Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The Inter-American region has a history of widespread human rights abuse. To combat this problem the Organization of American States has developed a regional system for the protection of human rights. The system's adjudicatory body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court). In recent years the Court has expanded its power through its exercise of contentious jurisdiction. Certain factors, however, that are unique to the Inter-American region weigh against the Court's use of contentious jurisdiction.

Tracing the development of the Inter-American human rights system in general and the Court in particular, this Note evaluates the Court's powers and questions whether contentious jurisdiction should be utilized to protect and promote human rights in the Inter-American region. Next, this Note discusses those cases over which the Court has exercised contentious jurisdiction. This Note concludes with a discussion of three specific problems raised by the Court's exercise of contentious jurisdiction: its effect on Inter-American citizens' perception of the Court; its potential effect on advisory opinions issued by the Court; and, its effect on United States ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights.