On May 21st, at a special meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), five candidates presented their credentials for membership on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or Commission) for the 2021-2024 term.
Chaired by Ambassador Carlos Trujillo—Permanent Representative of the United States and Chair of the Permanent Council—candidates from Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama and Peru presented their credentials and spoke of the challenges that the Commission needs to urgently address.
Four candidates will be selected from the pool of five at the OAS’s next General Assembly meeting. The candidates from Panama and Jamaica are currently serving as commissioners and, if elected, would serve a second term.
Below you can read more on each candidate’s background, all listed in alphabetical order by country of origin.
Colombia—Everth Bustamante García
García is a former senator. He was elected to the Colombian Senate twice, the first from 1991 to 1994 by 19th of April Movement—a guerrilla movement turned political party—and the second from 2014 to 2018 representing the President Ivan Duque’s Centro Democrático party. During his second term, he was part of the Permanent Sixth Constitutional Commission. In 2011 he ran for the governorship of Cundinamarca, but lost.
Prior to running for governor, García was the director of Coldeportes, the Colombian institute for sports (2006-2010), Mayor of the Zipaquirá municipality (2001-2003), and Congressman representing AD-M19 in Colombia’s House of Representatives (1990 to 1991). Since 2002, García has had close ties to former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and from 2005 to 2006 García acted as one of his advisors.
García’s candidacy to the IACHR has been criticized within Colombia. Multiple organizations in the country filed a petition against his nomination, claiming that he has fails to meet the requirements needed to fulfill the role. Petitioners listed García’s lack of experience in dealing with human rights issues, his close ties to the Duque government, and his political trajectory to argue that he doesn’t have the “high moral authority” requested of members of the IACHR.
Guatemala—Edgar Stuardo Ralón Orellana
In January 2019, the government of Guatemala proposed Edgar Stuardo Ralón Orellana as a candidate to the IACHR.
According to the Guatemalan site Nómada, Ralón Orellana has more than fifteen years of experience as a lawyer. He is a graduate of Universidad Francisco Marroquín, holds a postgraduate degree from the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain and a master’s degree from the Universidad Católica in Chile.
With his brother, Ralón Orellana founded the firm Ralón y Asociados, working closely with the most conservative groups of Guatemala’s private sector. Ralón Orellana was also in charge of the National Football Normalisation Commission, a body appointed by FIFA to run the Guatemalan federation’s (FEDEFUT) business, organize elections and modernize its statutes after the corruption scandals that put high officials behind bars. In early 2019, Ralón Orellana jumped into union politics through his group, El Gremio Es Primero.
Ralón Orellana has also taught for more than 10 years on the legal faculty of various universities such as Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Universidad del Istmo and Universidad Rafael Landívar.
Jamaica—Margaret May Macaulay
Margarette May Macaulay currently serves as second vice-chair and a member of the IACHR. She was selected for a four-year term that runs from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2019. Commissioner Macaulay is also the Commission’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination.
Prior to her role as commissioner, she served as a Mediator, Associate Arbitrator, and Notary Public in the Supreme Court of Jamaica. From 2007 to 2012, Macaulay was a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, contributing to the creation of the Court’s Rules of Procedure. Macaulay holds a bachelor of laws degree from the University of London.
Panama—Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño
Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño was elected on June 16, 2015, by the OAS General Assembly, for a four-year term that runs from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2019.
She is now seeking re-election to serve for a second term. At the May 21st hearing, Arosemena spoke about how proud she felt in serving the Commission as a Central American woman and reinforced her “commitment to continue contributing with the development of the inter-American system of human rights as it reaches its 60th anniversary.”
Prior to her position at the IACHR, Arosemena was a Justice of the Supreme Court—and the Vice-president of the court—in her native Panama. She also presided over the Chamber for Criminal Cases, and was a judge on the High Court on Children and Adolescent affairs.
She participated in the Special Commission that proposed constitutional reforms in Panama on 2011, and on the Commission that revised the Code of Constitutional Procedures in 2016. She is also an academic and a professor at the University of Panama, the Superior Judicial Institute and Panama’s Judicial Authority, and collaborates with the Public Prosecutor’s Office School with regards to the new criminal system and in the subject of juvenile criminal justice.
She has a degree in Philosophy, Letters and Education, with a specialization in Pedagogy, as well as a degree in Law and Political Science. Her post-graduate studies are focused on gender, with a specialization in family and childhood, as well as constitutional affairs.
Peru—Julissa Mantilla Falcón
Falcón is a professor at the Academy of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at the Washington College of Law at American University, as well as a teacher in the Masters program for Gender Studies and Master’s program for Human Rights at the Pontifical Catholic University in Peru (PUCP.)
She is a member of the Latin American Network of Academics of Law; has served as an expert before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights; and is an international consultant on issues of gender, transitional justice and human rights. Falcón received both her law degree and degree in gender studies at PUCP, and her Masters from The London School of Economics.