Newspaper "La Nación" v. Costa Rica, Case 12.367, Report No. 128/01, OEA/Ser./L/V/II.114 Doc. 5 rev. at 162 (2001).
HERRERA ULLOA AND FERNÁN VARGAS ROHRMOSER
LA NACIÓN NEWSPAPER
On February 28, 2001, Fernando Lincoln Guier Esquivel, Carlos Ayala
Corao, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser (hereinafter
the petitioners) lodged a petition with the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (hereinafter the Commission,
the Inter-American Commission, or the IACHR),
in which they alleged that the Republic of Costa Rica (hereinafter the
State, Costa Rica, the Costa Rican State,
or the State of Costa Rica) violated the freedom of expression
and the rights protected under Articles 1, 2, 8, 13, 24, 25, and 29 of the
American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Mauricio Herrera
Ulloa, a journalist, and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, as the legal representative
of the newspaper, La Nación
(hereinafter referred to as the presumed victims).
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and La
Nación newspaper, represented by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, were
convicted by the courts for certain articles published on Féliz Przedborski,
a diplomat, who, according to their allegations, had committed various illegal
acts abroad. When a Costa Rican
court issued the order for execution of the judgment, the petitioners appealed
to the Commission to request that the State adopt precautionary measures. Those measures were requested by the Commission, but the State
of Costa Rica refused to execute them.
The IACHR thereupon requested that the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights (hereinafter the Court or the Inter-American Court)
order provisional measures, which were granted on September 7, 2001.
The State presented arguments regarding the application of legitimate
restrictions to freedom of expression and the lack of legal standing of
the parties, inter alia, and
requested that the Commission declare itself unqualified to hear
After considering the arguments presented by both parties, the Commission
decided to admit the case and proceed with an analysis of its merits.
PROCESSING BY THE COMMISSION
The petition and the request for precautionary measures were received
by the Commission on March 1, 2001.
The Commission opened the case as case Nº 12,367, sent the relevant
parts of the petition to the State, and asked it to adopt the following
precautionary measures: suspend
execution of the judgment until the Commission had examined the case and
adopted a decision on its merits; refrain from including the name of the
journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa,
in the Costa Rican Judicial Register of Criminal Offenders; and,
refrain from taking any action that would affect his right to freedom of
The request for precautionary measures was forwarded to the State,
which was given a period of 15 days to report to the Commission on specific
action taken to comply with said request.
On March 19, 2001, the Commission received a reply from the State,
in which it asked for an extension of the period of time allotted by the
IACHR to submit information. The
Commission granted an extension of the deadline to April 3, 2001.
On March 23, the petitioners sent additional information.
On March 29, 2001, the Commission received a letter from the State
in which it reported that the Secretariat of the Supreme Court of Justice
had decided not to adopt the precautionary measures requested by the Commission,
because it lacked jurisdiction to order them.
On March 21, 2001, the petitioners asked the Commission to place
itself at the disposal of the parties with a view to reaching a friendly
settlement. The Commission
convened the parties to a meeting on March 30, to determine whether the
two sides were willing to seek a friendly settlement of the matter.
At the request of the State, this meeting was postponed to April
23, and subsequently, at the request of both parties, to May 4, the date
on which it took place.
On March 24, 2001, Dr. Pedro Nikken requested that he be included
as a petitioner in the case.
On March 23, 2001, the petitioners requested the Commission to refer
a request for provisional measures to the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, or, in the event that the Court was not in session, to submit a
request for emergency measures to the President of the Court.
In a letter dated March 28, 2001, the Commission decided to request
that the Court order provisional measures, since the precautionary measures
requested by the IACHR in favor of the petitioners had not been put into
effect. The President of the
Court, Antonio Cançado Trindade, in a decision dated April 6,
2001, decided to give the IACHR and Costa Rica until May 12 of that
year to submit information on the urgency and gravity of the situation,
the probability of irreparable damage to the victims, and the possible implications
of a decision to order provisional measures on the merits of the case.
