Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1



Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (`Commission` or `IACHR`) was created in 1959 and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 1969 as a result of the adoption of the American Convention on Human Rights. Both bodies comprise the Inter-American system of human rights within the Organization of American States (OAS) with the mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights within this hemisphere.

There are two principal international instruments that are legally binding in the Inter-American system of human rights. These are the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Any person or legally recognized non-governmental organization is entitled to submit a petition to the Commission and allege a violation committed by the State of one or more of the human rights established in either the American Declaration or the American Convention.

Inter-American Commission on


Human Rights

1889 F Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C., 20006


Tel.: 202-458-6002

Fax: 202-458-3992

Article 41

American Convention on Human Rights, Article 41: “The main function of the Commission shall be to promote respect for and defense of human rights. In the exercise of its mandate, it shall have the following functions and powers: (…) d) to request the governments of the member states to supply it with information on the measures adopted by them in matters of human rights.”

Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of persons, Article XIV: “[W]hen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights receives a petition or communication regarding an alleged forced disappearance, its Executive Secretariat shall urgently and confidentially address the respective government, and shall request that government to provide as soon as possible any other information as to the whereabouts of the allegedly disappeared person together with any other information it considers pertinent, and such request shall be without prejudice as to the admissibility of the petition.”  

American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man

Right to life, liberty and personal security.

Right to equality before law.

Right to religious freedom and worship.

Right to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination.

Right to protection of honor, personal reputation, and private and family life.

Right to a family and to protection thereof.

Right to protection for mothers and children.

Right to residence and movement.

Right to inviolability of the home.

Right to the inviolability and transmission of correspondence.

Right to the preservation of

health and to well-being.

Right to education.

Right to the benefits of culture.

Right to work and to fair remuneration.

Right to leisure time and to the use thereof.

Right to recognition of juridical personality and civil rights.

Right to a fair trial.

Right to nationality.

Right to vote and to participate in government.

Right of assembly.

Right of association.

Right to property.

Right of petition.

Right of protection from arbitrary arrest.

Right to due process of law.

Right of asylum.

Scope of the rights of man.

Definition of Impunity

Human rights violations often persist because the authorities charged with investigating, prosecuting and punishing the guilty continue to systematically deny the existence of human rights violations, which has resulted in inaction, tolerance and even dismissal of any charges against those who carried out the violations.


The Inter-American Court has defined impunity as follows:

“The lack of investigation, pursuit, arrest, prosecution, and conviction of those responsible for human rights violations. To fulfill this obligation, the State has to fight impunity through all legal means available, given that it is conducive to chronic repetition of the human rights violations and total defenselessness of the victims and their next of kin. Likewise, the State has to organize its governmental apparatus and, in general, all structures through which public power is exercised, so as to legally ensure the free and full exercise of human rights.”


Impunity constitutes non-compliance with the State’s duty that is harmful to the victim, his or her next of kin and society as a whole, as impunity fosters chronic recidivism of human rights violations and total defenselessness of victims and their relatives. To prevent impunity, the State has the obligation, by virtue of Article 1 of the American Convention, to respect and ensure the rights recognized therein:


“The State is obligated to investigate every situation involving a violation of the rights protected by the Convention. If the State apparatus acts in such a way that the violation goes unpunished and the victim’s full enjoyment of such rights is not restored as soon as possible, the State has failed to comply with its duty to ensure the free and full exercise of those rights to the persons within its jurisdiction. The same is true when the State allows private persons or groups to act freely and with impunity to the detriment of the rights recognized by the Convention.”

Truth and Reconciliation

The Commission has held that:

"The right possessed by all persons and by society to have means of satisfaction and guarantees that the acts will not be repeated, of knowing the full, complete, and public truth on incidents which have occurred, their specific circumstances, and who participated in them, are part of the right to reparation for violations of human rights. The right of a society to know, in full, its past is not only to be found in the methods of reparation and elucidation of the incidents which have occurred, but in the objective of preventing future violations."


The IACHR has written that the right to the truth is also related to Article 25 of the Convention, which establishes the right to a simple and prompt recourse for protection of the rights recognized in the Convention. The presence of factual or legal impediments (such as the amnesty law or domestic laws governing access to information) to accessing and obtaining important information pertaining to the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation of a fundamental right, constitutes a blatant violation of the right recognized in Article 25, and prevents one fromhaving the remedies under domestic law that allow judicial protection of the basic rights established in the Convention, the Constitution and the laws.


Protecting Human Rights Defenders

 The mechanism of precautionary measures granted by the Commission is one of the most effective instruments for protecting the work of human rights defenders and their rights in the inter-American system. Like the provisional measures granted by the Inter-American Court, precautionary measures act as a safeguard in terms of preserving a legal situation vis-à-vis the exercise of jurisdiction by the Commission; they also serve a “protective function” in the sense of preserving the exercise of the human rights recognized in the provisions of the inter-American system and preventing irreparable harm to persons in serious and urgent situations. In practice, precautionary and provisional measures have been recognized by the member states of the OAS, the individuals who use the system, and the human rights community as a whole as an important tool for protecting human rights in the inter-American system.

Precautionary measures are an important working mechanism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that has contributed to saving numerous lives throughout the hemisphere. Precautionary measures are issued in compliance with the Commission’s functions to promote and defend human rights, as set forth in Article 106 of the OAS Charter, Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and Article 18 of the Statute of the IACHR. The juridical basis for precautionary measures is found in the obligation of States to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons subject to their jurisdiction, and the general practice of compliance with them on the part of the great majority of States is based on the existing understanding of their binding nature.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network


P.O. 42700 

Washington, DC 20015

MedicalWhistleblowers (at)


"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910