University of Minnesota



CDH-CP-1/03

PRESS RELEASE(*)


 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hold its LVIII Regular Session at its seat in San José, Costa Rica, from February 17 to March 8, 2003. The following public hearings will take place during this session:

1. Mack Chang Case. Preliminary Objections Phase, possible Merits and Reparations Phases. On February 18, 19 and 20, 2003, commencing at ten o’clock, the Court will hear witnesses and expert witnesses offered by the representatives of the next of kin of the alleged victim and by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at a public hearing, and subsequently their final pleadings and those of the State of Guatemala with respect to preliminary objections and to possible merits and reparations phases in connection with the instant case, as it was so decided by the President of the Court on November 30, 2002.
Background

The application in the instant case was filed by the Commission on June 19, 2001 and it refers to the alleged extra-judicial execution of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang on September 11, 1990 in Guatemala City. The Commission deems that those facts breach Articles 4 (Right to Life), 8 (Right to Fair Trial), 25 (Judicial Protection) and 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Myrna Mack Chang, and Articles 8, 25 and 1(1) of that same Convention, to the detriment of her next of kin. Likewise, it requested that the Court order the State to make all pecuniary and non-pecuniary reparations set forth in the application and to compensate for damages due to violations caused to the alleged victim and her next of kin. Finally, it requested that the Court order Guatemala to pay the legal costs resulting from processing of the case both at the domestic and at the international levels before the Commission and before the Court.

On August 31, 2001, the representatives of the next of kin of the alleged victim, in turn, filed their autonomous brief with requests, arguments and evidence. In that brief, said representatives submitted their observations on the facts in this case and, in addition to the requests made by the Commission, requested that the Court find that Article 5 of the American Convention (Right to Humane Treatment) was breached to the detriment of the next of kin of the victim. They also requested that the Court order Guatemala to adopt several measures of comprehensive reparation of the rights of the alleged victim and her next of kin, as well as payment of the legal costs incurred at the domestic and international levels.

On September 26, 2001 the State of Guatemala replied to the application and filed nine preliminary objections, as follows: “non-exhaustion of domestic remedies; invalidity of the purpose of the application; lack of veracity with respect to compliance of the State with its duty to prosecute and punish for the violation stated; lack of a decision regarding the arguments of the State on variations and modifications to the content of the report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; non-appreciation of implementation by the State of the recommendations included in the report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; erroneous and extensive interpretation of the recognition effected by the State of Guatemala; inadmissibility of the application as a consequence of lack of a decision regarding the arguments of the State pertaining to non-exhaustion of domestic remedies at the procedural phase of decision on admissibility of the case by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; collision of juridical systems (domestic versus regional inter-American) to the detriment of the right of the State and of the accused; erroneous interpretation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the remedies and observance of the domestic legal system constitute in and of themselves a violation of the human right to the administration of justice.” In that same brief, the State submitted its arguments on the merits and on reparations.

2. Maritza Urrutia Case. Merits Phase and Possible Reparations. On February 21 and 22, 2003, commencing at ten o’clock, the Court will hear the witnesses and expert witnesses offered by the representatives of the alleged victim and her next of kin and by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at a public hearing, as well as their final arguments and conclusions and those of the State of Guatemala, regarding the merits and possible reparations in the instant case, as decided by the President of the Court on November 30, 2002.

Background

The application in the instant case was filed by the Commission on January 9, 2002 in view of the alleged arbitrary detention and torture of Maritza Ninette Urrutia García, “who was retained at a clandestine detention center for eight days and was forced to issue a statement to public opinion that was previously prepared by her captors, which entailed a violation of the rights to personal liberty, to humane treatment, to freedom of expression, to fair trial and to judicial protection of the victims and her next of kin, pursuant to Articles 7, 5, 13, 8 and 25, respectively, of the American Convention, in combination with the generic obligation set forth in Article 1(1) of that same Treaty, to respect and guarantee the rights recognized therein.” Furthermore, said application requested that the Court find that Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture were breached. The Commission, in turn, requested payment by the State of reparations as a consequence of its responsibility for alleged violations of human rights committed against Maritza Urrutia and her next of kin. Finally, it asked the Court to order Guatemala to pay the expenses and legal costs incurred by the alleged victim and her next of kin in processing the case before the Commission and before the Court.

