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The Commission consists of seven members who act independently, without representing any particular country. It investigates individual petitions that allege human rights violations under the Convention if the State against whom the complaint is being made has ratified the relevant Treaty – either the Convention or the Additional Protocol. Under Article 19(6) of the Additional Protocol, ‘Any instance in which the rights established in paragraph a) of Article 8  Article 13 are violated by action directly attributable to a State Party to this Protocol may give rise, through participation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and, when applicable, of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to application of the system of individual petitions governed by Article 44 through 51 and 61 through 69 of the American Convention on Human Rights.’

The Commission submits cases to the Inter-American Court and appears before the Court in the litigation of cases.

The Commission may only process individual cases where it is alleged that one of the member States of the OAS is responsible for the human rights violation at issue. The Commission applies the Convention to process cases brought against those States which are parties to that instrument. For those States which are not parties, the Commission applies the American Declaration.

The petitions presented to the Commission must show that the victim has exhausted all means of remedying the situation domestically. If domestic remedies have not been exhausted, it must be shown that the victim tried to exhaust domestic remedies but failed because: 1) those remedies do not provide for adequate due process; 2) effective access to those remedies was denied, or; 3) there has been undue delay in the decision on those remedies. 
If domestic remedies were exhausted, the petition must be presented within six months after the final decision in the domestic proceedings. If domestic remedies have not been exhausted, the petition must be presented within a reasonable time after the occurrence of the events complained of.

The Court is composed of seven judges elected in an individual capacity. It has both adjudicatory and advisory jurisdiction. In relation to its adjudicatory jurisdiction, it is entitled to consider cases submitted to it by the IACHR or by States Parties. Therefore, petitions brought to the IACHR may be taken up before the Court. However, the State Party involved must recognise the jurisdiction of the Court.

It should be noted that reservations to the Additional Protocol can be made, ‘provided that such reservations are not incompatible with the object and purpose of the Protocol’ (article 20 of the Additional Protocol)

For detailed information about rules for making a complaint to the Commission, and the procedure for determination of a complaint and proceedings to the Court, follow the link to the excellent Litigating Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
Legal Practitioners Dossier released by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) at p.158 http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/COHRE%20Legal%20Practitioners%20Dossier.pdf