University of Minnesota



CDH-CP-06/02 ENGLISH

PRESS RELEASE(*)


 

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its LV Regular Period of Sessions at its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica, from June 6 to June 21, 2002.  During this Session, the following public hearings took place at the Court:

 

1.             19 Tradesmen Case. Preliminary Objections.  On June 11, 2002 the Court held a public hearing on the preliminary objection submitted in this case by the State of Colombia, which was refuted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The objection submitted was that of “due process violation, due to the omission of the procedures established in good faith for the better accomplishment of the American Convention on Human Rights’ purposes”.  In its preliminary objection, Colombia stated that the Court should reject in limine the application due to the fact that the Commission did not comply properly with the procedure established in Article 50 of the American Convention prior to filing the application with the Court.  Preliminary objections are procedural defenses that can be submitted by the respondent State, and have the effect, when deemed meritorious by the Court, of ending the contentious procedure prior to the consideration of the merits of the matter.

 

Likewise, during this period of sessions, the Court deliberated and on June 12, 2002 rendered Judgment on the preliminary objection. In this Judgment, the Court unanimously decided in its only operative paragraph:

 

To dismiss the preliminary objection submitted by the State of Colombia and to continue to examine and process the [] case.

 

Background

 

The application in this case (No. 11,603), was filed by the Inter-American Commission filed the application on January 24, 2001.  It refers to the events that occurred on October 6 and October 18, 1987, when 19 tradesmen were allegedly detained, disappeared, and subsequently executed in the municipality of Puerto Boyacá, Department of Boyacá, in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia.  These acts were allegedly planned jointly by a paramilitary group operating in the zone and by members of the Army’s Fifth Brigade.  The Commission considers that these acts violate Articles 4 (Right to Life) and 7 (Right to Personal Liberty) of the American Convention on Human Rights with regard to the alleged victims Álvaro Lobo Pacheco, Gerson Rodríguez, Israel Pundor, Ángel Barrera, Antonio Florez Ochoa, Carlos Arturo Riatiga, Víctor Ayala, Alirio Chaparro, Huber Pérez, Álvaro Camargo, Rubén Pineda, Gilberto Ortiz, Reinaldo Corso Vargas, Hernán Jáuregui, Juan Bautista, Alberto Gómez, Luis Sauza, Juan Montero and Ferney Fernández.  The Commission also considers that Articles 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 8(1) (Right to a Fair Trial), 25 (Judicial Protection) and 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the American Convention were violated to the detriment of both the alleged victims and their next of kin.

 

 

2.             The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó Matter.  Provisional Measures.  On June 13, 2002 the Court held a public hearing on provisional measures and heard arguments from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of Colombia about the recent events that occurred in the Peace Community, according to information received by the Court from the Inter-American Commission.  Provisional measures are ordered by the Inter-American Court, in accordance with Article 63(2) of the American Convention and Article 25 of the its Rules of Procedure, in cases of extreme seriousness and urgency, and whenever it is necessary to prevent people from suffering irreparable harm.

 

During the period of sessions, the Court studied various reports and additional information presented by the State of Colombia, observations on those reports and additional information presented by the Inter-American Commission, as well as the arguments made by both parties during the public hearing, and on June 18, 2002, it issued an Order regarding these provisional measures.  In this Order the Court decided:

 

1.             To require the State to maintain all measures necessary to protect the lives and personal integrity of the members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, in the terms of the Order of the President of the Court of October 9, 2000 and the Order of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of November 24, 2000.

 

2.             To require the State to adopt any measures necessary to protect the lives and personal integrity of all the persons who provide services to the members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, in the terms of the eighth, ninth and eleventh considering paragraphs of the [] Order.

 

3.             To require the State to investigate the facts prompting the expansion of these provisional measures, in order to identify those responsible and to impose the corresponding sanctions.

 

4.             To require the State to maintain all measures necessary to guarantee that the beneficiaries of the present measures may continue living in their usual place of residence and to continue to guarantee the conditions necessary so that the people of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, who had been forced to move to other areas of the country, can return to their homes.

 

5.             To require the State to guarantee the necessary security conditions on the route between San José de Apartadó and Apartadó, in the transportation terminal in Apartadó and in the place known as Tierra Amarilla, so that public transportation is not subject to new acts of violence, such as the ones described in the [] Order ([] Having seen 6 and 13), as well as to assure that the members of the Peace Community receive and may effectively and continually transport products, supplies and food.