At the same time, it convened the parties to a hearing to be held
on May 22, and it ordered the State to maintain the status
quo with regard to the situation.
On May 10, 2001, the Commission submitted the information requested. The Costa Rican State requested that the deadline for submitting
the information requested by the Court be extended to May 16.
Once the extension was granted, it submitted the pertinent information
within the time limit authorized.
After the aforesaid hearing, the Court, by decision dated May 23,
2001, gave the Costa Rican State until August 16 to present a report on
the options available under Costa Rican domestic legislation to prevent
or remedy the damage in question.
It further called on the State to refrain from engaging in any act
that would alter the status quo.
The State sent the report in question to the Court, which forwarded
it to the Commission on August 17, with the instructions that the IACHR
submit its comments on it by August 23.
The Commission submitted its comments on August 24, 2001, within
the additional time granted by the President of the Court.
The Secretariat of the Court then called on the State to provide
additional information, which was sent on August 31, 2001.
On September 1, 2001, the Commission submitted its observations on
that document. On September
7, the Inter-American Court decided to authorize the provisional measures
requested by the Commission, and called on Costa Rica to suspend the entry
for Mauricio Herrera Ulloa in the Judicial Register of Criminal Offenders,
and the order to publish the operative part of the judgment and to establish
a connection between the articles and that judgment, until such time as
a final decision on the case is issued by the inter-American system.
On April 23, 2001, Féliz Przedborski Chawa petitioned the Commission
and the Court to grant his attorneys a hearing, so that they could explain
why the judgment handed down against the petitioners does not violate their
freedom of expression and why crimes against ones honor and the crime
of desacato [insult or injury
to a public functionary] cannot be confused in Costa Rican criminal law.
The Commission asked the Court to reject in
limine Mr. Przedborskis request to intervene in the case, on the
grounds it was contrary to the practices and precedents of the inter-American
system, among other reasons.
On March 30, the Commission received a document expanding the initial
petition sent by the petitioners.
On April 16, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of that
document to the State and granted it 90 days to submit its response.
On July 13, it granted an extension of one month to Costa Rica, which
proceeded to send its response to the original petition and to the document
expanding it on August 13, 2001.
On November 16, the IACHR conducted a hearing of the parties, at
which time they gave their opinions on the admissibility of the petition.
The petitioners requested that the petition be declared admissible
and that the report on admissibility be issued pursuant to Article 37 of
the Commissions Regulations, while the State requested the Commission
to declare the case inadmissible on the grounds that it did not have jurisdictional
competence ratione personae, because
domestic remedies had not been exhausted and because the acts in question
were not a violation of the Convention.
The Commission requested the State of Costa Rica to send in writing
its response to certain questions raised in the course of the hearing, since
a representative of the Attorney General of the Republic had failed to appear
at the hearing.
On November 30, 2001, the State sent the Commission a document presenting
its latest comments on the admissibility of the complaint, including the
replies to the questions the Commissioners had raised during the November
16, 2001 hearing.
POSITION OF THE PARTIES ON ADMISSIBILITY
Position of the petitioners
The petitioners allege that the petition meets all the requirements
for admission by the Commission.
The journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, wrote two articles published
in La Nación newspaper
pertaining to the diplomat, Féliz Przedborski, an ad
honorem representative of Costa Rica to the International Atomic Energy
Commission headquartered in Austria.
In those articles, reference was made to various reports in the Belgian
press which linked the diplomat to serious illegal acts, such as drug trafficking,
tax fraud, and fraudulent bankruptcy, among others. The articles also linked him with Costa Rican politicians and
questioned his suitability to serve as a public official.
The diplomat in question brought a criminal and civil suit for damages
before the Costa Rican courts. This
suit was resolved in a decision handed down on November 12, 1999.
