Report on Sessions of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights

OEA/Ser.L/V/II.1
Doc. 32
March 14, 1961

English


INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

REPORT ON THE WORK ACCOMPLISHED

DURING ITS FIRST SESSION

October 3 to 28, 1960



PAN AMERICAN UNION

General Secretariat, Organization of American States

Washington, D. C.



I. CREATION OF THE COMMISSION

The Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Santiago, Chile, 1959) in its Resolution VIII, Chapter II, decided:

To create an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, composed of seven members elected, as individuals, by the Council of the Organization of American States from panels of three names presented by the governments. The Commission, which shall be organized by the Council of the Organization and have the specific functions that the Council assigns to it, shall be charged with furthering respect for such rights.

In compliance with the charge contained in this Resolution, the Council of the Organization, at its meetings of May 25 and June 8, 1960 approved the Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This Statute contains provisions for the composition, election of members, competence, meetings, voting procedure, and secretariat of the Commission (Doc. C-d-829 (Spanish) Rev.).

II. ELECTION OF MEMBERS

At its meeting of June 29, 1960, the Council of the Organization elected the following persons to be members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

Dr. Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuela)

Prof. Manuel Bianchi Gundián (Chile)

Mrs. Angela Acuña de Chacón (Costa Rica)

Dr. Gonzalo Escudero (Ehuador)

Dr. Gabino Fraga (Mexico)

Dr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (E1 Salvador)

Dr. Durward V. Sandifer (United States)

III. ORGANIZATION OF THE FIRST SESSION

Convocation

In conformance with Article 11 of the Statute, the Secretary General of the Organization convoked the First Session of the Commission for October 3, 1960. In the light of this convocation, the Commission began its work on the date stipulated.

Installation

The Commission was installed on October 3, in the presence of Ambassador Vicente Sánchez Gavito, Chairman of the Council of the OAS, Dr. José A. Mora, Secretary General of the Organization, Dr. William Sanders, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization, and Dr. Charles G. Fenwick, Director of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Pan American Union.

c. Members present

The first session was attended by all the members of the Commission, with the exception of Dr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, who was unable to be there.

Election of Officers

The Commission elected Mr. Rómulo Gallegos and Prof. Manuel Bianchi Gundián as Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively of the Commission. In the absence of Mr. Gallegos, Prof. Manuel Bianchi directed the work of the Commission until October 13, the date on which Mr. Gallegos took over the chairmanship.

Order of Precedence

At the first meeting, the Commission agreed that the order of precedence should be determined by the alphabetical order of the members' names.

Protocolary Meeting of the Council of the OAS

On October 13, the Council of the OAS held a protocolary meeting in honor of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

On this occasion, the Chairman of the Council, Ambassador Vicente Sánchez Gavito, delivered a welcoming address to the members of the Commission. In his address, the Chairman of the Council explained the background history of the Commission on Human Rights and the reasons for its creation, pointing out that, by its very structure and purpose, the Com, mission is the "only organ of the system charged with the protection of human rights" (Doc. 17).

The Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Rómulo Gallegos, spoke in reply to the address of the Chairman of the Council. Mr. Gallegos referred to the lack of protection for the human person and expressed his confidence that the Commission would fulfill its lofty obligation now that "it has its reason for being in the most noble aspirations of the American spirit" (Doc. 13).

Meetings and Documents

The Commission held 17 meetings at the Pan American Union in Washington between October 3 and 28, 1960. For the use of the members, the Secretariat published summary minutes of each meeting as well as the other documents of the Commission (See Appendix). The comments or points of view expressed by the members are included in the minutes or in other documents. The resolutions adopted by the Commission appear under the subject titles to which they refer.

Secretariat

In conformance with Article 14 of the Statute, the Secretary General of the OAS appointed the technical and administrative personnel to serve as the Secretariat of the Commission. Dr. Luis A. Reque, Chief of the Division of Codification of the Pan American Union, was appointed Secretary of the Commission, and Dr. Isidoro Zanotti and Mr. Orlando García were appointed as assistants.

IV. AGENDA

The Agenda of the First Session was as follows:

Organization of the first meeting

Regulations of the Commission

Commúnication to the governments

Fellowship program

Work program of the Commission

Competence of the Commission

Draft amendment of the statute

Communications or claims

National committees

Report to the Eleventh Conference

Date of the Second Meeting.







