The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its XXXVI Regular Session from April 12 to 19, 1997.
During this Session, the Court heard the following matters:
1) OC-15 Request for Advisory Opinion: The Court studied Chile´s withdrawal of the request for advisory opinion OC-15. This request is referred to the attributions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights relating to the Reports mentioned in Articles 50 and 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights. To that respect, the Court decided to continue the advisory proceedings.
2) Blake Case: On April 16, 1997, the State of Guatemala acknowledged its international responsibility, derived from the delay in the application of justice in this case. However, the Court considered that this acceptance does not include all the facts which motivate the application in this case. Hence, on April 17 and 18, 1997, the Court held public hearings in order to hear the testimony of Richard R. Blake Jr., Samuel Blake, Justo Victoriano Martínez and Ricardo Roberto, all of whom were offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as witnesses in the Blake Case. The Court also heard the closing arguments in this case, presented by both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of Guatemala.
The application in this case, submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on August 3, 1995, refers to events that began on March 28, 1985, when according to the Inter-American Commission, agents of the Guatemalan State arbitrarily and illegally kidnapped Mr. Nicholas Chapman Blake and Mr. Griffith Davis, resulting eventually in their forced disappearance. The petition also accuses Guatemala of failing to provide an effective judicial remedy and of continuously obstructing the enforcement of justice, with the purpose of concealing Mr. Blake's disappearance. As a consequence, the Commission considers that the State of Guatemala is responsible for violating Articles 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights), 4 (Right to Life), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial), 13 (Freedom of Thought and Expression), 22 (Freedom of Movement and Residence), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection), all of the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Mr. Nicholas Blake. Furthermore, the Commission requests that the Court order the State to fully compensate the victim's relatives from the grave moral and material damages suffered and that it pay the expenses of these proceedings.
3) Suárez Rosero Case: On April 19, 1997, the Court held a public hearing in order to hear the testimony of Margarita Ramadán de Suárez, Carlos Ramadán, Carmen Aguirre and Rafael Iván Suárez Rosero and the expert testimony of Ernesto Albán Gómez, all of whom were offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the Suárez Rosero Case, currently before the Tribunal. The Court also heard the closing arguments in this case, presented both by the Inter-American Commission and the Government of Ecuador.
The application in this Case, submitted by the Commission on December 22, 1995, refers to facts that occurred from June 23, 1992, when agents of the Ecuadorian State arrested, in an allegedly illegal and arbitrary manner, Mr. Rafael Iván Suárez Rosero, holding him incommunicado for 36 days. The petition also states that Mr. Suárez Rosero is still being detained and that the Ecuadorian State has not provided an effective judicial remedy and has violated the judicial guarantees to which Mr. Suárez Rosero is entitled. Therefore, the Commission submits that Ecuador has violated Articles 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights), 2 (Domestic Legal Effects), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Mr. Suárez Rosero. The Inter-American Commission requests that the Court order the State of Ecuador to identify and sanction those responsible for the violations in the case, and compensate Mr. Suárez Rosero for the consequences of these violations.
4) Provisional Measures in Colombia: Giraldo Cardona Case: On April 12, 1997, the Court held a public hearing at its seat concerning the provisional measures that it has adopted in the Giraldo Cardona Case. At the public hearing, the State of Colombia informed the Court of the measures it has adopted to comply with the order of the President of the Court of October 28, 1996, ratified by the Court on February 5, 1997. To that respect, after the conclusion of the public hearing, the Court passed an order in which it took note of the declarations of both the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the State of Colombia and ratified its February 5, 1997 Order.
5) Provisional Measures in Colombia: Caballero Delgado and Santana Case: On April 16, 1997, the Court decided to adopt provisional mearures in the Caballero Delgado and Santana Case, currently before the Tribunal in the stage of complyance with the reparations judgment. These provisional measures benefit Gonzalo Arias Alturo, Javier Páez, Guillermo Guerrero Zambrano, Elida González Vergel and María Nodelia Parra, all of whom testified before the Court in relation to the merits of this case.
6) Contentious Cases and Provisional Measures: The Court studied relevant documents in several contentious cases currently before it. It also studied the reports presented by the States in which it has adopted provisional measures and the observations to them, presented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
7) New Case submitted before the Court: Villagrán Morales et al Case against Guatemala: The Court considered a new case submitted against the Republic of Guatemala by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on January 30, 1997. The application is motivated by events that occured in June 1990, when agents of the Guatemalan State allegedly killed Anstraum Villagrán Morales and allegedly kidnapped, tortured and killed Henry Giovanni Contreras, Federico Clemente Figueroa Túnchez, Julio Roberto Caal Cantoral and Jovito Josué Juárez Cifuentes. The application also states that the Guatemalan State did not respond adequately to these actions. Therefore, the Commission requests that the Court find that Guatemala violated Articles 1,4,5,7,8,19 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Articles 1,6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.
The composition of the Court for this Regular Session was: Héctor Fix-Zamudio, President (Mexico); Hernán Salgado-Pesantes, Vice President (Ecuador); Alejandro Montiel-Argüello (Nicaragua); Máximo Pacheco Gómez (Chile); Oliver Jackman (Barbados), Alirio Abreu-Burelli (Venezuela) and Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil). Judge ad hoc Alfonso Novales Aguirre, appointed by the State of Guatemala, joined the Court for the Blake Case. The Secretary of the Court, Manuel E. Ventura-Robles, and the Interim Deputy Secretary, Víctor M. Rodríguez-Rescia, were also present.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States established in 1979. The Court is composed of jurists of the highest moral standing and competence in the area of human rights. Judges are elected by the OAS General Assembly and cannot exercise their functions for more than two six-year terms.
For further information, please address all requests to:
Manuel E. Ventura-Robles
Secretary, Inter-American Court of Human Rights
San José, Costa Rica
Telephone: (506) 234-0581, Fax: (506) 234-0584
San José, April 29, 1997.