Category Archives: Inter-American System

IACtHR Confirms Indigenous Peoples’ Land and Access to Information Rights

Suriname appears before the Inter-American Court of Human RightsCredit: IACtHR
Suriname appears before the Inter-American Court of Human RightsCredit: IACtHR

Suriname appears before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Credit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has issued its judgment in the case of Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname, which concerns interference with two indigenous communities’ claim to and use of their traditional territories due to mining operations, the establishment of nature reserves, and the provision of property titles to other individuals. [IACtHR Press Release] The judgment, adopted by the IACtHR on November 25, 2015, declares that Suriname is responsible for the violation of the rights to recognition of juridical personality, property, political participation, and access to information based on the State’s failure to: recognize the legal agency of indigenous and tribal peoples, evaluate their claims to collective title to the territory, ensure their access to and participation in the nature reserves, and weigh the communities’ input and the social and environmental impact when determining whether to grant mining concessions. See I/A Court H.R., Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 25, 2015. Series C No. 309.

Leaders of indigenous communities in Suriname originally lodged the petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in February 2007, on behalf of the Kaliña and Lokono peoples. See IACHR, Report N° 76/07, Petition 198-07, Kaliña and Lokono Peoples (Suriname), 15 October 2007. The case was then submitted to the IACtHR by the IACHR in January 2014, after the IACHR failed to receive concrete evidence that Suriname had implemented the recommendations made in its July 2013 report on the merits of the case. [IACHR Press Release] Read more

Updated Inter-American Commission Report Reviews Gender Equality, Women’s Rights Standards

Legal standards

On November 18, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a new report analyzing regional human rights standards on gender equality and women’s rights, as well as their implementation by domestic judiciaries. [IACHR Press Release] The publication, Legal Standards: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, updates a 2011 publication with references to norms and interpretations developed through 2014. Its release coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Belém do Pará, the regional treaty on violence against women, and is the part of the IACHR’s efforts to promote the development and application of gender equality and women’srights standards in Americas. See IACHR, Legal Standards: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights (2015). Last month, the IACHR released a number of other thematic reports, including a second publication related to women’s human rights, entitled Access to Information, Violence against Women, and the Administration of Justice.

Legal standards

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IACHR Welcomes Mexico’s Steps to Remedy Discriminatory Discharge of Soldiers with HIV

Inter-American Commission on Human RightsCredit: OAS
Inter-American Commission on Human RightsCredit: OAS

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Credit: OAS

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently released its decision in a case concerning discriminatory treatment of two Mexican soldiers with HIV, after concluding that Mexico had complied with all its recommendations for remedying the violations. See IACHR, Report No. 80/15, Case 12.689, J.S.C.H and M.G.S. (Mexico), 28 October 2015. The complaint, brought on behalf of two former members of the National Defense Secretariat, alleged that Mexico violated the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention) by requiring the victims to retire from their positions without benefits, pay, or pension based on their HIV status. The petitioners further alleged that they were denied the right to fair trial in the process of appealing the forced retirement. The Commission found Mexico in violation of its obligation to give domestic legal effects to the rights to non-discrimination, a hearing within a reasonable time before an impartial tribunal, privacy, and equal protection of the law without discrimination. It found no violation of Article 5.1 (humane treatment) of the American Convention, holding that Mexico’s dismissal of the victims and their subsequent lack of pay and benefits did not constitute inhumane treatment. See id. The decision was announced shortly after World AIDS Day, which was observed on December. [IACHR Press Release]

In its merits report, the Commission recommended that Mexico provide the victims with any comprehensive health services needed; make complete reparations to the victims, including financial, moral, and, if desired by the victims, reinstatement in the Armed Forces; and to bring the Mexican Armed Forces Social Security Law (MAFSS Law), which governs the conditions under which a person can be retired from service, into compliance with the non-discrimination, privacy, and equal protection provisions of the American Convention. See IACHR, J.S.C.H. and M.G.S. (Mexico), 28 October 2015. Following the IACHR’s confidential release of the decision to the State and petitioners, the parties executed an agreement on reparations that recognized the victims’ desire to be reinstated in the army, required a ceremonial acceptance of responsibility, ensured amendment and evaluation of the legislation to guarantee non-repetition, and required implementation of training in the armed services on non-discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Id. at paras. 141-47.

The IACHR determined that Mexico “fully complied with the recommendations set forth in Merits Report 139/11, as well as with the additional components of the agreement entered into by the parties.” It found that no additional evaluation would be necessary. Id at para. 168.