On January 30, 2002 the representatives of the alleged victim and her next of kin, in turn, filed an autonomous brief with requests, arguments and evidence. In that brief, said representatives submitted their observations regarding the facts of the case and, in addition to the requests made by the Commission, asked that the Court find that Article 11 of the Convention (Right to Privacy) was breached to the detriment of the alleged victim and her next of kin. Furthermore, they requested that the Court order the State to provide reparations for the consequences of the violations of the rights of the victim and her next of kin; that it order payment of expenses and legal costs incurred at the domestic and international levels, and that those responsible for the facts be tried and punished.

On Mach 21, 2002 the State of Guatemala replied to the application and stated that, in view of the statement made by the President of the Republic on August 9, 2000, it accepted the facts of the case and the respective “institutional responsibility.” It also pointed out that the State remains willing to seek a friendly settlement in the instant case, and it made several comments regarding the reparations requested by the representatives of the alleged victim and her next of kin.

3. Juan H. Sánchez Case. Preliminary Objections and Possible Proceedings on the Merits and on Reparations. On March 3, 4 and 5, 2003, starting at ten o’clock, the Court will hear the witnesses and expert witnesses offered by the representatives of the alleged victim and his next of kin, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by the State of Honduras, at a public hearing, as well as the final arguments of the intervening parties regarding preliminary objections and the possible merits and reparations phases in connection with the instant case, in view of the November 30, 2002 Order of the President of the Court.

Background

On September 8, 2001, pursuant to Articles 51 and 61 of the American Convention, the Inter-American Commission filed the instant case before the Court. This case refers to the alleged arbitrary detention, torture and extra-judicial execution of Juan Humberto Sánchez, on July 11, 1992, which according to the Commission involved violations of the rights to life, to humane treatment, to personal liberty, to a fair trial and to judicial protection of the alleged victim and his next of kin, as set forth, respectively, in Articles 4, 5, 7, 8 and 25 of the American Convention, in combination with the generic obligation set forth in Article 1(1) of that same treaty to respect and guarantee the rights recognized in it. Furthermore, the Commission requested that the Court order the State to make all pecuniary and non-pecuniary reparations stated in the application and to compensate for damage caused by the violations to the alleged victim and his next of kin, and finally, that it order Honduras to pay the legal costs incurred processing the case under domestic and international jurisdiction before the Commission and those incurred as a consequence of processing the case before the Court.

On December 7, 2001, in turn, the Court received from the representatives of the alleged victim and his next of kin their autonomous brief with requests, arguments and evidence pertaining to the application in the instant case. In that brief, said representatives stated their comments on the facts of the case and, in addition to the requests made by the Commission, they asked that the Court find an additional violation of the right to truth and of article 2 of the American Convention (Domestic Legal Effects). They also requested that the Court order Honduras to adopt several measures of comprehensive reparation of the rights of the alleged victim and his next of kin, such as payment of the legal costs incurred under both at the domestic and international levels.

On January 11, 2002 the State of Honduras filed its reply to the application, in which it submitted a preliminary objection to the competence of the Court to hear the instant case, because it deemed that there was “non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.” The State argued that “there are still various domestic remedies available under that jurisdiction, set forth in the Criminal Procedural Code, [i.e.] review and appeal including, if that were the case, the extraordinary cassation remedy; furthermore, the amparo remedy, constitutional motion and remedy requesting review are still available.”

4. Bulacio Case. Merits Phase and Possible Reparations. On March 6, 7 and 8, commencing at ten o’clock, the Court will hear the witnesses and expert witnesses offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of the Republic of Argentina, at a public hearing, as well as their final arguments on the merits and possible reparations in the instant case, as ordered by the President of the Court on December 20, 2002.

Background

The application in the instant case (No. 11.752) was filed on January 24, 2001 by the Inter-American Commission and it refers to the facts occurred on April 19, 1991 when a youth named Walter Bulacio was detained by the Argentine Federal Police and, presumably, as a result of the conditions of detainment and the way he was treated in the facilities of said police corps, he died on April 26.