The operative part of that decision found that Mauricio Herrera Ulloa
was liable for four offenses of publication of insults constituting defamation,
and punished him with 120 days in fines, or 300,000 colones, while La
Nación, legally represented
by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, was fined 60 million colones for moral damages
or injury to reputation caused by the publications on May 19, 20, and 21
and December 13, 1995, plus one thousand colones for court costs and three
million eight hundred ten thousand colones for personal costs.
At the same time, the judgment ordered that the links on the case
be withdrawn from the Internet edition of La
Nación and that a connection be established between them and the
operative portion of the judgment.
It further ordered publication of the judgment, to be done specifically
by the journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa.
On February 27, 2001, the Criminal Trial Court of the First Judicial
Circuit of San José ordered execution of the judgment, at which time the
petitioners requested the precautionary measures of the Commission.
The petitioners maintain that the Costa Rican courts have violated
the rights enshrined in Articles 1, 2, 8,13, 24, 25, and 29 of the Convention,
restricting the freedom of expression of the presumed victims, and that
this entails international responsibility on the part of the Costa Rican
State. The petitioners further allege that Costa Rican criminal legislation
limits individual freedoms because it contains desacato
laws or offenses against ones honor, which any person
may commit by threatening or offending anyone performing public functions.
They argue that the institution of exceptio
veritatis is also a restriction of individual freedoms, to the extent
that it exonerates from culpability the person charged with defamation or
injury, once the truth of the allegations is proven.
Moreover, the petitioners allege that due process and judicial guarantees
were violated as well, because, in the second appeal proceeding, the court
failed to review the substance of the conviction, the judges were not impartial,
and the principle of non reformatio
in peius was violated. They
argue that the legal prohibition of maintaining Internet links, and the
order to establish others constitute a case of judicial censure, in violation
of the American Convention.
On the issue of admissibility, the petitioners indicated that the
Commission has jurisdiction to hear the petition on the basis of ratione loci, ratione materiae, ratione tempori and
ratione personae. As regards its jurisdiction based on ratione
personae, they maintain that there is active and passive justification
or proof in the present petition.
The active proof is reflected in the fact that the petition identifies
as victims two human beings. The
victims were identified as Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser,
and not the newspaper, La Nación. They alleged that Mr. Rohrmoser is qualified as a victim because
he was the subject of the execution of judgment order, since on April 3,
the Costa Rican Court issued a decision ordering him to comply with the
judgment and threatening him with a prison sentence.
The petitioners made reference to the precautionary measures requested
by the IACHR in favor of Mr. Herrera and Mr. Rohrmoser, and the provisional
measures ordered by the Inter-American Court, which allowed Mr. Rohrmoser
to excuse himself from execution of the judgment of November 12, 1999. They stated that for those reasons, the rights of Mr. Vargas
Rohrmoser protected under the Convention were violated.
In addition, they cited the Cantos case heard by the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights. They contended that the same principle is applicable in the
present petition, since even though Mr. Rohrmoser acted on behalf of a legal
person, the primary interest at stake was his own interest as a natural
person. They alleged that he
was acting in representation of La
Nación newspaper as a vehicle of communication, and not as a commercial
Therefore, insofar as admissibility is concerned, the petitioners
maintained that the petition was filed within the six month period required
under Article 46(1), that the facts alleged represent a violation of the
American Convention, and that domestic remedies have been exhausted, since
the last judicial decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Justice
and cannot be appealed, since it confirms and finalizes the judgment of
the lower court.
Position of the State
The Costa Rican State alleges that the petition is inadmissible,
because the alleged violation is the basis or foundation of a legitimate
limitation or restriction of the exercise of freedom of expression. Therefore, the facts do not represent a violation of the right
to freedom of expression protected under the Convention. The State based its case primarily on Article 47, subsection
(c) of the Convention, which stipulates that a petition shall be considered
inadmissible whenever the statements of the petitioner or of the state
indicate that the petition or communication is manifestly groundless or
obviously out of order. Hence
it argued that the petition was inadmissible because it was manifestly groundless,
among other reasons, because the grounds were
the basis of
a legitimate restriction or limitation of the exercise of said right
Pursuing this argument, the State of Costa Rica invokes Article 13(2)(a)
of the American Convention, which stipulates that legal provisions established
by a state to ensure respect for the rights or reputations of others
are an exception to the right to freedom of expression.
Based on that paragraph, it alleges that the law and the judicial
decision applied to the presumed victims are part of the legitimate restrictions
to freedom of expression, and on that basis, the petition is manifestly
groundless, and therefore inadmissible.
The State further alleges that the Commission lacks jurisdiction
to hear the petition. On this point, Costa
Rica requested the Commission to declare itself incompetent to consider
the petition filed by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, in his capacity as president
with the authority to act as the legal representative of La Nación,
because of the fact that the latter does not have active legal capacity
or standing [legitimación activa].
The State based its argument on Article 1(2) of the Convention, which
stipulates that presumed victims of a violation of the rights established
by the Convention must be physical persons, and not legal persons.
It also cites the practice of the Inter-American Commission in this
regard, making reference to cases in which it decided that the protection
of the Convention does not extend to legal persons, but only pertains to
natural persons, including the following cases: Banco de Lima (Peru); Tabacalera Boquerón, S.A. (Paraguay);
Bernard-Merens and family (Argentina);
and, Mevopal, S.A. (Argentina).
30. The State also contends that it did not adopt any measure that could be presumed to have violated any rights of Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser. It alleges that Mr. Rohrmoser acted in bad faith in petitioning the Commission and the Court on his own behalf and on behalf of the journalist, Mr. Herrera Ulloa, and in heading some of his pleadings with their names, followed by the words del Diario La Nación [from La Nación newspaper]. In the opinion of the State, the use of that expression caused confusion on the part of the Commission and the Court, which proceeded to issue, respectively, precautionary measures to prevent irreparable damage to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser and judicial decisions, in which parity of treatment was granted to the two petitioners. The State holds that this was not appropriate under the law.
In the final comments sent by the State to the IACHR on November
30, 2001, additional considerations regarding the legal standing or capacity
of Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser were put forward. In the first place, it contended
that the petitioners made a false statement when they declared that the
order of execution dated February 21, 2001 entailed a warning of a possible criminal sanction for committing the offense
of disobedience of authority, since that circumstance arose under the decision
of April 3, 2001, and was notified on May 1 of that year, subsequent to
the date on which the petition was filed with the IACHR. The State pointed out that this decision is not referred to
in the written documents submitted earlier by the petitioners, and that
it should therefore be disregarded on those grounds.
As for the allegation by petitioners that Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser would
be subject to imprisonment, the State alleged that this would not occur
even in the event that he failed to comply with the order of execution of
judgment, since under Costa Rican criminal law, there is provision for conditional
execution of sentence. Two
requirements are established under this provision:
that there be an earlier offense; and, that the sentence imposed
be less than three years. Consequently,
the State maintains that even if Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser has no criminal record,
a prison sentence would never ultimately be served, because the sentence
applicable to offenses of disobedience of authority is less than three years.
The State alleged that the petition is inadmissible because of a
failure to exhaust domestic remedies, since the alleged victims could have
used the recourse of unconstitutionality, in an attempt to derogate the
law which in their view violated their freedom of expression and to prevent
it from having legal effect, thereby failing to observe the principle of
the subsidiary character of the inter-American system.
It went on to state that this recourse would have been appropriate
and effective in derogating the law which the petitioners considered to
be a violation of their rights, since the matter pending settlement
in the national courts is suspended until a decision is issued in this case.
Finally, the State indicated that the declaration of unconstitutionality
causes the law or legal instrument being challenged become null and void,
produces res judicata, and eliminates
the legal provision or instrument from the body of law, and that the constitutional
judgment providing for nullity has retroactive effect in favor of persons
suspected or convicted of a crime.
