Address of the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trinidade, during the closing session of the Seminar “The Inter-American System for Protection of Human Rights on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century”, organized by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Hotel Europa Radisson, San José, Costa Rica, November 24, 1999), reprinted in 1998 Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [787], OEA/Ser.L/V/III.47, doc. 6 (2000).

            We have reached the end of this historical Seminar, in commemoration of the 20th. anniversary of the installation of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the 30th. anniversary of the adoption of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the 40th. anniversary of the establishment of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The quality of the presentations and the constructive spirit of its work are bound to secure to it a position of importance in the development of the inter-American system of protection. The last panel of the Seminar, for example, concluded a few minutes ago, which presented to us the valuable testimony of distinguished survivors of the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human Rights of 1969, has contributed to confer upon this landmark-event the necessary historical dimension required by every projection towards the future of the experience accumulated in the present domain of protection.

            Like the present Seminar of this end of century, the Conference of San José of 1969 was also attentive to the historical perspective, having to that end counted on the testimony of those who had participated in the legislative phase of elaboration of the first international instruments of human rights, as exemplified by René Cassin (in so far as the Universal Declaration of 1948 is concerned), who intervened in that Conference. On both occasions, in 1969 and in 1999, the city of San José has been the stage of two events which mark significant moments in the evolution of the inter-American system of protection: that of its conventional institutionalization, with the adoption of the American Convention on Human Rights in 1969, and that of its consolidation and setting in motion of the process of its strengthening, with the taking place of this Seminar of 1999, which surely leaves the seeds for future institutional developments.

            Bearing in mind the undoubted achievements attained by the operation of the inter-American system of protection, pointed out in the presentations of these two days of collective thinking, the work of this Seminar has also disclosed that there still remains a long way to go. To start with, there is pressing need that all the States of the region become Parties to the American Convention and recognize without restrictions the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court. Considerable additional resources have to be secured to the Court and the Commission, to fulfil the growing needs of protection. The Court could, thus, start to function as a permanent tribunal. Furthermore, duplications - and consequent delays - ought to be avoided, in the determination of the facts (of contentious cases) by the Inter-American Commission and Court.

            At international level, the supervision ought to be developed of the faithful compliance by the States with the judgments of the Inter-American Court. In this respect, besides the obligation of all States Parties to the American Convention to protect the rights enshrined therein and to secure their free and full exercise to all the individuals under their respective jurisdictions, there is the obligation of the States Parties inter se to secure the integrity and effectiveness of the Convention: this general duty of protection (the collective guarantee) is of direct interest of each State Party, and of all of them altogether. At national level, mechanisms of domestic law to ensure the faithful execution of the judgments of the Court ought likewise to be adopted.     

            The provisions on the right of individual petition and on the States' acceptance of the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court are fundamental clauses (cláusulas petreas) upon which is erected the juridical mechanism of the access of the human being to justice at the international level. The widest participation of the petitioners in all stages of the procedure before the Court (locus standi) is to be secured, as part of the process conducive to the crystallization of the right of direct access to the Court (jus standi) by the individuals as subjects of the International Law of Human Rights, endowed with full procedural capacity.   

            Other challenges, on the eve of the XXIst century, include the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights, the taking of measures of prevention and follow-up in the action of protection, the safeguard of human rights in public emergencies, and the development of the forms of reparations to victims of human rights violations. The future of the international protection of human rights depends nowadays, to a large extent, on national measures of implementation, on the basis of the understanding that international law and domestic law are in constant and dynamic interaction in the present domain of protection. International norms of protection are directly applicable in domestic law, to the benefit of all human beings under the jurisdictions of the respective States.

            As a manifestation of the emergence of imperative norms of international law (jus cogens), the much-needed development of the legal regime of obligations erga omnes of protection (including the juridical consequences of their violations) would considerably foster the establishment of an effective system of continuous monitoring of the situation of human rights in all countries. After all, the protection of the human person in any circumstances, against all the manifestations of arbitrary power, corresponds to the new ethos of our times.  

            In this farewell to all the participants, may I sincerely thank all again for their appreciated contributions to the work of this Seminar. May I, likewise, thank the Government and the people of Costa Rica for the hospitality granted to us, in the person of the Vice-President of the Republic, Mrs. Elizabeth Odio Benito, former Judge of the Ad Hoc International Tribunal of the United Nations for ex-Yugoslavia, who gives us the pleasure of joining us at the table in this closing session.

            The follow-up to be given to the work of this Seminar will be of crucial importance to the future of the inter-American system of protection. The Inter-American Court will be attentive to the fulfilment of the purpose which ought to guide us all, namely, that of the strengthening of the international mechanisms of protection of human rights in our region. May I once again thank very much the sponsoring entities - the Agency of Spanish Cooperation, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Agency for International Development (AID) - for their valuable support, which rendered possible the carrying-out of this event. I wish all the participants a good trip of return to the countries of origin. Thank you very much.

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