 

6.             To require the State to continue allowing the beneficiaries of these measures or their representatives to participate in the planning and implementation of said measures, and, in general, that it keep them informed on the progress of the measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

7.             To require the State to establish, in agreement with the beneficiaries or their representatives, a mechanism for continuous surveillance and permanent security in the Peace Community of San José of Apartadó, in compliance with the terms of the [] Order.

 

8.             To require the State to continue presenting reports on the provisional measures it has adopted in compliance thereof to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights every two months, from the date of notice of the [] Order.

 

9.             To require the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to continue submitting its observations on the reports of the State within six-weeks of the date they are received.

 

[…]

 

Judge Cançado Trindade informed the Court of his Concurring Opinion, which is attached to the [] Order.

 

 

Background

 

The request for provisional measures to protect the members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Department of Antioquia, Colombia was submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on October 3, 2000, in order to protect their lives and personal integrity.  Based upon this request, the President of the Court issued an Order on October 9, 2000 adopting urgent measures, in which he required the State to adopt, without delay, any measures necessary to protect the lives and personal integrity of 189 members of said community.

 

After having held a public hearing, in which it heard the parties’ viewpoints on the facts and circumstances that prompted the request for provisional measures, the Court issued an Order on November 24, 2000.  In this Order the Court decided to ratify the Order of the President of the Court of October 9, 2000 and required that the State of Colombia adopt any measures necessary to guarantee that the beneficiaries of the provisional measures continue to live in their places of residence, and to ensure that those who were forced to move to other regions of the country, may return to their homes.  Likewise, the Court ordered the State to investigate the facts that prompted the adoption of the provisional measures in order to identify those responsible and to impose the corresponding sanctions.  Finally, the Court required the State of Colombia to keep it informed of its compliance with the measures ordered thereof, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to submit its observations on the State’s reports.

 

 

3.             Las Palmeras Case.  Reparations Phase.  On June 14, 2002, the Court held a public hearing to hear testimony from the witnesses and the expert offered by the representatives of the victims’ next of kin; said testimony was also adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  During the hearing the Court also heard closing arguments from the representatives of the victims’ next of kin, the Inter-American Commission, and the State of Colombia on reparations and costs in this case, in compliance with the Judgment on the merits of this case, rendered by the Court on December 6, 2001.  In this Judgment the Court decided, unanimously, [t]o open the reparations phase, to which end it commission[ed] its President to duly adopt any measures necessary”. The State did not offer witness or expert testimonies in this phase of the procedure.

 

Background

 

In the judgment on the merits, the Court unanimously declared the State’s responsibility for the deaths of Artemio Pantoja Ordóñez, Hernán Javier Cuarán Muchavisoy, Julio Milciades Cerón Gómez, Wilian Hamilton Cerón Rojas and Edebraes Norverto Cerón Rojas.  Said finding corresponds to a violation of Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and was demonstrated by two final judgments from the Sala de lo Contencioso Administrativo del Consejo de Estado (an administrative tribunal) issued on December 14, 1993, and January 15, 1996.  It also held unanimously that the State was responsible for the death of N.N./ Moisés or N.N./ Moisés Ojeda in violation of Article 4 of the American Convention, and that the State violated the right to a fair trial and judicial protection embodied in Articles 8(1) and 25(1) of the American Convention to the detriment of the next of kin of Artemio Pantoja Ordóñez, Hernán Javier Cuarán Muchavisoy, Julio Milciades Cerón Gómez, Wilian Hamilton Cerón Rojas, Edebraes Norverto Cerón Rojas, N.N./ Moisés or N.N./ Moisés Ojeda and Hernán Lizcano Jacanamejoy.  Finally, the Court unanimously decided that there was insufficient evidence to allow it to affirm that Hernán Lizcano Jacanamejoy had been executed in combat or extra-judicially by State agents in violation of Article 4 of the American Convention.

 

 

4.             Cantos Case.  Merits and Eventual Reparations Phase.  On June 17, 2002, the Court held a public hearing and heard arguments from the representatives of the alleged victim, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of the Republic of Argentina, on the merits and eventual reparations in this case, as well as the declarations of the witnesses proposed by the Inter-American Commission.  The State did not offer witness or expert testimonies during this phase of the procedure.

