Prof. Paolo Carozza Discusses Work on Human Rights Commission

Author: Susan Good

By: Melanie McDonald
Date: January 2, 2008

As one of just seven elected members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Notre Dame Professor of Law Paolo Carozza takes both a bird’s eye view of and boots-on-the-ground approach to international human rights law. Carozza is midway through his four-year term with the Commission, which promotes the observance and defense of human rights for 35 nations in the Western hemisphere.

It’s been a busy two years. The Commission is currently processing more than 800 cases brought by individuals or non-governmental organizations alleging human rights violations.

“The IACHR recently heard a case involving people accused of a crime in Uruguay who were held in preventive detention—without formal charges and without trial—for five years. We issued a judgment saying it is a violation of the presumption of innocence, among other things, to hold these men in preventive detention. They were released, and are now awaiting trial.”

On Behalf of the Commission, Carozza has a particular responsibility for the rights of indigenous people, like the destitute Paraguayans who have lost their ancestral land to their government. He and the Commission have also decided cases involving massacres in Peru that are currently central to the criminal proceedings there against former president Alberto Fujimori on highly publicized charges of crimes against humanity.

“A lot of the cases brought before the Commission result in payment of compensation to the aggrieved parties or even changes in domestic law and governmental policy. In some cases, our recommendations help governments take positive actions to ensure human rights in their countries.”

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. The next session of the Commission begins in early March.

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

For more information about Paolo Carozza, visit his faculty profile.