Newly-Launched Jurisprudence Database of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

At the beginning of this year, in January 2024, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) based in San José, Costa Rica launched its first ever AI-powered case law database.This free legal source aims to provide an easy to use access to the regional court’s jurisprudence and important information regarding its procedure and composition. Recently, I had the tremendous opportunity to interview the Court’s Head Librarian, Ana Rita Ramírez and get more information regarding the process of producing this database and its future growth.

[Screenshot of the Database main page. Click image to see the larger picture.]

What was the journey to carry out this project?

This project represented an ongoing commitment by the Inter-American Court with civil society, academia, and various actors committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the region and internationally. The jurisprudence of the IACHR constitutes an invaluable source of precedents and legal decisions related to human rights in the Inter-American region.

In the past, several initiatives have been promoted to develop a robust search engine that would offer relevant and specific search results within the vast knowledge of human rights contained in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court. However, high economic costs and limited human resources always posed a significant obstacle, given that such resources were not available. Faced with this need, other organizations undertook efforts to include the Court’s jurisprudence in their respective search engines, providing viable alternatives for users.

In August 2021, the Court’s Library team presented a proposal to the Court’s Secretariat to initiate the analysis and systematization of the information contained in the jurisprudence, in order to create an innovative database hosted on a robust platform that could offer an efficient search engine. This search engine would be equipped with machine learning algorithms, capable of self-feeding according to usage, and would be complemented by exhaustive information analysis. Additionally, we would use thesauri and metadata to identify descriptors and ensure that search results were more effective and reliable.

Thanks to the support of the Kingdom of Sweden, the 6 library professionals of the Inter-American Court formally began work in November 2021, in a platform hosted by Vlex.

How long did this process take?

As mentioned earlier, it has been two years since we started until the actual launch. However, this is a continuous and sustained work, which requires a constant editorial process of systematization and analysis of information, using descriptors and metadata. Additionally, we must consider the continuous improvement of our database.

The main objective of the Project is to guarantee its long-term sustainability and enrich the database with other elements that strengthen its utility as a high-level research resource, capable of meeting the needs of all users. This implies not only the inclusion of more relevant information but also the implementation of new tools and functionalities that improve the search and analysis experience of users.

To achieve this goal, it is essential to maintain a proactive approach in the constant updating and enrichment of the database, as well as in adapting to the changing needs of users and technological advances. Additionally, it is important to encourage collaboration and feedback with the community to ensure that the database evolves according to their needs and expectations.

The jurisprudence database seeks not only to establish itself as a solid resource in the present but also as a tool in constant evolution that continues to be relevant and useful over time.

Who was involved in this process?

This achievement is the result of a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort involving the entire Court, supported by the Secretariat, available financial resources, international cooperation, and technological support. Especially noteworthy is the work of the team made up of librarian professionals from the IACHR, who have played a fundamental role in the design, development, and maintenance of the database. Additionally, we have benefited from the valuable contribution of interns and law students who have contributed during their community service periods. This teamwork and collaborative approach have been key to achieving this significant milestone.

It is essential to highlight the importance of feedback and validation from the legal team of the IACtHR to enrich the database. This feedback allows us to identify areas for improvement and new elements that can strengthen the resource, thus ensuring that it continuously meets the needs and expectations of users. Through this collaboration and constant communication, we can guarantee the relevance and usefulness of the project over time.

What was the initial purpose and audience for this project?

From the beginning, we set for ourselves extremely ambitious objectives. Our vision was to create a jurisprudence database hosted on a robust platform that would provide highly relevant and accurate search results on specific topics.

This database would be designed to index content deeply within each resolution, providing access to resources that might go unnoticed in general search engines. Additionally, we were clear that the database should have distinctive features:

  • Personalization of results: Adapting search results according to user preferences and the context of the search.
  • Intuitive interfaces and navigation tools that simplify search and access to information, thus improving the user experience.
  • Allowing users to refine their searches using filters and specific categories to find desired information more efficiently and accurately.
  • Identifying and highlighting high-quality and relevant content within a specific topic, to help users discover valuable resources quickly and easily.

