University of Minnesota

Castillo Páez Case, Order of the Court of September 10, 1996, reprinted in 1996 Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [217], OEA/Ser.L/V/III.35, doc. 4 (1997).






1.             The judgment on preliminary objections of January 30, 1996 in the Castillo Páez case.

2.             The communication from the Government of Peru of March 21, 1996, in which it filed a motion for “nullification” of that judgment which declared the preliminary objections raised by the Government to be without merit.

3.             The communication from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of April 30, 1996, in which it presented the observations on the petition of nullification lodged by the Government of Peru and requests “that the petition of nullification be rejected.”

4.             The communication of May 23, 1996, submitted by the Government, in which it referred to the observations made by the Inter-American Commission on the petition for nullification.


1.             That the communication from Peru's Agent, in which he lodged the petition of “nullification”, is based primarily on the argument that the decision on preliminary objections of January 30, 1996 does not “conform to the law, inasmuch as it lacks legal justification, a sine qua non for delivery of any decision.”  It adds a number of considerations on the exhaustion of domestic remedies as a condition for admissibility of claims before the Inter-American Commission, on the ground that, as evinced in the documentation submitted by the Government's representatives to the Commission, a case was at that time in progress in the national courts, so that the Commission was not competent to act or to hear an international case until the case before the national courts was resolved.  The brief also cited the Separate Opinion emitted by then Judge of this Court, Dr. Rodolfo Piza-Escalante, in the context of the Court's interpretative rulings on the reparations judgments of August 17, 1990, on compensatory damages in the Velásquez Rodríguez and Godínez Cruz Cases. The burden of that opinion was that a ruling of the Court which does not go to the merits of a case, and does not constitute a final disposal of the dispute, may not properly be called “a judgment”, inasmuch as it is in the nature of an interlocutory decision; as a consequence, since is it not a final pronouncement, such a decision is subject to interpretation, alteration, reversal or nullification.

2.             That the main contention of the Delegate of the Inter-American Commission in his observations on the aforementioned communication is that, in accordance with Article 25(2) of the Statute of the Court, only rulings or decisions issued by the President or the Committees of the Court that are not purely procedural may be appealed before the full Court. Consequently, rulings or decisions of the full Court are not subject to appeal. Thus, the decision on preliminary objections delivered by the Court on January 30, 1996, may not be legally contested. The proceeding before the Court is covered by the rule of non-appealability; for this reason there is no provision in the Court's Rules of Procedure for what, in some domestic legal codes and in procedural law doctrine, are known as “general characteristics” [caracteres generales] which lay down the time limits within which motions for the review of judicial decisions may be validly filed.  It would be wrong to claim that the decisions of the Inter-American Court or any other tribunal are open to challenge at all times. This would undermine the security of the juridical process and thwart the attainment of the ultimate goal of a lawsuit, which is to put an end to the dispute between the parties.

3.  That the Commission also states that in the domestic legislation of the vast majority of States governed by the system of codified law, the proper procedural method of contesting decisions in which -as in the instant case- one of the parties claims that the laws have been erroneously applied or that the facts have been misinterpreted, is by way of appeal rather than nullification. The latter may be filed under domestic legislation in order to contest rulings that contain errors of form, or derive from a proceeding in which the predetermined formalities have not been observed; this is known as error in procedendo.


4.             That this Court observes, first and foremost, that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights correctly claims that, in any event, what the Peruvian Government is in fact filing is an appeal against the merits of the judicial decision, and not what the Government describes as a “nullification”, since according to the general rules of impugnment under domestic law, “nullification” is used to contest a breach of procedure, which has not been alleged in this case.

5.             That, whether or not the decision in question may technically be described as a “judgment”, an “interlocutory decision,” or an “interlocutory judgment,” -as it is in the legislation of some countries- the main point at issue is whether the decisions rendered by this Tribunal may be contested.

6.             That with regard to this Court's decisions that resolve a dispute as to merits, Article 67 of the Convention categorically states that the judgment of the Court shall be final and not subject to appeal.  It is also quite clear that other decisions which are not purely procedural, that is, those traditionally called “interlocutory decisions or judgments,” may not be challenged in any way.

7.             That, according to Article 25(2) of the Statute of the Court and Article 45 of its Rules of Procedure, judgments and interlocutory decisions for discontinuance of a case shall be rendered by the Court, but the Rules of Procedure may delegate to the President or to the Committees of the Court authority to carry out certain parts of the legal proceedings, with the exception of issuing final rulings or advisory opinions.  Rulings or decisions issued by the President or the Committees that are not purely procedural in nature may always be appealed before the full Court.  These precepts dictate that only the decisions of the President or of the Committees of the Court may be challenged before the full Court; however, other decisions, including decisions on preliminary objections, may not be contested.  The reason is that a contentious proceeding before this Court must be concentrated inasmuch as protection of the human rights enshrined in the American Convention requires that such a proceeding be as brief as possible; it cannot, therefore, be subject to the excessive formalities of an ordinary domestic trial which is governed by a complex system of impugnment instruments, and directions and deadlines for filing them.

8.             That, for the reasons set out above, the conclusion of this Court is that the application presented by the Government is out of order, and must accordingly be rejected.

9.             That the filing of applications which are flagrantly out of order slows down the speed with which justice should be imparted in the field of human rights.  Therefore, it is the opinion of this Court that parties to human rights cases have a duty to refrain from making applications of this nature.



By virtue of the powers conferred on it by Article 62(3) of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 45 of its Rules of Procedure,


1.             To reject, as being out of order, the motion introduced by the Government of Peru for review of the January 31, 1996 decision on preliminary objections.

2.             To continue to hear the case.


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