Prof. Carozza Leads Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Author: Susan Good

carozza Notre Dame Professor of Law Paolo Carozza just returned from Washington, D.C., where he presided at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ most recent period of sessions, held Oct. 15-31. The Commission (IACHR) voted unanimously last spring to elect Carozza as its president for 2008-2009.

The IACHR 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 president, Carozza presides over the sessions of the Commission and oversee its day to day business in between the formal periods of sessions. The president 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.

At the opening of the 133rd period of sessions, Carozza called for a greater political commitment by the member states to make human rights one of the pillars of regional cooperation in the Americas. He also called for a significant increase in the resources designated for the IACHR to reflect that political will and to guarantee the Commission’s financial autonomy. During the sessions, the Commission held hearings on the rights of women, children, Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and others deprived of liberty. The IACHR also held hearings on numerous topics, including: citizen insecurity; obstacles to obtaining access to justice; and the situation of people who carry HIV.

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.

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,