To no one's surprise, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is upset with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a watchdog group that has pushed to protect indigenous leaders, journalists and civil society organizations in the Western Hemisphere from abuses. And the feeling appears to be mutual. The commission has rightly denounced Correa's efforts to curb freedom of expression and jail critics of his administration. It also dared to weigh in on Venezuela's attempt to ban an opposition candidate from running for office against President Hugo Chavez.
Now Correa, along with Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, is asking the Organization of American States to restrict the work of the commission, which he characterizes as a tool used by the United States to influence sovereign governments. That's nonsense. Established in 1959, the autonomous commission is one of the OAS' most important bodies. Human Rights Watch credits it with helping to save thousands of lives in Colombia, Haiti and elsewhere by filing protective orders with governments, requesting that officials guarantee the safety of individuals facing abuse or death threats.
Unfortunately, OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza yielded to pressure and agreed last week to call for a meeting in six months to consider two draft proposals aimed at limiting the reach of the commission by curbing its authority and restricting its budget. They would ultimately strip the commission of having the final say in deciding how it monitors countries. The OAS' 35 member nations should reject both plans.