 

Background

 

The application in this case was lodged by the Inter-American Commission on March 10, 1999, and refers to the alleged violation of Mr. José María Cantos’ human rights by the State of Argentina, stemming from searches and seizure of documents pertaining to his commercial activities, which took place during March 1972.  These acts were executed by the Province of Santiago de Estero’s Dirección General de Rentas (the government agency with oversees and enforces laws regarding taxes imposed on rental property) in Mr. Cantos’ places of business, in connection with alleged tax violations regarding the Ley de Sellos (a tax law).  In its petition, the Commission argues that the State of Argentina violated, to the detriment of Mr. Cantos, Articles 8 (Right to Fair Trial), 25 (Right to Judicial Protection), and 21 (Right to Property) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in connection with Article 1(1) (Obligation of the State to Respect Rights). The Commission also requested that the Court declare a violation of Article 2 of that same Convention, based on the principle of pacta sunt servanda, for the State’s alleged non-compliance with recommendations made by the Commission (Article 50(3)) contained in its Report No. 75/98.  The Commission also argued that Argentina had violated the rights protected by Articles XVIII (Right to Fair Trial) and XXIV (Right of Petition) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man). It also requested that the State fully indemnify Mr. Cantos, pursuant to Article 63(1) of the American Convention, and that it be ordered to pay legal fees and expenses.

 

In the present case the State submitted two preliminary objections, which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights objected to, and which argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the events occurred prior to the Argentina’s acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court.  The State also argued that the alleged victim was not within the scope of the definition of a victim established in Article 1(2) of the American Convention  (jurisdiction ratione personae).  On September 7, 2001 the Court rendered Judgment on the preliminary objections submitted by the State of Argentina in this case.  In this Judgment, the Court unanimously decided, to declare inadmissible the preliminary objection alleging lack of jurisdiction ratione personae based on Article 1(2) of the American Convention, and to declare partially admissible the preliminary objection alleging lack of jurisdiction to judge events occurred prior to the State’s acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, in the sense that the Court could only exercise its jurisdiction over the events that surrounding the proceedings before the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina after the State accepted the Court’s jurisdiction (September 5, 1984) if it were alleged that said proceedings could constitute per se violations of the American Convention.  Finally, the Court decided to continue to examine and process the present case.

 

 

5.             Request for Advisory Opinion OC-17.  On June 21, 2002 the Court held a public hearing with regard to the request for Advisory Opinion OC-17, filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and heard the observations of the United States of Mexico, Costa Rica, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Rafael Preciado Hernández Foundation, Mexican University Institute of Human Rights, A.C., the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the United Nation’s Latin-American Institute for Crime Prevention and the Treatment of Criminals (ILANUD),  all of them as amici curiae. 

 

Background

 

In its request for an Advisory Opinion, presented on March 30, 2001, pursuant to Article 64(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission requested that the Court interpret Articles 8 and 25 of said Convention in order to determine if these provisions constitute “limits on States’ capacity or discretion to issue special measures of protection” with respect to children in light of Article 19 of the same.  Likewise, it requested the Court to formulate general criteria governing the issue within the framework of the Convention.

 

The Court also heard, among others, the following matters:

 

6.             Hilaire, Constantine and Benjamin et al. Case.  Merits and Eventual Reparations Phase. During this Session, the Court deliberated, and on June 21, 2002, rendered judgment in this case.  In this judgment, the Court, unanimously:

 

declare[d] with respect to the merits

 

[]

 

1.             that the State violated the right to life enshrined in Article 4(1) and 4(2), in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, for reasons stated in paragraph 109 of the [] Judgment, to the detriment of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

2.             that the State breached its obligation established in Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights for the reasons stated in paragraph 118 of the [] Judgment to the detriment of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

3.             that the State violated the right to be tried within a reasonable time protected in Articles 7(5) and 8(1) in conjunction with Articles 1(1) and 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights for the reasons stated in paragraph 152(a) of the [] Judgment, to the detriment of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

4.             that the State violated the right to an effective recourse established in Articles 8 and 25 in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights for the reasons stated in paragraph 152(b) of the [] Judgment, to the detriment of George Constantine, Wilson Prince, Mervyn Edmund, Martin Reid, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Natasha De Leon, Phillip Chotalal, Wilberforce Bernard, Amir Mowlah, and Mervyn Parris;

 

[]

 

5.             that the State violated the right to humane treatment enshrined in Article 5(1) and 5(2), in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, for reasons stated in paragraph 172 of the [] Judgment, to the detriment of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

6.             that the State violated the right of all persons sentenced to the death penalty to apply for amnesty, pardon or commutation of their sentence enshrined in Article 4(6) in conjunction with Articles 8 and 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, for reasons stated in paragraph 189 of the [] Judgment, to the detriment of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

7.             that the State arbitrarily deprived Joey Ramiah of his right to life in violation of Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights, for reasons stated in paragraph 200 of the [] Judgment.