ANALYSIS OF ADMISSIBILITY
Jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission, on the basis of ratione
personae, ratione materiae, ratione temporis y ratione loci
Competence ratione personae
Article 44 of the American Convention and Article 23 of the Regulations
of the IACHR stipulate that any person or group of persons may
lodge petitions with the Commission referring to alleged violations of the
American Convention. Therefore,
Fernando Lincoln Guier Esquivel, Carlos Ayala Corao, Pedro Nikken, Mauricio
Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser are authorized to appear as petitioners
before this Commission.
In the case in point, the legal standing of the presumed victims
[legitimación procesal] has been
questioned. The petitioners
presented Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, the latter
in his capacity as legal representative of La
Nación, as victims of the reported acts, and requested precautionary
measures in favor of both of them.
In the first place, the Commission observes that the character of
presumed victim attributed to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, is not disputed at
all, since he fits within the scope of the definition of person pursuant
to Article 1(2) of the Convention, which stipulates that person means
every human being. Moreover,
Mr. Herrera Ulloa, as the subject of the judicial proceedings initiated
by the diplomat Féliz Przedborski, is directly affected by the judicial
decisions of November 12, 1999 and January 24, 2001, and by the order of
execution dated February 27, 2001, inter
alia. Pursuant to these
judgments, he was ascribed responsibility for committing various offenses
and ordered to execute the sentence.
Finally, the IACHR is fully competent from the standpoint of ratione materiae with regard to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, to ascertain
whether there were violations of his rights as established by the American
As regards the legal standing of Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser,
the State contends that Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, as the legal representative
of La Nación, acted on behalf of a legal person and not on his
own behalf, and that therefore the Commission is not competent ratione personae to consider the petition.
The petitioners allege that the individual rights of Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser
were directly affected by the Execution and Prevention Order dated February
21, 2001, which required the presumed victims to execute the order immediately,
peremptorily, irrevocably, without delay.
At the same time, they allege that the judicial decision of April
3, 2001 warned the presumed victims of the possibility of being charged
with the crime of disobedience of authority in the event they should fail
to comply with the judgment, which would entail imposition of a criminal
sanction or a prison sentence for Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser if he should fail
to execute the judgment, which would directly violate his rights protected
under the Convention. The State
alleges that the Execution and Prevention Order is binding on Mr. Vargas
Rohrmoser exclusively in his capacity as the legal representative of La
Nación, and not in a personal capacity, and that noncompliance
on his part does not entail a criminal sanction or prison sentence against
him, since execution of the sentence is subject to commutation under Costa
Rican national law.
The Commission is of the opinion that to determine whether or not
Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser was a victim will require a complex analysis both of
conventional laws, such as laws applicable to the Costa Rican national jurisdiction,
and of the jurisprudence of the Commission and the Court, which is closely
linked to decisions to be adopted by the IACHR on the merits of the case.
Therefore, the Commission is reserving its decision on the qualification
of Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser as a victim for the later stage of the proceedings
on the substance of the matter.
Therefore, for the purposes of admissibility, the Commission decides
that it is competent ratione personae
insofar as Mauricio Herrera Ulloa is concerned, and it is deferring its
decision on Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser to a later stage, when it reaches a
determination on the merits of this petition.
Competence ratione materiae
Having identified the presumed victim in this petition, the Commission
will now consider the question of its competence by reason of the subject
matter of the reported violations.
In this regard, the Commission notes that the judgment of November
12, 1999 was binding on the journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and La Nación newspaper jointly, since it stated that the journalist,
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, was the author of four crimes of publication of
offensive material constituting defamation and sentenced him jointly and
severally with La Nación to payment
of a separate fine for moral prejudice.
