The Inter-American Juridical Committee (Comité Jurídico Interamericano)
International law is one of the foundation blocks of the Organization of American States. The OAS was established on the basis of the OAS Charter and operates through such other multilateral agreements as the American Convention on Human Rights (“Pact of San Jose”), the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the Social Charter of the Americas. As the member states of the Organization become increasingly interdependent and interconnected, respect for and reliance on international law has become crucial to the just and effective operation of our hemispheric system.
The Secretariat for Legal Affairs supports activities geared toward the standardization and harmonization of laws on public and private international law in OAS member states, including the legal aspects of economic integration in the regional context. With respect to regional treaties and other agreements, see for example the Secretariat’s very useful online database at http://www.oas.org/en/topics/treaties_agreements.asp.
The Inter-American Juridical Committee (IAJC), headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, serves the Organization as an advisory body on juridical matters of an international nature and promotes the progressive development and the codification of international law. It also studies juridical problems related to the integration of the developing countries of the Hemisphere and the possibility of attaining uniformity in their legislation.
The Committee consists of eleven individuals elected by the General Assembly for four year terms. No two members may be nationals of the same State. The current membership includes Fabián Novak Talavera (Chairman) (Peru), Carlos Alberto Mata Prates (Vice-Chairman) (Uruguay), Joao Clemente Baena Soares (Brazil), Miguel Aníbal Pichardo Olivier (Dominican Republic), Hernán Salinas Burgos (Chile), David P. Stewart (United States), Gélin Imanès Collot (Haiti), Ana Elizabeth Villalta Vizcarra (El Salvador), Joel Antonio Hernández García (Mexico), Ruth Stella Correa Palacio (Colombia), and José Antonio Moreno Rodríguez (Paraguay).
The Committee’s agenda is established in part on the basis of directives from the OAS General Assembly and in part on the basis of proposals by Committee members. The current agenda includes such topics as international consumer protection, the law applicable to international contracts, the application of the principle of conventionality in human rights questions, issues related to representative democracy, state (or sovereign) immunity and the immunity of international organizations, and proposals for establishing a harmonized system of electronic warehouse receipts for agricultural products.
Recently completed reports have addressed alternatives for regulating the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and for preventing drug dependence, principles for the protection of privacy and personal data, rules regarding the use of force and protection of people in situations of internal violence that do not qualify as armed conflict, corporate social responsibility in the field of human rights and the environment in the Americas, a proposed model act on simplified stock corporations, model legislation on protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, and issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Generally, see the Committee’s home page at http://www.oas.org/en/sla/iajc/default.asp.
All of these projects have aimed at addressing real issues of significance to OAS Member States and have generated reports with concrete proposals and recommendations. The Committee has been dedicated to addressing practical problems and offering practical solutions that have the potential to make significant contributions to Member States and their citizens. The Committee’s work on these topics is collected and published annually in detailed reports to the OAS General Assembly, available at http://www.oas.org/en/sla/iajc/annual_reports.asp.
The Committee and the Department of International Law together organize an annual three week course on international law (normally in August) in Rio de Janeiro. The course has a different main topic every year and provides an opportunity to promote the exchange of ideas and to generate an open dialogue about issues of particular relevance in the area of international Law. Several prestigious professors from the Americas and Europe participate giving lectures during the Course. Some scholarships are available. For more information, see http://www.oas.org/en/sla/iajc/course.asp.
Submitted by David P. Stewart