 

With respect to reparations the Court [held]

 

[]

 

8.             that the State should abstain from applying the Offences Against the Person Act of 1925 and within a reasonable period of time should modify said Act to comply with international norms of human rights protection for the reasons stated in paragraph 212 of the [] Judgment;

 

[]

 

9.             that the State should order a retrial in which the new criminal legislation resulting from the reforms to the Offences Against the Person Act of 1925 will be applied, for the reasons stated in paragraph 214 of the [] Judgment, in the criminal proceedings in relation to the crimes imputed to Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

10.           that the State should submit before the competent authority and by means of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Pardon, for the reasons stated in paragraph 214 of the [] Judgment, the review of the cases of Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

11.           on grounds of equity, that the State should abstain from executing, in all cases, regardless of the results of the new trials, for the reasons stated in paragraph 215 of the [] Judgment, Haniff Hilaire, George Constantine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Keiron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris, and Francis Mansingh;

 

[]

 

12.           on grounds of equity, that the State should pay for non-pecuniary damage to the wife of Joey Ramiah, Carol Ramcharan, the sum of US $50,000 (fifty thousand United States of America dollars) or its equivalent in Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) to support and educate their child, Joanus Ramiah, for the reasons stated in paragraph 216 of the []  Judgment;

 

[]

 

13.           on grounds of equity, that the State pay Joey Ramiah’s mother, Moonia Ramiah, the sum of US $10,000 (ten thousand United States of America dollars) or its equivalent in Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) for non-pecuniary damage, for the reasons stated in  paragraph 216 of the [] Judgment;

 

[]

 

14.           that the State should modify the conditions of its prison system to conform to the relevant international norms of human rights protection on the matter, for the reasons stated in paragraph 217 of the [] Judgment;

 

[]

 

15.           on grounds of equity, that the State should pay the representatives of the victims the sum of US $13,000 (thirteen thousand United States of America dollars) or its equivalent in Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) as reimbursement for the expenses they have incurred in bringing this case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for the reasons stated in paragraph 219 of the [] Judgment;

 

[]

 

16.           that the State, from the date of notification of the […] Judgment, shall provide the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with a report every six months regarding the measures taken to implement the [] Judgment, and

 

[]

 

17.           that the Court shall oversee implementation of this Judgment and will deem the case to be closed once the State has duly complied with the terms of the [] Judgment.

 

Judge Cançado Trindade informed the Court of his Concurring Opinion, and Judges García-Ramírez and de Roux-Rengifo of their Separate Opinions, which are attached to [the] Judgment.

 

Background

 

This case is a result of the joinder of three different cases, which was ordered by the Inter-American Court on November 30, 2001, in accordance with Article 28 of its Rules of Procedure.  In said Order the Court considered, among other factors, that the procedural parties in the Hilaire, Constantine et al., and Benjamin et al. cases, were the same, namely the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  Likewise, the Court considered that the subject-matter is essentially the same in the three cases, in the sense that all of them concern the judicial guarantees of the due process in cases of imposing the “mandatory death penalty” on all individuals found guilty of the crime of murder in Trinidad and Tobago, and that the only differences were the individual circumstances of each case.  Finally, the Articles of the American Convention on Human Rights that were allegedly violated are fundamentally the same. 

 

The application in the Hilaire Case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on May 25, 1999, and it alleged that the State of Trinidad and Tobago (hereinafter “the State” or “Trinidad and Tobago”) is responsible for violating the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the American Convention” or “the Convention”) for the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing to death of Haniff Hilaire (hereinafter “Mr. Hilaire”) “pursuant to a law which makes the imposition of the death penalty mandatory for all persons convicted of murder” therefore violating the rights of the alleged victim protected by Articles: 4 (Right to Life); 5 (Right to Humane Treatment); 7(5) (Right to Personal Liberty), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection); all in relation to Article 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the American Convention.  The Commission also argues that the State is responsible for the violation of Article 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of the Convention.

 

The application in the Constantine et al. Case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on February 22, 2000, and it alleges that Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for violating the American Convention due to the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing to death of George Constantine, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Clarence Charles, Steve Mungroo, Anthony Garcia, Mervyn Edmund, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Natasha De Leon, Wenceslaus James, Keiron Thomas, Denny Baptiste, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Vijay Mungroo, Philip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, and Joey Ramiah, “pursuant to a law which makes the death sentence mandatory for all persons declared guilty of murder” and therefore of violating 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. 

 

The application in the Benjamin et al. Case was lodged by the Inter-American Commission on October 5, 2000, and it alleged that Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for violating the American Convention for the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing to death of Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Francis Mansingh, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, 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 argued 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 conjunction with Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of this same Convention.