At the same time, the judgment established similar obligations for
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and La
Nación newspaper, as it ordered the former to publish the operative
part of the judgment and the latter to withdraw the link between the articles
in dispute written by Mauricio Herrera and establish a new link between
said articles and the operative part of the conviction.
In view of these facts, which are not disputed by the parties, the
Commission considers that it is competent to determine whether they constitute
violations of Article 13 of the American Convention.
Consequently, the Commission
finds that the petition reports violations of human rights protected by
the American Convention. Therefore,
the Commission is competent ratione
materiae to consider the petition.
Competence ratione temporis
The Commission also has jurisdiction on the basis of ratione temporis, since the acts alleged in the petition took place
at a time when the obligation to respect and guarantee the rights established
by the Convention was in force in the State of Costa Rica.
Competence ratione loci
Finally, the Commission is competent ratione
loci to consider the petition, because it contains allegations of violations
of rights protected by the American Convention which took place in the territory
of the State of Costa Rica.
Other requirements for admissibility of the petition
Exhaustion of domestic remedies
On May 29, 1998, the Criminal Court of the First Judicial Circuit
of San José handed down a decision absolving Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and
Nación newspaper of any guilt in the criminal complaint
with civil suit for damages filed by
Féliz Przedborski. Mr.
Przedborski then filed a recurso de
casación [extraordinary appeal for reversal of the lower court opinion]
with the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The Supreme Court vacated
the earlier decision and sent the case back to the Criminal Court of the
First Judicial Circuit, which, in a verdict handed down on November 12,
1999, convicted the journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, and the newspaper
La Nación of the offenses.
The petitioners filed a recurso
de casación with the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice,
which rejected the appeal in a decision issued on January 24, 2001. In view of the fact that no further appeals on that decision
are legally admitted, the judgment remains firm and executory.
The State alleged that domestic remedies were not exhausted, and
it pointed to the appeal of unconstitutionality as the appropriate, effective
remedy to be exhausted by the petitioners.
In this regard, the Commission notes that the central object of the
petition is the sanction imposed on the assumed victims in the conviction
issued on November 12, 1999 and the order of execution dated February 1,
2000, which they challenged using the ordinary appeals available in criminal
procedure, and, when they were rejected,
arrived at a situation of res
judicata. The Inter-American
Court of Human Rights has found that an appeal of internal jurisdiction
is adequate whenever it is sufficient to protect the infringed legal situation,
since in all national bodies of law, there are many remedies, but
not all of them are applicable in all circumstances. Finally,
the Commission notes that the petitioners were not required to exhaust the
remedy of unconstitutionality, since it is not a suitable remedy to protect
the legal situation that was supposedly affected in the case in point, consisting
of a conviction the immediate execution of which was ordered by the Costa
46. At the same time, the Commission points out that on a number of occasions, the Court has found that prior exhaustion of domestic remedies allows the State to solve the problem on the basis of domestic law before having to face an international process. In this regard, the Commission notes that Article 8(1) of the Law of Constitutional Jurisdiction states the following:
who administer justice may not:
Apply laws or other rules or legal instruments of any kind that are
contrary to the Constitution.
If there are doubts regarding the constitutionality of these rules and legal instruments, they must consult on the constitutional jurisdiction.
They may not interpret or apply them in a manner contrary to the precedents or jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court.
a result, in accordance with its practices, the Commission holds the opinion that the process initiated
against the assumed victims contemplated the possibility that the Costa
Rican courts would have recourse to judicial consultation on constitutionality
with the Supreme Court of Justice, so that it could decide on the applicability
or inapplicability of the criminal laws that the petitioners denounced as
being in violation of the human rights of the victims.
Article 8.1 of the Law of Constitutional Jurisdiction offers the
judicial authorities the possibility of redressing the matter domestically.
The Commission believes that in this specific case, in view of the fact
that the principal object of the petition is the questioning of the conviction
referred to earlier, the petitioners were not required to exhaust action
in regard to unconstitutionality.
