IACtHR Swears in New Judges, Hears Cases on Range of Issues during Ongoing 98th Session

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) is holding its 98th Ordinary Session from February 4 through February 15, 2013 at its seat in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] During this session, the Court will hear evidence and legal arguments from the parties in six cases pending before it, preside over private hearings on States’ compliance with three previous judgments, and deliberate on a potential judgment in a case which was the subject of a hearing last year.  Those interested may watch the public hearings live on the Court’s website, or on video through the Court’s Vimeo page.

At the start of this session, the Court swore in three new judges, Roberto de Figueiredo Caldas from Brazil, Humberto Sierra Porto from Colombia, and Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poiso from Mexico.  The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) elected the judges, who serve six-year terms. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]  The other justices who make up the Court include the President Diego García Sayán (Peru), Vice President Manuel E. Ventura Robles (Costa Rica), Judge Alberto Pérez Pérez (Uruguay), and Judge Eduardo Vio Grossi (Chile).  The three new members replace Judge Leonardo A. Franco (Argentina), Judge Margarette May Macaulay (Jamaica), and Judge Rhadys Abreu Blondet (Dominican Republic).  For more on the Inter-American Court, see IJRC’s resources on the Inter-American System.

Between February 4 and 12, the Court will hold six public hearings in pending cases, in order to hear the parties’ and Commission’s final arguments and to receive testimony from victims, experts and witnesses. In Quintana Coello and Others v. Ecuador, one victim and three experts provided testimony and the Court heard the parties’ final arguments on aspects of the case, which involves the Ecuadorian Parliament’s removal of 27 Supreme Court justices in 2004, allegedly without regard for due process or constitutional norms.

On February 6, the Court will hear arguments and testimony in the case of Liakat Ali Alibux v. Suriname, which concerns criminal charges retroactively brought against a government official who alleges he was prevented from asserting a constitutional challenge to the ex post facto application of the Political Office Holders Act and was denied a fair trial due to adverse publicity and statements by public officials.  (See the Commission’s referral of the case here.)

On February 7, the Court will hear final arguments, in addition to victim, witness and expert testimony, in Luna López v. Honduras, a case concerning the government’s alleged failure to adequately investigate and punish those responsible for the 1998 assassination of an environmental activist, Carlos Antonio Luna López.  This case is similar in several respects to two cases previously decided by the Court, one involving the murder of Honduran environmental activist Blanca Jeannette Kawas, and the other involving the arbitrary detention and torture of two Mexican environmental defenders. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Kawas-Fernández v. Honduras. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of April 3, 2009. Series C No. 196; Case of Cabrera-García and Montiel-Flores v. MexicoPreliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations, and Costs. Judgment of November 26, 2010. Series C No. 22.

On February 8, the parties will present their final arguments in the case of Mémoli v. Argentina, concerning an alleged violation of the complainants’ freedom of expression based on the State’s imposition of criminal libel sanctions, as well as due process concerns stemming from Argentina’s possession of the complainants’ property for over 14 years. (See the Commission’s letter referring the case to the Court here.)

On February 11, the Court will hear testimony and final arguments in Suarez Peralta v. Ecuador, a case involving the Ecuadorian government’s alleged failure to effectively prosecute an instance of medical malpractice.  Later that day and on February 12, the Court will hold a hearing in the case of Marino López et al. (Operation Genesis) v. Colombia, concerning a 2007 military operation and paramilitary incursions, during which Marino López was killed and many other members of Afro-Colombian communities were forcibly displaced and subjected to inhuman living conditions in camps, according to the petitioners, who also allege that these violations were never adequately investigated. (See the Commission’s referral of the case here.)

As well as the public hearings, the Court will also hold three private hearings regarding compliance with previous judgments. In Five Pensioners v. Peru, the parties will update the Court on progress made to comply with its 2003 ruling concerning a decrease in worker pensions and the government’s failure to apply judgments from domestic courts. Similarly, the Court will supervise compliance with its judgment in Acevedo Jaramillo et al. v. Peru, regarding workers’ dismissal for participating in a strike and Peru’s failure to reinstate them after its courts so ordered.  The Court will also hold a hearing on compliance with its judgment in  Gelman v. Uruguay, a case involving the forced disappearance of a woman in 1976 by Argentine and Uruguayan state agents during “Operation Condor.” In its 2010 decision, the Court declared Uruguay’s amnesty law (“Expiry Law”) to be incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.  Since then, Uruguay has passed legislation allowing for the prosecution of crimes committed during Uruguay’s 1976 to 1985 civilian-military regime. [IJRC]  

Finally, during this session, the Court will determine whether to adopt a judgment in Mendoza et al. v. Argentina, a case involving the conventionality of sentencing individuals to life imprisonment for crimes they committed as minors; the domestic legal framework at issue in this case allowed minors to be treated as adults for the purposes of sentencing.  (See the Commission’s letter referring the case to the Court here.)  The three newly elected judges will not participate in the study or deliberation of the case, however.  Instead, Justices Margarette May Macaulay and Rhadys Abreu Blondet will participate.  [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]