May 28, 1999
Mr. Secretary General:
We feel ourselves duty-bound to write to Your Excellency to ask that you bring the contents of this letter to the attention of the authorities of the Twenty Ninth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS, after they are elected on Monday next, 7 June, in Guatemala City.
Article 65 of the American Convention on Human Rights establishes that
[t]o each regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States the Court shall submit, for the Assembly’s consideration, a report on its work during the previous year. It shall specify, in particular, the cases in which a state has not complied with its judgments, making any pertinent recommendations.
Consequently, Mr. Secretary General, it falls to the General Assembly to take formal note of the recommendations which the Court makes in its Annual Report concerning non-compliance with its decisions, and to issue such comments as it may consider pertinent
In its 1998 Annual Report the Court notified the General Assembly of the failure by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to comply with its Orders on Provisional Measures in the James et al. Cases. It therefore requested the highest political organ of the Organisation to urge the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to comply with these Orders. As of this date, States Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights have complied with the decisions of the Court, Trinidad and Tobago being the sole exception.
César Gaviria T.,
Organization of American States
It is a matter of profound concern to the Court to note that, in the operative part of the recommendations concerning its 1998 Annual Report, which the Commission on Juridical and Political Matters and the Permanent Council of the Organisation are forwarding to the General Assembly, no mention is made of the Court’s recommendation to which reference has been made.
As Your Excellency is aware, the new structure of the General Assembly is such that the Reports of the Specialised Organs (Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Juridical Committee) are no longer presented orally by the respective Presidents. Since the General Assembly will be receiving for consideration only the Resolution approved by the Permanent Council, it will be precluded from considering and commenting on the recommendation made by the Court, as required by Article 65 of the American Convention, since that recommendation has been omitted by both the Commission on Juridical and Political Matters and the Permanent Council
This circumstance affects the very essence of the Inter-American System of human rights protection, which finds its most telling expression in the binding nature of the judgements issued by the jurisdictional organ, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
As has been acknowledged by Your Excellency among others, the protection of human rights is the most important function of the Organisation of American States. It must, therefore, be considered to be a matter of high priority for the Member States of the OAS.
We have decided to write to Your Excellency after two notes on the subject addressed to the President of the Permanent Council produced no result. Copies of the said notes are enclosed with this letter.
The Court is of the view that this issue, which is of fundamental importance for the Organisation and the Inter-American System, should receive the benefit of a pronouncement by the General Assembly, the highest organ of the Organisation.
Because of the delicacy of the present matter, we have decided to forward copies of this letter to all Ministers of Foreign Relations of the Member States of the Organisation, as well as to their Permanent Representatives to the OAS in Washington D.C., United States of America.
We avail ourselves of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the assurances of our most distinguished consideration.