This sober reference work amounts to a constitutional history of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), elucidated by relevant cases involving Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the United States, Chile, Honduras and El Salvador. The IACHR is an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States chartered in 1959. The call for a convention on human rights had come in 1945 and was reflected in the general principles adopted in the OAS Charter in 1948.

The long delay in establishing an OAS forum for human rights resulted from the importance in Latin America of the principle of nonintervention. Potential conflict between international sanctions in defense of human rights and the principle of nonintervention in a nation’s affairs is evident, and the author analyzes that conflict extensively. However, he makes no reference to the historical basis of Latin America’s preference for nonintervention. Indeed, the only “contextual” material in the book appears in the cases, and some of it is very interesting: the U.S. government’s effective refutation of the charge that its English language requirement for citizenship violated the human rights of Spanish-speaking aliens; the high number of complaints against Castro’s Cuba in the 1960s; the commission’s eventual confrontation with the Pinochet regime of Chile; jurisdictional complications in the Brazil torture cases caused by existence of a so-called Brazilian Council for the Defense of Human Rights; and finally the opportunity provided by the 1969 Soccer War (Honduras-El Salvador) to expand the interpretation of the IACHR’s functions.

The author’s accomplishment is to describe the mechanics of human rights’ sanctions in the Western Hemisphere, to explain how they have developed since 1945, and to estimate their present effectiveness and prospects.