The Commission filed the application with the aim that the Court decide that the Argentine State had breached Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty) and 19 (Rights of the Child) of the American Convention with respect to Walter Bulacio. Furthermore, the Commission requested that the Court find that Articles 8 (Right to Fair Trial) and 25 (Judicial Protection) were violated to the detriment of Walter Bulacio and his next of kin. The Commission argued that violation of said Articles involves a breach of article 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the American Convention. Finally, it asked that the State be ordered to conduct a complete, impartial and effective investigation of the circumstances of the case and that those responsible be punished according to Argentine law, that all necessary measures be adopted for the places where minors are detained to be adequate, that there be a public acknowledgment of the responsibility of the State, and that the next of kin of youth Walter Bulacio be fully compensated for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages caused to them, pursuant to Article 63(1) of the Convention, and that it order the State to pay legal costs and expenses incurred and the professional fees of those assisting the Commission.

On July 18, 2001 the State sent its reply to the application, in which it rejected the Commission’s allegations of violations. On November 2, 2001 the Commission requested other acts of the written proceedings and this procedural opportunity was granted by the President, and the Commission therefore submitted its reply on December 7, and the State, in turn, sent its rejoinder on January 9, 2002.

5. Request for Advisory Opinion OC-18. On February 24, 2003 the Court will hold a public hearing to receive the oral arguments of the member States of the OAS that wish to participate, as well as those of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This public hearing was summoned by means of the January 16, 2003 Order of the President of the Court. Said resolution stated that “once the term granted for other persons and organizations interested in filing amicus curiae has expired, another public hearing [... would be summoned] for them to present their oral arguments.”
Background

On May 10, 2002 the United States of Mexico filed a request for an advisory opinion regarding “interpretation of various treaties pertaining to protection of human rights in the States of the Americas.” Specifically, the request is in connection with “denial of the enjoyment and exercise of certain labor rights and their compatibility with the obligation of the States of the Americas to guarantee the principles of juridical equality, non-discrimination, and equal and effective protection by law, enshrined in international instruments for protection of human rights [of migratory workers]; as well as the subordination or conditioning of fulfillment of obligations imposed by international human rights law, including those binding erga omnes, in face of the attainment of certain domestic policy objectives of a State of the Americas.” The request also refers to “the nature attained by the principles of juridical equality, non-discrimination, and equal and effective protection by law, in the context of the progressive development of international human rights law and its codification.”

6. Provisional Measures Liliana Ortega et al., Luis Uzcátegui and Luisiana Ríos et al. with respect to the State of Venezuela.

On February 17, 2003, commencing at 10:30 a.m., the Court will hear the witnesses offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at a public hearing, as well as its arguments and those of the State of Venezuela with respect to the provisional measures ordered by the Court in the cases of Liliana Ortega et al., Luis Uzcátegui, and Luisiana Ríos et al., in view of the January 25 and February 6, 2003 Orders of the President of the Court.

Background

On November 27, 2002 the Inter-American Commission requested Provisional Measures in favor of Liliana Ortega, Yris Medina Cova, Hilda Páez, Maritza Romero, Aura Liscano, Alicia de González, and Carmen Alicia Mendoza, all of them members of the non-governmental human rights organization called Comité de Familiares de Víctimas de los Sucesos de Febrero-Marzo de 1989 (“COFAVIC”); of Luis Uzcategui, organizer of a “committee of next of kin of victims of alleged executions by the Police authorities and for protection of Human Rights;” as well as in favor of Luisiana Ríos, Armando Amaya, Antonio José Monroy, Laura Castellanos, and Argenis Uribe, all of them employees of the television station Radio Caracas Televisión (hereinafter “RCTV”). That same day, the Inter-American Court considered the arguments made in the three cases and asked the State to adopt the protection measures requested.

On January 21, 2003 the Inter-American Commission asked the Court, in each of those three cases, to “urgently summon the parties to a public hearing at its seat during the next session, so as to evaluate compliance by the State with the provisional measures.” On January 24, the President of the Court summoned the State and the Inter-American Commission to a public hearing on February 25, 2003, for the Court to hear their viewpoints regarding the facts and circumstances pertaining to implementation of the provisional measures in the cases of Liliana Ortega et al., Luis Uzcátegui and Luisiana Ríos et al. However, on January 27, 2003 the Inter-American Commission asked the Court to summon witnesses Luisiana Ríos (RCTV), Armando Amaya (RCTV), Liliana Ortega Mendoza (COFAVIC) and Luis Uzcátegui to testify at said public hearing. After analyzing the arguments of the Commission and the comments of the State, on February 6, 2003 the President of the Court deemed it necessary to restructure the internal work schedule of the Court and to modify the date and time of the public hearing on provisional measures summoned in his January 24, 2003 Order.