 

The State submitted a preliminary objection in each of the three cases.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights objected to each preliminary objection at the appropriate procedural moment.  In said preliminary objections the State contended that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights lacked jurisdiction to hear the three cases submitted before it.  On September 1, 2001, the Court rendered judgment on the preliminary objections submitted by the State in the Hilaire, Constantine et al. and Benjamin et al. Cases, fully dismissing the preliminary objection presented by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in each case, and deciding to continue to examine and process each case.

 

On February 20 and 21, 2002, the Court held a public hearing on the merits and eventual reparations, heard testimony from three experts offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as final arguments of the Commission and the representatives of the alleged victims on the merits and eventual reparations in this case[1].

 

 

7.             Durand and Ugarte Case.  Compliance with Judgment Phase.  The Court studied the reports filed by the State of Perú on May 17 and June 12, 2002, in which it provided information on compliance with the judgment on the merits, issued by the Court on August 16, 2000 and the judgment on reparations, issued on December 3, 2001.  In its last report, the State requested the Court declare if “it has been relieved of its responsibility established in this case’s judgment.”  Consequently, on June 13, 2002 the Court issued an Order in which it decided:

 

1.        To declare that, in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda, and with the dictates of Article 68(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, the State has the duty to promptly comply with all orders in the Judgments of August 16, 2000 and December 3, 2001, issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Durand and Ugarte Case.

 

2.        To require the State of Perú to continue investigating the events and bring to trial and punish the responsible parties, therefore reopening the corresponding judicial proceedings.

 

3.        To require the State of Perú to continue to take all measures possible to locate and identify the remains of Nolberto Durand Ugarte and Gabriel Pablo Ugarte-Rivera and deliver them to their next of kin.

 

4.        To require the State of Perú to present proof of payment receipts of the indemnities made to the victims’ next of kin no later than July 15, 2002.

 

5.        To grant the representatives of the victims’ next of kin and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights a term of one month, from the date they receive notification of [the] Order, to send their observations regarding the status of compliance with said judgments in accordance with the first, second and third operative paragraphs of [the] Order.

 

6.        To instruct the Secretariat of the Court to transmit to the State of Perú all documents presented with respect to the prior operative paragraph, at the end of the term granted.

 

[…]

 

Background

 

The application in this case was submitted to the Court on August 8, 1996, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and was based on events that occurred on February 14 and 15, 1986.  According to the application, on said dates, Nolberto Durand-Ugarte and Gabriel Ugarte-Rivera were detained for their alleged participation in terrorist activities and were imprisoned at the San Juan Bautista Prison (El Frontón).  In June 1986, an uprising occurred in the prison and since that date, Mr. Durand-Ugarte and Mr. Ugarte-Rivera have been missing.  However, on July 17, 1987, the Sixth Correctional Tribunal of Lima declared them innocent and ordered their immediate release.

 

On August 16, 2000, the Court rendered judgment on the merits of this case and unanimously decided, “that the State must make reparations for the harm caused by the violations” and “open the phase of reparations”.  Likewise, in said Judgment the Court declared that Perú violated Articles 4(1), 5(2), 7(1), 7(5), 7(6), 8(1) and 25(1) of the American Convention to the detriment of Nolberto Durand-Ugarte and Gabriel Pablo Ugarte-Rivera; Articles 8(1) and 25 of the Convention to the detriment of their next of kin; and that it had failed to comply with the general obligations established in Articles 1(1) and 2 of the Convention regarding violations of the aforementioned substantive rights.  Furthermore, the Court held that the State was compelled to make every possible effort to locate and identify the victims’ remains and deliver them to their next of kin, as well as to investigate the events and try and punish those responsible.

 

On November 26, 2001, the State presented an “Agreement on comprehensive reparations for the victims’ next of kin of the Durand and Ugarte Case,” signed that same day by the State, the victims’ next of kin and their representatives.  The Court deliberated, and on December 3, 2001 endorsed the agreement.

 

8.             Baena Ricardo et al. Case. Compliance with Judgment Phase.  The Court studied the reports filed by the State, the Inter-American Commission and the victims and their representatives on compliance with the judgment issued by the Court on February 2, 2001, and on June 21, 2002, issued an Order, in which it decided:

 

1.                    That the State shall present a detailed report to the Court, no later than August 15, 2002, in accordance with the considering paragraphs two and three of the [] Order.

 

2.                    That the victims or their legal representatives and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights shall present their observations to the State’s report within seven-weeks from its receipt.

