The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hold its LIV Regular Session at its seat in San Jose, Costa Rica, from February 18 to March 1, 2002. During this Session, the following public hearing will take place at the seat of the Court:
1. Hilaire, Constantine and Benjamin et al. Case. Merits and Possible Reparations Stage. At 10:00 o’clock on February 20 and 21, 2002, the Court will hold a public hearing to receive statements from the expert witnesses proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the final arguments of the Commission, the State of Trinidad and Tobago, and the representatives of the alleged victims, on the merits of the case, as well as on possible reparations in the case.
The application in the Hilaire case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on May 25, 1999, and it argues that the State of Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for breaching the American Convention on Human Rights for convicting Haniff Hilaire (hereinafter “Mr. Hilaire”) to a “mandatory death penalty” and, therefore, violating the rights protected by Articles: 4(1), to not be arbitrarily deprived of his life; 5(1) to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected; 5(2), to not be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or unusual punishment or treatment; 5(6), which establishes that reform and social re-adaptation are an essential objective of punishment involving deprivation of liberty; 7(5), for detaining Mr. Hilaire for 4 years and 3 months as a defendant awaiting trial, in violation of his right to be tried within a reasonable time or to be released, and 25, because domestic legislation does not provide the right to be tried within a reasonable time or be released, in violation of his right to judicial protection, all these in relation to Article 1(1) of the Convention. The Commission also argues that the State is responsible for violation of Article 2 which sets forth the obligation of the State to adopt legislative and other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights and freedoms protected by the Convention.
The application in the Constantine et al. case, filed by the Inter-American Commission on February 22, 2000, refers to the alleged violation, by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, of Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to Fair Trial), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, in relation to Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of that same Convention, as a consequence of the arrest, detainment, trial, indictment and conviction to the death penalty of George Constantine, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Clarence Charles, Steve Mungroo, Anthony García, Mervyn Edmund, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Natasha De León, Wenceslaus James, Keiron Thomas, Denny Baptiste, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Samuel Winchester, Martín Reid, Rodney Davis, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Vijay Mungroo, Philip Chotalal and Narresh Boodram and Joey Ramiah, “pursuant to a law which makes the death sentence mandatory for all persons declared guilty of murder”. The Commission also requested that the Court, pursuant to Article 63(1) of the American Convention, repair the consequences of the violations of the rights involved in their application.
The application in the Benjamin et al. case was lodged by the Inter-American Commission on October 5, 2000, and it pertains to the arrest, detainment, trial, indictment and conviction to the death penalty of Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Francis Mansingh, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mohlaw, and Mervyn Parris, “pursuant to a law which makes the death sentence mandatory for all persons convicted of murder” in Trinidad and Tobago. In its application, the Commission argues that the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago violated, to the detriment of the alleged victims, the rights protected by the American Convention, specifically the provisions of Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to Fair Trial), and 25 (Judicial Protection), in connection with Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of this same Convention.
On September 1, 2001, the Court delivered its judgment on preliminary objections in the Hilaire, Constantine et al. and Benjamin et al. cases, fully dismissing the preliminary objection raised by the State of Trinidad and Tobago in the three cases, and ordering that each case continue to be heard and processed.
On November 30, 2001 the Court delivered an Order in which it decided the joinder of the Hilaire, Constantine et al. and Benjamin et al. cases, as well as that of their proceedings. Therefore, the case resulting from this joinder came to be called Hilaire, Constantine and Benjamin et al. vs. Trinidad and Tobago.
The Court will also hear, among others, the following matters:
2. Bámaca Velásquez Case Reparations Phase. During this Session, the Court will hear and study the possibility of delivering a Judgment on reparations, costs and expenses in this case, pursuant to the provisions of its November 25, 2000 Judgment, in which it unanimously decided “that the State should remedy the damages caused by the violations indicated [in that Judgment].”.
In that Judgment, the Court unanimously decided that Guatemala had violated Articles 7 and 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez. The Court also ruled, unanimously, that the State failed to fulfill, to the detriment of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, its obligation to prevent and punish torture under Articles 1, 2, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, and ordered an investigation to determine the persons responsible for the human rights violations referred to in the Judgment, as well as to make known to the public the results of that investigation and to punish those responsible. It also declared, unanimously, that the State of Guatemala breached Articles 5(1), 5(2), 8, and 25 of the Convention to the detriment of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, Jennifer Harbury, José León Bámaca Hernández, Egidia Gebia Bámaca Velásquez, and Josefina Bámaca Velásquez, and it failed to comply with Article 1(1) of this Convention in connection with the violations of the aforementioned substantive rights. Finally, the Court also ruled unanimously that the State of Guatemala did not violate Article 3 of the American Convention to the detriment of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez.
3. Trujillo Oroza Case: Reparations Stage. During this Session, the Court will deliberate and study the possibility of delivering a Judgment on reparations and costs in this case, pursuant to the provisions of its January 26, 2000 Judgment, in which it unanimously decided “[t]o open the reparations proceedings”, in view of the recognition of international responsibility made by the State of Bolivia.
