Prof. Carozza Elected Chair of Human Rights Commission

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carozza The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) voted unanimously to elect University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of Law Paolo Carozza as its chairman for 2008-2009. The election was held on March 3 at the start of the Commission’s 131st regular period of sessions.

Carozza—who served as first vice-chairman of the IACHR in 2007—is midway through his four-year term on the IACHR, which promotes the observance and defense of human rights in the 35 Western hemisphere nations that are members of the Organization of American States (OAS). The Commission is currently processing more than 800 cases brought by individuals or non-governmental organizations alleging human rights violations.

As chair, Carozza will preside over the sessions of the Commission and oversee its day to day business in between the formal periods of sessions. The chairman also represents the Commission before the political organs of the OAS, and can make decisions regarding protective measures on urgent human rights issues while the Commission is not in session.

Carozza joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 1996. He is actively involved in the work of the Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR) at the Law School, and serves as director of the J.S.D. program in international human rights law, administered through the CCHR. At the University of Notre Dame, he is also a fellow of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. Carozza earned both his A.B. and J.D. degrees from Harvard, and pursued graduate studies at Cambridge University and at Harvard Law School as a Ford Foundation Fellow in Public International Law. After law school, he served as a judicial clerk for the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia and worked as an associate at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold & Porter.

The IACHR consists of seven independent experts, elected in their individual capacity by the General Assembly of the OAS. During the sessions that just concluded on March 14, 2008, the IACHR approved reports on numerous individual cases and petitions and held 36 hearings on individual cases and petitions, precautionary measures, and general and specific human rights situations throughout the hemisphere.

In his opening remarks as chairman, Carozza talked about the close relationship between human rights and democracy. He emphasized that democracy and the rule of law are fundamental requisites for the observation of human rights and for their respect in the societies of the Americas. “As the Inter-American Democratic Charter reminds us, the essential elements of representative democracy include respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in particular those such as freedom of expression and the press, freedom of association, political participation, and access to justice,” he said. “The effective administration of justice, and access to effective judicial guarantees of human rights, remain always among the most pervasive obstacles to the realization of human rights in the Americas.”

The Commission’s decisions enjoy a great deal of credibility especially in Central and South American countries where it has played an important role in opposing dictatorships and abusive regimes in the past.

Contact: Prof. Paolo Carozza, Notre Dame Law School, 574-631-4128,