Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System

Statement of the Indian Law Resource Center
146 Period of Sessions of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights
(October 31, 2012)

The Inter-American Human Rights System:
Strengthening the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
and the Fundamental Values of our Societies

Hearing:          Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System

Presenter:        Leonardo Crippa, Senior Attorney, Indian Law Resource Center

Thank you Mr. President:

On behalf of the Indian Law Resource Center (Center), I express my gratitude to the Inter- American Human Rights Commission (Commission) for scheduling this dialogue with civil society organizations within the current Period of Sessions. At the same time I want to take the opportunity to greet and express our best wishes to Mr. Emilio Alvarez-Icaza in his newly appointed role of Executive Secretary of the Commission.

As you might know, the Center is a U.S. based organization that was founded and is directed by indigenous attorneys and experts of the Americas. Since 1978 to date we have provided free and direct legal assistance to indigenous peoples of the region in their struggle against racism and oppression. We do this to not only protect their lands, natural resources and environment but also to promote their sustainable economic development and true autonomous governance stemming from their communities.

Case litigation -- Mayagna Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua, Yanomami People v. Brazil, Maya indigenous peoples of the Toledo District v. Belize, Mary and Carrie Dann (Western Soshone) v. United States, among others -- and the commencement of the process to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, mark the Center’s involvement within the Inter-American Human Rights System.

Distinguished functionaries of the Commission and civil society colleagues,

Without a doubt, discussions with all interested parties about pertinent issues such as the one that we are here for today: “Strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System” (System), are critical in order to properly inform the decisions that will be taken within the framework of institutional strengthening of the supervisory organs of the System. This is why the Center has contributed to the discussions held within various forums, including sessions of the Special Working Group established by the Permanent Council of the OAS (2011),[1] the XIX Policy Round Table of the OAS in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Commission (2009), [2] among others. [3] We must reiterate that all of these contributions emphasized the particular interests of indigenous peoples with respect to: (1) the role of promotion and protection that the Commission is called upon to carry out; (2) the implementation, in due time and form, of the decisions of the organs of the System; (3) and the Quest for Points of Consensus of the Working Group in charge of Preparing the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others. Due to time restrictions, we refer to the analysis and recommendations put forth in the documents presented during the stated forums. We are available to answer any questions that the Commission might have in relation to the above mentioned submissions.

Distinguished functionaries of the Commission and civil society colleagues,

It is the Center’s opinion that this process of reflection must be guided by a basic guiding principle: all reforms to the System must be aligned to the strengthening of the promotion and protection of those fundamental values and rights that our societies, by means of their State representatives, have enshrined in the System's normative and institutional pillars—the ultimate goal of the System. These values and rights must inform the decisions to be taken and must be interpreted by taking into account the current threats facing the region in relation to the protection of human rights in our present day.

Within these discussions, the positive impact that the organs of the System have had on our societies and States cannot be ignored. Over the last 30 years, the increasing respect for human rights has assisted in saving lives and improving the well being of the most vulnerable sectors of society, including indigenous peoples, afro-descendant and peasant communities, etc. Without a doubt, this has also benefitted Member States, whom have witnessed a decrease in social conflicts and institutional violence within State boundaries. All this led to not only better governance but also good functioning societies. To summarize, the strengthening in rights protection has improved the well being of all, which itself represents a momentous achievement in the region.

The Center, of which I am a part of, strongly supports the work of the organs of the System: Commission and Court. By using the System we have advanced the rule of law in our countries and have established international human rights standards for the rights of indigenous peoples. We must reiterate that these achievements were only possible thanks to the flexibility and creativity reflected in the decisions taken by the Commission and the Court, which introduced innovative guidelines in law and public policy focusing on those fundamental values and of our societies.

Without further delay, I cordially greet all those present here today; and one more time I reiterate the Indian Law Resource Center’s willingness to answer any questions about our contributions to the issues that we are presently dealing with.

Thank you very much.


[1]  Leonardo A. Crippa et. al, Attorneyat Indian Law Resource Center, Aportes sobre el Funcionamiento de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos para el Fortalecimiento del Sistema Interamericano de Derechos Humanos (2011),

[2]  Armstrong Wiggins, Director Washington, D.C. Office Indian Law Resource Center, Presentation before the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the IACHR (2009), available at

[3]  Armstrong Wiggins, Director Washington, D.C. Office Indian Law Resource Center, Presentation during the  Conference on Reparations to the Inter-American System (2007),