In that judgment, the Court decided, pursuant to the recognition of responsibility made by the State, that the latter had violated the rights protected by Articles 3, 4, 5(1), 5(2) and 7 of the American Convention to the detriment of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza, as well as Articles 8(1) and 25 of the Convention to the detriment of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza and of his next of kin, and Article 5(1) and 5(2) of the Convention, to the detriment of the next of kin of the victim. The Court also ruled that Article 1(1) of the Convention was breached in connection with the aforementioned violations of substantive rights.
The following cases have recently begun to be heard by the Court:
4. Torres Benvenuto et al. Case: On December 4, 2001, the Inter-American Commission, pursuant to Article 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights, filed before the Court the Torres Benvenuto et al. case (No. 12.034) vs. Peru, pertaining to the alleged “modification in the pension regime under which Messrs. Carlos Torres Benvenuto, Javier Mujica Ruiz-Huidobro, Guillermo Alvarez Hernández, Reymert Bartra Vásquez, and Maximiliano Gamarra Ferreyra (hereinafter “the pensioners” […]) had been receiving their pensions, under Peruvian law, until 1992, and of the failure to enforce judgments of the Supreme Court of Justice of Peru and the Constitutional Court of Peru ordering organs of the Peruvian State to pay [the] pensioners a pension in an amount calculated as established in the legislation in force at the time they began to receive pension benefits under a given pension regime”. It is also stated that “[t]hat situation has meant, for the petitioners, the violation of their rights to judicial protection, to property, and to the progressive development of economic, social, and cultural rights, enshrined, respectively, at Articles 25, 21, and 26 of the American Convention, in conjunction with the obligations established at Articles (1) and 2 of the same treaty”. The Commission also requested in its application that the Court order the State to guarantee the victims and their next of kin the enjoyment of the rights allegedly infringed, “and the consequent payment that the […] State should make to the [alleged] victims and their next of kin, of the difference that it has not paid them in the amount of their pensions since November 1992, as well as the payment of their pensions in an equalized amount hence forth”. The Commission also requested that the Court order the State to annul and retroactively cancel the effects of Article 5 of Decree Law N˚ 25792 of October 23, 1992, which according to the Commission “constituted an unjustified rollback with respect to the degree of development of the right to social security that had been attained by the [alleged] victims ender Decree-Law No.20,530 and its related and similar provisions”, as the Commission considered it to be incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights. Finally, the Commission requested that the Court order the State to investigate who was responsible for the alleged human rights violations stated in the application, and to pay costs incurred by the alleged victims in processing of the legal cases under domestic jurisdiction, as well as those incurred at an international level in processing the case before the Inter-American Commission and Court.
5. Maritza Urrutia Case: On January 9, 2002, the Inter-American Commission filed before the Court, pursuant to Article 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Maritza Urrutia case (No. 11.043) vs. Guatemala. This application is in connection with the alleged arbitrary detention and torture of Maritza Ninette Urrutia García, “who was held in a clandestine detention center for eight days and was forced to issue a communiqué to public opinion which had previously been prepared by her captors, which was a violation of the rights to personal liberty, to humane treatment, to freedom of expression, to fair trial, and to judicial protection of the victim and her next of kin, pursuant to Articles 7, 5, 13, 8, and 25, respectively, of the American Convention, in connection with the generic obligation set forth in Article 1(1) of that same Treaty to respect and protect the rights recognized in it”. The application also includes a request for the Court to declare that there was a violation of Articles 1, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. The Commission further requests in its application to the Court that it declare that the State of Guatemala is under the obligation to repair the consequences of those violations and to indemnify the alleged victim and her relatives, as well as to reimburse them for costs and expenses incurred in their action in international proceedings for this case before the Commission and those resulting from the proceedings in the application before the Court.
The Court will also consider several procedures in matters pending before the Court, and it 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. The Court will furthermore analyze the various reports submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the States involved, and the victims or their representatives in those cases which are in the stage of compliance with the Judgment. The Court will also consider various administrative matters.
The composition of the Court for this Session is as follows: Antonio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), President; Alirio Abreu Burelli (Venezuela), Vice-President; Hernán Salgado Pesantes (Ecuador); Oliver Jackman (Barbados); Sergio García Ramírez (Mexico), and Carlos Vicente de Roux Rengifo (Colombia). In the Trujillo Oroza case, Charles N. Brower will participate as an ad hoc Judge, appointed by the Bolivian State. 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, which is an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States established in 1979, is formed by jurists of the highest moral standing and widely recognized competence in the area of human rights. The judges are elected in an individual capacity by the General Assembly of the OAS, and cannot serve for more than two six-year terms.
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.
Web site: www.corteidh.or.cr.
San Jose, February 15, 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 mentioned can be obtained through a written request to the Secretariat, at the address below.