Following a petition filed 12 years ago, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has finally agreed to hear the petition from former Gov. Pedro Rosselló and pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa on Puerto Ricans’ inability to vote for U.S. presidential or congressional elections. However, the United States is objecting to the request, stating that while it is true Puerto Ricans do not vote in U.S. elections, it does not constitute a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights & Duties of Man, an international human rights declaration adopted in 1948. The commission, which meets only four times a year, holds its next meeting Oct. 5 in Boulder, Colo. Previously, in 2003, the IACHR ruled that the United States violated the declaration by denying Washington, D.C. the opportunity to participate in Congress.
“It took 12 years, but they will finally see it,” Igartúa said. The petition was filed in 2006 and the United States issued a response in 2010.
Why did it take so long for the commission to hold a hearing on the petition? Igartúa noted that one of the requirements for a hearing before the IACHR is that all remedies have to be exhausted in the adequate forums before a petition is heard. Since 1992, on three separate occasions, Igartúa has unsuccessfully sought to obtain the presidential vote for Puerto Ricans. All cases were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has declined to hear them. The third attempt, however, was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2006, the same year the petition was filed before the OAS. Igartúa also had a separate case in U.S. courts that sought the right to have representatives in the U.S. House. The fact Igartúa exhausted his petitions allowed Rosselló to get a hearing too, the lawyer said.
In the case before the IACHR, Rosselló and Igartúa are claiming violations of Article XX of the declaration that entails the right to vote and participate in government.