Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urges strong right to information supervisory bodies


Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has called on governments to build "robust" supervisory bodies with sufficient power and resources to ensure access to information.

The recommendations come in a detailed report entitled “The Right to Access to Public Information in the Americas: Specialized Supervisory and Enforcement Bodies” (English and Spanish), recently approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The 23-page heavily footnoted report analyzes the institutional design of the bodies responsible for implementing and enforcing laws on access to public information in ten countries of the hemisphere. The findings indicate “varying degrees of independence and autonomy of each of these agencies, the mechanisms for appointing their authorities, their attributes or functions addressed to ensure access to information, access to its mechanisms and efficiency in resolving disputes.”

The study describes the supervisory regimes in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, United States, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Uruguay. It observes that the supervisory bodies “are not uniform in their designs and features, and not all meet the inter‐America standards for independence, autonomy and power to resolve disputes. A number of countries have set up specialized bodies to implement the right to information with autonomy and independence. In other cases, commissioners have been appointed or specialized units were created and located within preexisting bodies(Public Ministry, Comptroller, the National Archives or Parliament). A third group of states have chosen to establish authorities or expert committees on the right to information, but under the aegis of the Executive branch or other body controlled by it.”

The report points out that Chile, Canada, Honduras, and El Salvador “have established bodies with varying degrees of autonomy and independence in relation to the factors that can determine the real (or perceived) independence of these offices.”

Only a few of the bodies studied have the power to issue binding resolutions of cases.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur in the past has stressed the importance of the establishment of a specialized administrative body created to oversee the enforcement of access laws, and so does the Model Inter‐American Law on Access to Public Information and its Implementation Guide.

Twenty-two countries in the Americas have passed public information access laws, and to different extents have either created entities to develop and enforce this right or given existing bodies the power to protect and guarantee it.