The Organization of American States (OAS) building in Washington, DC

Americas: Urgent OAS action needed to reverse trend of shrinking civic space

Restrictions on civic space in the Americas have become so critical that member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) urgently need to step in and take action, said Amnesty International today in an open letter to the heads of state attending the 54th Regular Session of the General Assembly of the multilateral forum on 26, 27, and 28 June 2024 in Asunción, Paraguay.

“The heads of state gathered at this assembly must immediately adopt concrete and urgent measures to fully guarantee freedom of expression, the right to protest, participation in public affairs, and other rights so that they become realities instead of empty words,” said Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The heads of state gathered at this assembly must immediately adopt concrete and urgent measures to fully guarantee freedom of expression, the right to protest, participation in public affairs, and other rights so that they become realities instead of empty words.

Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The dwindling civic space in the Americas has particularly harmed human rights defenders, including grassroots organizations and groups, journalists, and people perceived as political opponents. The Americas remain a dangerous place for human rights defenders and journalists, who frequently trace the risks they face back to authorities acting of their own accord or in league with other interests. Meanwhile, states in several parts of the region use excessive, unnecessary, or even lethal force to repress demonstrators. And the political, humanitarian, and economic crises of multiple countries in the region have driven citizens to seek international protection abroad.

Against this backdrop, the General Assembly of the OAS is set to select three new judges for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a decision with enormous ramifications for human rights in the region, since the court is the highest judicial body for this matter. The Inter-American Court has been instrumental in protecting, respecting, and guaranteeing human rights in the Americas, especially when national court systems have failed to deliver justice.

“The Inter-American Court has been responsible for huge strides in human rights. Its rulings have prompted many states in the region to develop public policies and national laws that strengthen, champion, and protect human rights,” said Belissa Guerrero Rivas, Amnesty International’s Americas advocacy coordinator.

The Inter-American Court has been responsible for huge strides in human rights. Its rulings have prompted many states in the region to develop public policies and national laws that strengthen, champion, and protect human rights.

Belissa Guerrero Rivas, Amnesty International's Americas advocacy coordinator.

Amnesty International urges OAS member states to choose individuals with the strongest human rights credentials, based on the principles of suitability, impartiality and independence. The Inter-American Court forms part of Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights, which must be safeguarded, since it offers the only hope for justice for many victims of human rights violations.