 

 

Background

 

The Commission submitted the application in this case on January 16, 1998, which refers to the violations, by the State of Panamá, of various Articles of the American Convention as a result of the events that occurred beginning on December 4, 1990, which led to the allegedly arbitrary dismissal of 270 public employees who had participated in a demonstration and a strike for labor benefits.

 

In the judgment of February 2, 2001, the Court unanimously declared that the State violated the principles of legality and non-retroactivity enshrined in Article 9 of the American Convention on Human Rights; the rights to a fair trial and judicial protection provided for in Articles 8(1), 8(2) and 25 of the American Convention; the right to freedom of association enshrined in Article 16 of the American Convention; and that the State failed to comply with the general obligations established in Articles 1(1) and 2 of the American Convention, in connection with the violations of the aforementioned substantive rights, to the detriment of 270 workers.  Furthermore, the Court declared that the State did not violate the right of assembly provided for in Article 15 of the American Convention on Human Rights.  Also, the Court decided:

 

a)                    that the State must pay the 270 workers mentioned in paragraph 4 of the [] Judgment, the amounts that correspond to unpaid salaries and other applicable labor rights according to its legislation; said payment must, in the case of deceased workers, be made to their heirs.  In accordance with the pertinent national procedures, the State shall set the respective indemnities so that the victims and, if applicable, their heirs, receive it within a maximum period of 12 months from the date of notification of the [] Judgment.

 

b)                   that the State must reinstate the 270 workers mentioned in paragraph 4 of the [] Judgment in their positions, and should this not be possible, that it must provide employment alternatives which correspond to the conditions, salaries and remunerations that they had at the time they were dismissed.  In the event that, likewise, the latter is not possible, the State shall proceed to pay the indemnity that corresponds to the termination of employment, in accordance with domestic labor law.  In like manner, the State shall provide pension or retirement remuneration as applicable to the heirs of victims who may have passed away.  The State shall comply with the dictates of the present operative paragraph [] within a maximum period of 12 months from the date of notification of this Judgment.

 

c)                    that the State must pay each of the 270 workers mentioned in paragraph 4 of the [] Judgment the amount of US$3,000 (three thousand United States of America. dollars) for moral damages.  The State shall comply with the dictates of the present operative paragraph [] within a maximum period of 90 days from the date of notification of the [] Judgment.

 

d)                   that the State must pay the group of 270 workers mentioned in paragraph 4 of the [] Judgment the amount of US$100,000 (one hundred thousand United States of America dollars) as reimbursement for expenses generated by actions taken by the victims and their representatives, and the amount of US$20,000 (twenty thousand United States of America dollars) as reimbursement for costs, generated in internal proceedings and the international proceeding before the Inter-American protection system.  These amounts shall be paid through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

Finally, the Court held that it shall supervise compliance with the Judgment and that it shall close the case only after it deems the case closed.

 

The following matters were presented to the Court between March 1, 2002, the last day of the LIV Regular Period of Sessions and June 21, 2002, the last day of the LV Regular Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Court:

 

9.             Request for Advisory Opinion OC-18: On May 10, 2002, the State of the United Mexican States presented a request for an advisory opinion, related to the “interpretation of various treaties concerning the protection of human rights in American States.”  Specifically, the consultation is related to “the deprivation of the enjoyment and exercise of certain labor rights and its compatibility with American States’ obligation to guarantee the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, and equal and effective protection of law, enshrined in international human rights [for migrant workers] protection instruments; as well as with subordinating or conditioning the observance of obligations imposed by international human rights law, including erga omnes norms, to the interests of certain domestic political objectives of an American State.”  Likewise, the consultation is related to the “status the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination and equal and effective protection of law have reached in the context of progressive development of international human rights law and its codification.”

 

