Institutionalizing Human Rights in Latin America: The Role of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights System

Alexandra R. Harrington

Global Institute for Health and Human Rights; Albany Law School

January 6, 2012

This article focuses on the phenomenon of internalizing human rights norms within the Inter-American Court of Human Rights system – collectively comprised of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”) and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (“Court”). The process of internalization of human rights norms within the Inter-American Court of Human Rights system involves human rights activists, those seeking to remedy wrongs which they acknowledge as existing in society before them, and juridical actors using the powerful institutions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights system in order to achieve the aim of highlighting and attempting to stop these practices. The process of internalization within this system also involves bringing the harms suffered by victims, their families and their communities into the open, acknowledging the wrongs done to them, along with the myriad impacts of these wrongs, and preserving the dignity and core humanity of the victims of human rights violations.

The article examines the place of the Commission and the Court within the larger human rights policies of the Organization of American States as well as the procedural relationship between the Commission and the Court. It discusses the role that the Commission has come to play as an advocate for those who have suffered human rights violations at the hands of a state or state actors. The article asserts that throughout the history of the Commission’s role in relation to the Court, the Commission has become increasingly active in advocating for those who allege substantial human rights violations and ensures that these victims are seen by the Court as having essential humanity as well as legal standing and rights. It also argues that the Commission is the fundamental place for the institutionalization of the voices of human rights victims and those who support them.

The article then examines the jurisprudence of the Court with a view to understanding how the Court uses itself as a tool of human rights. It argues that the Court has expanded the concept of human rights protections in Latin America to take a holistic and humanity-based view rather than functioning within a formalistic legal structure. In so doing, the article asserts that the Court reflects on the reality of human rights violations and their impacts and the importance of bringing these to light, at once validating the suffering and humanity of victims and chastising those states and state actors responsible for committing abuses against the populations they controlled.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

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Date posted: January 8, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Harrington, Alexandra R., Institutionalizing Human Rights in Latin America: The Role of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights System (January 6, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1980796 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1980796

Contact Information

Alexandra R. Harrington (Contact Author)
Global Institute for Health and Human Rights ( email )
1400 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12222
United States
Albany Law School ( email )
80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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