The decision elaborates on the international jurisprudence requiring that any difference in treatment based on HIV status be reasonable, as well as suitable and strictly proportional to pursuing a legitimate purpose. See id. at para. 99 et seq. This is apparently the first time that the IACHR has published a detailed discussion of its analysis on this issue. , For example, a previous decision found that the treatment of a hospital patient with HIV, wherein he was provided with a drinking glass marked “XXX” that no other patient used, was “utterly unreasonable and demeaning,” but the IACHR did not explain the relevant standard or analysis. See IACHR, Report No. 27/09, Case 12,249, Jorge Odir Miranda Cortez, et al. (El Salvador), 20 March 2009, para. 74. Read more

New Handbook and Webpage Highlight Friendly Settlements before Inter-American Commission

friendly settlements webpage of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

friendly settlements webpage of the Inter-American Commission on Human RightsThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently added a new section to its website concerning friendly settlements and published its Handbook on the Use of the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in the IACHR Petition and Case System (Handbook) to inform petitioners about the friendly settlement procedure and best practices. The friendly settlement process allows petitioners and States to engage in a dialogue to reach an agreement concerning reparations for the alleged victims in a non-contentious manner, and without obtaining a decision on the merits from the IACHR. As of July 2015, the IACHR has approved 121 friendly settlement agreements, in which the aggrieved parties have secured reparations including economic compensation, measures of restitution, measures of rehabilitation, measures of satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.

For more information about the impact of friendly settlement agreements, a catalog of agreements, and informational videos and graphics, visit the Commission’s new webpage dedicated to friendly settlement agreements. Read more

GQUAL Campaign to Increase Gender Parity on International Rights Bodies

Credit: GQUAL
Credit: GQUAL

Credit: GQUAL

A new campaign, GQUAL, aims to address the gender imbalance on international courts and human rights bodies, where women make up less than 25% of the existing membership. [GQUAL Press Release] The campaign will work to change the nomination and voting practices of States and the relevant institutions, to ensure that gender balance is a real consideration. Through its website, declaration, petition, events, and informational materials, the campaign is striving to raise awareness, engage civil society voices, and increase the transparency of election processes. Additionally, the GQUAL Jobs Board provides information on recent and upcoming elections for nearly all international tribunals and monitoring bodies. On September 17, 2015, the GQUAL (for “gender equal”) campaign formally launched at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. [GQUAL Press Release] Read more

Ecuador Attempts to Dissolve Only Remaining Independent Press Freedom Organization


The directors of Fundamedios, César Ricaurte and Mauricio Alarcón, during a press conference
Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Carlos Rodríguez

On September 8, 2015 the National Secretariat of Communications of Ecuador (SECOM) sent a letter of notification to La Fundación Andina para la Observación y Estudio de los Medios [The Andean Foundation for the Social Observation and Study of Media] (Fundamedios), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, that it was initiating an administrative process to dissolve the organization. [Committee to Protect Journalists] The SECOM order accuses Fundamedios of violating both its own founding statutes as well as Ecuadorian law governing the role of civic organizations by publishing messages, alerts, and essays with “political overtones.” [El Universo; OAS Press Release] As evidence of this, the annex to SECOM’s notice contains 57 tweets, many of which it claims contain links to opinion pieces or news articles that criticize the government. [Human Rights Watch] The organization was given 10 days since the receipt of this dissolution order to present evidence in its defense. [Freedom House]

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Inter-American Court of Human Rights Holds 53rd Extraordinary Session


The seminar that was held during the Court’s 53rd Extraordinary Session

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) held its 53rd Extraordinary Session in Honduras, which began on August 24 and concluded on August 29, 2015. During this session the Court held public hearings in two cases: Quispialaya Vilcapoma v. Peru and Ángel Alberto Duque v. Colombia. The Court also held a private hearing concerning compliance on the part of Honduras with sentences in six cases: Juan Humberto Sánchez v. Honduras, López-Álvarez v. Honduras, Servellón-García and others v. Honduras, Kawas-Fernández v. Honduras, Pacheco Teruel and others v. Honduras, and Luna López v. Honduras. The Court prepared judgments in two cases: Gonzáles Lluy (TGGL) and family v. Ecuador and Galindo Cárdenas and others v. Peru. Additionally, the Court started proceedings in two cases: Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its members v. Honduras and Garífuna Community of Punta Piedra and its members v. Honduras. The Court also reviewed various pending cases and administrative issues.

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