Resisting the Inter-American Human Rights System

60 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2018 Last revised: 8 Oct 2020

See all articles by Jorge Contesse

Jorge Contesse

Rutgers Law School; Universidad Diego Portales

Date Written: September 13, 2018


International human rights law today is being questioned on the basis of the regime’s scope of authority and enforceability. Since 1988, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has seen its case law and its influence expand. The Court’s opinions, along with the reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have become widely seen by domestic courts as authoritative, thereby realizing many of the promises of international norms and holding Latin American States accountable for their unwillingness or inability to fulfill their international obligations. Along with the significant institutionalization of human rights law in other regions, as well as at the global level, human rights law in the Americas has become part of the legal and political landscape of States and the individual, creating a kind of inter-American constitutionalism.

Despite this trend, the system of human rights protection has recently come under fire, as have other regional human rights regimes and international courts. States in general, and their courts in particular, have become less receptive and at times even opposed to what they perceive as an overly aggressive approach to adjudication. Drawing on interviews with current constitutional judges from three Latin American countries, this Article identifies and analyzes three core facets of resistance and backlash in the inter-American human rights system. It then offers two avenues for reform to strengthen the system: first, the reformulation of legal doctrines used by the international human rights courts to mediate their relations with member States; and second, the adoption of new mechanisms to monitor compliance with decisions by international courts.

Keywords: human rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Latin America, backlash

Suggested Citation

Contesse, Jorge, Resisting the Inter-American Human Rights System (September 13, 2018). 44 Yale Journal of International Law 179 (2019), Available at SSRN:

Jorge Contesse (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

123 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
United States


Universidad Diego Portales ( email )

República 105

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