10.           Centro de Reeducación de Menores Case. Preliminary Phase.  On May 20, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, pursuant to Article 51 of the American Convention on Human Rights, submitted the Elvio Epifanio Acosta Ocampos et al. (“Panchito López” Institute for Re-education of Minors) (No. 11,666) v. Paraguay case for consideration by the Court.  The application concerns the living conditions that children and adolescents detained in the “Coronel Panchito López” Institute for Re-education of Minors were kept in “that represent the maintenance of a detention system contrary to all international standards regarding the deprivation of liberty of children and adolescents.”  It adds that as a result of the allegedly inhuman detention conditions, three fires broke out and Elvio Epifanio Acosta Ocampos, Marcos Antonio Giménez, Diego Walter Valdez, Sergio Daniel Vega Figueredo, Sergio David Poletti Domínguez, Mario Alvarez Pérez, Juan Alcides Román Barrios, Antonio Damián Escobar Morinigo, Carlos Raúl De la Cruz y Benito Augusto Adorno died.  In addition, the following peoples were injured: Abel, Achar Acuña, José Milicades Cañete, Ever Ramón Molinas Zárate, Arsenio Joel Barrios Baéz, Alfredo Duarte Ramos, Sergio Vincent Navarro Moraez, Raúl Esteban Portillo, Ismael Méndez Aranda, Pedro Iván Peña, Osvaldo Daniel Sosa, Walter Javier Riveros Rojas, Osmar López Verón, Miguel Coronel, Cesar Ojeda, Heriberto Zárate, Francisco Noé Andrada, Jorge Daniel Toledo, Pablo Emmanuel Rojas, Sixto González Franco, Francisco Ramón Adorno, Antonio Delgado, Claudio Coronel Quiroga, Clemente Luis Escobar González, Julio César García, José Amado Jara Fernando, Alberto David Martínez, Miguel Angel Martínez, Osvaldo Espínola Mora, Hugo Antonio Quintana Vera, Juan Carlos Vivero Zarza, Eduardo Vera, Ulises Zelaya Florez, Hugo Olmedo, Rafael Aquino Acuña, Nelson Rodríguez, Demetrio Silguero, Aristides Ramón Ortiz B. and Carlos Raúl Romero Giacomo.  As a result of these situations, the Commission requested that the Court declare that the State of Paraguay is responsible for violating the right to humane treatment, personal liberty, due process, judicial protection, and the special measures of protection for children enshrined, respectively, in Articles 5, 7, 8, 25, and 19 of the American Convention, all in conjunction with the provisions of Article 1(1) of said Convention, with respect to all of the children and adolescents detained in the “Panchito López” Institute between August 1996 and July 2001.  With respect to the aforementioned persons who died in the fired, it requested that the Court declare a violation of the rights already mentioned, as well as a violation of the right to life enshrined in Article 4 of the Convention.  Likewise the Commission asked in its application to the Court that it declare the that State of Paraguay be obligated to guarantee the alleged victims and their next of kin the enjoyment of their rights violated, and to make all the pecuniary and non-pecuniary reparations described in the application.  Among the reparations, they highlight: bringing its legislation governing deprivation of liberty of children and adolescents into compliance with international norms on the matter, separating children and adolescents from incarcerated adults, reviewing all the trials pending against children who were detained in the Panchito López Institute, that it investigate, try, and punish those responsible for the reported violations, that provide indemnity for the moral and material damage inflicted on the victims and their next of kin, and creating a fund to compensate all children deprived of their liberty in said detention center. 

 

11.            The Urso Branco Jail Case.  Provisional Measures.  On June 6, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented a request for provisional measures by the State of Brazil on behalf of inmates at the José Mario Alves Detention House, know as the “Urso Branco Jail,” located in the city of Porto Velho, State of Rondonia, Federal Republic of Brazil, with the “objective [of] avoiding that inmates continue dying” in said jail.  To that effect, the Commission requested that the Court order the State to immediately adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of all the inmates in the “Urso Branco Jail” and that it take “immediately, the measures necessary to confiscate the weapons that are found in the hands said jail’s inmates.” 

 

The Court considered this request and on June 18, 2002 resolved:

 

            1.             To require that the State adopt all measures necessary to protect the life and personal integrity of all persons jailed in the Urso Branco Jail, one of them being the confiscation of the weapons found in the possession of the inmates.

 

                2.             To require the State to investigate the events that led to the adoption of […] provisional measures with the aim of identifying those responsible and imposing the corresponding punishments.

 

                3.             To require the State, within a period of 15 days from notification of the  […] Order, to inform the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the measures it has taken in compliance with said order and to present a complete list of all the persons incarcerated in the Urso Branco jail; and likewise, that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights present its observations on said report within 15 days of its receipt. 

 

                4.             To require the State to continue reporting to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights every two months regarding the provisional measures adopted and that it present up-to-date lists of all persons incarcerated in the Urso Blanco Jail, so that it is possible to identify who has been set free and who has entered to said jail; and likewise, that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights present its observation on said reports within two months of their receipt. 

