In 1990, the Inter-American Commission started establishing Thematic Rapporteurships to focus on certain persons, groups, and communities that are especially exposed to human rights violations because of their situation of vulnerability and for being the targets of historical discrimination. Thematic Rapporteurship are established to build up, promote, and systematize the work of the Inter-American Commission itself on concrete issues. In that respect, they foster awareness of human rights among the peoples of the Americas.1 The Rapporteurships also support IACHR's work in developing legal standards; contribute to knowledge about423 the mechanisms of the Inter-American System; and promote access of persons, groups, and communities involved in this thematic approach to domestic and international justice. At the same time, IACHR Rapporteurships keep up a steady collaboration with various sectors working on their specific issues of specialization, including the Rapporteurships of the United Nations and other universal mechanisms, civil society organizations, States, and the academic sector, among others.
IACHR Thematic Rapporteurships are governed by the provisions set forth in Article 15 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as by practices provided by the Commission's plenary. The Commission adopts the reports and work plans of each Rapporteurship and supervises the daily fulfillment of their mandates. Because of their nature as specialized thematic offices established by the IACHR itself, the IACHR Rules of Procedure precisely define the procedures for their establishment and for the election of the Thematic Rapporteurs. The Rules of Procedures also regulate the duties discharged by the IACHR in which its Rapporteurships participate. The standards and practices mentioned above constitute an important series of rules that govern the conduct of all the Rapporteurships and establish stringent procedures for their activities.
The Thematic Rapporteurships also collaborate in the fulfillment of IACHR's main role of promoting the enforcement and defense of human rights and serve as a consulting body for the OAS in this matter.2 In that regard, they can request the governments of States to provide reports on the human rights measures that they adopt,3 as well as make recommendations for them to adopt progressive measures for the benefit of human rights, in line with IACHR's mandate. The Rapporteurs also draw up studies and reports that are relevant to their thematic duties.4 As part of their functions, the Rapporteurs can undertake working visits to States and participate in onsite visits made by the IACHR, with the consent or at the invitation of the respective government. At present, the IACHR has eight Thematic Rapporteurships:
rights of the indigenous peoples (1990);
rights of women (1994);
rights of migrants (1996);
rights of the child (1998);
rights of persons deprived of their liberty (2004);
rights of persons of African descent and against racial discrimination (2005);
rights of human rights defenders (2011); and
rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (2014).
The IACHR also has the power to establish Special Rapporteurships to be headed by other persons designated by the Commission.5 In said framework of activities, since 1997 there has been a Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression,6 which is a permanent office with its own operating structure and functional autonomy, which operates in the legal framework of the IACHR. On April 3, 2014, the IACHR also decided to establish a Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, bearing in mind the interdependent and indivisible nature of human rights and the importance of protecting and promoting economic, social, and cultural rights in the region. With the establishment of this new Rapporteurship, which currently functions as a Unit,7 the IACHR strives to build up and further extend its work to defend and protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of the inhabitants of the Americas.
Among their duties, the Rapporteurships have taken advantage of their mandate to promote regional initiatives on priority issues in the region relevant to their areas of focus. These initiatives have been strengthened by participatory processes of gathering information, including the outlook of the States and civil society, the drafting of regional reports on pressing issues and the submittal of these reports, the organization of promotional activities to disseminate knowledge about the standards of the Inter-American System, the circulation of questionnaires, the preparation of consultations with experts, the organization of relevant thematic hearings and working visits, the drafting of press releases, and the use of other mechanisms. As for individual cases, at the same time the Rapporteurships continue to participate and exert a specialized impact on the processing of individual petitions on human rights violations received by the IACHR. They also participate actively in reviewing requests for precautionary measures and in supporting hearings and friendly settlements.
The IACHR presents below information about the thematic priorities and activities of each one of the Rapporteurships in the course of 2015.