Partnering With the Caribbean in Support of the Inter-American Human Rights System

Posted by Larry Gumbiner
November 2, 2013
Representatives of CARICOM Countries Participate in Training on the Inter American Human Rights System

Last week marked a milestone in our collaborative partnership with the states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to deepen engagement with, participation in, and awareness of the inter-American human rights system -- a central pillar of the Organization of American States (OAS).

As a reflection of our shared commitment to strengthen the rule of law and mechanisms for the protection of human rights, the United States is working through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and with IACHR Commissioner Dinah Shelton of George Washington (GW) University Law School, to support new training initiatives for officials, lawyers and academics from CARICOM states.   This effort is grounded in a shared recognition of the importance of the rule of law and effective institutions of governance, and reflects our common aspirations for stable, secure and democratic societies.

From October 21-22, the IACHR and GW Law School organized a CARICOM-focused training program on the inter-American human rights system. The training occurred just prior to the start of the IACHR’s current period of sessions, which conclude on November 8 in Washington.  The program’s speakers reminded us how the rule of law must be deeply rooted in any democracy that aspires to good governance and political, economic and social stability.  Rule of law underpins the fair and transparent administration of justice -- ensuring a system that is accessible to all citizens and responsive to their needs.  At the same time, the rule of law depends on a capable judiciary and well-trained prosecutors who can ensure just decision-making, fair trials and defense of individual civil rights, including those of the accused.

In addition, earlier this fall GW Law School launched in cooperation with the IACHR the Buergenthal LL.M Fellowship in Inter-American Human Rights for Nationals of CARICOM States.  The Fellowship, named for Thomas Buergenthal, the first U.S. citizen to serve on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and former Justice of the International Court of Justice, allows for focused study and work at the IACHR for qualified Caribbean law school graduates.  And looking ahead, we are working with the Commission to establish an IACHR fellowship for CARICOM nationals -- with a goal of enhancing and sustaining CARICOM representation within the IACHR’s Executive Secretariat.

Taken together, these regional and international efforts will help Caribbean officials and experts intensify their focus on promoting and protecting human rights, both at home and throughout the Americas.

Our interest in bolstering awareness and use of the region’s premier human rights bodies reflects strong United States support of the OAS’ human rights system. The Commission -- in which the United States historically has had strong representation -- and the Inter-American Court are both highly-respected.

Over the last half century, and particularly during the days of dictatorships and strife in the hemisphere, the inter-American human rights system played a critical role in monitoring and supporting OAS member state adherence to human rights obligations.  Today, this role is more important than ever -- because we know all too well that abuse of human rights can feed many of the global dangers that we currently confront, from armed conflict, terrorism, and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.

From my perspective within the U.S. Mission to the OAS, there is growing support for enhancing technical cooperation between the bodies of the inter-American human rights system and many OAS member states, including their judicial sectors.

Regional cooperation, the keystone of the OAS, remains the foundation for moving forward.  By working together -- in the Caribbean and throughout the Americas -- we become more than the sum of our individual parts.  In partnership, we can uphold international standards; share expertise and best practices; and advance the shared security and democratic values we all cherish.  

We look forward to continuing this momentum, both at the OAS and within the region.

For more information about the IACHR, see: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/.

About the Author: Lawrence J. Gumbiner serves as Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States.

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