Category Archives: Inter-American System

IACHR Applauds Bolivia’s Efforts to End Impunity Through Truth Commission

A military parade in Bolivia
Credit: Richard12sep.1993 via Wikimedia Commons

On September 14, 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release, applauding the Bolivian government’s establishment of a Truth Commission on August 21, 2017. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia] The Truth Commission will investigate allegations of grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity that occurred between November 4, 1964 through October 10, 1982, during the military and authoritarian rule of Bolivia. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia; Amnesty International] See Ley N 879, Ley de la Comision de la Verdad, 23 December 2016 (Bolivia) (in Spanish only). The law establishing the Truth Commission, Law 879 of December 23, 2016, set its objective as “to solve the murders, forced disappearances, tortures, arbitrary detentions, and sexual violence, considered grave human rights violations, which were committed in Bolivia for political and ideological motives.” [IACHR Press Release: BoliviaThe Truth Commission, composed of five members, will remain in place for two years, during which time the members will carry out investigations and report on their findings. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia]

The establishment of the Truth Commission follows a long period of widespread impunity, since 1982, for the grave human rights violations committed during the 18-year period, and its findings, the IACHR has noted, will contribute to ensuring justice for the victims’ families and to preventing further injustice. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia; Amnesty International] Bolivia previously made efforts towards seeking and promoting truth; however, the government made little progress, and those efforts were limited to violations relating to forced disappearances. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia] Representatives of the victims’ families as well as civil society, though, continued to advocate for the establishment of a Truth Commission to ensure that the violations will be “remember[ed], record[ed], and clarif[ied].” [Amnesty International] Read more

Supreme Court of India Declares Privacy Is a Fundamental Right

Supreme Court of India
Credit: Legaleagle86 via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of August, the Supreme Court of India unanimously held that the Constitution of India specifically protects the right to privacy, which it concluded is inherent to constitutional guarantees of life and liberty pursuant to its Article 21 and, therefore, already exists as a fundamental freedom enshrined in the Constitution. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (2017) (India) (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 110, 254, 257, 262. The decision arose from a case challenging the constitutionality of the country’s system of using biometrics to identify individuals. For the case to move forward, the nine judges of the Supreme Court of India had to first determine whether the Constitution of India protects the right to privacy. See id. at 7. Affirming the right, the court’s decision was in accordance with international standards on privacy; the court confirmed that individuals have a zone of privacy limited by others’ rights and that the State may interfere with the right to privacy only through established law in pursuit of a legitimate aim and when necessary in a democratic society. See id. at 180-91, 242-46. The constitutional challenge to the biometric identification system will now resume, taking into account the privacy framework decided by the court.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) the ruling in the present case will not only have an impact on national policies concerning mandatory identification programs, but also other domestic issues, such as sexual orientation; the opinion explicitly states that sexual orientation is essential to privacy and identity, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is counter to dignity. A challenge to India’s law criminalizing same-sex relations is also currently pending in court. [HRW] See id. at 124. The decision already overruled two prior domestic cases that held the right to privacy is not specifically protected under the Constitution of India. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 5. Read more

Guatemalan Court Blocks President’s Attempt to Expel Anticorruption Panel Leader

CICIG Commissioner Iván Velásquez speaks at the UN Embassy in Guatemala
Credit: US Embassy via Wikimedia Commons

On August 29, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court issued a temporary injunction to block President Jimmy Morales’ expulsion order against Iván Velásquez, head of a United Nations anticorruption panel, who just days earlier announced his intent to investigate Morales for alleged campaign finance violations in 2015. [Al Jazeera; New York Times] The UN International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym CICIG) was formed 10 years ago to address the pervasive corruption problems in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera] In furtherance of its mission, CICIG currently seeks to strip Morales of his official immunity so that he may face a campaign finance investigation. [Washington Post] Morales announced his decision to expel Velásquez on August 27, citing “the interests of the Guatemalan people” and his aim to “strengthen[] . . . the rule of law and our institutions.” [Al Jazeera] The expulsion order sparked protests in defense of Velásquez and continues to draw international criticism. [New York Times] Representatives from the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the European Union (EU) have condemned Morales’ actions as beyond the scope of his authority and an unjustified interference with the work of CICIG. [UN News Centre; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release (in Spanish); EU Press Release] Read more

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s Controversial Election Prompts Violence, International Reactions

Venezuelan protesters demonstrating in May 2017
Credit: Jamez via Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned last week the recent violence and arrests that occurred in response to demonstrations around Venezuela’s election for a National Constituent Assembly – a powerful entity intended to replace the current legislature and rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. The election was reportedly tampered with by the Venezuelan government, prompting calls for an independent investigation into the legitimacy of the election, and the legislature now refuses to recognize the new assembly, which voted to remove Venezuela’s public prosecutor over the weekend. [New York Times: Tampering; Washington Post: EU; OHCHR Press Release; Washington Post: Lawmakers] The election, which featured allies of President Nicolás Maduro as the only candidates, was held amid growing concerns that the nation is moving dangerously toward a dictatorship. [New York Times: Tampering; Washington Post: EU] The vote spurred public demonstrations, protests, and violence, resulting in at least 10 deaths; the total deaths due to unrest in the country since April now totals at least 125. [CNN: Clash] Zeid also expressed concern over the two opposition leaders who were recently detained after advocating for Venezuelans to protest in response to the election. [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian]

The international human rights community has expressed concern over the situation in the State. In addition to Zeid’s comments, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently denounced Venezuela’s prohibition of public gatherings and suppression of journalism, calling on the State to adhere to its international human rights obligations. [IACHR Press Release: Election; IACHR Press Release: Expression] The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) weighed in on the legality of the election through the publication of a preliminary opinion, finding the election threatened principles of democracy. As a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Venezuela is obligated to protect the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, due process, and participation in public affairs, among others. Read more

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