On January 19, a Guatemalan court found Pedro García Arredondo, a former police chief, guilty of murder and crimes against humanity for his role in authorities’ attack on the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980. In this attack, 37 protesters burned to death when the Spanish embassy building caught fire and García Arredondo ordered the building to be sealed and instructed officers, “No one gets out of there alive!” [Amnesty International: Conviction; BBC] Among those killed was the father of human rights advocate Rigoberta Menchú Tum. [Guardian] The Guatemalan court sentenced García Arredondo to a total of 90 years in prison: 40 years for murder and crimes against humanity in connection with the embassy attack, and 50 years for the murder of two students at the embassy victims’ funeral. [BBC; New York Times]
Category Archives: Inter-American System
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has published a new report on missing and murdered indigenous women in British Columbia, Canada. The report, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, examines the context and efficacy of Canada’s response to the pattern of violence and discrimination against indigenous women. The report also offers recommendations to assist the Canadian government in improving its efforts to protect and guarantee the rights of indigenous women. IACHR, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc 30/14 (2014). Read more
The retrial of former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt reopened on January 5, 2015, but was quickly suspended. [La Prensa; BBC] Charged with committing genocide and crimes against humanity against indigenous Ixil Maya of the Quiché region, the 88-year-old ex-army general is allegedly responsible for 15 massacres carried out against indigenous Mayans during his rule from 1982 to 1983, which resulted in 1,771 deaths, the displacement of 29,000, and the rape and torture of many others. [International Justice Monitor: Eighteen Months]. While the court rejected Ríos Montt’s attorneys’ argued that he was too ill to participate, the defense ultimately prevailed in recusing one of the members of the three-judge panel, resulting in a suspension of the trial while a new judge is selected or an appellate court examines the recusal issue. [International Justice Monitor: Eighteen Months] It is unclear how long this might take.
Ríos Montt’s previous conviction in May 2013, the first successful genocide prosecution of a former head of state in his home country, was annulled later that month due to procedural technicalities. [Huffington Post] Widely considered to be an historic ruling, the judgment’s annulment was criticized by some as a major setback. [Americas Society]
As the case draws increased attention and raises concerns about politically biased or corrupt judges, some fear this prosecution of Ríos Montt will end in a mistrial, if it ever begins. [Americas Quarterly] Read more
On Tuesday, December 9, the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Intelligence Committee) published a report detailing the “abuses and countless mistakes” of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) detention and Interrogation program in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. See Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program: Forward 2 (Intelligence Committee Report) (approved Dec. 13, 2012) (Declassification Revisions Dec. 3, 2014).
The release of the report was welcomed by human rights experts at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but also prompted calls for the U.S. to prosecute and punish those responsible for the documented acts of torture, enforced disappearance, and illegal detention. Read more
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued judgments in two cases, one of which concerned the duration of criminal proceedings against a Peruvian soldier responsible for two civilians’ deaths, and the other the forced disappearance of children during El Salvador’s internal armed conflict. [IACtHR Press Release: Tarazona Arrieta; IACtHR Press Release: Rochac Hernández] The judgments came as the Court finished its 106th Ordinary Period of Sessions, which were held from November 10 to 21 in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR Press Release: 106th Ordinary Period of Sessions]
In the case of Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru, the Court unanimously decided that Peru had violated its international obligations by allowing criminal proceedings against a soldier responsible for killing two civilians and injuring a third to continue for an unreasonable period of time. I/A Court H.R., Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 15 October 2014. Series C No. 286. In Rochac Hernández and Others v. El Salvador, the Court unanimously found that the forced disappearances of five children, aged nine months to 13 years, violated and continued to violate the human rights of the children and their families. I/A Court H.R., Rochac Hernández and Others v. El Salvador. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 14 October 2014. Series C No. 285. Read more
In response to the disappearance of 43 student protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has signed a tripartite agreement with the government of Mexico and a group of nongovernmental organizations representing the student victims and their families to provide technical assistance with the search for the students, the investigation and subsequent actions regarding their disappearance, and support for the families of the victims. [IACHR: Official Agreement] The students have been missing since September 26 after a shooting incident with police that left six people dead and 17 injured. Although the students are believed to be dead, their whereabouts are yet to be discovered, fueling complaints of gang-related violence, impunity, and State corruption in the country. [Al Jazeera: Protests rage]
IACHR Chair, Tracy Robinson, stated:
For the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this historic agreement is of fundamental importance in the sense that it represents a key opportunity to advance in solving a structural issue that Mexico has been experi[enc]ing for years: forced disappearances … The main objective is to solve the underlying structural problems to these disappearances, not only the cases involving the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, but other cases, which unfortunately are many.
On October 30, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released its report, Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure, elucidating the history, mechanics, and emblematic results of the friendly settlement mechanism, which allows petitioners and States to resolve disputes concerning human rights violations without obtaining a decision or judgment from an Inter-American human rights body. See IACHR, Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure (2013).
The Commission prepared this report after studying 106 friendly settlement reports approved between 1985 and 2012; establishing a working group on human rights and alternative dispute resolution; and issuing a special questionnaire requesting feedback from States, civil society organizations, and experts on alternative dispute resolution. See id. at paras. 11–15. The report is intended to strengthen the friendly settlement mechanism by increasing understanding of how the mechanism works and serving as a guide for how to use the procedure effectively. See id. The first section of the report discusses the evolution of the procedure, and the second section covers the impacts of friendly settlement agreements’ implementation. [IACHR Press Release] Read more
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down its judgment in Case of Human Rights Defender et al. v. Guatemala, concerning the State’s failure to adequately investigate and address the 2004 killing of human rights defender Florentín Gudiel Ramos. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Human Rights Defender et al. v. Guatemala. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of August 28, 2014. Series C No. 283, para. 288 (Spanish only).
The Court held Guatemala internationally responsible for violations of the rights to: humane treatment, freedom of movement and residence, participate in government (as applied to Mr. Gudiel’s daughter), judicial protection, judicial guarantees, and the rights of the child (with regard to the children in the family), as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 288. The Court held, by three votes to two, that the petitioners did not sufficiently establish violations of Mr. Gudiel’s right to life or right to participate in government. See id. at paras. 144, 149, 189. Human rights defenders in Guatemala continue to face threats and violence, in a prevailing climate of impunity. See generally, Front Line Defenders, Guatemala. Read more
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Holds Hearings on Racism in U.S. Criminal Justice System, Social Protests in Mexico, the Internet, and Other Human Rights Issues
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is holding its 153rd session from October 23 to November 7, 2014, with public hearings on October 27, 28, 30 and 31. The hearings allow both States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide the IACHR with information and context on 53 human rights issues, ranging from the impact of mining operations on human rights in Latin America, to the rights of refugee children and families in the Americas, to racism in the U.S. criminal justice system. Live webcasts of the hearings and video recordings of past hearings (in Spanish only) are available on the Commission’s website. Read more
In the Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. the Dominican Republic, IACtHR Finds Multitude of Human Rights Violations
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights released its opinion in Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. the Dominican Republic, where it held that the State’s discrimination, detention, and mass expulsion of individuals of Haitian descent violated the rights to: juridical personality, nationality, a name, personal liberty, privacy, fair trial, judicial protection, equal protection before the law, freedom of movement and residence, rights of the family, rights of the child, and the guarantee of non-discrimination, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. the Dominican Republic. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of August 28, 2014. Series C No. 282, para. 512 (Spanish only).
The Inter-American Court has previously condemned the Dominican Republic’s treatment of persons of Haitian descent and its counterpart, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has urged the State to modify its immigration laws and practices to comply with regional human rights standards, including by averting the implementation of a 2013 Constitutional Court judgment that directed authorities to strip possibly thousands of their citizenship. [IACHR Press Release] Now, in a binding judgment, the Inter-American Court has echoed these findings and directed the State to take specific action. Read more