V. REGULATIONS OF THE COMMISSION

For the purpose of facilitating the work of the Commission regarding this point on the Agenda, the General Secretariat prepared a set of draft regulations (Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/I.2), which was submitted to the consideration of the Commission at its second meeting. The Commission dedicated its second, third, and fourth meetings to considering the said draft, during the course of which it made several amendments and changes. At the fourth meeting, held on October 6, the Commission adopted its regulations (Doc. OEA/Ser. L/V/I.2 Rev. 1).

At its tenth meeting, the Commission decided that it would be necessary to establish a procedure in regard to the communications and claims directed to it. With this in mind, it agreed to incorporate into its Regulations a new chapter, composed of five articles, entitled "Communications or Claims Submitted to the Commission". The Regulations, in their final form, were adopted at the thirteenth meeting held on October 24 (Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/I.2, Rev. 2).

VI. COMUNICATION TO THE GOVERNMENTS

During its eleventh meeting held on October 19, the Commission agreed to direct a communication to the governments of the American countries, to inform them of its creation and installation, and of the work it was undertaking, and to offer them its cooperation and request their collaboration. The Commission entrusted Dr. Fraga with preparing a draft communication.

At the thirteenth meeting, held on October 24, the Commission considered the draft communication prepared by Dr. Fraga and approved it.

In the said communication, the Commission gave an account of the steps that led to its origin, as well as of the way in which it is governed, its composition, the tasks that it is undertaking, and its functions and powers.

Since Article 9 of the Statute is what determines its functions and powers, the Commission agreed to copy it verbatim. The Commission also offered to the governments the studies, reports, and information in its possesion and requested their cooperation in helping it to fulfil1 its functions most effectively. In this connection, the Commission suggested that the governments publicize the terms of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in the educational institutions of their respective countries.

The comunication was signed by all the members of the Commission.

VII. FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

In order to facilitate the interchange of technicians, information, and up-to-date knowledge on human rights, Dr. Sandifer presented to the consideration of the Commission a draft fellowship program (Doc. 9). This draft was considered at the sixteenth meeting, having the Commission adopted the following resolution: WHEREAS:

The program of the Commission, which is designed to encourage mutual service and assistance among the member governments of the Organization of American States in promoting respect for human rights , could be strengthened by means of a fellowship program that could facilitate the interchange of information and knowledge relative to these rights,

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

RESOLVES:

To request the Secretary General of the Organization of American States to prepare a project for the establishment of a fellowship program on human rights, specifying the kinds of studies that might be useful, and indicating the cost of the program. This draft should be submitted to the consideration of the Commission at its second session.

VIII. WORK PROGRAM

At the eleventh meeting, held on October 19, the Commission began considering the work program that it should carry on in accordance with its functions and powers. As a first step, the Commission considered the document entitled ''Memorandum of Background Material on Human Rights", prepared by the General Secretariat (Doc. 2), in which certain suggestions are made regarding the work that the Commission might undertake.

At the above-mentioned session, the Commission agreed to carry on two kinds of work: one that it would be possible to complete during the present meeting, and the other that might be undertaken by each individual member of the Commission and submitted for consideration at the

second meeting.

With reference to the first point, the Commission agreed to complete all the work included on its Agenda, such as: the governments; fellowship program in the field of human rights; consideration of communications or claims submitted to the Commission; establishment of National Committees on Human Rights; preparation of a report to be submitted to the Eleventh Inter-American Conference, etc.

Regarding the second point, the Commission, at its fifteenth and sixteenth meetings, agreed to approve the following topics for inclusion in its general work program and appointed one member as a rapporteur for each:

Study of appropriate measures for promoting and defending' human rights, which constitutes the mandate of the Commission ( Mr. Rómulo Gallegos).

Study of political, economic, and social conditions of the countries of Latin America that may influence human rights (Mrs. Angela Acuña de Chacón).

Relation between the promotion and protection of human rights and the effective exercise of representative democracy (Dr. Durward V. Sandifer).

Improvement of electoral procedures and measures that should be adopted to assure suffrage rights (Prof. Manuel Bianchi).

Study of the most effective measures for the jurisdictional protection of human rights in the American states (Dr. Gabino Fraga).

Measures designed to perfect and implement the rights to freedom of investigation, opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas (Dr. Gonzalo Escudero).

The Commission also resolved that the Secretariat should be charged with the preparation of background material on each one of these topics, in order to facilitate the work of the rapporteurs.

IX. COMPETENCE OF THE COMMISSION

Article 9 of the Statute is the one that specifies the functions and powers of the Commission. The text of this article is as follows:

Article 9

In carrying out its assignment of promoting respect for human rights, the Commission shall have the following functions and powers:

a) To develop an awareness of human rights among the peoples of America;

To make recommendations to the Governments of the member states in general, if it considers such action advisable, for the adoption of progressive measures in favor of human rights within the framework of their domestic legislation and, in accordance with their constitucional precepts, appropriate measures to further the faithful observance of those rights;

To prepare such studies or reports as it considers advisable in the performance of its duties;

To urge the Governments of the member states to supply it with information on the measures adopted by them in matters of human rights;

To serve the Organization of American States as an advisory body in respect of human rights.

The text of this article was carefully considered by the Commission during three consecutive meetings, in order to determine clearly the scope of its powers and to arrive at a proper interpretation of its competence.

The Commission felt it unnecessary to examine in detail paragraphs a), c), d) and e) of this article, since its competence in regard to these was clearly defined. It did, however, consider it necessary to discuss all aspects of paragraph b) of Article 9.

Two different interpretations of paragraph b) of this article were expressed by members of the Commission. On the one hand, it was maintained that the correct interpretation of the competence of the Commission as expressed in paragraph b) is that the Commission is limited to making recommendations to the governments of the member states in general and that it may not do so to member states in particular.

On the other hand, some members pointed to the need for broadening the scope of paragraph b), so that the Commission would be empowered to direct itself to one or several of the American states, as well as to all of them together, according to whether the violations in question were of a general or of a particular nature.

After carefully considering each aspect of this question, the Commission at its seventh meeting, held on October 12, agreed to establish that "paragraph b) of Article 9 of the Statute of the Commission should permit this body, if it considers such action advisable, to make general recommendations to each individual member state, as well as to all of them".

X. DRAFT AMENDMENT OF THE STATUTE

The discussions that took place with reference to the competence of the Commission, as well as those related to the procedure that the Commission should follow regarding communications or claims submitted to it, demonstrated the need for amending the Commission's Statute. This point was the subject of careful discussion and, on the basis of draft amendments submitted by the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Gallegos, the Commission drew up a draft amendment of its Statute designed to modify Article 9 and add two new articles. The draft amendment prepared by the Commission is intended to broaden its powers, so that it may examine comunications or claims directed to it by any person or group of persons, or by associations, and prepare reports on them. All members of the Commission who were present expressed their approval of the draft amendment, with the exception of Dr. Sandifer, who had a number of observations to make regarding the proposal in question. Among other things, Dr. Sandifer said that granting the Commission power to examine individual cases would serve to weaken rather than strengthen its position as an agency whose object is to gain for human rights a higher degree of respect and protection (Doc. 26).

At the seventeenth meeting, held on October 28, 1960, the Commission decided to send the draft amendment to the Council of the Organization and also to include it in its report to the Eleventh Inter-American Conference.

In accordance with this decision, the Chairman of the Commission transmitted the draft amendment to the Council of the OAS on October 28, 1960, together with the observations made by Dr. Sandifer.

In the report that it prepared for the Eleventh Inter-American Conference, the Commission stated that its powers "would not allow it to fulfill the mission in defense of human rights that the American peoples can expect from it, since it felt that its obligation should not be limited simply to promoting respect for such rights, but rather it is obliged to see to it that these are not violated". It stated, furthermore, that it had "well-founded hopes that the Council would take the necessary steps so that the amendments suggested by the Commission might be incorporated into its Statute. If for any reason the Council could not act on this request, the Commission would take the liberty of submitting the draft amendment of the Statute to the Supreme Organ of the Organization" (Doc. 27). The text of this draft is as follows:

CHAPTER III

Competence and Procedure

Article 9



Add the following paragraphs:

To examine communications directed to it by any person or group of persons, or by any associations having legal status in the respective country, with regard to serious violations of human rights, as defined in the American Declaration.

To request the government whose authorities are accused of acts being examined by the Commission to provide any pertinent information.

New Article, to follow Article 9:

Article 9 (bis): The Commission will make reports on the matters examined and will submit them to the respective governments at a time that it deems opportune.

In its reports, the Commission may make such recommendations as it considers suitable, the implementation of these being subject to their compatibility with the constitutional provisions of the country to whose government they are directed.

If the government accused of the acts examined by the Commission fails to adopt the recommended measures within a reasonable time, the Commission may publish a report on the matter. This, however, may be done only in the most serious cases and by decision of an absolute majority vote.

New Article, following Article 9 (bis):

Article : The Commission shal1 be authorized to organize itself in whatever way it deems necessary to carry out the attributes and powers established in paragraphs f) and g) of Article 9 and in Article 9 (bis).

XI. COMUNICATIONS OR CLAIMS

At the ninth meeting, held on October 17, the Commission considered the procedure it would follow with regard to communications or claims submitted to it.

First, the Commission considered the powers given to it by the Statute for taking cognizance of such communications or claims and decided to state that it vras not empowered to make any individual decision with regard to written comunications or claims that it might receive, although it would take cognizance of them for the purpose of using them in fulfillment of paragraphs b) and c) of the Statute.

Once its powers with reference to this matter was established, the Commission considered the procedure that it would follow. In the first place, it studied the procedure followed by the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations to determine which of its rules might be adopted by the Commission. Later, it studied the suggestions contained in the memorandum of the Secretariat (Doc. 2).

After a careful study of this matter, the Commission adopted the following resolution:

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Resolves:



To state that, according to its Statute, it is not enpowered to make any individual decision regarding the written communications or claims that it receives involving the violation of human rights in the American states, although, for the most effective fulfillment of its functions, the Commission shall take cognizance of them by way of information.

II. To charge its Secretariat with compiling a list of communications or claims received, in whatever form they may have been submitted, and distributing it to the members of the Commission before each meeting.

III. To charge its Secretariat with acknowledging receipt of the communications or claims submitted to the Commission, and indicating that these will be considered by

the Commission within the scope of its powers, in accordance with Rule I.

IV. To charge its Secretariat with reporting the communications or claims received to the governments of the respectivé states interested, when it has been so decided by the Commission during the course of a sessio or by the Chairman when the Commission is in recess.

At its tenth meeting, the Commission agreed to incorporate the above resolution into its Regulations as a new chapter entitled "Communications or Claims Submitted to the Commission" (Articles 25 to 29 of the Regulations Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/I.2 Rev. 2).

In conformance with the procedure established by the Commission, the Secretariat prepared a list of the communications received, indicating briefly the content of each. Prior to the first meeting and while it was still in session, 30 communications or claims were received. The Commission began its study of the content of each of these at its thirteenth meeting, and requested the Secretariat

to communicate with the interested parties, acknowledging their communications and advising them that they would be considered in accordance with Article 25 of the Regulations. At the fifteenth meeting the Commission agreed that it would continue to consider the communications received at its next meeting, and appointed a Subcommittee composed of Doctors Bianchi, Escudero, and Sandifer for the purpose of studying all the communications and informing the Commision thereon.

XII. NATIONAL COMMITTEES

Desiring to contribute effectively to the protection of human rights in the Americas, and upon the initiative of Ambassador Escudero, the Commission discussed at length the possibility of organizing in the respective member states groups of qualified citizens who might cooperate with

the Commission in the fulfillment of its important tasks. The idea was discussed at several meetings, and different points of view on the advisability of establishing such groups were expressed. Once their establishment was decided upon, the Commission went on to consider their structure and aims. At its thirteenth meeting, held on October 24, the Commission decided to approve the creation of National Committees on Human Rights in the different member countries. It was agreed that these committees should be composed of representatives of the member countries, who were persons of moral integrity and independent judgment, and who had identified themselves with the cause of human rights.

The Resolution approved for this purpose reads as follows:

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

RESOLVES:

1. To request or accept the cooperation of organizations in the different American countries that are interested in the promotion or protection of human rights, with a view to the better fulfillment of the functions or powers of the Commission.

To recommend the creation of National Committees on Human Rights, composed of

persons representing their respective countries, who are endowed with high moral integrity and an independent spirit, and who have demonstrated their constant adherence to the cause of human rights.

To declare that the National Committees shall cooperate with the Commission in the

task of stimulating an awareness of human rights among the American peoples, taking advantage of all the cultural and educational means available to them; and that they may suggest to the Commission ways of promoting human rights and of guaranteeing their protection through the legislation of the American states.

At the seventeenth meeting, held on October 28, 1960, the Commission considered the procedure that it would foIlow for organizing the National Committees on Human Rights, and agreed that these could be formed by the members in their respective countries. It was also agreed that the Secretariat should obtain information on persons and institutions that might organize these committees in the other countries, and that it should report on the matter to the Commission at its second session.

XIII. REPORT TO THE ELEVENTH INTER-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

At the eleventh meeting, the Commission considered the necessity and advisability of making a report to the Eleventh Inter-American Conference on the work it accomplished during its first session. At the sixteenth meeting, the Commission approved the text of that report, whose preliminary drafting was entrusted to Prof. Manuel Bianchi (Doc. 27).

XIV. DATE OF THE SECOND SESSION

At the meeting held on October 2G, the Commission decided upon May 15, 1961, as the opening date for its second session. At the same time, it agreed that the Subcommittee should hold a meeting one week in advance, in order to study the communications or claims

received and to prepare a report for the consideration of the full Commission.









APPENDIX

DOCUMENTS OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

(OEA/Ser.L/V)



Número del Doc. Titulo *

OEA/Ser.L/V/I. ORGANIZACION, ANTECEDENTES Y COMPOSICION DE LA COMISION INTERAMERICANA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS

OEA/Ser.L/V/I.1 Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Approved by the Council of the Organization at the meeting held on May 25, 1960, and amended on the following June 8).

OEA/Ser.L/V/I.2 (Rev.) Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Approved by the Commission at the Thirteenth Meeting held on October 24, 1960).

OEA/Ser.L/V/I.3 Organización y Composición de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

OEA/Ser.L/V/I.4 Basic Documents.

OEA/Ser.L/V/II.1 DOCUMENTOS DEL PRIMER PERIODO DE SESIONES

Doc. 1 Documentos registrados por la Secretaría hasta el 17 de octubre de 1960.

Doc. 2 Memorándum sobre antecedentes en materia de Derechos Humanos pare uso de la Primera Reunión de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. (Preparado por la Secretaría General)

Doc. 3 Programa de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

Doc. 4, Rev. 2 Acta Resumida de la Primera Sesión celebrada el 3 de octubre de 1960. (Aprobada en la Tercera Sesión del 5 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 5 General Statement made by Dr. Durward V. Sandifer, Member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

----------------------------------------------

* Some documents were also pub1ished in English



Doc. 6, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Segunda Sesión celebrada el de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Quinta Sesión del 10 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 7, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Tercera Sesión celebrada el 5 de octubre de 1960. (Aprobada en la Sexta Sesión del 11 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 8, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Cuarta Sesión celebrada el 6 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Sexta Sesión del 11 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 9 Comments on the Work Program by Dr. Durward V. Sandifer, Member of the Commision.

Doc. 10, Rev. 2 Acta Resumida de la Quinta Sesión celebrada el 10 de octubre de 1960. (Aprobada en la Séptima Sesión del 12 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 11 Acta Resumida de la Sexta Sesión celebrada el 11 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Novena Sesión del 17 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 12, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Séptima Sesión celebrada el 12 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Novena Sesión del 17 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 13 Discurso pronunciado por Don Rómulo Gallogos, Presidente de la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, en la Sesión Protocolar celebrada por el Consejo de la OEA el 13 do octubre de 1960 en honor de los Miembros de la Comisión.

Doc. 14, Rev. Acta Resumida da la Octava Sesión celebrada el 13 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada sn la Undécima Sesión del 19 de octubre de 1960.)

Doc, 15, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Novena Sesión celebrada el 17 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Duodécima Sesión del 20 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 16, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Décima Sesión celebrada el 18 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Duodécima Sesión del 20 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 17 Palabras pronunciadas por el Embajador Vicente Sánchez Gavito, Presidente del Consejo de la OEA, en la Sesión Protocolar, celebrada el 13 de octubre de 1960, en honor de los Miembros de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Mumanos.

Doc. 18, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Undécima Sesión celebrada el 19 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Décima Cuarta Sesión del 25 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 19, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Duodécima Sesión celebrada el 20 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Décima Cuarta Sesión del 25 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 20, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Décima Tercera Sesión celebrada el 24 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Décina Sexta Sesión del 27 de octubre de 1960).



Doc. 21, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Décima Cuarta Sesión celebrada el 25 de octubre de 1960. (Aprobada en la Décima Séptima Sesión de1 28 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 22 Acta Resumida de la Décima Quinta Sesión celebrada el 26 de octubre de 1960.

(Aprobada en la Décima Séptima Sesión del 28 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 23, Rev. Acta Resunida de la Décima Sexta Sesión celebrada el 27 de octubre de 1960.

Doc. 24, Rev. Acta Resumida de la Décima Séptima Sesión celebrada el 28 de octubre de 1960.

Doc. 25 Proyecto de Reforma del Estatuto de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

(Preparado el 28 de octubre de 1960).

Doc. 26 Statement by Dr. Durward V. Sandifer, Member of the Commission, concerning proposal to amend Statutory regarding competence.

Doc. 27 Report submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the eleventh Inter-American Conference.

Doc. 28 Lista de Comunicaciones recibidas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

Doc. 29 Documentos de la Comisión registrados hasta el 8 de noviembre de 1960.

Doc. 30 Tentative Topical Program prepared by Dr. Durward V. Sandifer, Member of the Commission.

Doc. 31 Nota del Presidente de la Comisión con la cual somete al Consejo un Proyecto de Reforma al Estatuto.