Therefore, they did exhaust domestic remedies pursuant to Article
Deadline for lodging the petition
The six-month term stipulated in Article 46.1 (b) was complied with
in this case, since the petitioners lodged the petition on March 1, 2001,
after the last decision was handed down by the Third Chamber of the Supreme
Court of Justice on January 24, 2001.
Duplication of procedures and res judicata
It appears from the case file that the petition lodged with the Inter-American
Commission is not currently pending in any other international settlement
proceedings, nor is it a substantial reproduction of another previous petition
or communication already considered by the Commission or another international
organization, as established in Articles 46(1)( c) and 47(d), respectively.
Characterization of the alleged events
The State requested that the Commission reject the petition in limine on the grounds that it is manifestly groundless.
The Commission is of the view that it is not appropriate to determine
whether or not there was a violation of the American Convention at this
stage of the proceedings. For
the purposes of admissibility, the Commission must decide if the events
can be characterized as a violation, as stipulated in Article 47(b) of the
American Convention, and if the petition is manifestly groundless
or obviously out of order, pursuant to subparagraph (c) of that
Article. The standard for evaluating
these factual requirements is different from the requirement for deciding
on the merits of a petition. The
IACHR must conduct a prima facie
evaluation to determine whether the petition establishes grounds for the
apparent or potential violation of a right guaranteed by the Convention,
but not to establish the existence of a violation.
This determination involves a summary analysis which does not imply
a prejudgment or advance opinion on the substance of the matter. The Commissions Regulations, by establishing two clear
stages, one involving admissibility and the other the substance of the petition,
reflects this distinction between the evaluation the Commission must conduct
for the purpose of declaring a petition admissible and that required to
establish a violation.
The extensive arguments presented by the State on this point demonstrate
in and of themselves that the petition is not manifestly groundless,
that it is not obviously out of order, or that it does [not]
characterize a presumed violation.
On the contrary, the very response of the State deserves a more careful
examination of the petition during the stage involving its merits.
The IACHR considers that, prima
facie, the petitioners have proven the factual requirements stipulated
in Article 47(b) and (c).
For the reasons given earlier, the Commission considers that it is
competent to hear this case and that, pursuant to Articles 46 and 47 of
the American Convention, the petition is admissible, on the terms set forth
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare the present case admissible insofar as the presumed violations
of the rights protected in Articles 1, 2, 8, 13, 24, 25, and 29 of the American
Convention are concerned, and to reserve its analysis of an individual consideration
of the rights of the presumed victims until it decides on the merits of
To notify the parties of this decision.
To continue with its examination of the merits of the case.
To publish this decision and include it in its Annual Report to the
OAS General Assembly.
Done and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights, in Washington, D.C., on the third of December 3, 2001.
(Signed:) Claudio Grossman, President; Marta Altolaguirre, First
Vice-President; Commissioners Robert K. Goldman, Peter Laurie, and Julio
Fáundez Ledesma, The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human
Rights, Constitutional and Procedural Aspects, San José, Inter-American
Human Rights Institute, second edition, 1999, p.415.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 10/91, case 10.169,
February 22, 1991.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 47/97, petition,
October 16, 1997.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 106/99, petition,
September 27, 1999.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 103/99, petition,
September 27, 1999.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 39/99, petition,
March 11, 1999.
See the letter from the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Republic
of Costa Rica to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Nº PGA-293-2001
of November 30, 2001, p. 9.
Costa Rica ratified the American Convention on April 8, 1970, and on
July 2, 1980 it presented to the OAS General Secretariat its instrument
of recognition of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights, pursuant to Articles 45 and 62 of the Convention.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Velásquez
Rodríguez Case, paras. 63 and 64.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Velásquez
Rodríguez Case. Judgment of July 29, 1998, para. 61.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 77/01, case 11.571,
Humberto Antonio Palamara Iribarne,
Chile, October 10,. 2001, paras. 33-35.
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