Latin America

Sixteen NHRIs are distributed throughout Latin America, with the first model appearing in Guatemala in 1985 followed five years later by Mexico in 1990.  The diffusion of NHRIs in Latin America follows a contagion logic, in the sense that all the offices in the region were created within a period of 14 years, with the exception of Uruguay in 2009 and Chile in 2010.  In Central America, following Guatemala in 1985, the majority of offices were established by 1993; in the Andean region, initiated by Colombia in 1991, all countries had established a NHRI by 1999; only in the Southern Cone have states proven resistant to reform.  However, as of 2012, Brazil is the only country in South America not to have instituted an NHRI.

Despite a general trend toward NHRI diffusion within the region, this phenomenon masks significant variation in terms of formal design features across models.  That said, the Latin American NHRI does provide some support for the claim of greater isomorphism within regional referent groups.  In contrast to the extreme variation observed among NHRIs at the global level, all models within the region largely conform to the ‘human rights ombudsman’ model with the notable exception of the Chilean Institute of Human Rights.  The human rights ombudsman, in contrast to the commission model, is generally equipped with more robust powers of investigation and sanction (although no NHRI in Latin America has legal enforcement powers).

The UN has played a prominent role in creating and strengthening NHRIs in South America by means of standard setting, capacity building, network facilitating, and membership granting.   The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action adopted in 1993 by the UN General Assembly made explicit mention of NHRIs and was endorsed by many Latin American states.   All NHRIs in South America, with the exception of Chile, are accredited ‘A status’ by the ICC Sub-Committee for Accreditation and have formal participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council.  An incipient UN presence in the form of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions of the Americas created in 2000 has signalled greater engagement with the Americas by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The region itself presents an unusually dense array of organisational platforms engaged in standard setting, capacity building, network facilitating, and membership granting within a regional referent group.  The Organization of American States has shown growing interest in NHRIs, signalled in 1997 with a declaration calling for their establishment in all member states.  The OAS has continued to promote the role of these institutions in human rights protection and promotion.

The principal NHRI coordinating organisation in the Americas is the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO).  Since its creation in August 1995, all NHRIs in the region have affiliated with the FIO.  It is also important to acknowledge the activity of sub-regional peer networks operating in coordination, but independent from, the FIO. For instance, the Andean NHRIs established the Andean Council of Defensorías del Pueblo (CADP) in 1998 which includes the NHRIs of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Panama.

Table: NHRIs in Latin America

Click on individual NHRIs to access country files.

Country

Year

Office

Argentina

1993

Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación
Bolivia

1994

Defensoría del Pueblo
Chile

2010

Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos
Colombia

1991

Defensoría del Pueblo
Costa Rica

1992

Defensoría de los Habitantes
Ecuador

1996

Defensoría del Pueblo
El Salvador

1991

Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
Guatemala

1985

Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos
Honduras

1990

Comisionado Nacional de Protección de los Derechos Humanos
Mexico

1990

Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos
Nicaragua

1995

Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
Panama

1996

Defensoría del Pueblo
Paraguay

1992

Defensoría del Pueblo
Peru

1993

Defensoría del Pueblo
Uruguay

2009

Institución Nacional de Derechos Humanos
Venezuela

1999

Defensoría del Pueblo