The member foreign ministers from the Organization of American States (OAS) will meet in Washington, DC for the 48th General Assembly on June 4th and 5th, 2018. Between major elections in almost every regional powerhouse, a leadership transition in Cuba, and an escalating crisis in Venezuela that is increasingly burdening the region, they’ll have a full agenda. On Monday, at a speech to the organization, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence set the stage for what promises to be a tense meeting when he urged the OAS to suspend Venezuela.
But despite an unusually tumultuous stretch in inter-regional relations, business as usual must continue as well. That includes the election of three new members of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court), each of whom will serve a six-year term. Based in San José, Costa Rica, the Court is one of the most prominent hemispheric multilateral institutions. It made headlines in January after it issued a decision recommending the legalization of same-sex marriage in Costa Rica. The decision upended the Costa Rican presidential elections sparking an unexpected surge of popular support for an evangelical pastor and political novice Fabricio Alvarado (Alvarado eventually lost in the second round vote).
The new justices will fill the seats currently held by Roberto de Figueiredo Caldas (Brazil), Eduardo Ferrer MacGregor (Mexico), and Humberto Sierra Porto (Colombia). Both Ferrer MacGregor and Sierra Porto have been re-nominated for their seats.
Eduardo Ferrer MacGregor, Mexico
Eduardo Ferrer MacGregor has served as a judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights since 2013. He was vice president of the Court from 2016-2017 and became its president on January 1, 2018. He is a member of the Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and has been a visiting professor at the Washington College of Law at American University, at and at Stanford University and Notre Dame. He is author of numerous books and monographs on human rights and constitutional law.
Ricardo Pérez Manrique, Uruguay
Ricardo Pérez Manrique served on the Supreme Court of Uruguay from 2012 to 2017 and served as its president in 2016. Pérez Manrique has served in the Uruguayan justice system in various capacities since 1989, taught at universities in Uruguay and throughout the region including Universidad de la República and Universidad de Argentina, and published dozens of articles in legal journals. He specializes on issues of domestic violence and is a vocal advocate for women’s and children’s rights.
Nardi Suxo Iturry, Bolivia
Nardi Suxo Iturry, the only female nominee to the Court, is a lawyer and sociologist who is the current Ambassador of Bolivia to International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland. Before her current position, she served as Minster of Institutional Transparency and the Fight Against Corruption from 2006 to 2015 (the position is now defunct; it merged with Ministry of Justice in 2017). Her nine-year term is tied for the longest serving minister in the Morales government. At an event at the Inter-American Dialogue in April 2018, Suxo faced questions from the audience about her background in human rights and failed to promise independence from the Bolivian government in her decisions if she were to be elected to the Court. Earlier this week, a largely critical editorial in Página Siete, a popular independent Bolivian newspaper, pointed out that Suxo is the only candidate with a strictly political background.
Humberto Sierra Porto, Colombia
Humberto Sierra Porto has served as a judge on the Inter-American Court of Human rights since 2013. He served as president of the Court from 2014-2015. He is an investigator at the Instituto de Estudios Constitucionales Carlos Restrepo Piedrahita at the Universidad Externado de Colombia. A specialist in constitutional law, Sierra Porto previously served as a member of the Constitutional Court of Colombia from 2004 to 2012.
Analysis: Even to an untrained legal eye, the candidates from Mexico, Colombia, and Uruguay seem to be more than qualified for the open seats on the Court. Both Ferrer MacGregor and Sierra Porto have led the body before, and Pérez Manrique served as the president of the Supreme Court of one of the region’s most stable democracies. Though questions remain about the Bolivian nominee’s ability to act independently from the interests of her government, it remains to be seen how an ideologically fractured OAS will vote in June.