The Court will also hear the following matter:

7. " Five Pensioners" Case. Merits Phase and Possible Reparations. During this session, the Court will deliberate and consider the possibility of issuing a judgment on the merits and possible reparations in the instant case.
Background

On December 4, 2001 the Inter-American Commission filed the aforementioned case before the Court, pursuant to Article 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights, regarding the alleged “modification by the Peruvian State of the pension system that Carlos Torres Benvenuto, Javier Mujica Ruiz-Huidobro, Guillermo Álvarez Hernández, Reymert Bartra Vásquez, and Maximiliano Gamarra Ferreira had been enjoying pursuant to Peruvian legislation until 1992 and regarding non-compliance with judgments of the Supreme Court of Justice of Peru and the Peruvian Constitutional Court that ordered payment to them of a pension for an amount calculated in the manner set forth in the legislation in force at the time they began to enjoy a given pension system.” The Commission also argued that “[s]aid situation has involved a violation of the rights of the pensioners to judicial protection, to property and to the progressive development of economic, social and cultural rights, respectively enshrined in Articles 25, 21 and 26 of the American Convention, in combination with the obligations set forth in Articles 1(1) and 2 of that same treaty.” Likewise, the Commission requested in its application that the Court order the State to guarantee to the alleged victims and their next of kin the enjoyment of their allegedly infringed rights “and the consequent payment that the State [...] must make to the [alleged] victims and to their next of kin of the difference in the amount of their pensions that it has omitted to pay them since November, 1992, as well as payment of their pensions at their future value.” The Commission also asked the Court to order the State to annul and terminate, in a retroactive manner, the effects of Article 5 of Decree Law N˚ 25792 of October 23, 1992, for considering it incompatible with the American Convention. Finally, the Commission asked the Court to order the State to investigate the responsibilities for the alleged human rights violations indicated in the application and to pay the legal costs derived from the domestic judicial proceedings filed by the alleged victims, as well as those arising at the international level.

On the other hand, on September 3 and 4, 2002 the Court held a public hearing at its seat in which it heard the oral pleadings of the representatives of the alleged victims, of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and of the State of Peru on the merits and possible reparations in the instant case. Likewise, it heard the testimony of the witnesses and the expert opinion of the expert witness proposed by the Inter-American Commission and the representatives of the alleged victims. The State did not offer testimony nor expert opinions as evidence.

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The Court will consider several procedures in matters pending before it and will analyze the various reports submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by the States involved in matters on which provisional measures have been adopted. Likewise, the Court will analyze the various reports filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, by the States involved and by the victims or their representatives in those cases that are in the phase of compliance with the Judgment. The Court will also consider various administrative matters.

The composition of the Court for this Session is as follows: Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), President; Hernán Salgado Pesantes (Ecuador); Máximo Pacheco Gómez (Chile); Oliver Jackman (Barbados); Alirio Abreu Burelli (Venezuela); Sergio García Ramírez (Mexico) and Carlos Vicente de Roux Rengifo (Colombia). The following ad hoc judges will also participate: Arturo Martínez Gálvez, appointed by the State of the Republic of Guatemala for the Mack Chang and Maritza Urrutia Cases; Javier Mario de Belaúnde López de Romaña, appointed by the State of Peru for the “Five Pensioners” Case; Ricardo Gil Lavedra, appointed by the State of the Republic of Argentina for the Bulacio Case. The Secretary of the Court is Manuel E. Ventura Robles and the Deputy Secretary is Pablo Saavedra Alessandri.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States; its objective is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights and other treaties regarding this same matter, and it was established in 1979. It is formed by jurists of the highest moral standing and widely recognized competence in the area of human rights, elected in an individual capacity.

For further information, please contact:

Manuel E. Ventura Robles, Secretary

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Apartado 6906-1000, San José, Costa Rica

Phone (506) 234-0581. Fax (506) 234-0584

Website: www.corteidh.or.cr

E-mail: corteidh@corteidh.or.cr

San José, February 3, 2002.

(*) The content of this press release is the responsibility of the Secretariat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The official text of the documents summarized here can be obtained by addressing a written request to the Secretariat, at the address below.




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