Document Type


Publication Date

January 1989


Mass and gross violations of human rights have been common in the Americas. Rebellion against poverty, the inability of some political systems to allow peaceful change, and the influence of anti-democratic ideologies have resulted in widespread repression. As constitutional governments collapse and politics are militarized, adequate protection of human rights by domestic law becomes illusory. The international law of human rights, by creating norms and procedures beyond the domestic realm offers, or should offer, an additional "layer" of legal protection.International law is a weak instrument in a system in which state sovereignty remains a strong foundation. However, for those who wish to promote human rights, rather than stress the shortcomings of international law, it seems more constructive to discuss how to improve international protection: how to bring to bear effectively the norms and procedures of international law designed to protect individuals and peoples from human rights violations by their governments.This paper will examine the Inter-American regional system of protection of human rights, first outlining its main features, and then assessing its contribution. Finally, it will conclude with proposals directed toward strengthening the protection the system currently provides.

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