On March 28, 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its first ever regional hearing devoted to Legal Restrictions on Freedom of Association in Latin America. The petitioners, a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) from diverse countries, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences with legal barriers limiting free association rights. These include:
- A lack of clear legal rules for forming and registering organizations, which causes lengthy delays and raises the cost of establishing new CSOs;
- New or proposed laws that restrict or threaten to limit CSO access to international funding, which could leave some groups unable to operate; and
- Discretionary implementation of ambiguous laws that leaves CSOs uncertain as to the legality of their activities, and vulnerable to intrusive investigations, monetary fines, and forcible closure.
These restrictions are inconsistent with States’ obligations under Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights to guarantee freedom of association.
ICNL is honored to have worked with the delegation of CSOs participating in this historic regional hearing. The petitioners were: Comision Permanente de Derechos Humanos of Nicaragua, Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia of Panama, Fundamedios of Ecuador, Peru Equidad, and Fundiacion Construir of Bolivia, along with the Due Process of Law Foundation and the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy.