PRESS RELEASE (*)
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its XL Regular Session in San Jose, Costa Rica, from June 8-19, 1998. During this session, the Court considered the following matters:
On June 8, 1998, the Court held three public hearings on the preliminary objections submitted by Peru in the Cantoral Benavides, Castillo Petruzzi, and Durand and Ugarte Cases, in which it heard the oral arguments of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State. In the Cantoral Benavides Case, the Court also issued a Resolution of June 18, 1998, in which it rejected the request submitted by the Peruvian State for dismissal of the Case based on the pardon granted to the alleged victim in the Case. In the opinion of the Court, the pardon did not comply with the requirement of acceptance of claims established in Article 52(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court.
On June 9, 1998, the Court held two public hearings on reparations in the Loayza Tamayo and Castillo Paez Cases, and heard the oral arguments of Peru, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the relatives of the victims. In the Loayza Tamayo Case, the Court heard the testimony of the victim, Ms. Maria Elena Loayza Tamayo.
On June 10, 1998, the Court held two public hearings on reparations in the Suarez Rosero Case against Ecuador and the Blake Case against Guatemala, and heard the oral arguments of the States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the relatives of the victims. In the Suarez Rosero Case, the Court also heard the testimony of the victim, Mr. Rafael Ivan Suarez-Rosero.
On June 11, 1998, the Court held a public audience on the merits of the Benavides-Cevallos Case against Ecuador and heard the arguments of the State and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this hearing, the State submitted a friendly settlement reached between the State and the parents of the victim, Professor Consuelo Benavides-Cevallos. In the proposed settlement, the State recognized its international responsibility with respect to the events that led to the detention, torture and death of said professor, and established the amount of compensation (US $1,000,000) and other types of reparations. With respect to this settlement, the Court, in its unanimous Judgment of June 19, 1998, decided:
1. ...that the acquiescence of the State of Ecuador in the claims of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is acceptable and, therefore, that the dispute relating to the facts giving rise to the instant Case has ceased;
2. to take note of the recognition of international responsibility by the State of Ecuador, and declared, pursuant to the terms of said recognition, that the State violated the rights protected by Articles 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to Article 1(1) of the same, to the detriment of Consuelo Benavides-Cevallos;
3. with regard to the reparations, to approve the agreement between the State of Ecuador and the relatives of the victim with respect to the nature and amount of reparations;
4. to require the State of Ecuador to continue the investigation in order to punish those responsible for the human rights violations referred to in [the] Judgment;
5. to reserve its authority to supervise compliance with the obligations established in the [...] Judgment.
On June 12 and 13, 1998, the Court held a public hearing on the request for an advisory opinion OC-16, submitted by the United Mexican States and heard the observations of the following participants:
a) States: The United Mexican States, the United States of America, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Canada also attended the public hearing as an observer.
b) Organs of the Organization of American States: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
c) NGO's: Amnesty International, Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch/Americas and CEJIL, Death Penalty Focus of California, and the International Human Rights Law Institute and the MacArthur Justice Center.
d) Jurists and individuals appearing as amici curiae: Sandra Babcock and Margaret Pfeiffer, both for Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and in their individual capacity; Laurence E. Komp, Gregory W. Meyers, and Luz Lopez-Ortiz, defense attorneys for Jose Trinidad-Loza; Ambassador Hector Gros Espiell; Professor John Quigley; and Professor Mark J. Kadish.
On June 14, 1998, the Court considered various aspects of matters pending before it:
a) Provisional Measures with respect to Trinidad and Tobago: On May 22, 1998, the Inter-American Commission submitted a request for provisional measures with respect to five cases pending before it. The cases involved the sentencing to death of five citizens detained in Trinidad and Tobago, Wenceslaus James, Anthony Briggs, Anderson Noel, Anthony Garcia, and Christopher Bethel. On May 27, 1998, the President of the Court, Judge Hernán Salgado-Pesantes, adopted urgent measures, and on June 14, 1998, the Court held deliberations on this request and decided:
1. To order Trinidad and Tobago to take all measures necessary to preserve the life and physical integrity of Wenceslaus James, Anthony Briggs, Anderson Noel, Anthony Garcia and Christopher Bethel, so as not to hinder the processing of their cases before the Inter-American system.
2. To order Trinidad and Tobago to submit a report by June 30, 1998, on the measures taken in compliance with this Order, and to require the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to submit its observations on this report within fifteen days of its receipt.
3. To summon Trinidad and Tobago and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to a public hearing on this matter at the seat of the Court on August 28, 1998, at 10:00 a.m.
b) New Case: The Court examined the submission, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, of a new case (Mayagna Indigenous Community) against the State of Nicaragua. The application in this case (N. 11.577), submitted by the Commission on June 4, 1998, referes to the alleged violation by the State of Nicaragua of Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights), 2 (Domestic Legal Effect), 21 (Right to Private Property), and 25 (Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of members from the Mayagna (Sumo) Indigenous Community, for failing to demarcate and officially recognize the territory of said community. The Commission also requested that the Court, based on Article 63(1) of the American Convention, order reparation of the consequences of the violations of the rights cited in the application.
On June 15, 1998, the Court held a working session with three members of the African Commission on Human & People's Rights and its Secretariat and an official of the Organization of African Unity, in order to discuss matters of common interest in the context of the protection of human rights in the American and African continents.
On June 16, 17, and 18, the Court held a public hearing on the merits of the Bamaca Velasquez Case against Guatemala, in which it heard the testimony of seven witnesses and one expert witness, and the final oral pleadings of the Inter-American Commission and the State.
On June 19, 1998, the Court studied the reports of the States and the observations of the Inter-American Commission on these reports with respect to provisional measures adopted by the Tribunal. With respect to these, Court made the following decisions:
a) Provisional Measures with respect to Colombia. Alvarez et al. Case: the Court, by Order of the same day, ordered provisional measures adopted on behalf of Ms. Maria Elena Cardenas, to be continued as long as the risk situation on which these measures were based persists. The Court also decided to order provisional measures until September 6, 1998, on behalf of Jose Daniel Alvarez, Nidia Linores Ascanio, Gladys Lopez, Yanette Bautista, Maria Helena Saldarriaga, Piedad Martin, Maria Eugenia Lopez, Adriana Diosa, Astrid Manrique, Faride Ascanio, Carmen Barrera, Evidalia Chacon, Jose Publio Bautista, Nelly Maria Ascanio, Ayda Mile Ascanio, Miriam Rosas-Ascanio, and Javier Alvarez and required the State to investigate, and where possible, punish those responsible for the denunciated facts.
b) Provisional Measures with respect to Guatemala. Carpio Nicolle Case: by Order of the same date, the Court ended the provisional measures on behalf of Mario Lopez-Arrivillaga, Angel Isidro Giron-Giron, Abraham Mendez-Garcia, and Lorraine Marie Fischer-Piraval, but continued the measures on behalf of Marta Elena Arrivillaga de Carpio and Karen Fischer de Carpio. The Court also reiterated to the State of Guatemala that its next report should include documentation on cause No. 1011-97 and information on the status of the investigations of the denunciated facts on which the provisional measures were based.
c) Provisional Measures with respect to Colombia. Giraldo Cardona Case: the Court, by Order of June 19, 1998, ended the provisional measures on behalf of Gonzalo Zarate; required the State to adopt such measures as are necessary to protect the life and physical integrity of Sister Noemy Palencia when she returns to the Department of Meta; continued provisional measures on behalf of Islena Rey-Rodriguez, Mariela de Giraldo and her two minor daughters Sara and Natalia Giraldo; and decided that, as an essential element of its duty of protection, Colombia should take effective measures to investigate and punish those responsible for the denunciated facts.
d) Provisional Measures with respect to Guatemala. Paniagua Morales et al. and Vasquez et al Cases: the Court, by Order of the same day decided: to ratify the Order of its President of February 10, 1998, and to continue the provisional measures in order to effectively ensure the physical integrity of the Vasquez family; and that Guatemala report to the Tribunal on the measures that it has already taken to investigate the facts on which the urgent measures adopted by the President were based.
e) Provisional Measures with respect to Colombia. Clemente Teheran et al. Case: the Court decided, by Order of June 19, 1998, to affirm the Order of its President of March 23, 1998, and to continue the provisional measures in order to ensure the life and physical integrity and to avoid irreparable damage to 22 persons of the Zenu indigenous community. The Court also required Colombia to adopt whatever measures are necessary to protect the lives and physical integrity of these persons and to investigate the denunciated facts in order to find those responsible and punish them.
The composition of the Court during this Regular Session was as follows: Hernan Salgado-Pesantes (Ecuador), President; Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), Vice-president; Maximo Pacheco-Gomez (Chile); Oliver Jackman (Barbados); Alirio Abreu-Burelli (Venezuela); Sergio Garcia-Ramirez (Mexico); and Carlos Vicente de Roux-Rengifo (Colombia). Fernando Vidal-Ramirez, appointed by the State of Peru, participated as judge ad hoc in the Cantoral Benavides, Castillo Petruzzi, and Durand and Ugarte Cases. Alfonso Novales-Aguirre, appointed by the State of Guatemala, participated as judge ad hoc in the Blake Case. In the Benavides Cevallos and Suarez Rosero Cases, the President of the Court was Judge Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), because the President of the Court, Judge Hernán Salgado Pesantes, yielded the Presidency while the Court heard these cases against Ecuador, of which he is a national (Article 4(3) of the Court's Rules of Procedure). Also present were the Secretary of the Court, Manuel E. Ventura-Robles, and the Deputy Secretary a.i., Victor M. Rodriguez-Rescia.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States established in 1979, is composed of jurists of the highest moral authority and recognized competence in the field of human rights. The judges are elected to the Court by the General Assembly of the O.A.S., and may not be elected for more than two six year periods.
Next Session: The Court will hold its XLI Regular Session on August 23, 1998 - September 6, 1998.
San Jose, June 24, 1998.
(*) El contenido de este comunicado es responsabilidad
de la Secretaría de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. El texto oficial
de los documentos reseñados puede obtenerse mediante solicitud escrita dirigida
a la Secretaría, en la dirección que se adjunta.
The contents of this press release are the sole responsibility of the Secretariat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The official text of the documents cited may be obtained by sending a written request to the Secretariat at the address provided at the end of this press release.