The OAS had blocked the hiring of the executive secretary, arguing the existence of a series of complaints of workplace harassment
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has given up this Thursday from renewing the mandate of Paulo Abrão as executive secretary, after the Organization of American States (OAS) stopped the process. Abrão arrived at the IACHR in 2016 and had been reappointed to the post for four more years last January. In August, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, stopped the renewal of Abrão’s contract, arguing that there were at least 61 complaints of workplace harassment against him. The suspension of the process generated a series of questions about the independence of the body that defends human rights in Latin America.
The IACHR has announced in a statement that it will begin the process of selecting a new executive secretary on September 25, after it failed to reach an agreement with the OAS on Abrão’s leadership in the institution. “The Inter-American Commission expresses its profound rejection of the decision of the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who, by denying this contractual renewal, violates a practice established for more than 20 years of respect for the decision of the IACHR to appoint its Secretary Executive and makes it difficult to obtain truth, justice and reparation for people who have felt their labor rights affected, ”the IACHR states.
For his part, Abrão has explained in a letter the risk posed to the autonomy of the IACHR by the fact that the OAS has not respected the decision of the seven commissioners who requested the extension of their mandate in January. “Historically, there have always been very powerful pressures and interests against an active, stronger and more efficient IACHR. The regional human rights community must be very attentive and vigilant in the face of this grave precedent. The main problem of the non-renewal of my mandate is the lack of respect for the autonomy and independence of the Commission to select and renew the executive secretariat of its trust, ”he says.
Following the OAS announcement to stop Abrão’s hiring process, countries like Mexico and Argentina, as well as some organizations that defend human rights, pointed out that Almagro was putting the Latin American institution at risk and that it was setting a bad precedent over the independence that the organization must have, considering its work as a watchdog of respect for human rights in the region.
The IACHR is a body that promotes, monitors, and defends human rights in Latin America since 1959. The institution depends directly on the OAS and is based in Washington. However, since its founding it has had a remarkable independence that has allowed it to denounce important human rights violations in several countries and bring cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). Abrão has stood out in the diplomatic sphere for his active role in some international conflicts, such as the investigation into the attacks against the 2018 civil protests in Nicaragua, by the Government of Daniel Ortega. Meanwhile, Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, is seen as an ally of the United States who has defended the toughest positions against Cuba and Venezuela.
Abrão has denied the allegations of several dozen former Commission employees who claimed that during their tenure they were subjected to workplace harassment and harassment that forced them to leave the institution. “It is inadmissible that the presentation of complaints not investigated is the basis for a functional separation of an executive secretary of the IACHR (or any other official of the general secretariat of the OAS) without being subject to due process,” he added in his letter. The executive secretary of the IACHR explained to this newspaper in September that in recent years he undertook changes in the structure of the Commission, but that at no time were the attitudes described by former employees. “The truth is that these institutional transformations have been necessary and proved to be correct,” he wrote this Thursday when he said goodbye to the organization.