The IACHR will elect a new executive secretary to replace Paulo Abrao, accused of labor abuse

IACHR officials in field work (Archive)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced this Thursday that finally will elect a new executive secretary after disagreements with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who refused to renew the mandate of Paulo Abrao, on which more than 60 complaints of workplace harassment weigh.

The IACHR, a body part of the OAS, said that On September 25, he will open the tender process to occupy his executive secretariat, in a statement in which he reaffirmed the importance of his “autonomy and independence”, and thanked and recognized “highly” the management of Abrao, a Brazilian jurist who was in office for the last four years.

On August 25, ten days after Abrao’s term expired, Almagro said that he would not extend his contract “due to the existence of dozens of complaints of a functional nature” filed against the official, and deplored the “lack of processing” of these complaints as “a serious blow” to the credibility of the Commission.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro (EFE / Bienvenido Velasco / Archive)
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro (EFE / Bienvenido Velasco / Archive)

The IACHR, which considered Almagro’s decision a “serious attack” against him, said this Thursday that in recent days it sought “a respectful institutional dialogue” to overcome this friction, pointing to the defense of the election of Abrao and the “due process” to the processing of the complaints of the personnel.

Faced with the impossibility of achieving this goal, the IACHR insisted on its “profound rejection” of the step taken by Almagro.

The IACHR had accused the Secretary General of the OAS of breaking “a practice established by more than 20 years of respect.” at the discretion of the IACHR to elect its executive secretary. And he added that this “makes it difficult to obtain truth, justice and reparation for people who have felt affected in their labor rights.”

“This decision of the Secretary General ignores the due process of Mr. Paulo Abrao,” the Commission affirmed.

The former executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao (REUTERS / Erick Marciscano)
The former executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao (REUTERS / Erick Marciscano)

On the other hand, the IACHR pledged to “improve the work environment,” while pointing out the importance of knowing the results of the investigation into the complaints against Abrao, on which 61 complaints of abuse of power weigh, from the OAS Inspector General, that exercises internal audit functions.

“Abuse of power, harassment, retaliation”

Furthermore, 12 Former IACHR officials said in a letter to the IACHR that they had suffered “abuse of power, harassment, retaliation, public humiliation, unjustified removal from office, loss of office, and discrimination.” by Abrao.

The Deputy Secretary of the IACHR, Colombian María Claudia Pulido was appointed to temporarily replace Abrao.

Almagro’s decision received a wave of criticism from human rights organizations, while the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, headed by Michelle Bachelet, called for an urgent solution to the conflict.

Abrao’s response

The official echoed the decision through an extensive letter, posted on his Twitter account. In it, he assured that the allegations made constituted “a campaign of disinformation and public statements” that affected his “honor and reputation.”.

Regarding those people who signed the letter containing the complaints about the Commission’s work environment, he expressed his “commitment to the fundamental right to report by all those who feel that their rights are affected” and therefore indicated that “it is essential that the corresponding channels are used that allow adequate attention.” However, he defended his management at the head of the organization, detailing different measures taken in “personnel matters”.

“However, the IACHR and the Executive Secretariat never knew or had access to all the individualized situations; they only received general information and recommendations on the work environment ”, indicates a passage of the letter, which ensures that these were taken care of.

In turn, Abrao criticized the actions of the Ombudsperson, ensuring that in his last meeting he had not made reference to the complaints that he later presented months later. “Historically, there have always been very powerful pressures and interests against an active, strong and efficient IACHR,” he said. And he concluded: “I will remain loyal to my life project of making visible, documenting, denouncing and defending human rights against all forms of arbitration, injustices, inequalities and discrimination.”


Luis Almagro vetoed the Secretary of the IACHR for the more than 60 complaints of labor abuse that weigh against him

IACHR, the trade-off of autonomy for impunity

Former IACHR officials in a letter denounced “abuses of power” committed by Abrao

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