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Human Rights Legal Research Guide: Inter-American System

Research Guides

Because research guides identify and describe important primary and secondary authority, they are a great place to start for an overview of important resources. 

Introduction to the Inter-American System

There are two systems for dealing with human rights in Latin America: Charter-based system and the Treaty-based system. 

OAS Charter System

In 1948, the Organization of American States (OAS) was formed when 35 countries in the Western hemisphere signed the OAS Charter. A year later, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man was adopted. It enumerates civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. In 1960, the OAS established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the official body to protect and promote these universally protected rights. One of it's main roles is to hear complaints of violations of these rights filed by individuals, group of individuals or non-governmental organizations against member states. 

Treaty System

Later in 1969, the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights was adopted in San Jose, Costa Rica but didn't enter into force until 1978. Binding only on the 24 OAS member states thave have since ratified it, the Inter-American Convention enforces many of the principles contained in the American Declaration but focuses mainly on the civil and political human rights and defines them more precisely. The Convention also established the "structure, competence, and procedure of the organs responsible"  for protecting these rights. The "organs" include the Inter-American Commission and the newly-created Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  


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Britt Hunter
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