The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) charged with the promotion and protection of Human Rights on the American continent. With its headquarters is in Washington, D.C., it is made up of seven independent member who are elected in an individual capacity. It was created by the OAS in 1959 and together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, established in 1979, is an institution of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights (ISHR).
On Monday, May 23, the IACHR issued a press release announcing the suspensión of visits and the sessions scheduled for July and October of this year due to the extreme financial crisis that it is going through. The Commission also reported that on July 31, the contracts of forty percent of its personnel will expire and that it does not have the funds to renew them.
This crisis has been produced by the change in priorities of international aid provided by the European countries (the principle funders to date) and the omissions of many member coutries of the OAS. In 2015, Latin American and Caribbean countries donated US$13.7 million to the International Criminal Court (ICC) –where there is not a single regional case pending–, but only US$199,000 to the IACHR.
This situation is extremely serious because it puts thousands of women human rights defenders at risk in the Mesoamerican región, including those who benefit from precautionary measures or procedures initiated before the Commission, as well as many others who stand to lose one of the instruments that has been most effective in protecting them by obligating governments to guarantee their security, safeguard their right to defend rights and ensure that impunity will not prevail for attacks received.
As IACHR President James Cavallaro has written:
“But the IACHR cannot stop. We have to pursue the investigation of the murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras, and of so many other defenders who have been killed. And we also have to protect the defenders who have been threatened, harassed and criminalized….Our commitment to our mandate continues to be strong.”
IM-Defensoras expresses our concern over this serious situation and joins in the urgent call that the IACHR is sending out to member countries, observer countries and other potential donors to make urgent financial contributions so that the Commission can continue to perform its indispensable work.