Few Angelenos outside the human rights legal sphere have had an opportunity to witness the proceedings the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the leading human rights body in the Western Hemisphere. That will change next week, when UCLA’s Promise Institute for Human Rights hosts its Reimagining Rights in the Americas conference at the UCLA School of Law.
The March 2–11 conference will feature a broad array of human rights–related panels, symposia and other events, highlighted by the commission’s 186th Period of Sessions, when the body will hear cases of alleged rights abuses brought by claimants from throughout the Americas. Commissioners will also hold thematic hearings with experts that examine human rights issues on a systemic level.
“The commission’s decisions and reports create standards on international human rights that are the obligations of states to respect, protect and promote,” said Joseph Berra, director of human rights in the Americas at the Promise Institute.
Created in 1959 as an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, the seven-member panel has played a leading role in promoting freedom and defending the rights of millions of people across the hemisphere, from women and children to Indigenous populations and journalists. But while the commission is headquartered in Washington, D.C., the United States has had a complicated and sometimes fraught relationship with the body, said Kate Mackintosh, the Promise Institute’s executive director.
“The U.S. history of engagement and respect for the commission’s work has been spotty,” she said. “But the commission has been steadily pursuing the progressive development of the human rights frame, and its rulings carry almost unparalleled weight and symbolism in the Americas.”