Democratic Legitimacy of the Inter American Court of Human Rights to control democratic decisions of Latin American States (completed)

About the project

The departure point of the project lies on the following question: is the Inter American Court of Human Rights democratically legitimate to control national legislation or national decisions passed by democratic branches from Latin American states?

The project seeks to analyze, from a normative perspective, the role that the Inter American Court of Human Rights plays in the control of national legislation and national decisions that have been made by democratic branches. At present, its role is being challenged by a number of Latin American governments. They claim respect for democracies and decisions made by majorities, in spite of the fact that this branches might breach human rights.  

During the last decades the Inter American Court has embraced an active profile in order to protect human rights against gross violations and to reject the impunity that Latin American dictatorships promoted as a general rule; in this context the Court found a justification to declare the international responsibility of States but also to order general measures such as the amendment of laws or the modification of constitutions that State had to implement in their legal orders. Nonetheless, at present, this active role might clash with the national democratic institutions as well as parliaments which might be entitled to benefit from the margin of appreciation when applying human rights.   

Should the Court adopt another sort of profile which lies on the notion of deference to national governments? How does the concept of democracy could be applied to the international legal order?  How does the concept of democracy legitimate the role of the Court and influence the whole judicial process before the Court? What is the origin of the democratic legitimacy of the Court: citizens or states? On behalf of whom does the Inter American Court exert public authority?


The main purpose of the project is to find the grounds of the democratic legitimacy of the Inter American Court of Human Rights to control national legislation and national decisions passed by democratic branches. As a consequence of this analysis, it is expected to build a framework of democratic legitimacy that might be applied ideally to the Inter American System of Human Right. In that way, one of the aspects to discuss is whether the concept of democracy can be a principle that necessarily should be a ground of international law and international judicial bodies and what are the basis of democratic legitimacy that the Inter American Court holds.  Also, another aspect to discuss is whether the democratic principle should be promoted as a transversal element of the decision making process of the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Moreover, a consequence of the main target of the research is the analysis of the nature and features of the relationship between human rights and democracy in order to grasp the linkage between that judicial body and the national democracies of Latin America.


Natalia Torres is a peruvian lawyer (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru) who holds a Master degree in Constitutional Law (University Menendez Pelayo, Spain)

After graduation, Natalia Torres worked as a legal advisor at the National Congress of Peru and at the peruvian Constitutional Court. She also has worked as a legal advisor at some NGOS as well as Instituto de Defensa Legal, Comision Andina de Juristas, among others. Furthermore, she has also worked as teacher assistant at the Faculty of Law of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Her teaching experience is mainly focused on the Constitutional Law Field and on topics regarding fundamental rights, theory of the state, constitution and economics, and theory of interpretation.

Start Date:  15.10.2015

End Date: 15.10.2018

Published Apr. 12, 2016 10:22 AM - Last modified June 22, 2021 11:18 AM