 

12.           Ricardo Canese Case.  Preliminary Phase.  On June 12, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submitted an application against the Republic of Paraguay (Case 12,032) with respect to the conviction and restrictions on leaving the country placed on Ricardo Canese, Engineer, as a result of demonstrations that occurred while he was a presidential candidate.  According to the events denounced by the Inter-American Commission, Mr. Canese was convicted on March 22, 1994 because in August 1992, when Mr. Juan Carlos Wasmosy launched his presidential candidacy, the alleged victim (also a presidential candidate) questioned Wasmony about his connections to the ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner, saying that Stroessner used Wasmosy’s name as a cover (“prestanombres”) through the company CONEMPA (the Paraguayan Business Consortium) in a project for the Itaipú hydroelectric damn.  As a result of these declarations and in light of a complaint filed by the associates of the company CONEMPA, who had not been named in the declarations, the Commission argued that Mr. Canese was tried and later convicted.  In addition, the Commission added that Ricardo Canese is currently sentenced to two months in prison and a fine for the crime of defamation, making it impossible for him to leave the country.  In its Application, the Commission requested that the Court declare that the Republic of Paraguay violated Articles 13 (Freedom of Thought and Expression), 8 (Due Process), 9 (Freedom from Ex Post Facto Laws), and 22 (Freedom of Movement and Residence), all in conjunction with Article 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the American Convention on Human Rights and that, in accordance with Article 63 of the same international treaty, it declare that the State has the obligation to make reparations to Mr. Ricardo Canese, which should include both “pecuniary and non-pecuniary reparations which should be proportional to the harm suffered and the right violated.”

 

As methods of reparations, the Commission requested in its application that the Court order the State: a) that the criminal procedures initiated against Ricardo Canese initiated “due to the exercise of his freedom of expression,” be left without effect, as well as to erase the judicial effects caused, namely that it eliminate the sentence imposed and erase any criminal record, that it annul any other juridical effect, “if there were any” and that it lift the permanent ban on Mr. Canese from leaving the country; b) that it ensure that the modifications to the domestic legislation regarding crimes against honor, included in the 1998 Penal Code, be fully complied with by State authorities in accordance with international norms on the matter; in particular that it establish that expression of ideas on issues of public importance should not and can not be penalized;” c) that excessive use should not be made of restrictive measures of laws to guarantee appearance at a trial and that these should not be converted into a punishment imposed before conviction and not contemplated by law; d) to make a public apology for the “human rights violations it has incurred and that it publish an eventual decision issued by the Court;” e) to ensure that in cases where it is possible, pursuant to international standards, the use of criminal institutions for crimes of honor and the use of restrictive measures of rights to guarantee appearance at trial should be proportional, appropriate, and especially that it implement by means that do not put rights at risk for indefinite or prolonged periods of time; f) to pay a sum, that the Court considers equitable, “for the violations suffered for eight years, starting from the trial conviction, taking into account the possible loss of income resulting from having his right to leave the country limited and the time used to defend his case in Paraguayan courts and the inter-American system;” g) to pay a sum, that the Court considers equitable, for the concept of moral damage, and consider in its determination “the suffering incurred by the years of judicial processes and the deprivations incurred as a result;” h)that the aforementioned reparations be made directly to Mr. Canese. 

 

Finally, the Commission requested that the Court order Paraguay to pay costs incurred by the alleged victim in the domestic judicial proceedings, as well as those related to processing the case before the Inter-American Commission, and those that result from the procedures stemming from this petition before the Inter-American Court.  

 

 

13.           Other matters.  The Court considered several matters pending before it, and it analyzed 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 studied 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 also considered various administrative matters.

 

The composition of the Court for this Session was as follows: Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), President; Alirio Abreu- Burelli (Venezuela), Vice-President; Hernán Salgado-Pesantes (Ecuador); Oliver Jackman (Barbados); Sergio García-Ramírez (México), and Carlos Vicente de Roux-Rengifo (Colombia)**. In the 19 Tradesmen Case, Rafael Nieto Navia participated as an ad hoc Judge, appointed by the State of Colombia.  In the Las Palmeras and Cantos Cases, Julio A. Barberis participated as an ad hoc Judge, appointed by the States of Colombia and Argentina.  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 composed of jurists of the highest moral standing and recognized as competet 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

P.O. BOX 6906-1000, San José, Costa Rica

 

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

 

Web site: www.corteidh.or.cr.

E-mail: corteidh@corteidh.or.cr

 

San José, July 15, 2002.

 



(*) This is an unofficial translation and is for informative purposes only.  The official version of this press release is available in Spanish.

(**) 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.

 

[1]               The parties (representatives of the alleged victims, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) were formally summoned to appear at the public hearing by Order of the President of the Court of January 18, 2002.  Nevertheless, the State indicated that it would not attend on February 8, 2002.

** Judge Máximo Pacheco Gómez informed the Court that for reasons of force majure he could not attend the LV Regular Period of Sessions of the Court.

 



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