By staying true to these objectives and characteristics, we were confident that our jurisprudence database would become an indispensable tool for legal professionals, academics, and all civil society involved in the promotion and protection of human rights.

What problems does this resource solve?

Before the creation of this database, accessing the jurisprudence of the IACtHR could be difficult and limited, especially for those who were not familiar with international legal procedures or did not have access to specialized legal libraries. However, this new database provides easy and open access to the judicial decisions of the IACtHR, facilitating research and study in the field of human rights in the inter-American region.

The large amount of jurisprudence produced by the IACtHR can make it difficult for users to find the specific information they are looking for. Therefore, this database is designed to provide relevant and accurate search results, allowing users to quickly find the judicial decisions relevant to their needs and interests.

Additionally, the new database offers customization features that allow users to adjust their searches according to their specific needs and preferences. This provides a more efficient and satisfying search experience, thus improving the usability and usefulness of the platform for a wide range of users.

Why limit it to just Spanish? Are there plans to offer it in other languages in the future?

The interface of the database is available in the four official languages of the IACHR: Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. However, the content of the jurisprudence is presented in the language in which it was officially published. Despite this limitation, the Court is making significant efforts to translate judgments and advisory opinions into English and Portuguese in order to improve access and understanding of jurisprudence for a broader audience.

What were the challenges in creating it?

To develop and create the database of jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court, the following challenges were identified that required a comprehensive approach.

Firstly, there was the challenge of securing the necessary financial support and ensuring the sustainability of a robust database that met the expectations and needs for which it was created. This involved not only obtaining initial funding but also establishing a plan to maintain operability in the long term.

Another aspect was having trained and professional staff capable of analyzing and describing information accurately and exhaustively, with knowledge of the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court.

The systematization of jurisprudence also represented a significant challenge. The database needed to be organized in a way that was easy to navigate and search, which required the development of a categorization and labeling system that reflected the structure of each type of resolution and its respective linkages. This would establish connections between related cases, facilitating comparative analysis and contextualization of the precedents established by the Inter-American Court.

Additionally, it was essential to have knowledge of basic documents on human rights and relevant international instruments.

What are the next steps or plans to make it grow?

For the future development of our jurisprudence database, a series of plans and improvements can be considered to optimize its functionality and usefulness:

  • New search and filter functions: Implementing new advanced search functions that allow users to find cases more accurately, additional filters could be added to refine search results.
  • Improvements in organization and categorization: Continuing to improve the organization and categorization of jurisprudence to facilitate navigation and access to information. This could involve creating new tags or thematic categories to classify cases more precisely and in detail.
  • Incorporation of new documents: Expanding the database to include new types of documents, primary writings.
  • Collaboration and community functions: Implementing tools that encourage collaboration and participation from the community linked to the promotion and protection of human rights in the development and maintenance of the database.
  • Accessibility and usability improvements: Continuing to improve the accessibility and usability of the platform to ensure it is easy to use for a wide range of users, including lawyers, academics, students, and human rights activists.

In summary, the future of the jurisprudence database could include a series of improvements and new features aimed at making legal information more accessible, understandable, and useful for a variety of users.


  1. Marcelo Rodriguez

    This is the link to the database:

  2. Alastair Clarke

    Thank you for sharing this valuable database. In 2003, I worked at the Canadian Embassy under Ambassador to the OAS Paul Durand (RIP). During my time in DC, I had the pleasure of working on many projects at the OAS. I was very impressed with Dr. Elizabeth Spehar and all the work being done to strengthen conflict prevention initiatives and gender equality within the region. One of the reasons that I went to law school is that I was able to see the invaluable legal work done at the OAS. This experience shaped my view of lawyers. Keep up the good work!

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