, who resigned from the IACHR in March following his appointment as Colombia’s Minister of Justice. The independent panel of experts will not assess the qualifications of Botero’s successor, as this appointment takes place at a different time and according to separate rules.

Civil society organizations wishing to communicate their views to the panel about the candidates or the process may do so by until May 1 through email at [email protected]. The panel’s final report will be released in English and Spanish at the end of May.


Endorsing Organizations

Poder Ciudadano, Capítulo Argentino de Transparencia Internacional


Alianza libres sin violencia
Asociación “Derechos en Acción”
Asociación de mujeres JUMAMPI LURATA
Comunidad de Derechos Humanos
Conexión Fondo de EmancipaciónConfraternidad Carcelaria Santa Cruz
Construyendo Redes para el Desarrollo
Coordinadora de la mujer
Católicas por el derecho a decidir
Fundación Construir
Fundación Observatorio de Derechos Humanos
Oficina Jurídica Para la Mujer
Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social (UNITAS)

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Chile Transparente

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." (CSMM)
Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo
Fundación Paz y Esperanza

El Salvador

Fundación Democracia Transparencia Justicia (DTJ)
Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarrollo Económico y Social
Junta Ciudadana por el Derecho Humano a la Comunicación
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (Idhuca)

Fundación Myrna Mack

Casa Alianza
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras (ERIC-SJ)

Causa en común A.C
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña "Tlachinollan"
Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh)
Centro Diocesano para los Derechos Humanos Fray Juan de Larios A.C.
Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos A.C.
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD)
FUNDAR, Centro de Análisis e Investigación A.C.
Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE)
Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal (IJPP)
Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvior (ILSB)
Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia A.C (IMDHD)
México Unido Contra la Delincuencia A.C.
Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (SERAPAZ)

Centro Nicaragüense de los Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)

Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana, Capítulo Panameño de Transparencia Internacional

Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (Aprodeh)
Contribuyentes por Respeto
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH)
Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL)
PROETICA, Capítulo Peruano de Transparencia Internacional

Puerto Rico
Instituto Caribeño de Derechos Humanos (ICADH)

Dominican Republic
Participación Ciudadana

United States
Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law
The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute

Amnesty International
Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Open Society Justice Initiative
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional)
Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights