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AMARC concerned by possible external interference in decision to appoint new IACHR Freedom of Expression Rapporteur

(AMARC/IFEX) - AMARC and two other organisations are concerned about alleged external interference in a proposal to select a new Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR).

The following is a 21 November 2007 joint statement by AMARC and the other two organizations:

Autonomy and independence of the IACHR

The President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Florentín Meléndez, made a commitment to promote among the other members of the IACHR the launching in January 2008 of a call for applications for the position of the new Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

On 16 November 2007, during the visit to Argentina of Florentín Meléndez, who is also the Special Rapporteur for Persons deprived of liberty, to attend the seminar "Proper Prison Practices", AMARC, the Association for Civil Rights (Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, ADC) and the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, CELS) met with the Commissioner to request information about worrisome incidents generating concerns about the IACHR's autonomy, independence and impartiality.

That day, the Commissioner provided information about the timetable of the work associated with the process to hire the new Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. He first emphasised that after the passing of the deadline for comments on amendments concerning the various Special Rapporteurs under the IACHR - 22 November - a draft document will be prepared and submitted for the consideration and approval of the Commission. As well, Commissioner Meléndez made a commitment to promote the call for applications for the post of the new Special Rapporteur during the first week of January 2008, once the amendment was approved.

However, according to a dissenting vote and explanation, made public during the 127th session by two of the IACHR Commissioners - Paolo Carozza and Victor Abramovich - the IACHR decided to open the competition for the post of next Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in October of 2007. This competition was to conclude with the selection of a new Rapporteur during the first period of the IACHR's sessions in 2008. Nevertheless, according to the dissenting opinion, the IACHR, due to, among other things, possible "pressures, not public, from actors outside of the IACHR", decided to revoke this decision despite the fact that it had been taken by the majority of the IACHR members.

The undersigned believe that it is fundamental that such transcendental decisions - which involve the determination of the procedures, conditions and hiring of the top positions within the IACHR - be made in a transparent and autonomous context and in a public manner, without external pressure. The Inter-American human rights system plays an essential role in strengthening democratic systems and in ensuring that human rights are respected and protected.

Signed,

Association for Civil Rights (Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, ADC)
Centre for Legal and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, CELS)
AMARC Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-LAC)

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